How many of us will recognize the following scene:
- Teacher: (points to picture) Children, what is this?
- (hands fly into the air)
- Teacher: Okay, J, please answer the question.
- J: (answers the question)
- Teacher: Very good. (points to picture) Now children, what is this?
- (again, hands fly into the air)
- Teacher: Okay, S, please answer the question.
- S: (answers the question)
- and so on…
Just how much time do these children actually speak during this English lesson? If every child gets one turn during the lesson, and each turn takes two to five seconds, the children get two to five seconds of speaking time during that lesson. Now imagine this happens during each lesson, all year long. How long is the school year? In the Netherlands, it’s forty weeks long, so if I multiply five seconds by forty lessons, each child has had 200 seconds of speaking time, or 3,3 minutes. If I’m generous, I can even double that to 7 minutes of speaking time throughout the entire year.
In order to learn how to speak a language, children need to practice actually speaking, often and regularly, in various environments. They need a chance to practice in small groups or in pairs, so they may make mistakes and learn from them, without being embarassed. They need to use the language themselves. This is where co-operative learning structures come in handy.
I’ve already discussed a few simple co-operative learning strategies in my blog before, so regular readers will recognize my mantra of “get the children to do the speaking”. But for new readers, co-operative learning strategies allow learners the following advantages:
- They can practice in a smaller, safer environment
- They get more practice
- They get more feedback within that smaller, safer environment
- All of the children are guaranteed speaking time during the exercise.
No doubt there are more points to be made, but that is enough for now.
******************** and now for the fun part **********************
A few days ago, I was cleaning out an old closet and came across an “oldie but goodie” among all of my old material. I decided it was too good to throw away, so I’m sharing it now with you.
This activity is meant to help learners talk about clothing in a half-open exercise. It works like this:
Step 1: the chidren get four drawings of people wearing different kinds of clothing. They color in the clothing and faces of the people on the page.
Step 2: The children cut out the four pictures along the heavy lines.
Step 3: the children place the four drawings one above the other, and staple them into a book cover. They carefully cut along the light, dashed lines to make a flip-flap book.
Step 4: the children can now begin short discussions about what they are wearing. For instance, this person is wearing a red coat, orange shorts, and blue shoes. Please note: all of the children will be speaking at the same time, so the classroom might get a bit noisy for a few minutes…
This is an example I made for talking about clothes, but one could also make a simple flip-flap book for numbers and fruit… (“What is in your fruit bowl?” “I have 2 bananas”)
- What are you eating for breakfast, lunch, and dinner…
- What will you do in the morning, afternoon, and evening…
- What time are you going to (read a book / go shopping / play football)…
- How is the weather on (Monday / Tuesday / Wednesday)…
- How many animals are at the farm…
With a little imagination, one can create all sorts of flip-flap books based on what concepts are being taught at the time. When creating flip-flap books of your own, make sure to have the sections lined up carefully, so that when the pages are cut apart the dialogues make sense. The most important thing when making this, though, is that you have fun.
What other kinds of dialogues can be made up using flip-flap books, I wonder?
Here is a document with blank pages for flip-flap booklets. You can adapt these for your own classroom if you like.
There are three pages: one with two flip-flaps per page, one with three flip-flaps per page, and one with four flip-flaps per page. Print the page you want to use, or copy-paste it into a new document for yourself, and insert the images you want to use for your lesson.
It’s important for you to decide who’s going to do the work: you or the children. If, for instance, you want the children to create their own flip-flap booklets, then it’s important that they do the work. You can pre-structure certain parts of the booklet yourself, or none of it at all, and let them do all of the work.
Or, you may decided that you really want them to practice specific vocabulary, in which case you will need to create the basis for the flip-flap booklet yourself before printing it.
Some suggestions for material you might use:
Images for things to do, daily tasks, modes of transportation, clothing, etcetera can be found on www.mes-english.com. If you want, print the handouts provided on this site, and the children can cut and paste the images they want to use into their own book. Otherwise, you can copy the images from the power points provided and paste them digitally into the document before printing.
Images for blank clock faces can be found here: http://www.helpingwithmath.com/printables/worksheets/time/wor0301time05.htm. If you use blank clock faces, the children can write in their own times. If you want them to practice specific times, then you can draw them in on your own, of course.
If you are interested in more ideas and concrete assistance with implementing these booklets in your classroom, please let me know. Good luck, and remember to have fun!