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Classroom Activities - Little Kids Archive

English Teaching Materials, Games and Activities

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!

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January 17, 2009


I have a large, 105cms x 135cms Judy Instructo "Learning About Telling Time Play Mat", which I have used for teaching stroke order and letter formation. The children love it and it adds spice to what could be a boring activity, but only one child can use it at a time so sometimes it becomes, what I'm trying to avoid, "a boring activity". Still, let's not give up. A clockface can be very useful for teaching stroke order, most of the rounded parts of the letters of the alphabet start or finish at the 2, 4, 8 or 10 o'clock positions and some reading and writing schemes use a
clock extensively in the teaching of letter formation. These schemes usually give quite precise oral instructions for forming the letters.

Giving each child a play mat is not an option. It costs too much money, the mats seem to give off toxic fumes, and there are problems with storage and how much space they need when in use. So, after years of thinking about it, I finally got round to designing and creating a simple and inexpensive clockface to use for teaching stroke order and letter formation. Let me show it to you.


Now how can we use this? I printed out a large A3 sized clockface for myself and several A4 sized ones for my students. If you need a high-definition copy of the clockface or any of the materials in my column, then contact me and I will send you a copy via e-mail. Laminate the clockfaces and give one to each of your students, then give visual and oral instructions and have the children trace out the letters on their own clock faces with their fingers. In other words, talk them through the tracing of individual letters. Show a picture card and have the children write the associated lowercase/uppercase letter, with a water-based marker, onto their clock faces. Show a letter and have them write it on their own clockfaces. Have them clean the materials and play again. Put the children in pairs and they challenge each other to write (trace) different letters, with their fingers, "write this letter", "write a big /a/ (or 'A' if your children use alphabet names)". Bring their attention to the arrowed alphabet if their stroke order is 'far out'.

If you have other ideas on how to use the clockface, then please let me know.

Now might be a good time to give your students a letter formation worksheets. I made this first one for a friend who wanted a worksheet in lowercase letters only. Young children can easily lose their place on a worksheet, so I put in a second full line of tracing letters.


The second worksheet is taken from Blending a Hand disk 1. A teacher wrote to me and was concerned about having the anchor word printed on the worksheet, he was worried that his students would start sight reading these words. This is why you will not find any words on this series of worksheets. I tried to make them as graphically interesting as possible for young children. Most children enjoy completing these worksheets and they also enjoy colouring them after they have done the tracing.


Here's another simple activity related to letter formation. Say that we want the children to form the capital letter 'B'. Give them a copy of the letter and a lot of picture cards beginning with the letter 'b', here's a list for you:
bag, bat, bed, book, bus, bottle, bucket, boy, bedroom, bedbug, bank, baby, ball, balloon, banana, bee, bell, bird, and so on. Ask the children to form the letter out of the picture cards. I usually do a few letters at once. I first have the children help me sort the cards according to their initial sound and then in groups they form individual letters from the picture cards. It really makes them think about the letter shape. They need to think about the shape, how the shape is best formed and the sound that shape represents; they may also have to remember the name of that shape.

I hope you find some of this helpful. If you have any comments or requests, then please throw them my way.


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June 16, 2011

Let's Take A Walk

It's an awful long time since I wrote anything in this column and for that I apologise. I was so busy renovating my house and then moving into it and into a new schoolroom that almost everything was forgot about. We are now living here.


And teaching here.

'Go for a walk' or 'take a walk'? Well, I'm very comfortable with using either of these phrases in my everyday speech and writing but in the classroom they are different because one is a book and the other is a CD. Perhaps my favourite book for using with young children is "Going for a Walk" by the late Beatrice Schenk de Regniers, which is sadly out of print. It's beautifully illustrated by Robert Knox and the story within it is simple and lovely. Let me quote a little from the book:

"The little girl goes for a walk.
She sees a cow.
The little girl says Hi!
The cow says Moo.
The little girl walks on."

And so the story goes on with her walking past various animals until she meets up with the little boy and off they go to play in a sandbox together. My young students love to shout out "Hi!" together with the girl and of course make all the necessary animal sounds. It's also easy to role play this story by having the children play the various parts, for example one child will play the little girl and she will take a walk around the classroom meeting up with the various animal characters who are now played by other students. It can be freely done or the teacher can use it as a listening exercise so that the child follows the order spoken by the teacher.

A confession. I have no musical ability and find it extremely difficult to keep any kind of rhythm and when I hear a familiar tune I will sing along "It's been a hard day's night..." or "I can't get no, no satisfaction..." and the words of the song fail to materialise, so how could I ever be someone who teaches children's songs and music. Often I would go to meetings and find that I was the only native speaker of English apart from the presenter, all the other participants would be female Japanese teachers of English and certainly they could all hold a tune and all play the piano. I dreaded it when the presenter decided to introduce some kind of chant or song which involved some kind of clapping and slapping of the hands whilst singing at the same time as I would be the only one unable to keep the rhythm going.

Perhaps there are other teachers out there who like myself have been hiding their impediment and avoiding public situations where one has to carry a tune and rhythm. Well, I have to tell you that all is not lost and that a great new resource is now available so "Let's Take A Walk". That is the title is of a new creation is from EFL Learning.

I only got my CD last week and already the class I'm using it with is able to sing along easily with two of the songs. I went to their primary YouTube address and together with my students we watched the "Hello Song" twice and then we sang and danced the song whilst listening to the track on the CD. After class we met with each of parents and gave (they are not so expensive) them a CD and asked that they play it in the car and at home for the children to listen to. For me the beauty of the song is its simplicity and its catchy tune, let me quote it:

Now, it's time to say hello, say hello, say hello.
Now, it's time to say hello.

Hello everyone.

And the second verse...? Well it's exactly the same. Great for me and easy for the kids.

Today, we learned another song and again success, though I must admit I had some difficulty with the clapping. The title of the song is "0 5 10". I have to say that I was surprised at how quickly the children learned to sing the song. Here is how I used it:

First we listened and watched the "fast" version of the animated display on YouTube and some children, who must have been listening to their CDs, began singing along, then the children laid two lines of large number cards from 0-10 and we listened and sang to the "slow" version of the CD whilst pointing to the appropriate cards. After that we moved onto the vast version, though I was avoiding the clapping which could be heard in the background until one perceptive child began to clap along impressively, soon we were all giving it a go and enjoying singing the song.


You can find more videos from elf learning here and become Facebook friends with them.

I look forward to next week's lesson and another new song, though I will have to practice my clapping somewhat. If you want to give your young charges a love of music and song, then this is an ideal starting place.

EFL Learning have decided to donate 5% of their proceeds from the first 1000 CDs to assist with the tsunami relief effort. A good cause for us all. You can order the CD version here or you can download from CDBaby.

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