Snap Smart Kids Review: Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

It wasn’t long ago that I tried to teach Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, the classic children’s song that has been translated into scores of languages, to some of my kindergarten classes, including children as young as four. Despite the familiar melody, I was worried the lyrics might come across to the children as a confusing jumble of nonsense. So I set about trying to find some actions to accompany the song. That’s when I came upon Snap Smart Kids, who, in their words, “[are] dedicated to providing high quality children’s videos and educational apps which encourage children to have fun while learning! Our preschool action songs, nursery rhymes, chants and preschool education video skits will keep your child engaged and coming back for more!” 

For my purposes, this quartet of young ladies had just what I needed: simple actions that were perfect for teaching to youngsters. The kids were far more focused on singing the song and really got into it. You can give the video a watch below:

My only little tweak was when the ladies were raising their hands saying, “Up above the world so high…” followed by “like a diamond in the sky”, at which point I raised my hands just a bit higher, over my head, as if into the sky itself. 

Nevertheless, after that success I took a look at Snap Smart Kids and felt like I had discovered an untapped video cache of nursery rhymes, songs, and skits. If you teach preschoolers you really should check out their YouTube channel. As for myself, I plan on incorporating their work into my YouTube playlists I use for class (but more about that in a future post). I’m picky about what I use but Snap Smart Kids definitely makes the grade.

Super Teacher Worksheets Review: Persuasive Writing

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As students learning English continue to improve their writing they will need to gain experience in the four types of writing: narrative, descriptive, expository, and persuasive. Luckily for us teachers, Super Teacher Worksheets recently released worksheets for children to practice persuasive writing.

The worksheets always begin with the question “Do you agree or disagree with the statement below?” followed by topics such as:

  • It is inhumane to keep wild animals in a zoo.
  • Students should be required to wear uniforms to school.
  • Students should not be allowed to bring cell phones to school.
  • No child should have a Facebook account unless he or she is over 13 years old.
  • Pizza should never be served for lunch at school because it is not a healthy choice.

Then writers are asked to “State your opinion and use details to support your point of view.” This is followed by two pages of lined paper for the children to write their position. There is also a page for them to draw a picture in support of their position, which I thought was a very clever addition for the artistically minded. And finally there are Teacher’s Notes which include possible arguments for and against the topic to use in a class discussion.

persuasive wiriting 01

As always with Super Teacher Worksheets, these worksheets are well-crafted and look very professional, a perfect supplement to any writing course. Click here to check out the persuasive writing page, or here to view a sample. If you have any new ideas for topics you should try emailing your suggestions to Tim Weibel, the owner of the site, since he is always quite welcoming to new ideas.

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Let’s Go Online Homework Review (Part 1)

I don’t know about you but I’ve always found that the workbooks accompanying course books like Let’s Go, the seven part series for children by OUP, never provide quite enough writing practice for students. As a result, I end up spending a LOT of time making additional worksheets for them to get that needed writing practice, and it would be no exaggeration to say that after a few years I must have accumulated hundreds if not thousands of them. It’s probably a situation faced by a lot of teachers. But then comes along the fourth edition of Let’s Go with its online homework, and poof! Problem solved.
LG Online homework 1Students simply visit the online homework page where they can complete exercises in listening, reading, (occasionally speaking) and writing assigned by the teacher for homework. This is great news for teachers not only because it frees you from the chore of making practice exercises, but OUP’s online software also automatically corrects the assignments, scores them and generates stats for you to evaluate how your students are progressing in their lessons. This also frees up precious class time for more communicative activities, relegating some of the drudgery to the home.

So let’s take a look at how it works from a student’s point of view with the latest version of Let’s Go 4. In class you’ve completed the first two pages of unit 1, which cover asking about the weather in the future tense. The grammar pattern is How’s the weather going to be? and the vocabulary words are: hot, humid, warm, cold, cool, and foggy. There’s a dialogue page and a chant as well. After learning to speak the language in class, the children log on at home, choose the unit they are to study from the drop down menu. In this case it’s Unit 1 Let’s Talk.

LG Online homework 8

Students click on ‘Menu’ and then choose from which unit they will study. From there they choose the right section.

They will see six tabs labeled A through F. Students click on the first tab and see:

LG Online homework 2

Students click the button next to the picture to hear the dialogue they studied in their course books. Then they move the sentence bubble into the correct order along the side.

Then tab B:

LG Online homework 3

In this exercise students listen to the dialogue and complete the sentences by choosing the right word from the drop down boxes.

Then tab C:

LG Online homework 4

In this exercise, students listen to the vocabulary word and click the correct picture.

Then tab D:

LG Online homework 5

In this exercise students read the sentence and choose the correct word to complete it from the drop-down menu.

Then tab E:

LG Online homework 6

This exercise is a dictation. They can listen to the speech as many times as they like.

And finally tab F:

LG Online homework 7

In this exercise students listen again to a chant that appeared in the coursebook and then fill in the blanks.

This pattern of activities is repeated through each section of the course book, making for hours of extra practice. Then there’s the bottom of the screen:

LG Online homework 9

1. The student’s score
2. How many attempts it took the student to achieve a perfect score
3. The check mark will correct the student’s work once they have done. The counter clockwise arrow reloads the page. The magnifying glass shows the correct answers, but this only becomes available to the student after they have completed the page.

Remember, the program will automatically score the student’s work and record it in the teacher’s log so you will know whether children have done their homework, how well they did, and how many attempts it took them. That’s time you don’t have to spend correcting (and occasionally scolding) in class time. OUP also offers similar online homework for its English Time and Everybody Up course books.

Click here to try the free demo or watch this video to learn more:

In an upcoming post I’ll be talking about how teachers set up and manage this homework.

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Super Simple Songs Review: Clean Up!

In one class of kindergartners that I teach, we use a phonics series called “Morphun” that is specifically designed to be used with large plastic blocks (like Lego, but not). The children actually build models of the words that we learn in class, like alligators, penguins, or cars. We hold the class in the kindergarten’s gym, so there is lots of space to spread out and have a good time. The end of class, though, could sometimes prove a challenge because children being children, they didn’t want to stop doing something they thought was really fun in order to do something that to them would likely be less fun.

So I followed Devon Thagard’s example after reading his blog entry titledWhy should songs be used MORE in the Young Learners classroom at the OUP ELT Global Blog and started playing the “Clean Up!” song at the end of class. This is track 7 of Super Songs 1 by Super Simple Learning. Click on the song page to hear the song for yourself and read the lyrics. There are teaching tips on the site as well.

Here you can see Devon (and others) with some children cleaning up:


Back to the story, the children still weren’t exactly pleased about class being over, but they accepted that it must be so since the catchy song being played on the CD player was telling them so. Soon afterwards the children began recognizing the “Clean Up!” song upon hearing the first few notes and the look of shock (“Uh-oh, time’s up) on their faces is still priceless. This did not make for a glum atmosphere, though, because the focus of the children soon went to the song, which they would merrily sing all the way back to their classroom.

Money well spent.

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Genki English Review: What Time Is It?

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A screen shot of the song “What time is it Mr. Wolf? from the Genki English software.

The What time is it, Mr. Wolf? song from Genki English  is my number one go-to for introducing the telling of time to children. This super catchy song starts off to an exciting marching beat which draws the children in and really gets them in the mood to sing. It’s such a sticky song that one class of 6-years-olds I taught it to last year are still singing it to themselves.

Below you can see Richard Graham, the creator of Genki English, teaching the song to several schools in Japan during his amazing demo classes.

Next, let’s take a look at the lyrics.

What time is it, Mr Wolf?
by Richard Graham

(ESL Review: During the first part of the song I hold up my arm parallel to the ground as if I were checking the time, and point to my wrist watch as I sing “What time is it?” to emphasize that this is about time. When I’m not wearing a watch, I draw one on with a board marker. It also helps to have a picture of a wolf to point or look at for the last part of this verse.)

What time is it?
What time is it?
What time is it?
What time is it, Mr Wolf?

(ESL Review: I do the next part a little differently from Richard Graham. I keep the children seated on the ground while counting off the time with their fingers. That’s because when they get to 11, we extend one leg outward and off the ground, and then at 12, both legs. This always gets a laugh out the children because it is a bit of a struggle not to fall over.) 

It’s 1 o’clock, 2 o’clock,
3 o’clock, 4 o’clock,
5 o’clock, 6 o’clock,
7 o’clock, 8 o’clock,
9 o’clock, 10 o’clock,
11 o’clock, 12 o’clock

(ESL Review: For the last part I pretended to be gobbling up my dinner with both hands to appear more “wolf-like”)

It’s dinner time!

Repeat x 2

And that’s that!

The song is to be found on CD 2 of the Genki English series. On the song page you can listen to a demo of the song and find the usual array of Genki English extras including: flash cards, mini-cards, a time worksheet, dominoes, snakes and ladders, a spaghetti game, islands game and imagination worksheet. There is also a printable progress guide and teacher’s guide with activity suggestions.

Time (Genki Mini cards)

The Genki English mini-cards are great for games of concentration. Just print them off, laminate them, and fun, fun, fun.

The real beauty is once the kids have learned the song you can go right into playing the classic children’s game, “What time is it Mr. Wolf?” (click here to read about it on the Genki English site).

In addition to that game,  I’ve been playing a variation of the monster game with kindergarten children. First I place the large flashcards around the classroom, semi-hidden, then all the students ask me together “What time is it?” I’ll say “It’s 1 o’clock” and the children have to scour the room looking for the 1 o’clock card. Following that we go through the rest of the 11 cards. It’s fun for the kids because with 20 kids searching the room it’s controlled chaos; they also get practice asking the question as well as listening practice listening to me answer. It’s simple but fun and effective.

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ISL Collective Review: Get-to-know-you Worksheet

The other day I had a few new students coming into one of my classes and needed something quick to break down the wall of awkwardness that can sometimes arise between replacements and class veterans. That’s when I came across this great downloadable activity from ISL Collective, a FREE site with thousands of worksheets by teachers from all over the world.

Get to know you...The worksheet has twenty questions and it’s simple to use. First the children circle the correct words to complete the questions and then they interview their partner. What I liked most about the questions was that there was nothing that might be too personal for a first encounter (e.g. “Do you have a girlfriend?”), which can be fun but quite embarrassing and counterproductive.

To spice things up a bit I made the activity into a game. First the children completed the questions on their own and then we corrected them together. Next I had the children pair off with somebody they didn’t know and got them to play twenty rounds of rock paper scissor. Each time someone won, they got to ask their partner a question. The winner then received a point depending on the question number. That is, Question 1 was worth 1 point, Question 2 was worth 2 points, Question 3 was 3 points… (another example of point inflation). The person with the most points at the end was the winner.

Simple, easy, and fun.

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Site Review: Anglomaniacy (Board Games)

anglomaniacy

If you teach English to elementary school age kids, then Anglomaniacy should definitely be on your radar. This is a 100% free site from Poland with swarms of flashcards, online games, downloadable board games, quizzes, worksheets, and traditional songs. Whenever I discover something this valuable being given away, I always tell myself that it’s only a matter of time before I’ll have to pay.

That’s why these days I’ve been busy printing, cutting, and laminating as many of their board games as possible (card games / simple board gamesfull board games). Why practice speaking out of a book when you can use a board game that is fun and easy to play? There are over thirty games available that practice a variety of vocabulary words and expressions such as:

Here is an example from the occupations game:

board game 01

Left: game board, game cards, and tokens. Center: score cards. Right: answer key.

Students practice the sentence pattern:

  • What’s her/his job? He’s a cook.
  • What does a cook do? She/He prepares food.

And it comes with a game boardgame cards, game tokens, a score card, and the answer key (There are instructions, too, but I have them on the back of the answer key).

I wish I had know about this site years ago…

A Personal Classic: Point Inflation

Teachers often divide their classes up into teams and give points out for correct answers during games and other activities. What problem can arise from this you may ask? (For the moment, we’ll set aside the topic of over-competitiveness.)  Sometimes a single team may get so many points, the other team(s) can’t catch up, which can really put a damper on the class mood.

The solution is what I call “Point Inflation”. That is, by gradually increasing the number of points students can get for a correct answer you can pump energy into the class and give losing teams an incentive to keep trying. To start off, divide the class into teams, and write some numbers on the board like this:

photo

When somebody from a team gives a correct answer, that student can roll a dice and multiply the number from the dice by the number on the board. Somebody from “Us” answers a question correctly and rolls a two. Since two times one is two, they get two points. Now it is “Them”‘s turn. Uh-oh somebody rolled only a one. Disappointing, right? Nope, because two times one is still two, and both teams are tied. Now “Not them” gets a go, and they roll a three for an amazing nine points!

photo (1)

Now things are really stating to heat up. The “Us” team gets a correct answer and rolls a 2, for an astounding eight points to take the lead.

photo (2)With all that action going on, teams don’t have time to be dispirited by temporary setbacks. They know that they if they keep participating, their team can still win, no matter how far back they are at the beginning. Sometimes I keep it going until x30 depending on how much I want to practice with the kids.

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