This past Christmas I tried out the short novel Nate the Great and the Crunchy Christmas with a few of my intermediate level classes. It’s a riveting tale of one detective’s efforts to save Christmas for a ferocious hound named Fang, desperate for his annual Christmas card from his mother. Between the witty banter of the characters and the beautiful illustrations, the book proved to be a hit among my students.
One of my favorite end of novel activities is to get my students to create a comic book version of the story. For most children it’s a preferable and more creative activity than the classic book report, so they generally put more effort into it. I tell them to choose their favorite section of the book and concentrate on that.
But one of my students asked if he could do his assignment about the whole book. With my full blessing (and the exasperation of some of the other children), he took a few more sheets of paper and got to work. The following Monday he presented me his masterpiece, which, like all good adaptions, was a combination of the actual text and some creative deviations.
You can see his work below:
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The other day I was casually browsing the contents of Lanternfish, a newly discovered treasure trove of free EFL teaching materials. The site is the creation of Chris Gunn, a former EFL teacher in South Korea who has since moved on to bigger and better things.
I was really pleased to come across a series of a few dozen worksheets whereby students describe and caption an image. They are divided into three levels: young learner, basic, and intermediate.
Here is an example of an intermediate level image: Here’s an example of a basic level image:
lanternfishnd here is an example of a young learner level image:
What I really like is the advice Chris provides for teachers trying out this classic exercise for the first time, especially the kinds of sentences students might try to make. You should check the site out.
(Super Teacher Worksheets also has an excellent selection of similar worksheets, which aren’t free, but certainly worth the pittance they cost.)
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Learning the alphabet is one of the primary activities of first time learners, and it usually involves a lot of pencil and paper time – but it doesn’t have to. Why not spice up your lessons with a little arts and crafts to inspire your young learners and tap into their inner creativity? At very least they’ll think you’re the cool English teacher. Some teachers might turn up their noses at consulting ‘Mommy Blogs’ like the ones I’m going to suggest, but remember that you’re better than that. Once you’re hooked, save yourself some time and check out the extensive catalogue of these amazing works on my Pinterest crafts board.
If you have the resources and the time you’ll definitely want to try making handprints at least once with your young learners. Not to be confused with the insurers, Crystal & Comp. has an excellent series from A to Z and is your one stop shop for everything you’ll need to make yourself look like a supermom. But there are also good ideas for teachers. Don’t forget to check out Mommy Minutes and Red Ted’s Art for equally nice artwork to try in the class.
The Totally Tots blog is designed for parents who plan on homeschooling their children but it is chock full of amazing ideas for crafts and other activities that could be put to use in the EFL classroom. It’s been out of action for a couple of years now but you really should take the time to scan the amazing ideas this dedicated group of mothers have come up with. Remember, there’s nobody who can teach you more about what children like to do than their own mothers. They offer a craft for each letter of the alphabet (both upper case and lower case), but they’ve also paired their crafts with an appropriate storybook. Other blogs you’ll want to check out include The Measured Mom, How to Run a Home Daycare, and Crystal and Company.
The days I’ve been busy building up the presence of The ESL Review on Pinterest, among other unfinished projects, and came across these amazing alphabet mazes from Education.com.
Click on the image to visit the site.
Students just color in the lower case and upper case letter A’s until they reach the bottom of the page. I don’t happen to be teaching the ABC to any of my students right now, but next time around I certainly plan to put these into action. There’s one for each letter of the alphabet and they’re beautifully designed, colorful, and perfect for children just getting their heads around the alphabet.
Be sure to check out my Letters Worksheet board on Pinterest for more great materials to teach letters with.
Be it daily or weekly, journal writing is an important time for young learners to figure out how to write well, and to develop confidence in themselves. I’ve always been partial to designing my own journal prompts, but this year I decided to sample more of other teachers’ materials so that my students start writing about topics I’d never thought of before.
In my first attempt, I really hit the jackpot when I discovered these amazing journal prompts from The Moffatt Girls, an online teaching materials store on Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT). The creation of Annie Moffatt, the top selling producer on TPT, these easy to use journal prompts come out in a monthly booklet that you can download as a pdf file for the low, low price of $4.
There are about 20 prompts in each booklet, and include vocabulary words to help the children get started, and a space for drawing about what they are writing about.
I’ve been using them since the New Year and I have noticed a significant improvement in the writing of my students. They’re just happier to put pencil to paper now, and they don’t begrudge me for giving them an extra assignment each day.
To teach students how to write well they need to learn how to spot their own mistakes. I don’t know about you, but nothing drives me crazier than reading the work of students, chock full of the same old spelling and grammatical errors (as I’m sure I drove my own teachers crazy). Of course making errors is all part of the process of learning how to write, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t train bad habbits out of our kids.
With lower level students, that might mean me throwing a few sample sentence patterns from our textbook up on the board and asking the kids to tell me what’s wrong with them:
“There’s no period!”
“That’s not how you spell calculator!”
“There’s no verb in that sentence!”
“The first word in that sentence needs a capital letter!”
With higher level students, though, I tend to focus more on general editing skills – that is, finding the errors in unfamilliar reading passages. And for that I inititally turn to the proofreading and editing worksheets from Super Teacher Worksheets. They’ve prooved invaluable in helping my students develop the error-tracing laser eyes that we teachers are blessed with.
Here are some free samples from the site to try out for yourself:
They’re so simple to use. Just pass out one of the worksheets to your students and give them about ten minutes to find the errors, either alone or in small groups. Afterwards, you go through the reading passage together and discuss where the errors are. My students love the challenge and take a great deal of pleasure finding what’s wrong with someone else’s work.
Who would have thought a worksheet could take me right back to grade 1? Just as Marcel’s brief encounter with a crumbling Madeline cookie, so it was with me this past week after coming across the new Building Basic Sentences worksheets from Super Teacher Worksheets.
In these worksheets, young students can cut out a selection of 4 or 5 words and glue them on the page in the correct order to form a basic sentence. They then rewrite the sentences and draw a picture underneath of what the sentence means (exactly the kind of thing I did in my French immersion elementary school back in the 80s).
The site just recently added a few dozen of these worksheets including two free samples which you can download from the site directly or by clicking on the images below.
As always, the worksheets are beautifully made, easy to use, and perfect for the classroom. And if Tim Weibel, the creator of Super Teacher Worksheets, or anyone else from the site happens to be reading this then I have some unsolicited advice. Get your programming people to design a worksheet generator for this activity. It’s exactly the kind of thing a lot of teachers like me would kill to have.
This week I found myself teaching about the five senses to one of my classes using Spectrum Writing 2 (Chapter 4, Lesson 1). The exercises in the text were excellent but I wanted something a little more, just in case I ran out of things to do. That’s when I came across these beautiful worksheets from Education.com, an amazing online resource that I find myself coming back to again and again for high quality classroom material. Although it is a pay site, you can download up to 10 worksheets a month at no charge, which is not a bad deal.
These worksheets in particular are pretty straightforward. Children essentially draw a picture of themselves using their each of their senses in a specific situation, such as “We use our ears to hear. Draw something you hear at the zoo.” In addition, I asked the students to also write on the paper what it is that they are drawing (it is a writing class after all).
Click on any of the images below to download them from the site.
While the site describes these worksheets as having been designed for kindergarteners, I think they are age appropriate for any elementary school-aged children. My own students put a lot of energy into creating their own unique answers and really seemed to enjoy the drawing and coloring aspect of it (although they didn’t want to let on). And if these ones are not quite to your liking, just check out the large selection of other worksheets on this subject that are available from Education.com.
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.
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.