Main | January 2009 »

December 2008 Archives

December 22, 2008

Working with Workbooks

Almost all children's course books have a workbook. Workbooks, also called activity books and home books, are basically collections of worksheets related to the course book, so it's important to understand what makes a good worksheet and conversely, what makes a bad one. How a workbook is used, both inside and outside the classroom, can have a major impact on the success of your class.

Let me give you some suggestions which may help you decide whether or not your workbook is well thought out and a valuable part of your curriculum.

1. The workbook should not only engage the child visually but also mentally. So often there is an information gap which can only be filled from the child's own knowledge. If the page can be completed using purely visual clues, then, unless it's practising hand-eye coordination, it's probably a waste of time and paper.

2. If you are to have a child-centred classroom or/and if the child is to work independently at home, then any instructions on how to complete a particular page in the workbook must be comprehensible to the child. Many workbooks do not fulfil this requirement so the teacher uses up valuable time in order to explain the page to the children. My personal preference is to do an activity in the classroom which will lead naturally into the workbook. I have found that the vast majority of children are able to make the link between activity and workbook page, without major intervention from the teacher or parent.

3. It is related to what you're teaching in the classroom and consolidates what you are teaching or prepares the child for the next step as well as integrating easily into your curriculum.

4. It is easy to check and provides useful information to the teacher in the form of evaluation.

5. A good design will require a number of skills to complete the page.

Going back to point 2 above, I should say that the activity should provide a clear link between the course book and the workbook. Often times you can find such an activity in your teacher's book. I find that this point of contact, between course book and workbook, to be inspirational in creating materials, games and activities, and I'd like to share with you some of these "materials, games and activities" in the hope that they assist you in the classroom.

December 27, 2008

Alphabet Slam

Alphabet slam is a fun activity for children. I used to play it with flash cards held onto the board with magnets, but magnets go flying and cards fall to the floor. So I made some Alphabet Slam Concertina Cards which don't fall off the board. Here is one way of playing: call out the sound, children slam the letter, then word whilst calling out "/a/ apple". Call out the word, children slam the word, then letter whilst calling out "apple /a/" or whatever your target was. Flash a picture or letter, children slam letter then picture (or vice versa) whilst calling out the letter sound and picture. Of course, if your students are using the alphabet, then they can be calling out the letter names, but I always focus on the sounds. Children enjoy taking over from the teacher.

Let's take a look at the materials needed for this activity.


This is the Alphabet Slam Cover. It will hang over the back of your board and keep the other cards in place when they are slammed; usually with fly swatters. Sorry to hear about your stiff neck. The cards are on their sides so that the will fit on the page and maintain a high definition.


This is the first of three Alphabet Slam Cards. If you want to give to try, then save the pictures to disk, print them out and laminate them. Join them together in a column, with the Alphabet Slam Cover Card at the top. Use wide band Sellotape (cellophane tape) to join them together leaving about five centimetres space between each card. Put the tape down the sides of the cards, front and back. The cards fold into a concertina for easy storage.


And the last one.


If your board is too high for the children or there is no way to get the Cover Card over the top of the board, then play the game on the floor or carpet using fingers instead of fly swatters, but watch out for overexuberant children. You can have four children to each concertina. One keeps score, three points sees a change in players in my classroom, another calls out the letter sounds or words and the other two play. It doesn't have to be played competitively, I find the whole class can enjoy the activity together when using fingers instead of swatters, and I would advise against focusing on the 'winner'.

After we have played this game, which reviews and consolidates letter recognition, letter sounds and vocabulary, I like to give the children a worksheet to do. If it's the first time they have had such a worksheet, then we will probably do it in class, but if not, then homework is an option.

The worksheet is called "FO1/2 Listen and Draw A" and is based on a similar activity page found in New Finding Out 1 by David Paul. The worksheet is taken from the workbook Blending a Hand Concept Worksheets 1 by David Lisgo (Oh! That's me!).

Here's the worksheet.


In my class I would expect my students to make a mental linkage between the activity and worksheet, but if your students are not making the linkage, then you could display the Alphabet Slam Concertina Cards and I'm sure they would get it. They still have to do some thinking on their own as in most cases the letters next to the pictures don't match.

Happy slamming!

About December 2008

This page contains all entries posted to Classroom Activities in December 2008. They are listed from oldest to newest.

January 2009 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

Powered by
Movable Type 3.35