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Oh where, oh where has my little dog gone?

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Oh where, oh where has my little dog gone?

It’s been a looooong time since I posted. I had intended to write up some summer school posts, but, well, I got a hole in my leg (no, really) and life got silly. Instead I’m going to recommend that anyone needing to survive summer school check out The Best Ticher. Elly has written a whole series of posts on surviving summer school that are well worth the read. However, seeing her mention dictation gave me an idea for a very quick post.

A cute lesson idea for Summer Camp/School: Dog Dictagloss

I no longer coordinate my school’s Summer Camp, but I do help a bit by giving teachers tips and writing the syllabus. A teacher came to me last week saying “Kylie!!!! Narrative tenses? I thought you said camp lessons were more fun? How on earth do I make that engaging and fun?” Firstly I pointed out to him that it was there to prepare them for a story telling project and that he should think of it as a  ‘preparing for story telling’ lesson rather than ‘narrative tenses’ to change his mindset. Then together we put together a rough outline for what we both think will be a fab lesson. Basically the lesson is a dictagloss. Because who doesn’t love a dictagloss for narrative tenses? I know what you’re thinking ‘Come on Kylie, kids will hate all that grammar’. But wait, the story for the dictagloss? The adventures of his pet dogs. We discussed the possibility of the dogs being secret agents (like my friend Anne’s cats in her published series of books), but I’m not sure if Mr Teacher is going to go with that or just an adventure. Anyway, here is our rough idea. Enjoy! And let me know what you think, will his lesson be great?

Step 1. Mr Teacher is going to show the class pictures of his pet dog photo-shopped into various holiday snaps, tell the students he woke one morning to find his dog gone and then each day received these photos. EDIT: Pictures now added below. Soooo cute! Are yo n love with his dogs like I am?

Step 2. Using the photos, the students brainstorm and try to guess where the dog went, why, what happened etc

Step 3. Mr Teacher reads his story very quickly for the students to check their predictions.

Step 4. Mr Teacher reads the story again, fairly quickly, not too quickly, certainly not as slow as a regular dictation though, and the students must write it down. Mr Teacher will be sure to point out to the students that they wont have time to write down every word, so they must write down key words and leave spaces to fill in the rest later.

Step 5. Once Mr Teacher is done reading the story, students get some time to think about the gaps and fill in what they can.

Step 6. Students get in pairs or groups and compare and together work to fill in the gaps.

Step 7. All students come to the board and together write the story out on the board. Mr Teacher may or may not draw a time line to help them. Then comes feedback eliciting and drawing their attention to time references etc.

Step 8. Controlled practice. Mr Teacher gets students to guess what happens next. Then gives gapped sentences (verbally), holding up a verb card when he gets to the gap. A bit like a pub quiz, teams write down the verb in the right form then after the sentences see which team/pair got the most right and during feedback elicit why etc.

Step 9. Freer practice. Students write the first sentence of a story about their own pet going on an adventure. e.g. This is the story of  XXXXX the XXXXX and his/her big adventure  

They then pass this piece of paper to the student to their left who writes the second sentence. That student writes the next sentence, but then folds down the first sentence before passing to the next person. As the paper goes around the students only see the last sentence written. By the end of the paper, the story is a nonsense story, but hopefully funny. When the student gets their story back they can check the verb forms.


When I googled ‘dog on holiday’ to try find a picture to accompany this post, I found this blog kick ass trips, and  a website that could be a great inspiration for such a lesson, World Woof Tour 

Picture source:


Mr Teacher, AKA Charles Stewart, has promised to fill me in post-lesson how it went and what he ended up doing. The above was just our staff room brainstorm.

If you have any blog posts about summer camp/ school you’d like to share, I’d love to share them for you here. Have a great Tuesday!

Until next time…..

EDIT: Charles has been kind enough to share the pictures his partner created for him for his doggy dictagloss. So let me introduce you to Pierre and Larson, below. They going to be accompanied by postcards with paw prints on the back. Awwww. Enjoy!

The 12 Days of Managing VYL Classes

The 12 Days of Managing VYL Classes

The 12 Days of Christmas Managing VYL:

12 Ways I try to ensure my lessons are the sparkliest thing in my VYL classrooms.

One of the toughest things about teaching little people is that, well, they behave like little people!

Not long ago I promised the ‘Teaching Very Young Learners’ Facebook group a Christmas gift. So here it is (albeit a little late). I’m sharing 12 things that have helped me over the years to improve my classroom management.

No matter how competent and confident you are with your teaching in general, Very Young Learners are not Adults or Young Learners. And teaching VYL is not the same as teaching other groups. Far from it. And it’s much easier to cope with a 5 yr old (and indeed 2, 3, 4, 6 year old) behaving like a 5 year old when you’re able to anticipate it. Learning a bit about early childhood development will help with both understanding their behaviour and also planning your lessons accordingly. Thus helping to avoid many of the classroom management issues us experienced VYL teachers know all too well. I therefore highly recommend to all those teaching VYL, particularly those new to the age group, taking a teacher development course like the International House IH VYL (Disclosure: I mention this particular course because I work for IHWO), or at least reading books, journals articles, blogs etc on the topic. Lesson planning is so very important for classroom management. All the tips in the world won’t help if the activities and language aren’t age appropriate.

But for now what you really want is for me to get on with said tips, right? Getting there.

You should know (so that you don’t reach the end disappointed) that this post isn’t a replacement for the above or even a list of classroom implications e.g. ‘They have short attention spans so keep activities short’ (Although I do have other blog posts for that – see links at the bottom of this post). It’s not even a list of activities that work well with this age group, sorry. I don’t have anything flashy, new of fancy to share.  Rather it’s a list of simple things that I have personally found to be effective for me, in my own classrooms.

Something else important to note, I called this the 12 days of managing VYL classes because I don’t think super efficient VYL classroom management something you should expect yourself to achieve overnight. Maybe not even in 12 lessons. It’s more realistic to try one thing at a time and slowly build your classroom management techniques with trial and error, tweaking as you go so that your techniques suit both you and your learners. Effective classroom management is a work in progress for all of us. With every new student, class, comes a new challenge, a new way of doing things.


WARNING: If you thought the introduction was lengthy. Get ready. Super long blog post ahead! Can you make it to number 12?


What: I take 5 minutes before the lesson starts to prep both myself and the room
I do my best (although sometimes with other lessons being taught immediately beforehand it’s not perfect) to arrive in plenty of time to set up the classroom and get organised. I don’t just mean moving tables around or taking flashcards out of my bag. I mean taking a moment to look around the classroom and visualise where I will stand for each part of the lesson and where the learners will be. What they will be doing. How they will be reacting. This includes managing my space, thinking about where I will do different things e.g. will I sit with my back to the board for the flashcard games? The back left corner with my back to the window for the story? And also placing the materials I will need for each task within easy reach. I might put my flashcards in a pile on the floor close to where I plan to sit, my story book on a back table or the window sill, some sticky tac on the board ready for a board race etc.
Why: It only takes a moment to lose them to a dried leaf on the bottom of their shoe. To say prevention is better than a cure is an understatement when teaching VYL and the proverb underpins almost every one of the below ideas.

Read the rest of this entry

Číst či nečíst?

I’ve enjoyed my trip down memory lane this October with a month full of reading and graded readers.

My latest collumn in the IH Journal is 5 ways to use Graded Readers in the Primary Classroom and I’m travelling around the Czech Republic with the Oxford Primary Days professional development project talking about using Graded Readers.

This post serves as a reference point for attendees in my sessions. Below are hyperlinks to sites and documents I mention:

Stephen Krashen: The power of Reading

The OUP/ELT website

Big Read Junior – Useful videos to watch

Oxford Primary Days Teacher Development Session Handout

Using Mad Libs with Graded Readers

Steps for Teachers: Preparation
Step 1.
You could choose anything from the reader, or write your own summary. For the below I have used the blurb from the back of OUPs Read and Imagine 4 ‘Swimming with Dolphins’.
Step 2.
Type out the text and choose some words that might be fun to replace.

Dan the Scientist works with dolphins. Ludo the dolphin is under the water and can’t breath, so Rosie dives in to help him. But what happens? The sea can be dangerous – there might be sharks!

Step 3.
Work out what part of speech these words are and create a list of instructions for your students.

1 Your name
2 An exciting job/ occupation
3 Your favourite animal
4 The name of someone in this room
5 A noun/ thing
6 A verb
7 The name of your favourite person e.g. your grandmother/ bestie/ celebrity etc
8 A verb
9 A place
10 An adjective
11 Something scary

Step 4
Copy and paste the text to a document which will become a worksheet for the learners. Remove the words from the text. Number the spaces. You might like to use your creativity and make it look like the back of the book (it could also be made to look like a newspaper/ magazine article about the book, email to a friend about the book, page of the book etc)

(1___________) the (2__________) works with (3_________s). (4__________) the (3__________) is under the (5__________) and can’t (6_________), so (7_________) (8__________s) in to help him. But what happens? (9____________) can be (10____________) – there might be (11___________)!

Step 5
Create an example so that you can show your students that it’s ok for it to not make sense and be funny.

1 Kylie the 2 firefighter works with 3 monkey s. 4 Jitka the 3 monkey is under the 5 table and can’t 6 sing, so 7 Grace 8 dance s in to help him. But what happens? The 9 supermarket can be 10 fabulous – there might be 11 Spiders!

Steps for teachers: Executing the activity in class
The more this activity is broken down into steps, the better.
Step 1
As the students to write the required numbers on a piece of scrap paper (or you could give them pre-written questions. Just don’t let them see the text yet or even tell them there will be a text to follow. Keep it a surprise.)
Step 2
Learners fill in their words
Step 3
Give the learners the text. Ask them to fill in their words.
Step 4
Hopefully the texts are funny, so allow the learners to share them, if not with the whole class, at least with a partner.
Step 5
Elicit where is it is from e.g. a magazine article, blurb, email, newspaper etc.
Step 6
Point out that it is ok if things don’t make sense and are funny. Ask the learners, with their partner or a group to try and guess what the ‘real’ words should be
Step 7
If using the blurb, give the cover of the book to help after they have spent some time already trying to guess the words.
Step 8
Other reading activities……

Until next time, thanks for reading!

Food for thought: The role of play in TEVYL (Teaching English to Very Young Learners)

Who doesn't like a table full of enticing food that you can choose from as you wish?

Who doesn’t like a table full of enticing food that you can choose from as you wish?

The school year started this week here in Prague and it was a big week for my family as my twins started preschool. It’s big for them and big for me as it means I’m changing my workload and routine after more than 3 yrs on (semi) maternity leave.

This past weekend the kids and I attended a princess and superheroes party. The kids loved it as they got to dress up and I loved it as the birthday girl is Korean and her mummy made an enormous plate of yummy gimbap. Mmmmm.

It didn’t take long for the conversation in the mummy circle at the Princess and Superheroes party to turn to preschool. One of the mums commented to me that she didn’t want her child in state preschool as it was “basically babysitting”. When I asked her what she meant she elaborated, “Well they can’t possibly do stuff with them when there are so many kids for only one teacher”. I assume by “do stuff” she meant some kind of structured activity. Whilst she does have a point that our state preschools are understaffed, in defense of the hard working teachers, I replied that firstly, I have taught in Czech state preschools and assure her that with patience and practice it is indeed possible to “do stuff” with up to 28 preschoolers, and that secondly, free play is really important and that whilst it might look like babysitting, the environment is such that the kids are learning valuable skills. She gave me a ‘let’s agree to disagree’ kind of look so I left it there and wished her kids well. Besides, there was more yummy gimbap to be eaten and who doesn’t love a table full of food to choose from? That’s something we can surely all agree on😉

As part of my ‘new school year resolutions’, I have decided to read a teaching/EFL/YL related article every day. When I saw the below article posted in a ‘Bumps, Babies and Toddlers’ facebook group I belong to, I decided to make it my article of the day as it’s relevant to both my professional and personal life right now. Whilst I don’t plan to write about every article I read. I do want to share this one. Or at least this line of thought…

Click here to read: The decline of play in preschoolers and the rise in sensory issues

Whilst I’m not fully convinced it’s so cut and dry, I do believe we need to be more mindful (and by we I mean both parents and educators) of the importance of play in preschool and reading this article brought me back to thoughts that have been running through my mind for the past 3 years.

While doing my MA, particularly my dissertation which focuses on VYL,  I’ve been thinking a lot about the importance of play (in general), but more specifically, how to really foster it and incorporate it into TEFL (or as I use in the heading, TEVYL). In the above article the author talks about parents and their desperation to fill their kids to the brim with ‘academic’ activities as early as possible and I feel this is especially relevant when it comes to teaching English to VYL. How many of our learners parents are paying for English class because they want their kids to have a ‘head start’? How many of our schools advertise our classes that way? How can we find a happy balance between embracing play, and more importantly free play, whilst still keeping our fee paying parents happy?

Earlier this year I had the pleasure of seeing the wonderful Sandie Mourao speak at the International House Young Learners Conference (which was this year held in Torres Vedras). One of the highlights for many of us at the conference was hearing Sandie speak about ELAs (English Learning Areas) in pre-primary classrooms. Such a simple, brilliant and yet obvious idea. Why weren’t more of us doing it already? We left Sandie’s session and the conference feeling both inspired and incredibly envious of those that already had the resources to implement such a project. Our minds were buzzing with ways to incorporate this idea into our own contexts. Below is a link to the project report which is well worth reading and one possible way to include more play in TEVYL.

Click here to read: English Learning Areas in the pre-primary classroom: An investigation of their effectiveness

What do you think? Food for thought?

And since you took the time to read until the end, as an added bonus on the topic of play, how cool are these free printables?

Click here to see 32 FREE pretend Play Printables

Princess Turkey and Spiderman

Until next time….

Using songs and chants in the YL classroom

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wpid-fb_img_1426189219067.jpgBoom Chicka Boom!

Thank you to those of you who attended my session at the IH Torun Teacher Training Day, April 18 2015. You will find a link to the handout at the bottom of this post.

Literature is full of references to the efficacy of music as a tool for both first and second language acquisition, but are songs and chants utilized as much as they could be in the second language learning classroom? I’ve loved singing and music for as long as I can remember, and been interested in using them in the classroom since I stepped foot in one.

How do you feel about using songs in the YL Classroom?

YL coursebooks are full of songs and chants. And why not? Using songs and chants as a pedagogical tool to teach children language is a natural and logical choice. Singing is a natural and popular medium for both parent and child and by the time children come to us in the second language learning classroom, they are often already equipped with a catalogue of songs, chants, and rhymes. Children live in musical worlds. In fact, according to research, babies as early as in the womb pay more attention to singing than speaking and it’s suggested that from very early ages there is little distinction between singing and speech.

Are you happy to sing? Why? Why not?

According to Trinick (2012), Lee believes songs are not being used as much as they should be in the classroom and suggests the root may be that they are viewed purely as entertainment, or that teachers lack understanding into the theoretical underpinnings or application and methodology. Could it be as Carless and Douglas (2011) surmise that the significance of the ubiquity of songs goes unnoticed? Trinick (2012) concurs and cites Tracey, ‘there is a tendency to overlook familiar, everyday materials and resources’. As Rogers (no date) attests, literature ‘abounds with positive statements regarding the efficacy of music as a vehicle for first and second language acquisition’. Indeed countless resource books for teachers, coursebooks, TESOL websites and blogs proffer advice, activities and encouragement*. *See handout link for resource list

Are you ruling the TEFL world Beyonce style in your classroom? Or are you pressing play on the CD and hoping for the best?

Maybe you do want to sing in class, and it’s not that you’re afraid to, but you just:

• can’t be bothered • don’t have time (you do one at the end of the lesson if you need to fill in time)

• aren’t sure what songs to sing

• aren’t sure how to sing the songs

• aren’t sure how to teach the songs

• have never done it before

• hate the songs in the coursebooks

• would rather teach grammar and other important things

• are actually a T-rex and therefore can’t sing. Or clap.

I urge you to think about using songs and chants in the YL classroom.


‘Children love rhythm, music and movement, and it is widely recognised that the use of rhymes, chants and songs contribute to young children’s overall social, linguistic, physical, cognitive and emotional development. When starting to learn a foreign language, rhymes, chants and songs play a special role in drawing children into producing language in ways which are natural, spontaneous and enjoyable. As well as enhancing children’s learning and acquisition of language, the use of rhymes chants and songs promotes the development of positive attitudes and motivation towards learning a foreign language in both immediate and longer term. Give their many potential benefits for learning, there is a strong case for making rhymes, chants and songs a fully integrated component of any programme to learn English.’

(Read 2007)


It’s all about confidence, enthusiasm and having fun. Songs and chants are perfect for the YL classroom as they present language in a fun and memorable way and allow our students to experiment with the sounds of English. Many teachers, however, despite being fully aware of the potential of songs and chants fall a little short because they lack the confidence to pull it off in the classroom. Confidence and enthusiasm is key. Students need to know the teacher feels good about the song in order for them to. It really doesn’t matter if you’re a little off key and no Mariah Carey. Chances are your students won’t notice or will feel more comfortable knowing you are normal just like them. What will stop your students joining in is if they see you aren’t 100% comfortable. It’s fine to have a CD player for back up. But don’t rely on it, and whatever you do don’t stand at the front of the class lip syncing and conducting (but not actually singing) expecting them to do all the work. If you are enthusiastic and singing along you are more likely to get them to join in.

Want to know more?

You can read my 5 tips for using songs in my YL Column in the next issue of the IH Journal here

You can get a handout on Using Songs and Chants in the YL Classroom here Boomchickaboom_handout_April2015

I’d love to know how you feel about using songs and chants in the YL classroom.

Until next time!

CARLESS, David and DOUGLAS, Kitrina (2011). What’s in a song? how songs contribute to the communication of social science research. British journal of guidance & counselling, 39 (5), 439-454.

READ, Carol (2007). 500 activities for the primary classroom. Oxford, Macmillan. Macmillan Books for Teachers.

TRINICK, Robyn Margaret (2012). Sound and sight: The use of song to promote language learning. General music today, 25 (2), 5-10.

Children Learning English Affectively

Last summer I had the pleasure of meeting and working with the wonderful Juan Uribe,

English Teacher, Storyteller, Methodology Cook, Puppeteacher, Dreamer with young learners, Teacher Educator, ELT Management Strategist, ELT Magician, Frog Collector, Kindergarten Pop Star…

and blogger extraordinaire at  ‘Children Learning English Affectively‘.

One of the best things about meeting Juan was getting to know his wonderful blog, so I am absolutely honored that he invted me to be interviewed and has published the interview here.

Thanks Juan and Buddy!

Juan and I in Konya, Turkey

Juan and I in Konya, Turkey

Boom Chicka Boom!

I recently got to do my favourite all time sessions, not once, but twice! First at the ‘Young Ones’ Conference at ILC Brno and then at the SCIO project conference here in Prague.

Boom Chicka Boom: Using Songs and Chants in the YL Classroom is a session I’ve done quite a few times now. I mix it up a bit each time, but the principles remain the same. Each time I do it it gets a great response and people request slides and handouts. Until now I didn’t have a handout. Drum roll….here it is!

Boomchickaboom_ handout October2014

I’m also uploading the powerpoints

boom chicka boom BRNO 2014

boom chicka boom SCIO 2014

I’ve added some resources to the bottom of the handout. Please share more in the comments if you have them. I have a little project up my sleeve and hoping to collect as many resources and links as I can.

Until next time…


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