Best Activity Book for the Summer

Summer means holiday and a lot of free time that we know perfectly how to enjoy and make the most of, but...what about our kids?

Many parents and teachers think that this time of the year should be employed by our little ones for reviewing, reinforcing, or at least maintaining a minimum level of fluency and knowledge of everything they've been studying during the school year. Furthermore, this 2020 has seen half of the school population at home dealing with online classes for the lockdown, and, perhaps many of you have this feeling that not enough effort has been put into studying and learning. It is then possible that your first reaction is to look for, apparently, simple grammar tasks and download them from the internet just to realize that our sons and daughters, especially those attending the first grades of primary school, are incapable of doing any of that. 

And the first feeling is... Panic. You think that your kids don't know any English and you don’t know how to help them or at least it looks like that what you’re trying is not working at all (?!?!?!?).

High Five 3! - MacMillan - Sample pages.

Well, first of all, the grammar approach to learning languages, especially at young ages, is an old method no longer in use. 

Secondly, open any of the the Stuedent’s books that your children are using at school and observe it. What can you see? Pictures, songs, sometimes links to online resources, speaking exercises to refresh what they already know from previous years, and then… more pictures, dialogues, a bit of new grammar in context and more speaking exercises. 

Finally, take a look at the Activity book: you’ll notice that it is full of written tasks and projects where children can practice their writing skills, always, always, always after having previously used and developed their listening, speaking and reading skills with the Student’s book. 

Why so much preparation for writing? Because we know that any brain, for learning anything, needs to relate the new knowledge to the previous one and, all those listening, speaking and reading activities are needed in order to add the new information to the learner’s mental schemes in a significant and persistent way. Moreover, translation is not an aspect they work at school either, (as I mention in my book) so even if the exercise looks amazingly simple to you, they might not be able to make connections between their first language and English yet. 

At this point, you have already understood that your children do know English, it’s just the way they learn it that is different from what you were taught when you were their age, so, to them your grammar exercise doesn’t make any sense because it hasn’t any context from which a primary school child can deduct and create connections.

Does this mean that you must change into a schoolteacher? Well, not really. Just try to look for the right material or activity books so that your child can work out the meaning of what they’re doing by themselves, using all the resources that are already planned together with the activity.

I hope this post was useful, and of course if you have any question, sen me an email at misslucysteachingfun@gmail.com

Also, more information about how children learn English, but any second language really, is available in my book Mi hijo habla inglés, on Amazon and other ebook platforms. 

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Pygmalion in the classroom - My experience

Hello dear teachers and parents!
How's everything going?!?! It seems like life never stops to surprise us these days. 
I haven't been posting over the last 3 months because classes here in Madrid have been interrupted and my primary source of inspiration has run dry.

However, do not think I've spent these last 100 days rubbing my belly! Of course not! Instead, I had lots to do and lots to learn, because I'm enrolled in a master’s degree about bilingualism and international curriculum that is keeping me very busy. One has to work hard if she wants to be an expert for real.

Right now, we are in a sort of a break between the first and the second term, so I tried to get distracted publishing a new e-book about my experience as a practitioner in a primary school here in Madrid.

Perhaps, you might think ‘ok, another bunch of unrealistic ideas that you can think of only if ae a student with a lot of free time’, but, let me say that it’s not my case. First of all because I was working while studying, which means no free time at all, and secondly because the story is about some techniques which can be used worldwide in order to increase your students outcomes without changing a comma of your lesson plans.

What happened is that high expectations, projected thanks to these techniques, made their job properly with my unmotivated and disruptive students, and in so doing increased their marks.

Would you like to know more? Here you go!

You can find my book on Amazon (every country) and, soon, on the other eBook platfoms. Stay tuned!

By the way, there is also a Spanish version of the book, on Amazon, iTunes, etc. which is called Pigmalión en el aula. Una experiencia real. You can read about it here.

I'm looking forward to reading your comments and suggestions!

Stay safe!


Prewriting with flashcards and...a fly swatter

Hello everybody! Long time no see. This is going to be a quick post about a nice activity I came up with the day I bought a fly swatter. As you can see from the picture it's a special one ;)

First thing first, when we came back from the Christmas holiday I used it to help children recall single sounds with the help of phonics cards. What I noticed is that it is better to select a few cards each time, because for some of our young learners it might feel overwhelming to have to choose among too many options.

The other activity I've come up with, after studying some of the most common consonant digraphs, ch, sh, and th, is about writing words which contain these sounds, as you can see. In the first phase I chose words containing short vowel sounds, and in the second one I used vowel digraphs. This way we reviewed and worked a bit more our phonetic awareness.

This second activity is inspired by the Montessori method for teaching reading and writing, but I had to adapt the way of proposing it since I’m working with second language acquisition:

First, on a big surface, in my case made up of 3 double desks, I displayed 3 rows of cards: row number 1 contained simple consonant sounds, row number 2 contained the short vowel sounds and the third row contained consonant digraphs.
Then,  while everyone was busy colouring a sound worksheet, I called 2 children and told them to sit next to me at the big table.

Once sitting, I told them a whole short word containing 3 of the sounds displayed on the table, one from each row. Then, I retold the same word, cutting it into its different sounds and passed the swatter to the kid sat next to me. One sound each, they had to 'write' the word selecting the correct cards with the spanker. Once the 3 chosen cards were selected and placed in the right order in front of them, we read the word out loud again.

Designed this way, this activity will allow every child to concentrate and listen better to what you're saying, making it easier for them to be right, which has a good influence on their self-esteem and self-image. Furthermore, you will be able to spot and correct any difficulty in hearing the different sounds properly. For instance, they might confuse the sound sh with the sound s, the sound th with d, or even the sound ch with t. 

In a second moment I substituted the short vowel sounds with vowel digraphs such as ai, ee, ou, oo.

More about phonics games and activities here

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More exercises to encourage auditory discrimination

Some time ago, I wrote about the auditory discrimination of 2 vowel sounds that are difficult to distinguish by Spanish speakers: the e and the i. Several months and several phonics later, I am going to propose more discrimination exercises that can be worked on with your students to get them used to recognizing them.

Among the vowel phonemes we can focus on the discrimination between a and u, and in a second moment we will add the o. It is important to choose short words of 3 or 4 letters with only one vowel sound so that our students do not get confused. That means words such as cat, cut, cot, or pat, put and pot.

Other vowel sounds that we worked on this year were the i and the digraph ee, so that the children can see that the first one is a 'short i' and the second one is a 'long i'. If you accompany the words with the movement of both hands, moving them closer or further away depending on which sound the words have, you will help students to notice the difference even more. Some examples are: sheep (hands away) and ship (hands closer) or beet and bit, feet and fit, etc.

Finally, these last days we saw the digraph
oo that can also be pronounced by lengthening or shortening the sound as in moon /ˈmuːn/ or in hook /ˈhʊk/. Again we use our hands to highlight which is the 'long u' and which is the 'short u', when we pronounce the words, to help the little ones to better grasp the difference. Other words with /uː/ (the 'long u') are broom, spoon, food, while some words with /ʊ/ (the 'short u') are cook, foot, book, etc.

Among the consonantal sounds, we have obviously worked on the b and v, which are two phonemes that overlap  in the Spanish language, creating problems when it comes to writing, in both languages. Finally, the latest phonemes we saw were w and g which are also problematic, but, in this case, when it comes to pronouncing them: many children when they read the word wood aloud, would pronounce it good. You should insist on the positioning of their lips and, if nothing works, you can always give them the example of Huelva or huevo, so that they can grab it immediately. 

But... How do we work them out? Easy, peasy. At the moment, since my pupils are third graders who don't have to write anything yet, I just concentrate on the auditory and visual features. I usually use cute paper cups to which I apply a white label. On the label I write the sounds in large letters, both upper and lower case, and I also draw one or two pictures of words that start or contain the same sound. As you can see in the picture, I use pompoms of different types: these are all glittery for it was Christmas time, but, of course, I have  pompoms for workdays, too :o)

I use two different exercises: the first one consists of sitting 2 children (or 3 depending on the number of cups) in front of all the others (at a distance of 2 o 3 meters). These 2 or 3 hold the cups well visible so that their classmates, who must also be sitting, can place their pompoms, in the correct cup once a pompom has been distributed to each one, when they hear the word. 

In the second activity I do not use pompoms, instead, I divide the class into two groups and sit them facing each other at a certain distance. I alternate words that contain the sound I want to work that session with others that do not have it, and the children, when they hear the right phoneme, have to swap places with the one in front of them. This is just an adaptation of the game 'Change places if...' and I have only been able to use it with the 5-year-olds, because it seems that the 4-year-olds are not willing to give up their seats under any circumstances 😀

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Let's play with phonemes!

Hello, everybody!

It's been a long time since my last post, because I've been a little busy designing some entertaining activities to review all the phonemes we saw last year, among other things because new children were enrolled in the classes. I also wanted to take advantage of the fact that the children were one year older to introduce simple crafts in which they could practice a little more their fine motor skills and manual oculus coordination... so much mental work and so little free time!

Today I wanted to show you the 3 board games - soon there will be 4 - with which I work the phonemes, together with the official material of the Jolly Phonics method such as the Activity Books and more material that comes to mymind as I go along in accordance with the needs and inclinations of the different groups.

Pass the Word

The first game is called Pass the Word #ad and consists of pieces that fit together like a puzzle, some of which contain a picture with their respective word and others contain letters of the alphabet. The game is about taking a piece with the image and looking for the letters that make up the word, as you can see in the photos. With this game, in addition to the visual recognition of the letters, you can check whether children already can 'write' the words in the right direction, ie from left to right or in the right order. In any case, it helps children to develop these skills through a manipulative game which entertains them a lot.

Alphabet Lotto
The second game is called Alphabet Lotto #ad and is essentially a phoneme lottery consisting of 5 double-sided boards, with drawings or with letters, 30 cards with drawings and 30 with letters. Thanks to this design it is possible to play in 4 different ways: by matching those cards that carry drawings with the boards that carry drawings, by matching cards that carry letters with the boards that carry drawings, by matching cards that carry drawings with the boards that carry letters or by matching cards that carry letters with the boards that carry letters. Here we help our pupils to practice both auditory and visual recognition of phonemes and, in addition, they learn vocabulary, improving their mnemonic skills.
Match and Spell

The latest member of the family is called Match and Spell #ad It contains 12 double-sided boards with three-letter words, 8 double-sided boards with four-letter words and several cards with letters to 'write' the words that appear on the boards. It presents 2 levels of play: in the first, the children, once they have chosen the board they want to complete, look for the letters one by one and pronounce them until they read aloud the whole word.  The second level of the game consists of choosing a board with the side that does not show the letters face up, only the image and the blank spaces, and taking the letters as they are pronounced. Here we also work on the visual recognition of phonemes, phonemic awareness when they use the boards without the letters and begin to develop the first reading skills. I especially like this game because it is very similar to some Montessori reading and writing preschool activities, which is one more guarantee of its usefulness...

The fourth game I'm going to buy soon is another Match and Spell, but NextSteps, #ad in which the boards and the cards come with words containing the 'digraphs' we're reviewing these days, such as sh-ee-p, b-a-l-oo-n, t-r-ai-n, qu-ee-n, and so on.

Have fun!

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