Working with themes is a go to teaching strategy that is popular with everyone involved in children’s education. Kids can have a fascination for dinosaurs, planets, ponies… and this can be a good source of inspiration when teaching them new concepts. This month is “Plastic Free July” (www.plasticfreejuly.org), which challenges us to refuse single use plastic for a month. Not an easy task, but I thought I’d use the theme in different ways. Here are a few ideas:
Recycle It! Is a fun game of observation in which kids sort items into different recycling bins. The bins include plastic, paper, compost, tin/metal, clothes and glass. The first obvious target of this game is to sort items into appropriate categories, a basic semantic skill. We can also teach new vocabulary related to the theme. When teaching vocabulary, it is easy to think of nouns (bin, glass, rubbish, compost) but it is just as important to target verbs (recycle, reuse, sort, select, waste), adjectives (clean, dirty, reusable, plastic-free, toxic), adverbs (cleanly, environmentally, safely) and less common words. How about “eco-friendly” as your Fancy Word of the Week? Other semantic targets include things that go together (e.g. magazine/newspaper – tin can/can opener), find the odd one out, category generation (i.e. name objects belonging to a category). Descriptions are also fun with this game (e.g. “I have an object made of metal, it contains food, you open it with a can opener, it’s a … tin can”). This can be done either as a receptive or expressive language task. Now You're Talking is a bilingual speech pathology service and the beauty of Recycle it is that it can be played in any language, something that schools and centres with children speaking English as a Second Language will like.
This theme can also be used for narrative purposes: after playing the Recycle It! game, you can do a retell of how to play the game. I like to use graphic organisers for that, using Popplet, an app that allows you to create mind maps (www.popplet.com). Of course, pen and paper will work just as well.
Recycling is also a good theme for verbal reasoning tasks and discussing why/why not we need to recycle. The Hanen Centre in Toronto highlights the importance of building children’s critical thinking skills in order to prepare them for language and literacy (www.hanen.org/critical-thinking). Developing critical thinking encourages children to ask questions, to use more complex language using words like “if” and “because”. Good reasoning skills also support children’s oral and reading comprehension by allowing them to make inferences and understand what is not explicitly stated. Below is another mind map used for this very purpose.
As stated above, critical thinking encourages children to use longer and more complex sentences, which is a great opportunity to teach them grammar. Here are a few grammar targets:
Is/are: “The bottle and the jar are made of glass. The newspaper is made of paper.
Negative sentences: “I can’t/won’t put the jar in the compost. I can/will put it in the glass bin.”
If: “If I put the banana in the compost bin, it will turn into compost.”
Because: “I put the jar in the glass bin because it belongs there.”
Lastly, after exploring all the new vocabulary related to your recycling theme, why not use those words to do a few phonological awareness tasks, for example, sort your rubbish according to the number of syllables or the first/last sound in the word. Do tin and bin rhyme?
As you see, the possibilities are endless. What are your ideas? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please share them below.
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