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.