What fills your heart?

The day of love is swiftly coming our way and there’s no way but celebrate it – especially with the young students! The trick is that young learners don’t think about love romantically, and I think that there is no better day to show them that there are so many different types of love. All need to be celebrated equally.

A year ago, I entered my Movers class and asked them if they were excited about the upcoming Valentine’s Day. To my surprise, they couldn’t care less and were almost disgusted by it. That’s because they thought about it as a holiday you celebrate with your boyfriend/girlfriend. I couldn’t disagree more! I started researching activities that we could do to celebrate this occasion and take some rest from the coursebook. Let me show you a few of the activities that we did that day, and let’s hope that they’ll serve as inspiration for your classes this year.

The mystery sentence

This activity can be done in person, online, or hybrid. Show students a mystery picture covered by fifteen numbered boxes. Each box has a Valentine’s Day vocabulary definition attached to it. If students answer correctly, click on the box to remove it. You can make it into a game by dividing students into pairs or small groups. The first group to decipher the mystery sentence hiding behind the picture wins!

If you want to make this game a bit more random, you can put the numbers on a wheel of fortune (Wheel of names is an excellent and free online tool to do that), or cut them out and put the numbers in a box, so the students have no way of choosing the number they want! You can also keep a tally of correct answers and determine the winner in this way.

You can follow up this activity with a short discussion on Valentine’s Day. Ask about the date when we celebrate this day and what we normally do (give presents or flowers, say I love you to people we love, spend this day with people we care about). Ensure that students understand that this is the day to show our appreciation for everyone and everything we love.

Match the halves of broken hearts

You can do this activity after the first one, or it can be a stand-alone exercise. Print out the worksheet with pictures of broken hearts on it. Each piece has a part of a word that needs to be matched with the other half. Cut them out and give them to each student or pair. Students put the words together and glue them in an appropriate order. If they love arts and crafts, they can also colour and decorate their hearts. Additionally, you can ask them to put them in alphabetical order before sticking them onto the paper.

Reinforce the meanings of the words by filling the gaps in the sentences with these words. Students work individually and write down the words. Practise reading and pronunciation while checking the answers. Optionally, ask your students to write two or three other sentences if you feel that they need some more writing practice.

What fills your heart?

As I said before, I wanted to prove to my students that Valentine’s Day isn’t only about a romantic type of love. After endless research for the perfect activity, I found a Heart Map Writing Activity by Elisabeth Montgomery. Click the link to download the worksheet for free! You can approach this activity in a few ways, depending on how much time you’ve got on your hands.

  1. Print out My Heart Maps and in each piece write things that they love (people, things, animals, activities, places, etc.) Anything that comes to their minds! Students draw the things and decorate the hearts.
  2. Print out My Heart Maps and cut out the pieces. Each student receives nine pieces of the heart and writes down in each one the things they love. Once everyone completes the writing part, ask them to put the puzzle together in the shape of the heart. Students put the puzzle and glue it onto a separate piece of paper. Complete the project by drawing the things they love and decorating their hearts.
  3. If you work online, you can create a google drive document, or a jamboard and put the name of each student on top of each slide. Students write the things they love and decorate their hearts by drawing them or finding appropriate pictures on the internet and pasting them onto their hearts.

The PDF by Elisabeth Montgomery also gives a short follow-up idea for a writing activity. Students write a few sentences describing people, things, places and activities they drew in their Heart Maps. Monitor the activity and help with any grammar problems. You can finish the class by displaying their Map Hearts and writings.

Last year, I was teaching a hybrid class, so I had to approach it a bit differently. Firstly, I drew a big heart on the board and asked students what fills their hearts. I collected their answers and wrote them inside of the heart. Then I asked them to personalize their projects. My in-class students got a printed out version of the heart, pencils, crayons and markers to write down their words and decorate the hearts. My online students (I had two at the time), were shown a presentation split into two parts. Each part had a heart on one side and their names on top to avoid confusion. They used an annotation tool on Zoom to write the things and then drew and coloured each part.

All the activities can be downloaded directly from this post or the Teachers pay teachers store – Valentine’s Day – a set of three activities and Valentine’s Day – A mystery sentence PPT.

Here are some ideas that you can use in your young learners class! Your kids will definitely appreciate a much-needed break from using their textbooks and thinking about what they truly love and enjoy in their lives. How are you going to celebrate Valentine’s Day in your class?

The Christmas Countdown

If you live and teach in one of the European countries, it’s almost impossible to avoid Christmas-themed lessons. A year ago, when I worked at an academy in Alicante, I was asked to prepare a short Christmas video or project with some of my younger groups. With my Movers group (ages 7-9), we spent about 5 or 6 hours talking about Christmas and preparing for the big video.

Children love Christmas, and no matter how much you try to avoid it, you will have to devote some time to it. What’s a better joy than counting down the days to Christmas? I thought that maybe it’s possible to keep this holiday excitement while learning English. Why don’t you try using an advent calendar that helps you focus on different exercises in each class?

In this free to download version, there are four classroom activities, each one of them written down on a festive card. You can either print out the numbers and glue them to the back of the cards, or you can put them in festive envelopes! If you have a Christmas tree in your classroom, you can hang them and remove one card daily! Ask your students to uncover the task at the beginning of the class and follow this Christmas activity.

As mentioned before, there are four different festive tasks. Let me present them to you and give you my idea of how to use them in class.

Write a letter to Santa

There is no better way of starting December than thinking about the presents! You can ask the kids whether they’ve been naughty or nice this year. If they believe that they’ve been nice, elicit what kind of good things they’ve done. Think of a list of good deeds and move on to the fun part – the presents. You can then put the letters in the envelopes and send them to the North Pole!

Read a Christmas story

Ask your students to read this Christmas classic written by Clement Clark Moore. ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas is an interesting choice, but fit it to your kids’ needs and abilities. If you find it to be too long, use only one page and move on! Another way of using this poem is asking your students to work in groups and fill in the gaps with the missing words. You can also try choral reading to keep everyone engaged in the activity. The poem is well-known, so you may also want to use a recording to listen to someone else reading it while filling out the missing words.

Make a Christmas ornament

Your classes shouldn’t be only about learning. Aim to bring the students closer together and build a good classroom community. It’s as necessary as studying! Let each of your students choose one out of six available patterns and give them the freedom to decorate them. If you bring markers and glitter, then you can count on having a great time. In the end, decorate your Christmas tree or a classroom. Students love seeing their projects on display.

Listen to Christmas carols

I chose my all-time favourite kids Christmas carol – Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer. First, ask the students to match the vocabulary with the pictures to make sure that everyone knows what words we are looking for. Once everyone is clear, use these words to fill in the gaps while listening to the song. Play this Christmas carol, write the missing words and if you have some more time or need to record a video – why don’t you learn it and perform it for the parents?

Here are some of my ideas for an ESL Christmas advent calendar for kids. It’s easy, low-prep, and most importantly, your YL will love choosing the numbers and seeing what kind of fun surprise they’ve got ahead of them. If you are an after-school ESL teacher with two hours a week, this should give you content for two weeks of classes! If you are looking for something longer and more engaging, head to my TpT store to download the full version with eight more activities and over 60 pages of PDF. The activities include the four previously explained and additionally, the Christmas alphabet, solve and create a Christmas jigsaw, design your perfect gingerbread house, write and design a Christmas card, write a Christmas cookie recipe, roll and colour the ornaments, watch and answer questions about Frosty the Snowman and design and hang your own Christmas stocking!

How are you going to celebrate ESL Christmas this year? Click below to download four activities for free!

Halloween Escape Room

If you want to have a fun and relaxing class, look no further. I’ve got something just for you! Your teenagers will love this Halloween-themed escape room style class. All you need to do is monitor the answers and make sure that your students don’t get too heated in this instalment of spooky classroom activities!

As educators, we need to promote student independence, group work and above all, know when to sit back and just relax. What bothers me the most about typical Halloween classes is that teachers normally choose the same activities over and over again. I think that it’s important to know the history of holidays, but we also need to think about keeping our learners engaged and motivated in learning languages.

Before I knew how to manage my planning time and prepare good lessons, I’d often resort to searching and downloading free worksheets from websites such as iSLcollective. It’s a great website with so many resources, but what I realised when I worked alongside other colleagues is that we often chose very similar if not the same activities. It saves a lot of time, but these classes are predictable and at times boring.

As I was researching different possible Halloween activities, I started thinking about exercises that are fun, different from your normal class, allow independent group work and most importantly, give you some time to sit in the corner of your classroom and just observe. Escape rooms check all the above! This class is designed for A2+ level groups (possibly Flyers).

If you are back in the classroom, you can download the tasks, print them out (and laminate if you can!), divide your students into pairs (or small groups) and start! Make sure that students know that they compete against each other. That will make them more determined to finish the tasks as quickly as possible. At the end of the post, you can download a set of three tasks for free. If you want a full version of six tasks, feel free to visit my TpT store.

Task 1 – This is Halloween

If you divide your students into smaller groups, you can start with the song. In this way, all students can do the task at the same time and then continue at their own pace. Play This is Halloween, a classic Halloween song, and ask your students to write the number of times the word Halloween is mentioned. This will make them settle down and concentrate. Once the song finishes, students write their answers on the answer sheet. If the answer is correct, they can move on to the second task – if it’s wrong. They get to listen to it one more time!

Task 2

Following the typical Flyers exam task, give your students three definitions of Halloween related objects and creatures. Students read the prompts and write their answers. Remember to accept only the answers that are spelt correctly! If your students get a bit stuck, you can help by giving some hints. If they know the word in their L1, you can allow the use of dictionaries – it is about learning after all!

Task 3

Students put a jigsaw together. This can be done using the physical or a digital version of the jigsaw (in case your learners have their phone in the class). Both versions have the same number of pieces. The puzzle has four questions written on it. Once your students put the puzzle together, they need to answer the questions about the escape room and the number of phonemes in Halloween and witch. Explain the meaning of phoneme if necessary.

A jigsaw from the task 3.

These are just examples of tasks that can be done in the escape room style class. I think that this escape room shouldn’t take longer than 15 minutes, which gives you some time to teach certain vocabulary or phonemes that may be useful in this activity.

As always, these are only some ideas that you can expand on or use as a filler. Click the file below to download the a set of three tasks, an answer sheet and the answers for free.

Halloween Comparatives and Superlatives

Grammar doesn’t have to be boring! Ask your students to come dressed in their best costumes and practise comparatives and superlatives for short adjectives, using different Halloween objects and creatures.

I love themed lessons. However, I don’t think they should always be the same and focus on the vocabulary. That’s why I’ve prepared a set of worksheets for young learners (Movers level). It will not only refresh the Halloween vocabulary but will also allow them to practise the use of short adjectives as comparatives and superlatives.

At the end of the post, you can download the lesson plan, a set of worksheets (3 pages) and a card game for free. They will help with the reinforcement of the spelling of short adjectives in comparative and superlative forms.

The class starts with the first exercise on the worksheet. You can divide your students into pairs and ask them to find as many Halloween words as they can. If you want to make it a bit more competitive, you can give a time limit and reward them with candy (or another, possibly healthier option) as points. Another way in which you can make this task a bit more engaging is by giving the first letters to the words that your students are looking for. You can make it into a race and point out any spelling mistakes.

The next task can be either done as writing or as speaking. Students read the questions and answer them by looking at the picture. Some of the questions are open-ended and students can give their subjective opinions! For example, some of the learners may find zombies scary meanwhile, others may find them quite cool!

Then you can move on to the next exercise that deals with comparatives of short adjectives. Students read the statements and answer them by saying yes or no. To make this task more engaging, you can draw the Halloween objects and creatures or ask your students to do that for you! If you are currently teaching in a classroom, then you know the joy of drawing on a whiteboard! (Drawing on a Zoom whiteboard is quite fun too).

Once you’ve got your sentences all figured out, ask your students to point out the adjectives and explain the comparatives. Young learners are so intuitive and observant that they will immediately spot the -er pattern! Your task is to show them that even though they all end with -er, there may be some spelling variations, for example, double consonant, or changing -y to -i. To establish this newly-learnt form, ask your students to practise it by writing four short sentences. Check for any errors and always help if necessary.

Moving on to superlatives. You can do it in the same class, or you can separate it into two days. Depending on your group level, sometimes it’s worth dividing the content into a few lessons! Look at the pictures of three skeleton animals and three Halloween costumes. Students read and discuss the questions. This is how the superlatives are introduced. Your learners are already on the lookout, so they may notice them before you say anything!

Once again, students identify any adjectives and write their superlative forms. Since you’ve already discussed different ways of spelling, they’ll immediately answer your questions about the double consonants and -y to -i change. You can supplement this activity with another speaking or writing exercise, just to help your students with any grammar issues. The last task is reading about the Ghost family. Students read the text filled with superlatives and fill in the gaps with the corresponding family members.

You can end this class by playing Black Peter! I used to love playing this game as a child. It’s ideal for groups of 4-5 students. Each student gets 6-7 cards and randomly chooses one card from the person to the left. If they have a set of three cards – an adjective, a comparative and a superlative (e.g. big, bigger, the biggest), they say the sentence using one of the forms and get a point! Be careful! There is a Black Peter card that doesn’t have a pair! A student with the Black Peter card is the loser. These cards can be also used to play memory or any other variation of Black Peter. The choice is yours!

That sums up my Halloween grammar class. Do you teach Halloween-themed classes? Do you teach the vocabulary and play games, or do you take this opportunity to still cover any grammar points? I hope you enjoyed my lesson! Download all the files for free below! If you are looking for the full version of the Halloween worksheet on comparatives and superlatives, head to my TpT store and get it today!

Adapting lesson plans to other levels

I used to work at an academy that required all plans to be posted onto the server by Monday. At first, it’s fine, you do it, full of energy and happiness. However, then comes the time when you reach the limit and you start thinking about how you can prepare one lesson plan that can be used for different levels.

It starts to resemble an investigation board. You think about the topics that you can teach at the same time, the activities that you need to tweak just a bit to have a good fit for the other group and the worksheets that need little to no changes. My last post focused on Compound Words for Starters. Using this plan, I would like to show what changes need to be made for Starters (A1), Mover (A1+) and Flyers (A2) levels.

Let’s start with a list of things that needs to be taken into consideration while adjusting lesson plans.

Age

Starters are the youngest ones and they are normally between 4-6 years old. Movers are the transitioning period with 7-9 years old and Flyers are the oldest ones with 10-12 years old. Remember that this is just a rule of thumb and the age can vary. Based on the age you need to choose appropriate activities for each group. That means that Starters and Movers will be very excited about colouring meanwhile, Flyers may already ask for a different type of activity.

Motor skills

It’s perfectly fine to add cutting and glueing to your lesson plan for Starters. It’s a type of activity that allows them to follow English instructions while developing their motor skills. It’s also a type of activity that will take some time to be completed. Movers may also be interested in this activity but it will be done in a much shorter time. You shouldn’t really bother Flyers with their motor skills development. They may find this activity fun but in small doses.

Energy level

Starters will be hyped up and need to run around, jump, dance and sing. Movers have a very similar level of energy (at least in my experience) and may actually enjoy some of the similar activities. Flyers are more relaxed and can sit down for a longer period of time. They may enjoy a kinetic activity every now and then but they do not like to sweat.

Reading and writing skills

When choosing activities for the little ones, it’s best to limit reading activities to a minimum. I like to ask them to read the tasks or flashcard names but longer pieces of reading will put them off. Movers on the other hand are quite excited about reading (especially role-play comics). However, limit the tasks to a minimum as reading can be quite tiring in big amounts. In my opinion, a text with fives sentences should be more than enough. Flyers are perfectly fine with longer texts. They may not enjoy them but they can do longer pieces of reading without any issues.

The same goes for writing. My group of Starters only started enjoying writing in the second semester when they got a bit more familiar with the letters. Even then, there are plenty of errors and they need help with showing them how certain letters look like, so limit writing to one-word answers. Movers can write well! They will take their time to show you their calligraphy but you can already ask for one-sentence answers. Flyers have no problems with writing but just like with reading, you may hear complaints.

Okay, so now let’s look at three different lesson plan outlines depending on the level you’re teaching.

STARTERSMOVERSFLYERS
Lead in: Draw a picture of a raincloud and a bow in a form of a math equation. Elicit the words and put them together to make a rainbow. Draw a rainbow and revise colours.Lead in: Students read a short text with compound words. Highlight one word and divide it into two separate words (e.g. ____ + ____ = rainbow). Following this example, students work in pairs to find more compound words.Lead in: Read a short text containing compound words. Tell students that in this text there are 8 words that have something in common. Students work in pairs to find the common factor. If it’s too difficult you can give a hint until students know what they are looking for.
Song: As a part of revision you can sing a song about a rainbow or maybe you can find a song about compound words to introduce your students to the topic.Vocabulary revision: Students use the words from reading to label the pictures.Teach compound words: Explain the meaning of compound words. Students write and divide the words into two single words. The activity ends with students naming these words.
Flashcards: Take flashcards of two words that make compound words and revise them. This is a form of vocabulary revision. Use 6 separate words that make 3 compound words.Teach compound words: Explain the meaning of compound words. Students divide the words into two separate words.Vocabulary revision: Students use the words from reading to label the pictures.
Teach compound words: Take the flashcards and put two words together. Following the lead in, display the words on the board in the form of a math equation.Flashcard game: Do it in pairs and treat it like a competitive activity. Students get flashcards of compound words and single words. Students race to put two words and the compound word they make. Additionally, you can ask them to match pictures with labels.Flashcard game: Do it in pairs and treat it like a competitive activity. Students get flashcards of compound words and single words. Students race to put two words and the compound word they make. Additionally, you can ask them to match pictures with labels.
Follow instructions: Ask your students to sit down and read short few words sentences. Students take turns reading instructions and colour the objects on the worksheet.Anagrams: Students solve the anagrams of single words.Anagrams: Students solve the anagrams of single words.
Match compound words: Using the coloured pictures, students draw arrows to match the words together. They can use the flashcards on the whiteboard to help them.Match compound words: Students match the words from the previous exercise and write them below corresponding pictures.Match compound words: Students match the words from the previous exercise and write them below corresponding pictures.
Writing practice: Students write three compound words and then draw the new words in the boxes.Optional video: Students watch a video on compound words and guess the words. Click here for an example of an interactive video.Writing practice: Students write five sentences using compound words.
Game: Play a memory game. You can preface this game by hiding the cards around the classroom and finding them to match them in pairs first. Put the cards face down and find pairs that make compound words.Game: Play a memory game. Put the cards face down and find pairs that together form compound words.Game: Play a memory game. Put the cards face down and find pairs that together form compound words.
Free time project: To help your students cool down, ask them to sit down and pick two words at random. Students write the words down and draw the new object.Free time project: Ask your students to sit down and pick two words at random. Students write the words down and draw the new object.Free time project: Ask your students to sit down and pick two words at random. Students write the words down and draw the new object.

As you can see a lot of the activities are the same and the only differences are the wordlists used for these exercises. Starters level reading is limited to reading and following instructions. Movers and Flyers start by reading a short text and in the case of Flyers, they are the ones who need to guess the topic of the class. It’ll make them a bit more excited about the reading exercise and will encourage them to read it more than once.

Another difference is in the teaching of compound words. The concept is introduced much later for Starters and Movers than for Flyers. Flyers also get a full explanation of compound words and will use this phrase in class.

Flashcards are used at all levels, but in the case of Starters and Movers, you can play certain flashcard games like flashcard race, jumping on named words or showing flashcards for split second to hear the pronunciation and check their understanding. In case of Flyers you can play games to put flashcards together in a form of math equations (____ + ___ = ____). This is enough to check their vocabulary knowledge.

It’s also a good idea to play a song or show a video of compound words. Starters and Movers will definitely enjoy that part of the class. Flyers may find it a bit childish and boring already. You can check their speaking and writing skills instead.

The common factor for all three levels are the memory card game and the final project. Even though Flyers aren’t very keen on drawing, they may find this task quite fun, especially if you stay away and let their creative juices flowing.

So as you can see, it’s possible to adapt the topic and certain activities across all the levels. You need to model your language accordingly and make sure that all the activities are age-appropriate. Below you can download the flashcards, memory cards and worksheets that you can use with three levels.

DISCLAIMER: Remember that these are only my suggestions for the activities and their order! It’s based on my experience with the young learners and depending on your students and their level you may use a completely different approach.

Creating a classroom community

There’s nothing better than having a group of students who enjoy each other’s company. On the first day it is essential to build a safe space and create the feeling of community.

Last year when I was combing through the internet for the perfect first class activity for young learners. I wanted something that will help them get to know me, at the same time demonstrating their speaking and grammar skills. I found a perfect activity on ESL Kid Stuff (a great website with so many lesson plans and a range of activities!) I decided to go through their intro lesson plans for kids aged 8-12 years old. One of the activities describes drawing a stickfigure and writing one word answers around it. The stickfigure is a representation of a teacher and the answers are basic facts about you!

I decided to take a spin on this activity. My end goal is to create an arts and crafts corner for my YL groups. Instead of drawing ourselves, students can trace their hands and write the answers to these questions inside! I think that it gives a personal touch to it and students will definitely look at their classmates’ projects at least to compare their hand sizes! It also gives a sense of belonging as you create something as a group and no one from outside of it is allowed to be a part of your little family.

You can start the class by drawing a big hand on the board (or use a ppt for online classes) with certain words written inside, as seen below.

An example of a handprint with information about me – the teacher.

Now students need to predict the questions to the answers – they are quite obvious, so focus on reviewing correct word order and tenses instead! You can even ask your young learners to come to the board and write them next to the corresponding fingers. I focused on name, age, birthday, favourite pet and colour, and best friend’s name. Of course, you can and maybe even should adapt the activity based on your group! I wanted to include the birthday dates as it may help you with planning a special activity, a song or a little gift for your little ones in the future.

At the end you can either decorate the hand on the board OR show them the real craft you’d done yourself prior. As it normally goes with the little ones, you have to do some of the crafts at home to show them the visual example. So trace your hand, write the answers to your questions and decorate it! If you know that at your academy/school there are plenty of materials that you can use (markers, stickers, glitter…) then of course, use them on your project. If not, better stay away from it. It’ll save you a lot of questions and comments about your materials.

Once everyone is done you can go around asking and answering the questions. At the end dedicate one section of your classroom just for this group and display their work! Young learners LOVE looking at their art and at the end of the year they will definitely want to take them down and keep it as a souvenir. It is also an incredible way to check their progress and physical development at the end of the year!

What do you think about my introduction craft? What do you normally do with your YL on the first day of school?

Fun facts about the Sun – Movers

The last few weeks of ESL classes can be a bit difficult. The books are finished, the exams are taken and we all just wait for the holidays to start. Here is a lesson plan for YL about the Sun and different ways to stay safe in the summer.

If there is one thing that I really enjoy about teaching ESL is the freedom of choice of topics. It is true that during the academic year, we have to follow a schedule, finish course books, focus on exam preparations… But every now and then we are given an option to prepare our own class about anything that we want. This is one of the best moments to adapt the classes to our students’ or our own personal interests!

As summer is coming, I decided to test my students’ science knowledge about the Sun, its benefits and detriments on our health and different ways that we can protect ourselves from it. This class consists of three downloadable materials: a lesson plan, a reading worksheet and an example project. Go to the end of the blog to download the materials! This lesson plan can be taught on its own or it can be treated as an introduction class about the summer holidays.

The class starts with a lead in that looks into different stages of the Sun during the day. Students are asked to use their previous knowledge of naming times of day (morning, afternoon, evening and night) and are introduced to sunrise and sunset. It is also a good moment to see if your learners use the right prepositions with the times of day!

The next part of the class checks the students’ understanding of science and using big numbers in English. Learners give their own definitions of the Sun and guess the age and the distance from the Sun to Earth. Check the answers by reading authentic material, an extract about the Sun, adapted from Britannica Kids. This should make your learners more interested in the topic and will also show them that despite young age and beginner level, they are already able to understand real materials and maybe it will motivate them to start doing their own research in English.

The class then continues into the speaking part. Students are asked about the advantages and disadvantages of the Sun on our health. Write the ideas on the board and ask your learners about different ways in which we can protect ourselves from the negative effects of the Sun. Write all of the ideas down, as they will be useful for the final part of the class – the project about staying safe in the summer.

Before you give out all the project materials, you can present your YL with an example poster. This should give them a better idea of your expectations and will definitely cut the time of project making. Once the projects are done, feel free to display them in the classroom, or ask your students to take them home and use them as a reminder of staying safe while being outside!

You can download all the materials right here!