If like me you've been searching for the right picture book to accompany your lessons about shapes, your search is over. This ingenious book by Suse MacDonald is a real crowd-pleaser, perfect for introducing basic shapes in English.
The book begins with a yellow page with two small black dots and the words, "Do you know what I am? I lived a long, long time ago..." With each page turn, new shapes are added to the picture so that the dots soon become eyes, then teeth, then a head, etc. Until finally, the whole body of the dinosaur pictured on the front cover is revealed.
the book uses the following shapes: circle, triangle, crescent, semi-circle, oval, and diamond. Sadly, there's no square.
I suggest hiding the cover if you plan to share this in your class. What's the fun of guessing what animal if it's already pictured right on the front?
For anyone unfamiliar with SHH! WE HAVE A PLAN, run out or hop online right now and BUY IT! It is such a fun read aloud and perfect for the ESL classroom.
The very simple story of 4 (I've always thought they were brothers) out to catch a bird is told with simple, repetitive language even the youngest ESL learners can understand. It's great for introducing some action words : tiptoe, climb, paddle, run. It's great for learning basic "game" terminology- ready one, ready two, ready three, GO! And it's fantastic for getting ESL learners to repeat new words, because I can almost guarantee they'll be joining in with this story. Two very enthusiastic thumbs up for this book!
Lately, a few parents have been asking me why I use so many picture books in my ESL lessons. Do the kids understand? And if they don't, what's the point?
I have always believed strongly in using picture books to teach. Even in my high school classroom, I often used picture books to grab students' interest and to scaffold learning. Because people of all ages (0-99) love picture books. Even kids who "hate" reading light up when being read to from a great picture book.
But at the preschool level, picture books are even more important. Do my 3-6 year olds "understand" the words? Most of them, no. But does a new, pre-verbal baby "understand" the words when a parent reads to them, speaks to them, sings to them? Not at first. However, listening lays the foundation for their language development. And the more they hear, the more they learn.
It's the same in the ESL classroom. That's why I'm happy to read, read, read. I believe the kids "understand" much more than we realize, and even if they don't, their brains are learning what English sounds like. Their brains are being wired to learn. And the more they hear, the more connections they will make.
And for those skeptics out there, here's a picture book (what else?) to prove my point.
This brilliant picture book tells the story of some bugs who discover a mysterious plant. As it grows and grows, they decide to make a tree fort. The clincher? The entire story is told in a made-up bug language. But thanks to the pictures (and a child's understanding of how language works) the story is easy to follow. And not just that, it's a joy to follow.
So read, read, read, whether the kids "get it" or not. Because you're doing something even more than teaching vocabulary. You're teaching "language".
Taa-taa for now!
Every year, Halloween becomes more popular here in Italy, so to celebrate the holiday we had a Halloween party! We started our day with this fun Halloween book, TEN TIMID GHOSTS, by Jennifer O'Connell. It's a fantastic Halloween read that's perfect for reviewing the numbers 1-10 in English, which most of my little English Language Learners already "know".
If you plan on using this book in your classroom, I highly suggest bringing along a corkboard with a picture of haunted house and 10 ghosts you can move around as the ghosts go from 10 to 1 to 10 again.
Also, trick-or-treating with your class is a great way to practice PLEASE and THANK YOU. My kids loved it, and even the most timid children are willing to speak in English if they get a surprise in return!
This week we learned parts of the day. The littlest ones learned DAY and NIGHT, while the older preschoolers learned MORNING, AFTERNOON, EVENING, and NIGHT. To introduce the lesson I used GOOD MORNING, GOOD NIGHT illustrated by Melanie Mitchell.
While this is not one of MY favorite picture books, the kids really liked it. And most importantly, it served its purpose helping me introduce the concept of day and night. Each page starts with "good morning" and then folds out to say "good night".
After reading the book and introducing the new vocab, students took turns separating daily activities (brushing teeth, waking up, eating lunch, etc.) into the correct part of the day. For this, I found pictures on the internet and students took turns pinning them to my corkboard. This worked great!
This lesson also gave me the opportunity to introduce a classic song, SKINNAMARINKEEDINKEEDINK.
And we have another hit!! The kids at school LOVE this quirky panda! And while the littlest ones need a bit of help fully understanding the humor, once they get it, they ask to read it over and over again.
To teach PLEASE and THANK YOU, I followed this book with a game. Students took turns hiding "doughnuts" ( rings from a stacking baby toy) under their bottoms while one student headed outside. When the student returned, he/she asked PLEASE to each student to find the doughnuts and THANK YOU when they found one. Students went crazy for this simple game (and it helped them practice using YES and NO from previous lessons.)
Finally, we followed up with a "decorate your own doughnut activity" directly from Steve Antony's website- www.steveantony.com. Of course, students had to ask PLEASE for their paper. :)
Planning today's lesson on YES, NO, MAYBE, I was searching and searching for the right picture book choice. In the end, O couldn't find a good one, so I decided to bring PETE THE CAT: I LOVE MY WHITE SHOES, because I thought the kids would like it (and it does use NO quite a bit.)
I was wrong. They WENT WILD for it! They sang and snapped along, and loved saying "Goooooodness no" with me. We read it three times and I plan to bring it back when we talk about COLORS and also when we talk about FOOD.
I followed this book with a YES, NO, MAYBE activity using the "Do You Like Broccoli Ice Cream" flashcards you can download for free from the SUPER SIMPLE SONGS website, which was another hit.
Last week (our school's first week of English lessons) we were learning the basics: hello and goodbye. The kids loved listening to THE GRUFFALO for the first time in English. And with so much coming and going in the book- "Why fox, hello!" "Goodbye, little mouse" - it's a great introduction to teaching hello and goodbye, especially for kids who typically use the same word for both (ciao means hello AND goodbye).
THE GRUFFALO is a bit long for the littlest ones (i piccoli - 3yo). So rather than keep them squirming (or poking one another) I opted for HELLO HELLO. The colorful pictures of the animals grabbed everyone's interest and the simple text was perfect for the little ones. It was a hit!
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.