I’ve realized that as of late my blog makes it sound like I spend all my time adventuring through jungles, swimming in crater lakes and alighting mountains and volcanoes across this fine archipelago. The reality, however, is that some of my biggest adventures and successes happen inside a primary level classroom.
I spend five days a week teaching 29 first graders the finer points of English and co-teaching units of inquiry based in social studies, science and even a little math. Over the last few weeks I have initiated some reading-intensive activities to ensure that my little guys are reading English like pros. We do activities on Wednesdays that incorporate reading and using the grammar/skills we’re learning in English. My kiddos also have a weekly reading log to keep track of any reading that they do at home.
Most recently during our Wednesday reading work we read one of Aesop’s Fables, The Lion and the Mouse. In addition to reading the story, learning new vocabulary words (paw, favor, promise) and answering comprehension questions, my students also did a short drama based on the story. For this activity I had them create finger puppets out of felt.
The finger puppet making in itself was an exercise in reading comprehension and following directions as they had a list of tasks with step by step instructions on how to make the puppets. They had to successfully complete each task before I would check it off and allow them to move onto the next step in the creation process. The result was impressive. I honestly didn’t expect it to go so smoothly!
In each group of three, one student was responsible for creating a lion, one for creating a mouse and one for creating a hunter. When they completed their puppets they practiced the words to their drama. After practicing I made them exercise their imaginations and write at least three sentences telling me “what happened next.” In other words, at the end of the story mouse helps to free the lion and save him from the hunter. Their task was to write the next “chapter” in the story.
I particularly loved this part of the exercise because it gave my students an opportunity to use their own ideas and be creative with the language of English. Some of my favorite “what happened next” ideas are as follows:
- The lion and the mouse became best friends and went to a birthday party.
- The lion and the mouse built a trap and caught the hunter and ate him.
- That the lion and the mouse went to Pekanbaru (closest city to where we live) and ate lunch at a mall.
- The lion and the mouse went to Malaysia and celebrated Halloween.
- The lion and the mouse went to Korea to see the mouse’s house and celebrated Christmas.
When they finished their stories they finally got to preform their dramas for their classmates. The result was quite cute with each group finishing their story by acting out their own unique ending. The students eagerly hid behind the curtain and performed their stories, an action that required them to practice speaking in public, read in English, project their voice, flex their imaginations, express themselves and use proper pronunciation. In short, it was an English and learning skills homerun!
I even had them complete a self-evaluation at the close of the activity where they could tell me what they did really well, what they wanted to do better next time and what they had learned. All in all I am very satisfied with the result. It’s a lesson that I constructed piece by piece on my own and that required my little learners to use many skills at the same time while still having fun. Additionally, I believe such an activity could be successful in any primary classroom, whether international or otherwise.
On a personal note, it’s a lesson that has reaffirmed my love of what I am doing. It allowed for me to be a creative educator while still successfully following my scope and sequence and following the learning outcomes expected in the International Baccalaureate curriculum. In fact, I am starting to think I might want to work in primary schools all of the time…
and that’s something that even surprises me!