Turtle Diary Review: Biographies

Turtlediary.com is a funky educational site with games, videos, worksheets and lessons plans which could come in handy for the resourceful teacher. They cover a variety of subjects including language arts, science, social studies, and math. In the online biographies section children can read about explorers, scientists, world leaders, writers, and artists on their computers at home. This could be a great resource for teachers looking for online reading material or as a supplement to course sections about any of these great figures.

Einstein biography 01

Above you can see the first two pages of a short biography about Albert Einstein. Many key words are underlined so that when you click on them a little window opens up with a short definition of the word, a pronunciation guide and recording of the pronunciation. There is also a complete word list on each book page which children can click to hear the pronunciation.

At the end of the reading there is a summary of the subject’s major accomplishment and several pages of review questions. 

Einstein biography 02

If the child clicks the correct answer the box changes to green, and red if they are incorrect.

Turtle Diary is of course a pay site ($79 annual subscription fee), but there are five biographies you can try for free (as well as a host of other material on their site).

Online Sight Word Activities

cropped sight words

If you’re looking for a quick and easy sight words activity, then maybe you’ll be interested in this online flash game from Primary Games. It’s a standard game of concentration, with multiple difficulty levels and rounds. I used it with a single student but it would be easy enough to throw up on a screen at the front of the class. You could play in teams with the kids using a pointer to choose their answers. The game reads out the words, helping the kids memorize how to say them. I’m not a fan of the robot voice at the beginning but otherwise it’s pretty solid. Primary Games has tons of other online activities to browse through (reading, math, science). Check it out.

While we’re on the subject of sight words, ELF Learning has some great new videos on YouTube that you should check out. I tried them out with the same student and we both thought they were just golden. Have a watch:

Super Teacher Worksheets Review: Reading Comprehension

스크린샷 2013-07-21 오전 11.01.51Having a hard time finding quality reading materials to teach your students? Then Super Teacher Worksheets is the place to go. This awesome site has a treasure trove of high quality reading comprehension worksheets divided by difficulty into elementary grades one, two, three, four and five. You can view and download samples in pdf format of each level for free:

There are fiction as well as non-fiction pieces, poems as well as stories. Each piece is about one to three pages long and comes with pages of comprehension questions, vocabulary exercises, puzzles, and occasionally short writing assignments. And like all worksheets from this site, they come with answer keys.

Reading worksheets 1 Reading worksheets 2 Reading worksheets 3Reading worksheets 4

These worksheets can be great as supplements to your regular curriculum, or as a stand alone reading course. There are hundreds to choose from, which is great for you, the teacher, since you can also pick and choose the order that you teach them, and can skip the ones you don’t like, which is harder to do when students’ parents have paid for a book.

스크린샷 2013-07-21 오전 11.15.31

This is a shot of the grade 2 reading comprehension worksheets page. There are good descriptions of each worksheet and they are easily downloadable.

Truth be told, I prefer the reading worksheets from Super Teacher Worksheets to the typical reading comprehension books used in EFL precisely because they are not designed for EFL students. They were written by American teachers with American children in mind. As such, I find them more entertaining, more challenging (though, not necessarily more difficult), and offering a richer variety of vocabulary and sentence structure.

None of this is free of course. There is a USD 20 yearly site subscription, but that’s peanuts compared to what you’d pay for an equivalent number of textbooks. That’s money saved for you and your students. Not to mention you get access to all the other great materials on the site.

Follow The ESL Review on Facebook.

Blog Review: OUP ELT Global Blog

OUP ELT Global Blog

Don’t have time to attend professional development courses? Then catch up by reading the Oxford University Press English Language Teaching Global Blog (a bit of a mouthful), a great site for reading up on the latest in ELT by seasoned professionals from around the world. Always full of interesting articles for those who want to think about teaching and how to do it better.

Recent articles I Iiked:
10 free apps for teachers to use for planning and classroom management
Warming Up the Gears: 7 Fun, Field-Tested Vocal Exercises
Best ways to support intermediate students

The best teachers keep trying to improve themselves, so get reading.

Super Simple Songs Review: The Wheels on the Bus

“The Wheels on the Bus”  is always fun for young kids and Super Simple Learning’s two versions of this classic children’s song are a must have. They clean out some of the unnecessary and difficult parts while adding some great sound effects. The song has become one of my new favorites. Check out the song pages (here and here) for the demo, verses, and teaching tips.

When teaching the song, be sure to use the free flashcards from the song page to pre-teach all the vocabulary. I introduce each card slowly one by one, practicing the item with the action. For example, I repeat the word “door” clearly two times, and I also ask the kids to show where the door of the classroom is. Then I join my hands together up and down the front of my body to form bus doors, and say “open and shut”.  I’ll also do other examples with a real door, my hands, eyes, ears and nose (just for laughs).

스크린샷 2013-07-15 오전 7.44.14

These are the first four of the free flash cards, which you can download on the song pages.

(Incidentally, one class of five year olds added daddies to the song as an additional verse and came up with this disapproving grunting sound for an action which was both cute and concerning.)

There are two versions of the song on Super Simple Songs 2, tracks 9 and 10, that you should use together.  In the first version, subtitled Learn it, the song moves at a really slow pace to help children get a clear grasp of the vocabulary, melody, and actions. After you have sufficiently gone through the vocabulary you can just play it and the children should be able to follow pretty well with you leading. Once this has played through I go right into the second version, subtitled Sing it, which picks up the pace and has great sound effects. The sudden transition to such a high energy song gets the kids real excited. It’s a real hoot. Watch these kids from Ms. Lucky.

A Little ESL Humor…

If you laughed out loud like I did, then you’ve been working in this business for too long. Have a nice weekend folks.

Genki English Review: Make a Face

One of the things you will have to do with young learners sooner or later is teach them the parts of the face. It’s an easy, non abstract topic that children will want to use. Today I’d like to make the case for using Genki English to do it. Found on Vol. 6 of the Genki English series, the Make a Face song has become the initial method I use to teach this topic.

A shot of the title page in the Make a Face section of the Genki English software. You can listen to a demo on the song page, but you won’t be able to use any of the flash cards or other material unless you have purchased a membership (which you should!).

1. The flash cards for this unit are hilarious. Kids and adults will both laugh themselves silly at the sight of them. When I introduce them, I pull each card out slowly from a box or envelope to create suspense, which is usually filled by guffaws (which is the key to getting their attention).

스크린샷 2013-07-10 오전 7.39.42

The vocabulary for this unit. Student would often collapse on the floor in laughter at the sight of the picture of “cheeks”.

With really young kids I repeat the words slowly, first pointing at the card, and then again at my own face, giving them the chance to repeat the word. I really like that Richard Graham included the words eyebrows, cheeks, and tongue in this theme since they are not generally covered in other books for kids.

2. Secondly, the song is a riot, ONCE you get used to it. Now I’m a real believer in Genki English, but even my faith was tested when I first played this song. The first half of the lyrics are as follows:

“Make a Face”
by Richard Graham

Make a face.
Make a face.
Make a face.
Make a face.

Put on the nose. (x2)
Put on the ears. (x2)
Put on the mouth. (x2)
Put on the eyes. (x2)…

It sounds like a marching song. And what is up with the chorus? “Make a face”?!?! You don’t generally put on your face in the morning (unless you are talking about make-up). I had my doubts about using the song. Then it came to me… What if you had to? Put on your face, that is. I came upon telling the children to imagine that they woke up every morning and had to literally place each item onto their face.

“What a nuisance, I have to put on my face…AGAIN. What I wouldn’t give to have facial features that stuck to my face 24 hours a day.”

Sounds like the plot to a horror movie, right? The kids didn’t think so. They got into it right way, and soon the song became a great laugh for the kids and a huge hit. For younger kids I stopped explaining it explicitly and just mimicked grabbing the parts of the face off the flashcards and putting them on my face. They got the hang of it pretty quickly. And as for the “make a face” part, I make a peekaboo motion with my hands and a funny face. The kids also have fun making their own funny faces.

3. Like all Genki English themes, there are mini cards that you can print off to play games of concentration. There are also dominoes, an eight sided dice, islands game, snakes and ladders, and spaghetti game. Richard has description of each of them on the song page for the unintiated.

스크린샷 2013-07-10 오전 7.30.02

I like to print out two sets of these mini-cards, cut them out, laminate them, and play concentration with the kids. Of course, there are lots of games you can play with. Just go to Richard’s site to learn about them.

4. On the song page there is also a worksheet you can download with all the parts of the face on it.

스크린샷 2013-07-10 오전 7.24.57

The only thing that is missing are cheeks, but then it doesn’t look like there was any room left. This worksheet is also available in black and white.

This could be a simple cut-it-out-and-glue-it-type activity, but I like something different. First, I cut out and laminate each part of the face. Then in class I put them in a sack. Students take turns coming up to the front of the class and drawing an item from the sack and posting it on the felt board. Sometimes the face comes out a little odd, but that just adds to the fun. Then when I am done, I take the items off the board slowly one by one (until there is nothing left), which for some reason makes the kids laugh even harder.

Convinced yet? Give Genki English a try. You won’t regret it.

Wimpy Kid Guess Who?

The board game Guess Who? is fun for children and a great way to practice describing people. The only problem I’ve had with it in the classroom is that’s its really a two player game, which is not great when you are teaching groups of children numbering more than four or six (not to mention twelve to twenty). It’s also not practical to have ten sets of the same game. So far my solution has been to make teams of four to six, which is okay, but dilutes the fun of the game because everyone still has to wait a while to ask a question.


Then, while at ISL Collective, a FREE website with thousands upon thousands of worksheets and handouts made by teachers all over the world, I discovered you can download a Wimpy Kid version of Guess Who?. With the click of a button, my troubles were gone.

The front side looks like this:

스크린샷 2013-07-06 오후 9.47.07

There are 48 characters on the game board, giving a lot of challenge to students.

The back side looks like this:

스크린샷 2013-07-06 오후 9.51.26

The back side of the game has a lot of sample questions for students to model after.

You can print off a bunch to play for your class, with students using their pencils to cross off heads, or you could also laminate them and use dry erase markers (or place holders like in bingo). There’s no real downside to this game, which makes it one of the most popular downloads at ISL. It’s a real winner!

Follow The ESL Review on Facebook.

Creating a Digital Picture Book

I was just browsing the OUP channel on Youtube this morning and came across this short video by Barbara Hoskins (a co-author of the Let’s Go series) about how to make a digital picture book with your students.

Give it a watch:

Here is one of the storybooks her students made:

While in this video Barbara is discussing students recording storybooks the children have written themselves, you could just as easily record storybooks or parts of novels that you study in class. It would make a cute keepsake for children and parents.

Has anyone done anything similar?

In the meantime I’ll be on the lookout for free software to try it out.