As we are right in the middle of some very fall-like weather, all the teachers at school have been doing fall-themed activities. I took this opportunity to introduce some new fall vocabulary to my preschoolers: Apple, pumpkin, leaf, tree, scarecrow, and wind.
After introducing the words, I shared this GORGEOUS book. Each illustrated page features a design of animals, rivers and orchards made entirely of autumn leaves.
Afterward, we pretended to be leaves blowing in the wind. Each time I called a different fall word and the students pretended to be them. It was good practice for the words I introduced earlier.
To finish, we went on a leaf hunt outside and made our own leaf men - making sure they had heads, arms, legs, stomachs, and hands and feet. Students really loved this activity and felt very inspired by the book.
After a very long break, here I am back with a fantastic recommendation for your preschool/elementary ESL classroom. SHAPE BY SHAPE by Suse MacDonald, is an exciting read-aloud that introduces children to the English names for basic shapes (circle, semi-circle, triangle, diamond, etc.) all while involving them in an exciting "guessing game" to guess the animal. The book begins with a nearly blank page with two small dots and the words...
"Do you know what I am? I lived a long, long time ago."
Page by page, cut-out circles, triangles, crescents, etc. are added to finally become a big green dinosaur.
My students LOVED this book. In fact, they asked me to read it not once, not twice, but THREE times before beginning our ESL games.
After reading the book, I introduced 4 basic shapes (3 for the smallest kids): square, circle, triangle, and diamond. As always, I got the kids actively involved forming the shapes with their arms and legs.
Afterward, we had a shapes scavenger hunt. The kids outdid themselves!
Finally, we finished with a shape cutting activity from ESL KidsStuff which the kids really enjoyed while practicing their fine-motor cutting and glueing skills.
The end of the school year us just around the corner for us (preschool runs until the end of June here). To finish off the year I thought it would be fun to do a post about our top 5 favorite picture books we used this year. Without further ado...
1) PETE THE CAT: I LOVE MY WHITE SHOES was a real winner for us. The simplicity of the language, the repetitive story structure, and the "song" within the story made this probably the kids' favorite. I brought it back a few different times and each time they sang and danced along with this "cool cat." Next year, I'll probably add PETE THE CAT and MY GROOVY BUTTONS to my line-up.
2) QUIET LOUD. This one has great read-aloud-ability, a character that makes kids laugh and simple language that is perfect for a beginning ESL class. It does leave my hoarse each time I read it though, so beware.
3) SHH! WE HAVE A PLAN - I LOVE this book! It's one of my favorites in or outside the classroom. Kids love it too! What I love about this book in the ESL classroom is that it really gets students involved as they count 1, 2, 3, Go!
4) THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR - This is one of those perennial favorites that people love internationally. But it's a favorite with good reason. Every ESL teacher should have this one in the library.
5) POLAR BEAR'S UNDERWEAR - This book has such a cute concept. It works well in the ESL classroom because students will start calling out their animal guesses as soon as they get the gist of the story.
THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR by Eric Carle is a picture book classic which children all around the world are familiar with. The familiarity of the story along with the simple language and colorful artwork make it an absolute must-have for the ESL teacher. It can be used to teach numbers, days of the week, colors, or (how I used it this year) to teach the names of fruit.
After reading aloud THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR, I introduced fruit words using flashcards similar to these ones below which are a free printable through TEACHERS PAY TEACHERS - (though I like mine bigger).
Game 1: I filled a big cardboard boxed with a mix of plastic fruit (one of each we introduced) and small plastic balls. One by one, students took turns "fishing" for the fruit with their eyes closed, and placing them on the corresponding flashcard. I know this game sounds so simple, but my 3-6 year olds love it. It's a great sensory game, and really gets their young neurons firing.
You can make this game harder or easier by either allowing them to look with their eyes AND hands, or blindfolding them. OR by giving students a particular fruit to search for. OR making them guess which fruit they have in their hands only by touch.
Game 2: After each student had a turn with the box, we made an obstacle course. This allowed us to practice our fruit vocabulary by still building on the ACTION VERBS we introduced a few weeks back.
Students were lined up on one end of the room. The fruit was lined up at the other. I also laid a broom on the ground as our main obstacle.
One by one, students took turns JUMPING over the broom, TIPTOEING toward the fruit, choosing the fruit which I called out, and RUNNING back to the line.
My obstacle course was very simple, but you can add to it or change it to suit your needs.
For our table activity, students completed a fruit coloring page. This one below available for a free download would be a good one to try if you only want to introduce the fruit in THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR.
As the school year wraps up (and these little ones have been conquering more English than I ever thought they would due to our limited time) we've reached the fun topic of ACTION VERBS. For this mini-unit, I used CLAP YOUR HANDS by Lorinda Bryan Cauley. The book includes all sorts of fun actions for the kids to do, clapping hands, stomping feet, roaring like a lion, etc. And the adorable illustrations are filled with delicious details ideal for gazing. I highly recommend this book for teachers looking to get their kids up and moving.
We followed this book by introducing the basic phrases, "I can" and "I can't." Then using flashcards for the following action words, we decided what "we can" and "can't" do.
Ride a Bike
After this, we followed with a rousing game of TEACHER SAYS. This one can be a challenge to explain to young ESL learners, so I've found the best way to approach it is to model the activity right away. Once the children understand how it works, they LOVE this game. I usual don't play "elimination style" right away, and never at all with the littlest ones.
We finished our activity with a modified version of RED LIGHT GREEN LIGHT or the Italian version UN, DUE, TRE STELLA! Instead of just moving towards the "leader", students had to complete the actions I called out.
I've been waiting all year to get to my opposite unit, just so I could read this book for the kids. QUIET LOUD by Leslie Patricelli is the perfect read-aloud for preschool aged ESL learners. The text is simple, but fun. The illustrations are clear, but fun. And reading it aloud is fast and FUN! Kids get the giggles on the very first page when I "scream" at the top of my lungs. Soon, they're joining in, which is always my favorite part of sharing a book with kids.
Did I mention how fun this book is?
After reading the book, I introduced the words "quiet", "loud", "fast" and "slow". To practice the words, we used shakey eggs (like egg-shaped maracas). We shook them "quiet", "loud", "fast" and "slow".
This is the perfect lesson to sing the YouTube sensation, "Open, Shut Them".
Next, we used my colorful tent and shook it gently for "quiet", very hard to make a "loud" noise, and we moved it "fast" and "slow". After a bit of practice, students took turns calling out the words.
For the table activity, I used this free quiet and loud sorting activity from the Teachers Pay Teachers website.
This book, written and illustrated by Tupera Tupera, was so much fun to read in class, that I simply HAD to share.
Polar Bear has lost his underwear! Where could it be? There's only one thing to do: Remove the book's underwear-shaped bellyband to find the missing pair! Is that Polar Bear's underwear? No, it's Zebra's—see the colorful stripes?
The kids at school had a blast calling out animals to guess "Who's underwear is it?" It's a great way to introduce more animal names OR just to have some fun. Be ready for a loud and exuberant class, because this surely brings out the silly in them.
4-Stars for this great read-aloud!
This classic story/nursery rhyme was always a big hit with my own kids, but I honestly wasn't sure how well it would work in the preschool ESL classroom. The language is not "easy" necessarily. I was pleasantly surprised though. The preschoolers really loved this story AND looking at the book. My only complaint is that this book is small (it's a board book) and the details are hard to see, especially when using it a read aloud for a large class.
I used this book twice at school. Once for the large classes to introduce some farm animals. We focused on six animals: pig, duck, horse, cow, goat, and sheep.
Game 1: I tossed farm animals around the room and asked students to go find them one by one. It's a very simple game, that the students enjoyed. There's something about a teacher doing something they're not supposed to do (throw toys) that tickles a preschooler's funny bone.
Game 2: In Italy they call this game the "Box Game". Students crouch into a "box" position. Then I called an animal, and students came out of their boxes and made the correct animal sound.
Game 3: Using my play parachute, one student crawled underneath and made an animal sound. The others had to guess the animal name in English. Whoever said the correct animal first (in English) got to crawl under the tent and make the next sound.
I also used this book in my private afternoon lessons. These group lessons are much smaller and we use them to continue to practice and build on the vocab we introduce in class. For class, we used THERE WAS AN OLD LADY... and completed this fun craft which I found on Miss Thrifty SLP Blogspot. The students LOVED this. With these as a visual guide, the students were actually able to tell the story back to me (and their parents) at a very simple level.
THE COLOUR MONSTER is a popular book, and for good reason. It is a great book to help kids look at and identify feelings. The version I used is the board book, which was perfect for my ESL kids. It introduces HAPPINESS, SADNESS, ANGER, FEAR, CALM, and LOVE. But otherwise, this version felt like it was missing something.
For older kids or children at a higher level of English, the pop-up book version is gorgeous. Anna Llenas, the illustrator, has such a fun, unique style, and kids love watching it come to life in the pop-up book version.
This week we're starting a new "unit" on feelings. And to delve into this perfectly appropriate topic for these preschool-age kids, I used a modern classic - TOBY'S SILLY FACES. If you haven't read this TOBY book, it tells the story of a little mouse (Toby) as he gets ready for bed. He and his father have a fabulous time looking into the mirror and making "silly" faces.
In all, TOBY touches on the following emotions: silly, surprised, sad, scared, happy, worried, fussy, sneaky, and sleepy.
While some of the words of this book are a bit challenging for new EL learners, what's really important is that it gets students hearing the adjectives for the feelings and offers lots of opportunities for you to stop and elicit the faces from them - which is the best part anyway.
After reading and introducing our new words for the day (I focused 4 words- mad, sad, happy, and scared) each student was given one of the four cards above. I found this great free printable from Pocket of Preschool.
The students had to find their classmates with the same "feeling", not by comparing cards, but by comparing their own sad, mad, scared, or happy faces. It took some practice, but once students got the hand of it, this was a riot!
However, the next activity was even more fun! Before class, I downloaded four songs: one happy, one sad, one scary, and one mad. As I played the songs, students danced around the room acting out that emotion. The kids were hilarious!
In case you'd like to try this out, these are the songs I used, all available on iTunes.
Happy - "Happy" by Pharrell Williams
Sad - "Sad Songs" - Sad Music Songs Piano
Mad - "Messa da Requiem: 2. Dies ire..." by Giuseppe Verdi
Scared - "The Jaws Theme"
Finally, we finished up the lesson with this feelings scissor and glue matching activity. It'll be filed away in Part 2 of their English Notebook which we give to the parents at the end of the semester.
In addition to being a writer, I have about the best job in the world. I teach 3-6 year olds English in an Italian preschool. I LOVE using picture books in my ESL lessons as introductions to my daily topics, and just because kids love books. My goal with this blog isn't to highlight the most "of-the-moment" picture books, but rather to present books that work well for ESL learners and that are accessible to teachers living all around the world. If you're an ESL teacher who loves books, then this blog is for you.