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Classroom Activities

English Teaching Materials, Games and Activities

August 24, 2009

I don't like cucumber!

Long ago I attended a weekend seminar for teachers and remember distinctly being pulled up in front of all the other teachers for saying "I don't like cucumber." I should have said "I don't like cucumbers.", but the thought of just a few slices of cucumber in a sandwich makes me feel ill, then when I imagine cucumbers sticking out of my sandwich, I almost die.

Japanese students of English often have difficulty expressing plurality in English. For them there is usually no difference between "I like chicken." and "I like chickens." Not a huge problem, but when they start saying things like "I like dog." and "I like cat.", then some people may begin to have misconceptions about Japanese culinary tastes.

New Finding Out 2 introduces the concept of plurals, orally, in unit two through games and song, but does not actively teach it until unit six. The game which specifically uses plurals is a chain game which focuses on the words "like/likes". Here I quote partially from the teacher's book:

"Get her to throw the stuffed animal to another child, who says I like (bananas), Maria likes (dogs) and (David) likes (rabbits). Encourage the other children to help the child who is speaking, or get them to say all except the first sentence together. It's fun to make the sentence longer and longer."

It is fun, but many children will make mistakes and say "Maria likes dog." and "David likes rabbit." And in Japan, neither dish is eaten. How do you get around this problem? Well, you could pull up the child and say, "No! Not 'dog', but 'dogs'". But all that will do is take the fun out of the game and upset the child. Let's consider a few alternatives.

1. Do nothing. The focus is on "like/likes" and the minor problem of plural endings will be sorted out in units 6 and 7 where the emphasis is on plurals.

2. Use plurals cards which have words and pictures. Each time a new 'like' is expressed, a child takes a card to match that expression. If a child makes a mistake and says the singular instead of the plural, then encourage him to read the word on his card as he expresses himself. There is a set of NFO flashcards, which includes plurals that the children are quite capable of reading. Initially, all the cards can be kept in view, but once they get used to the game, then cards may be hidden in order to make the game more challenging. Later, you can do the activity without cards.

3. Play the "I like/I don't like..." track race from BAH 4 (not yet published). The focus is now on expressing likes and dislikes of animals, fruits and vegetables.


Here's one way of playing (usually played in pairs):

You need a dice and counters. Jan-ken by saying "What do you like?" The first player rolls the dice and moves forward that number. If a 3 is thrown then she says "I like peas." or "I don't like peas.", whichever is true. If a 4 is thrown, then the dice is thrown again and the child moves forward the number thrown and expresses her like or dislike (unless she lands on the "I don't like..." place). If a 6 is thrown, then she throws the dice again and moves back the number thrown and expresses her like or dislike (unless she lands on the "I like..." place. The winner is the first child to reach the end with an exact number.

The 3 "I don't like..." and exact finish means that there is a good chance of moving backwards in the game, therefore heightening the suspense and giving more practice.

The "song" which is used to practise plurals is a version of an old favourite "Old Macdonald", which David Paul cleverly simplified. The teacher's book has a number of tips and suggestions for its use.

Children love learning animal sounds so I've made some animal flashcards (20 in all) to go with the song. These cards are also useful for practising the expressions "I'm a..." and "You are a...".


Let's play with 'I'm a dog.' and 'You are a dog.'

1. I'm a dog (double chip).
Lay the cards face down in a 4 x 4 grid. The first child says "Quack, quack. I'm a duck", turns the card over, confirms that it's a duck and puts two chips on the card. The next child goes "Cluck, cluck. I'm a frog.", turns the card over, sees that it is a chicken and puts one chip on the card. Played competitively, then the child with the most points is winner. You can also record the individual scores and have them compete against themselves the next time they play.

2. You are a dog.
The game is usually played in pairs. Lay the cards face down in a 4 x 4 grid. The dialogue goes like this:

"Quack, quack."
"You are a duck."
"That's right!"

Or like this:

"Squeak, squeak."
"You are a bird."
"No, I'm not. I'm a mouse."

In both cases, the card is turned over and a point claimed. If the pair get it wrong, then the card remains in play.

Here are some backs:


If you want a full size version of the "I like.../I don't like..." track or the animal sounds flashcards, then please make a request in your comment. Otherwise wait for the disk.

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