What can you do with an interesting book?

Children's library can be inspiring. The idea was to teach a bit of science. I thought about life cycles. Then while looking for activities I realised that in my kids' bedroom I have an excellent book - a gift from their aunt living in the UK. "The very Hungry Caterpillar" is over 40 years old but still attracts children's attention. This book was a base for two different scenarios.

Years 1-2
As you know, the hungry caterpillar gobbles more and more every day. The whole story may be treated as a great way of revising/introducing (!) names of weekdays and/or plural forms not to mention food. The story is quite short and simple so accompanied by some worksheets makes the whole lesson. Exactly 45 minutes - perfect timing.

Years 4-6
The story tell us a lot about life cycle as well. It starts with a tiny egg laid under the leaf, reveals details of all the stages - egg, larva, chrysallis to end up with a beautiful picture of an adult butterfly. I used it as an introduction to a more "serious" teaching about a life cycle of butterflies.

Both lessons started with a short discussion about the topic. It is important to involve students into the topic by allowing them to brainstorm and say what they already know about the matter.

I described the schedule of the lesson and the book itself. Then, we watched a film and the book.

Years 1-2
I asked if they remembered what the catterpillar ate each day. Together we quickly revised dishes of all days. The next step was a hand-out found here. Children had to cut out and stick the dishes on the right weekdays. Evaluation? We simply watched the video again. I asked children to remind me the story asking them some questions:
1. What day does the caterpillar eat through an apple?
2. What does he eat on Friday?
3. What about Wednesday?
4. What on Saturday? (that is a difficult question even for me! But they managed as a group to answer it).
The catterpillars before colouring

The last task was to colour the food. All the works are hanging on our CLIL board.

Years 4-6
After watching the story I asked if they could elicit all four stages of the life cycle of the butterfly. I wrote their answers on the blackboard.
Then, I handed out two worksheets found on Education.com. Both of them describe and visualise the stages.
Life Cycle - education.com

A report about the Life Cycle of a butterfly - education.com

To check if the students were right we read the texts together and watched a film made by Chicago Nature Museum.
It is great as the timelapse technique shows perfectly the metamorphosis. What is more, the whole film has got subtitles, so it was easy to understand what was happening on the screen. For me - a great use, as I could find the best words to describe the processes.

Then, I distributed the last task - a pie chart about the monarch butterfly. It also comes from Education.com. Students cooperated in pairs trying to fill the chart according to the data provided in the task.
All of them were provided with a list of vocabulary to be learnt for the next lesson.


Somebody to love by Queen

Sometimes the best ideas come to your mind out of the blue. This time I got to know, that I was supposed to hold a lesson with over twenty students aged 12. Two groups of various English level, a typical school class. First, I had to find a common topic, then make up a lesson in about 2 hours. The course of events led me from a chart with some basic vocabulary straight to Zanzibar. How come? Let me explain.
The students were to learn about prefixes like SOME, ANY, NO and EVERY. I prepared a chart that they copied to their notebooks. I knew that that lesson was just a start of something bigger, so I didn't care about the fact they they will not accomplish the learning process. The lesson was aimed at indicating that there is such an element of English grammar and vocabulary. I had only 45 minutes, so the amount of time I could spend explaining grammar was also limited. What is more, during the lesson it was clear that most of the students knew the vocabulary perfectly. I just had to organise their knowledge.
After introducing words like "somebody, anybody, anywhere, nowhere, everything" etc. we moved to more exciting tasks.
Task 1 - "Somebody to love"
I asked the students whether they had ever heard about the band Queen. I was not sure of the answer in the age of Justin Bieber but to my surprise and relief they could even elicit some titles of their hits! Amazing! Then, it was an easy job to encourage them to listen to the song, which is full of the words I wanted to revise.
Before listening to this piece of music, students were given the lyrics and their job was to underline all the words of the lesson and notice in what kinds of structure they are used (somebody for positive sentences, anybody for questions and so on). After analysing this part, we had a chance to enjoy the masterpiece.
Task 2 - Mercury Rising
Then, I asked them what they knew about Freddie Mercury. After receiving some information on his biography, I handed out a reading task that comes from "Inside Out" by Macmillan. The text is not easy for students of primary school, but they managed to scan it and choose the right aswers in the quiz. Definitely, they succeeded in improving this exam technique which was one of the aims of the lesson.

Task 3 - Zanzibar
Well, I have to say that this lesson is an outcome of my fascination. With every moment of preparations I got more and more interested in Mercury's biography. The most shocking information for me was that he was born on this beautiful tropical island of Zanzibar. I decided to show my students how picturesque it is.

And that was the end of our lesson. Unfortunately, I have no chances to continue with the whole class, but the next thing my group is going to do is to deepen their understanding of the grammar topic itself. Maybe we will use the knowledge in some kinds of activities? I am waiting for an inspiration to come :)

Mind maps - Years 4-6

Mind mapping is quite popular but as a tool of creative thinking doesn't exist in Polish primary schools . For my students it a novelty so I spent a lot of time explaining why it is in use. As I ran this lesson is several age groups I tried different scenarios - sometimes the topic changed, sometimes I omitted a few parts of the lesson plan.
I always started with asking my students how they prepare and plan their birthday parties. If they even make a list of tasks. Then I told them why a list is not a perfect tool - limited space, hierarchical order, linear way of expression, hard to remember, missing colours and other visuals.
Then, we analysed the picture shown below:

Now it was a time for variations. Depending on the students' language level and ability of self-studying I gave tasks:
1. Make a mind map titled "ME" - individual work
2. Make a mind map "Ideal day" - group/pair work with a lot of help of the teacher (tips on categories and vocabulary)
3. First, in groups, prepare a list of all the words and phrases that come to your minds while thinking about "Ideal Birthday". Then, try to group the phrases into categories, name them, transfer the data into the mind map. (The process illustrated below):

Students brainstorm and write down phrases connected with ideal birthday

After organising the data into the categories, they construct a mind map

Use of colours for groups helped them organise the data

Students transferred all the data into the mind map
The collection of mind maps is vast. Some groups were asked to present their works to others, some discussed the outcome in their own groups. All the products are hanging in the classroom so that the rest of students might admire what we did in our classes. The profits of the lesson? Some of the students use mind mapping technique as a method of brainstorming and organising data for different topics and ideas.

At the end of the presentation you can distribute a checklist to evaluate the project in a formative way. The homework - a list of vocabulary that is a result of the brainstorming. To be checked at the next lesson - a summative form ( a test).