ONCE UPON A TIME – A LESSON PLAN

esl gamesHi everyone! I´m so sorry I wasn’t able to get together with you for Sunday Best last weekend but I was preparing something really special for you. In fact, it will be the focus of this week’s Sunday Best, if I can hold my tongue until then that is!

Today I want to share an incredible game and lesson plan with you which I created for my young students but that has actually been an incredibly big hit with adults as well.

In this game I call ‘Once Upon a Time’, students become storytellers, not of someone else’s stories but of their own. Students will be presented with three sets of story sticks, the green sticks represent the place where their story will take place, the blue will be their main character(s) and the red (my personal favorite) will be the central problem of the plot or a problem their main character must endure or overcome. Using games in the classroom

You can download my set of story sticks here and print them on card paper, or you can certainly edit the document or make your own. Making them on popsicle sticks by hand is even more fun, but if you’re pressed for time this is a faster option. Here are the steps to set up this activity in class:

1) As a warmer I like to ask students about some famous stories they might know or ask them to recap one we have worked in class. I use the one they choose to elicit who the main character is, where the story takes place and what the main problem or challenge is. That way, they’ve come up with examples themselves to serve as inspiration.

2) Ask each student to select one story stick of each color. In the first two or three rounds I always let them read through all the sticks and choose the one they like the best. In the next rounds I have them choose them at random (the funniest and craziest stories will come up at this point). Of course if you’re teaching a large class it might be best to do this at random from the beginning, students might take a long time choosing at the rest of the students might get restless.

3) Give students a few minutes to think about their story.

4) Students take turns telling their stories.

5) Awards ceremony: After a very creative lesson like this where students have worked really hard I always like to have a little awards ceremony. Click here to download my award envelopes. Inside I write what the prize is. In my case this usually includes earning one or two star stickers (I use a sticker system in my classes), being able to choose the extra activity or game next class, stickers, being able to choose and animated short to watch or the next song we will sing in class. These may vary depending on the type of class you have, so I’ve left the envelopes blank so that you can adapt them. If you find them to be too small, you can always select the figures and make them larger. Storytelling

My categories include:

– Creativity

– Best Character

– Best storytelling (pronunciation and fluency)

– Best grammar

– Best use of vocabulary

– Best behavior (and this includes their behavior while telling the story as well as their behavior while listening to their classmates stories).

I have to tell you, I have a big box of games and activities for my young students, but no other game has provided as much concentration, interest and good behavior as this one. Phrasal verb UNO comes in second in this department. It’s also great for you to check students’ progress and see what areas need a little more review or focus.storytelling game

I hope you enjoy it! Ask me any questions or leave me some comments in the section below. If you try this out and have some incredible stories (it’s amazing what their little minds can come up with), please share them in the comments as well!

PENNY LANE – A LESSON PLAN

Using Beatles song in your lessosIt’s been a few weeks since I posted a lesson plan (remember I also share tons of resources for teaching in the Creative Teaching section of the blog). In today’s plan I incorporate music, grammar, listening, and reading comprehension into a really fun lesson  for kids. You can even make it an arts and crafts project at the end of the lesson and practice speaking skills while you’re creating a classroom poster.

The whole lesson usually takes me about 1 hour (an hour and a half to 2 hours if you’re doing the project at the end) but you can of course adapt it. So far the kids have loved this activity, especially making the project at the end of the lesson, it’s like the cherry on the cake! What song am I talking about? None other than the beautiful Penny Lane by The Beatles. I will outline the different activities you can do in class and in the order I usually do them, but feel free to cut, paste and change things if needed. I’m also adding a paragraph at the end with optional add ons in case you want to do some follow up activities or make this lesson a little bit longer.

Lesson name: Grammar from a song: Penny Lane

Use: Suitable for children of all ages and adaptable to different levels (Elementary + … ).

Language systems and skills practiced in this lesson: Grammar, Vocabulary, Listening, Speaking and Reading.

Timetable fit: This is a great practice lesson after you have taught the present simple tense and the present continuous tense and wish to practice when it is appropriate to use one over the other (present simple vs. continuous).

Part 1: Speaking/ Grammar/ Listening

1. I like to begin this lesson by talking about music and musical styles. Practice speaking with the students by having them talk to each other about their favorite bands and artists and then get everyone together and elicit some examples. If you’re teaching a private lesson simply do this with your student and have a conversation about their musical preferences. Another option is to elicit musical styles and write them on the board (e.g. rock, classical, jazz, opera, country, dance, folk… you’ll be surprised with all the musical styles they come up with!).

2. I’m a Beatles fan so I like to say that now I want to tell them about one of my favorite bands. I don’t tell them the name but I briefly play an excerpt of the song “I Want to Hold Your Hand” (which has such an iconic start to the song). If they can’t guess it, I then show them any of the hundreds of videos of the band playing the song that you can find on youtube. If they didn’t guess before they will imediately recognize the four figures in black and white tilting their heads sideways. Once they’ve guessed the name of the band I elicit from some of the students if they’ve heard their music before. They get very excited talking about how their parents love this music and even the very young ones will want to tell you the story of John Lennon’s death (this always shocks me!).

3. I then tell them that we are going to practice the grammar we’ve been seeing in class with one of the band’s most famous songs.

4. Give students the following handout of the lyrics of Penny Lane with a gapfill (download it by clicking here) (page 1). Tell them that they have to write the correct form of the verb in brackets in either the present simple tense or the present continuous tense and to be aware of the change of the verb in the third person singular. This will take them some time, it’s a song, so as we know the grammar isn’t always the way they’ve seen it in class, but they learn so much from this exercise that it’s completely worth the effort.

5. Walk around and help students that might be having problems with the exercise. Have students check the answers with a partner.

6. Feedback: The great thing about this exercise is that feedback or answer check is done by the student’s themselves through a listening practice. They get to listen to the song and correct their lyrics themselves! You will also have to play this several times especially for lower level students. Have them check with their partner again (if you’re working with a group). You can purchase the song on it’s own for practically nothing on iTunes and also find it on Spotify or your favorite music subscription app. Please don’t download illegally! It will cost you next to nothing and you’ll have it forever.

7. Give them the second page of the handout with the complete lyrics for them to check their final answers.

8. By this time, students will be begging to sing the song, and of course they deserve it after such hard work! I like to use this video Karaoke style but simply listening to the song with their complete lyrics is just fine and the quality of the music will be even better (the Karaoke version keeps their eyes up and engaged which is why I like to use this video sometimes). Sing the song two or three times with them. This will also help with connected speech and children love to sing it!

Part 2: Reading / Comprehension of the song/ Vocabulary

1. Now it’s time to help students understand what this song is about and go over new vocabulary in context.

Option 1 for lower level students: I use a beautiful illustration you can find in the following book: The Beatles Illustrated Lyrics, edited by Alan Aldridge (sorry I can’t share the illustration for Copyright reasons, but the book is truly wonderful if you want to look for it). You can also do a Google image search by typing: illustration of the song Penny Lane. Divide the class into smaller groups and give each of them a copy of the illustration and have them identify the different verses of the song with the images you see in the picture. For example, have them point to the picture and say this is the barber showing photographs, this is the pretty nurse selling poppies from a tray. Get the class to come back together and elicit what each of the things are by pointing at the picture. Here you will practice vocabulary, speaking and reading comprehension.

Option 2 for higher level students: This requires a bit more prep time by the teacher. Find magazine cutouts of the vocabulary used in the song and have the students make a collage to show the meaning of the song. Google images or google clipart will help you as well.

Part 3: Project-Arts and Crafts/ Speaking

1. You will need scissors, a glue stick, poster board, markers, your illustration of the song (or collage if you did option 2) and the lyrics to the song (I like to use the version they did themselves). Get students into small groups and have them place their collage or illustration in the center. Have them cut up the lyrics and place each piece next to the appropriate pictures in the center. They can do crazy looking arrows to show you what each part of the song refers to. Have them write things they know about the Beatles, the name of the band members and the song (you can even have some pictures or cutouts of the band that students can choose from and add to their poster). Encourage creativity and freedom to add what they want to in this part of the lesson. Encourage speaking in English while they do the activity and help them with language used in arts and crafts and making a project as a team. In classes where it is appropriate, I like to play soft Beatles music in the background. They love this!

2. Display their artwork proudly! You can even make a little art show and invite other teachers or students to come see their work.

3. If you have an extra couple of minutes, sing the song again. I can’t tell you how much students love this final singing of Penny Lane and how loud and excited they will sing it after they used all their creativity to work on the song.

Possible follow up lessons or add ons:

– Find a picture of the actual Penny Lane street in Liverpool (through Google images) and give them a text with facts about this street and the inspiration behind the song with some comprehension or True and False questions. Have a brief speaking practice at the end asking them if this was the way they imagined this street to be. Ask them if anyone has ever been to the UK or seen it in person.

– Add additional readings or listenings about The Beatles, always accompanied with a task to guide them through the activity.

– Add this song to your class music repertoire and sing it from time to time. Students will learn it by heart very quickly and this will be incredibly motivating for them.

– There are many illustrations of the lyrics of this song, find the book I recommended above or have some fun browsing Google Images and choose your favorite (you can also make your own if you like to draw!). You can use it time and time again.

– Enjoy this fun and musical lesson!

Please ask me any questions you might have about this lesson and don’t forget to share if you’ve enjoyed this post! Let me know how the lesson went in the comments below, ask me any questions or add some suggestions or ideas. Have fun!

SUNDAY BEST

Driving, music and the winterI was driving into the city today listening to Blind Melon’s Soup and feeling absolute bliss. Driving around this winter has become one of my favorite things to do, the air is thick with fog, the air is crisp and wonderful and the days are just eerie. It has also become the perfect time to just relax and listen to music. I hope you’re all having a relaxing and fun Sunday today. It’s my hubby’s birthday tomorrow so this could also be one of the reasons for my excitement and excessive smiling. I hope you’ve enjoyed the weekend and that you especially got a chance to slow down and smell the flowers (or the coffee, winter air, or whatever floats your boat). Without further ado, here are my picks for this week’s Sunday Best!

For foodies and cooking aficionados, Verses from My Kitchen has some beautiful and delicious recipes, top notch photos and a “come hang out and stay as long as you like” vibe. I can’t wait to try their wintery corn chowder!

Drizzle and Dip is another favorite of mine this week, they have so many great ideas and scrumptious flavor combinations!

For teachers and parents I found an incredible “has it all” online store. If I’m not careful I could spend an entire day browsing the endless sections of School Supply Giant. Think of it as the online superstore for teaching resources. Parents can find tons of great things for their kids here too, so don’t think it’s all about white boards and star stickers.

I’m so excited to share this newly discovered (at least by me!) Etsy Shop. Paper Statement has incredible jewelry and beautiful patterns and objects made entirely out of paper. Their colors and gorgeous simplistic design made me an instant fan! I have my eye on an incredible turquoise necklace that goes from dark to light…just imagining what their creative process must be like makes me giddy!

Last but certainly not least, if you feel like having a serious laugh or two, are a packaging and design enthusiast and simply love to oohh and aaahh after little genius bursts of creativity, visit this link from Topito.com (it’s in French but reading is the last thing you’ll be doing). Please don’t miss it!

That’s all I have for you today and I hope you have some fun browsing around! I haven’t written this little disclaimer in a while but just in case you’re new to this series, I’m not affiliated to or sponsored by any of these sites, I’m simply a fan and wish to share the love!

Happy Sunday!

A DAY IN THE LIFE

ChristmasFor some very strange reason, my students (especially the young ones) seem to be extremely curious about what my life is like. They are constantly asking me about my hobbies, my favorite bands, how old I am (this little guessing game gets hilarious with the young ones), what my husband is like, whether he plays play station games or football. My life is pretty simple nowadays which is what I’ve worked my entire life to finally be able to have, but to my students, these little bits of information are like little special treats. Perhaps it’s because we spend the entire class talking about what they’ve been doing, what their favorite movies are, the sports they play, and they love turning these back at me. The idea is to get them talking as much as possible, so I’m the least important person in the room while I’m teaching. However, it is slightly unfair that I get to ask all the questions and get all the scoop. So for my dear students who are always reading the blog (thanks! you guys rock!) and to any others that might be stopping by, here’s what my day looked like today.

At around 7 I made breakfast for my doggie and hubby and we all sat down to eat together (doggie on the floor but still…). A couple of hours of lesson planning followed, and then an early morning yoga class in what seemed to be the coldest day out ever! Then I ran some errands and continued with my lesson planning, and then after still having some of my yoga buzz left over I went into the kitchen to make a yummy vegetarian lunch. Roasted sweet potatoes, quinoa with almonds and goyi berries and my favorite ginger carrot sauce on the side, not to mention my new favorite side dish zucchini and leek “pasta-less pasta” with a rich tomato sauce. Amazing is all I have to say! Not because of any particular cooking skill of mine but because of the incredible and delicious food nature gives us! Then I had an afternoon of teaching, drove back home listening the the great Gary Jules and had dinner with hubby and doggie again. We’re about to curl up on the couch for some tv time, one of my favorite parts of the day!

Hope you had a great one too! Be sure to tell us about it in the comments!

PS: Another typical question is what our home is like, and whether I’ve put up my Christmas tree yet, so that’s what the photo above is about. Nala decided to model it for you. What do you think?!

HALLOWEEN-IES

bat hanging bat costumeHappy Halloween everyone! This post was supposed to go up last night but I finished teaching at 11 pm (yes, you heard me), so here it is today, after the sugar rush has done its thing and the costumes are in the hamper. That’s me in the picture above when I was about 5 years old wearing my favorite Halloween costume which I wore for years and years. My mother made it for me in her little sewing machine and altered it for years so that it would continue to fit me. I would then proceed to hang upside down in every kind of bar or handle that would allow me to do so. Halloween was serious business in the Sujo house, we were what I always called a couple of “Halloween-ies”. My mother and I would decorate the entire house and she would throw her annual and extremely famous neighbourhood Halloween party for all the kids. We all went nutty, had these extremely creative Halloween themed food, bloody red Kool Aid (this was back in the day when Kool Aid was allowed), went trick or treating, had costume cat walks and had a visit from “The Witch”. Halfway through the party, my mother who would always wear her everyday clothes, would leave for a moment and then “The Witch” would arrive (my mother in disguise). Her costume was so incredible, that we were all completely convinced it was an actual witch. Not only that, but she would call all of the parents beforehand asking about what had been going on in their kids’ lives, and at the party she would give each of us a Tarot card reading telling us exactly what was going on with each of us. You can imagine all the teeny tiny jaw dropping that went on.

Every year I think of these magical parties and time with friends and I get extremely excited around Halloween. I especially remember hanging the giant cobwebs and spiders that would fall on people at different moments in the party. I missed it this year because I was teaching, but my hubby and I did go out for a midnight burger at a local diner last night and were served by bloody chefs, scary ghosts and crazy skeletons, and we had a giant cob web hanging right on top of our table. So I got my Halloween fix in the end. Hope you had a great one!

THE INTERESTING HOME PROJECT

arts and crafts for eslI had a busy busy Sunday with all the cooking you read about in yesterday’s post. Followed by a little run, some much needed tv time and of course, lesson planning. I’m working on a project with one of my young students (age 9), which we’ve called “The Interesting Home Project”. We had a lesson on vocabulary that included mill, windmill, treehouse, castle, space shuttle, submarine, cave, teepee, among others, all in the fun concept of people who live in unique homes. He had a blast, especially because I made a Keynote presentation for him with these crazy real life photographs of strange houses from all over the world. Even the young ones are fascinated by real life stories and photos (plus they go nutty with the Keynote transitions so it’s a win-win!). At the end of the lesson we started our project and he got to choose one unique and interesting home that we would design together and write about (also to incorporate previous vocabulary and grammar such as rooms of the house, common objects and the present simple). His choice: a treehouse with a garage right inside the tree trunk (genius right?). So last night I decided to cut up some 3D leaves for the branches out of different materials and I’m going to show them to him today. I can’t wait to see his face when he realizes his tree will be 3D! I’ll post a photo of how the project is coming along (he doesn’t want me to take it until it looks really good and of course I respect his little work in progress). There is no better involvement for a student than these kinds of projects, especially if they’re allowed to think outside the box and show you their wonderful imagination. The amount of English that is used while making them is fantastic as well.

Speaking of unique homes, take a look at this man’s journey into designing an eco friendly tiny home: Tumbleweed, the tiny house company. Thanks to our reader and beloved friend Rachel for this amazing link!

SUNDAY BEST

fun in the classroomI´m very excited about Sunday Best this week! Our Creative Teaching section is finally ready! It has tons of incredible links and ideas for teachers, parents, care givers, grandparents, aunts, uncles you name it! Please stop by, take a look and share if you wish! I had a great time styling the colorful photos you see in that section, and an even greater time putting together some of my favorite tricks and resources. I hope you like it! This is Creative Teaching.

It´s been raining for days in Madrid and while I was getting soaked walking to my car the other day (no umbrella… AGAIN!), I saw this amazing tall building hiding behind the rain in this tiny alley. I loved it and I couldn´t stop myself from getting even wetter and taking this photo for you.

Please let me know what you think about the new section! I hope it helps you with your lessons and your time with the young cuties  in your life.

raining in madrid