Sunday, 4 November 2018

Celebrating Halloween

Halloween is also known as All Hallow's Eve and it is believed to originate its traditions from ancient Celts. The Celts celebrated this time of year the ending of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. Still, the popularity of Halloween trick-or-treating and costume parties comes from America.

Although Halloween is not an Estonian holiday, we still celebrate and speak about it at school. It gives many exciting possibilities for language learning - starting with poems and songs to all kinds of writing activities.

Class 4 started thinking about Halloween already in September. We read a text about one festival in Spain and I decided to connect it with Halloween. The children drew their Halloween costumes and wrote a note to their friend.

The Halloween Party actually did take place in our school and it was great fun! Class 3 performed at the party with a Trick-Or-Treat Rap. They truly enjoyed practicing it in the lessons :)

Click here to see the video.

Class 2 learned to say one fingerplay - "Five Little Pumpkins". You can find the text here:
Class 1 got to know Halloween symbols and origins and sang "Ghosts and Spiders" and "Halloween".

Actually, the main topic during Halloween week was MONSTERS! The readers this week were "Do Not Open This Book Again" by A. Lee and "I Need My Monster" by A. Noll. Both books are funny and give many possibilities for discussion.

Classes 2- 4 also got to draw and write about monsters. With Class 2 we first revised body parts and I gave them a short list with the words (the pictures matching the words were also on the board, for help). Then each child got a dice and rolled it to get to know the number of each body part on the list. After that, children filled in and copied a short gap-fill text and drew their monsters according to the numbers on the list. Finally, each one presented their work. Here you can see the monsters:


Class 3 started with drawing a monster and then compiled a text with the help of gap-fill exercise. Here are their works:

Class 4 focused on adjectives and filled in a poem. Here are some examples:

So much about Halloween this year. Next year again ;)

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Learning With The Help Of Online Quizzes

I have discovered that one very engaging way for learning and revising vocabulary is using Quizizz.

It is actually really easy to create a quiz there - you might adapt someone else's work or start one by yourself. I have used Kahoot! many times but I tend to prefer Quizizz. I guess it might be just my personal "problem", but I find the background music of Quizizz more pleasant. I also find the memes that appear after each answer very entertaining. Actually, I found out that my students prefer it too.

One more thing that I like about Quizizz, is the fact that when I start a game in class, the students can see the task/question on the screens of their devices. I have learned that especially younger children find it difficult to watch two screens (the teacher's and their own) at the same time. Besides, if somebody fails to start the game together with the class, they are welcome to join a bit later and can still answer all the questions. Just the teacher needs to remember not to end the game before everyone has finished. So, I find it more personal and child-friendly.

Still, both Kahoot! and Quizizz can be used for assigning hometask and my children are quite willing to do it :)

The children of Class 3 are practicing irregular noun plurals.

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Getting Children Writing

The biggest focus in my English classes is getting children to speak. Being a primary level English teacher, I have always had the idea, that the first years of learning a foreign language should give children the courage of using it in speech. So during Classes 1-3 we mainly focus on oral work. Still, already in Class 2 children begin writing words and sentences.

One fun way to get children writing is to let them make signs. In September Class 3 designed signs for the schoolhouse.

But how do I get children writing stories, not just sentences?

Stephen King has said:
"If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that." 

So, the first thing to start with is reading books to children. The more stories they listen the better it is.

During the previous week, I introduced Class 2 books about bears. One of the books was "I Want My Hat Back" by J. Klassen.

We also watched and listened to the videobook and children said sentences about the pictures. We even tried reading it together. They really liked this story!

The other book was "How Many Sleeps Till My Birthday?" by M. Sperring and S. Braun. It is is a lovely book that makes children laugh :)

We even found out how many days (not sleeps) it is until everyone's birthday! If you are interested, then scan the QR-code and try it out yourself:

After all this reading and listening (not to mention the poem of the week, which was also about Grizzly Bear) and inspired by the first book, each child got to draw a picture of their own grizzly bear and its hat. They also had to present the pictures with some oral sentences.

Next, I had the idea of trying to write a little story. I have actually never tried writing a story with this age-group before. But not so long ago I happened to read that in America and England they start teaching story-writing with labelling the pictures. So, I thought we'd give it a try. We labelled the pictures with very simple words. Here you can see the pictures:

After that, I helped my children with a gap-fill text.

We discussed together what to write in the gaps. Children used their labelled pictures to find the right words. Finally, they copied the text with the missing words. Here are the stories:

The children were actually quite amazed to find out that they could write a story. And I was glad to learn that this method worked :)

Labelling pictures works also with a bit older children. Lately, we discussed the topic of different jobs with class 4. As I have learned with this particular group, they find it difficult to start writing a story. So, we started off with drawing pictures about their future job. As Class 4 is already aware of the parts of speech, I asked them to write all the nouns they could see in their pictures. Next, they added verbs and adjectives.

Finally, I helped them with the beginnings/endings of sentences and they chose only the most appropriate words from their pictures to complete the thoughts. Here is the outcome:

My Future Job

When I grow up I want to become a company manager. I need a computer to do this job. I need to be precise and brave to do this job. When I do this job, I need to work a lot. I want to do this job in England. (C. R.)

When I grow up I want to become a parkourer. I need cool clothes to do this job. I need to be sporty to do this job. When I do this job, I need to jump a lot. I want to do this job on New York roofs. (J.)

When I grow up I want to be a singer. I need coloured lights, a microphone, clothes and a stage to do this job. I need to be brave, positive and friendly to do this job. My job consists of singing and dancing. I want to do this job in America. (D.)

When I grow up I want to be a music teacher. I need a piano, notes, instruments and a chair to do this job. I need to be emotional and patient to do this job. When I do this job, I need to sing and play musical instruments a lot. I want to do this job in Estonia. (L-L.)

When I grow up I want to become a youtuber. I need a camera, a computer, a microphone and games to do this job. I need to be friendly and loud to do this job. When I do this job, I need to play games a lot. I want to do this job in Russia. (K.)

When I grow up I want to become a hairdresser. I need a mirror, scissors, towels, hair and a hairdryer to do this job. I need to be friendly, precise, careful and patient to do this job. When I do this job, I need to stand a lot and chat a lot. I want to do this job in Tartu in my own company. (M M.)

When I grow up I want to become an artist. I need a brush and paints to do this job. I need to be creative and calm to do this job. When I do this job, I need to paint a lot. I want to do this job in my home, in the studio. (E.)

When the children find writing "safe" enough (it means that they have a "helping frame" in the context of gap filling), they enjoy it and are able to manage perfectly. Here are some examples from Class 3, signs about missing pets.

As the year proceeds, I plan to experiment with creative writing. I expect it to be fun too! But meanwhile, let's continue reading books :)