Halloween-Themed Journal for Beginner Writers

With Halloween on the way, I got to work last weekend on a holiday-themed journal for my young EFL learners. It’s a simple exercise book where students cut out the words from a sentence, put them into the correct order, and then draw a picture below.

You can visit the download page at my store by clicking on any of the images below. Once there, just click on the preview button to get a better look for yourself. The first five people to ask for one by email (theeslreview@gmail.com) can get one for free. And if you like what you see, I’ve got more holiday booklets on the way.

Happy Halloween!

Want Free Stuff? Like a Reading App?

Try “Ricardo’s Alphabet Board Game” for FREE!!! Australian teacher and developper Melissa Savanoff has given me ten promo codes for her new app available at the Apple App Store. Anyone interested in getting ahold of one of them just needs to say so in the comments below (and if you also write the city and country in which you live, that would be fun to know too). Then email me at: theeslreview@gmail.com and I send you the promo code.

I’ll even chip in something extra from my store (any item up to $10):https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/The-Esl-Review

Just link to the product you’d like to have in your comment below, and I’ll send it and the promo code to you by email.

Nothing you want? No worries, you can still get the promo code. But remember, this offer expires on September 30th. 


Novel Studies, Worksheets, Videos, and Other Resources for Teaching Dinosaurs Before Dark from the Magic Tree House Series

A couple of weeks back a class of mine was taking turns reading aloud from chapter five of the children’s novel Dinosaurs Before Dark, when young Sara, a second grader, bellowed the following passage:

The Triceratops lived in the late Cretaceous period. This plant-eating dinosaur weighed over 12,000 pounds.

She suddenly stopped reading, cocked an eye at me, and without so much a hint of malice asked:

“Is that how much you weigh?”

With 14 years of teaching children in South Korea under my belt, I pretty much thought I’d heard it all in terms of unsolicited commentary on my physical appearance. Most of the time I don’t even acknowledge it but this time even I had to let slip the slightest grunt of a laugh. I admire originality, afterall.


Dinosaurs Before Dark is the first and perhaps the funniest of the Magic Tree House series. It is widely read up and down the length of Korea in both English and in translation. Every time I teach it, I spend an hour or so browsing the Internet for new resources that might help me in my teaching. For the purposes of this blog I’ve tried to assemble some of the best materials I’ve come across so far.

You can read up about the Magic Tree House series on Wikipedia, or about Dinosaurs Before Dark in particular on the Magic Tree House Wiki. Or you can just go straight to the horse’s mouth and visit the official Magic Tree House website. Subscribers of Super Teacher Worksheets like me can access their excellent collection of worksheets. For proper novel study supplements, Teachers Pay Teachers has something for everybody although I’m partial to the work of The Book Umbrella. Some of the large publishing houses like Scholastic and Random House have their own lesson plans for teaching the book. Be sure to check out Rise to Reading for some no-frills reading comprehension questions, perfect for a quick review or class discussion. For those of you that like to make use of Pinterest, Beth Hannah has assembled her own collection of resources.

The Magic Treehouse also comes with non-fiction companion books for each novel in the series – such as Dinosaurs – but for some truly first rate resources on dinosaurs in general you really should check out National Geographic for Kids and Discovery Kids, with their immense collection of entertaining videos, games, and articles, while Enchanted Learning also has a veritable Aladdin’s cave of materials on nearly anything you could want to know. KidsDinos is also encyclopedic in breadth. There is also a nice assortment of children’s books from the always excellent No Time for Flashcards.

For those extra minutes in class that occasionally need to be filled with something a little less serious you could do worse than the StoryBots with their adorable and informative five-part series of dinosaur rap videos, which is worth a watch for the comic relief if anything, while HooplaKids has a 24-part series of cartoons that is sure to keep your students eduformed. Another promising lead is Dinosaur Train from PBS, which also has stacks and stacks of online games.

I continue to search high and low for a quality free reading of the book (although a version of the book with an audio CD is available for sale) but the best I have come up with so far is the author reading the first chapter of the book here, and the ReadToMeDad channel on YouTube.

Lastly, I’d like to mention my own novel studies which might be useful to teachers of students whose first language is Korean or Japanese (Spanish and Arabic will be available within a week or so).

The above list will never be as complete or comprehensive as I’d like it to be, but if you have any suggestions I’d love to read them in the comments section below. 


Nate the Great ESL/EFL Novel Study Worksheets for Spanish or Arabic Speakers

They’re here! For a couple of years now I have been making ELT novel studies available to teachers working with children whose first language is either Korean or Japanese – and so far, the response from users has been great. Starting this week I’ll start publishing those same novel studies and uploading them to my store on Teachers Pay Teachers.

Reading comprehension questions, creative writing, vocabulary, sequencing, quizzes, puzzles, and projects – these downloadable booklets include almost everything you’d need to teach these books.

Click on any of the images below to see for yourself:

The Adverse Effects of the Italian Temper on ELT in East Asia

One of my eight-year-old students here in South Korea has a bit of a temper. Most days he comes to class upset about something or another. 

“Teacher, I’m angry at my friend. He teased me.”

“Teacher, I’m angry at my mom. She yelled at me for hitting my brother. ”

“Teacher, I’m angry at you. You said there’s a spelling test today.”

“Teacher, I’m angry at my shoes. They’re uncomfortable.”

“Teacher, I’m angry at the sky. It made me wet.”

And so on. 

He even admits it himself. Why just the other day, without the slightest prompting, he turned to me and declared:

“Teacher, do you know why I am always so angry? It’s probably because I was born in Italy.”

I had to admit to myself that it made a certain amount of sense.

And it is true that he was born in Italy – his Korean parents were living there at the time, and not a day has gone by since becoming my student that he hasn’t reminded me of that fact.  

Like the first time we met: “Nice to meet you Teacher. Did you know that I was born in Italy?”

Like when he meets new children: “Hi, where were you born? I was born in Italy.”

Like when he needs something: “Teacher, I forgot my pencil and did you know I was born in Italy?”

Like when he feels aggrieved about something in the way that children often do: “It’s not fair! I was born in Italy!”

So when he explained his reason for being so hot tempered he was in all likelihood just trying to find a creative way to tell me that he was special, a snowflake like no other. Or maybe he really believed it. Or maybe that’s just what his mom told him when she was feeling worn out from him. Who knows?

There’s never a boring day in this racket.