With the holiday season approaching, it’s good to add some fun into teaching to keep your students engaged and motivated. We’ve created 12 simple classroom activities and tips that you can carry out with your primary class to encourage them to be good.
Educating young learners: Making phonics fun
For many young learners, reading and writing can be one of the most challenging steps in their English learning journey. Even fluent English speakers often find it difficult to understand the connection between how English is pronounced and how it is written.
Let’s explore how phonics can be a valuable and fun tool to help students and teachers understand this connection.
What is phonics?
Phonics is a method of teaching learners how to read by making the connection between sounds and letters. There are around 44 different sounds used in English, and around 120 different ways of writing them down.
Children learn to identify and say individual sounds (phonemes) and what letter or groups of letters can be used to write that sound down (graphemes). This helps children to read and spell words. For example, the /k/ sound is frequently written using these letters:
- k as in kite
- c as in cat
- ck as in back
When children learn to read using phonics, the sounds are read out in isolation, for example, b-a-ck. Then they are blended together to form the whole word: back.
How to teach phonics
Other methods of learning how to read and spell rely on students memorizing every new word they encounter – that’s potentially thousands of new words! On the other hand, phonics gives students the tools and confidence to read and spell unfamiliar words autonomously. If they know the sounds, they can read the word.
Simply drilling sounds and letters will quickly become dull for students, so here are some practical, fun phonics ideas you can try out in the classroom.
1. Use music
Music can create a positive atmosphere for teaching phonics, and it helps children to memorize sounds in a lively, enjoyable way. Furthermore, it can improve pronunciation and listening skills.
- Use musical instruments or clap to help students break words into individual sounds.
- Alternatively, use ‘robot talk’ – say the words in a robotic way, breaking up the words into their component sounds, for example ‘r-e-d’.
- Tongue twisters are useful for working on the initial sounds in words. Try creating tongue twisters using known vocabulary and students’ names, e.g. Sara sings in the sun.
- Many ELT courses provide phonics songs that practice new sounds. However, you can also adapt well-known songs to teach phonics.
Clap your hands and turn around!
Put your hands up!
Put your hands down.
Clap your hands
And turn around!
Put your head up!
Put your head down!
Clap your hands
And turn around.
Put your leg up!
Put your leg down!
Clap your hands
And turn around.
2. Move your body
Learning through movement comes naturally to many young learners and can be a dynamic part of your phonics routine. Incorporating movement into your lessons can motivate students and help them retain the sounds and letters.
- Add an accompanying action when you present a new phonics sound and its corresponding letter/s. For example, say, ‘S, s, s, snake’ and make a snaking movement with your arm. The action becomes a visual prompt, so students call out ‘S!’ whenever you do the action.
- Air drawing can be great fun. Have students trace the shape of letters in the air with a finger while repeating the corresponding sound. This is also good pre-writing practice.
- You can even challenge students to work alone or in pairs to make letter shapes with their whole bodies!
3. Make phonics tactile
To really embed the connection between the shape of the letters and the sounds they represent, get children to use their hands to feel the shape of the letters while they repeat the sounds.
These tactile phonics activities have the added advantage of working on fine motor skills, which in turn will improve students’ handwriting.
- Show students how to trace the shape of the letter in a tray of sand while repeating the sound. Alternatively, try tracing the letter shape in shaving foam.
- Try modeling the letter shapes out of playdough or a piece of string.
- A fun pair-work game involves one student silently drawing a letter on their partner’s back. Their partner must guess the letter and say the sound.
4. Be creative
There are wonderful, creative ways you can explore phonics with your students. For younger students who don’t yet have the fine motor skills to write letter shapes, using arts and crafts can be an enjoyable way to reinforce the link between the letter/s and the sound.
- They could make letter shapes from dried pasta or use junk modeling.
- Have your students decorate letter shapes by painting, coloring, or collaging. This will help them memorize the shapes. Encourage them to repeat the sounds as they do this, or play a phonics rhyme in the background so the association between the sound and letter/s is constantly reinforced.
Create class displays for different sounds using a variety of pictures and objects starting with that sound. Use them for revision and classroom games. Try splitting the class into teams and then calling out a sound, or a word starting with that sound. The first team to touch the display with the matching letter/s wins a point.
5. Play games
Many popular ELT games can be adapted to teach phonics. Games are a great way to bring phonics to life and to give young learners the confidence to produce the sounds themselves.
- Play ‘Whispers’. Students sitting in a circle whisper a sound rather than a word to the child next to them until it reaches the end of the circle. The last child says the sound aloud, or points to the letters that correspond to that sound.
- Get children to create their own sets of cards with sounds and pictures on them. These can be used to play card games like snap and pairs.
- Other games such as i-spy, board rush games, bingo and lucky dip, can be easily adapted to teach phonics.
Whether you dedicate a whole lesson or just five minutes of your lesson to phonics, make sure to have fun!
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Sometimes, it’s nice to share cultural insights with our students so they can get a deeper understanding of the context of the language they are learning. However, without lots of time and money, it can be tough to travel to an English-speaking country yourself and experience what life is like first-hand.
But what if you could learn about British history, customs and culture from the comfort of your sofa?
That’s right - in an instant you could be transported back to the dark cobbled streets of 19th century London, to an industrial town in northern England or a rural village in Surrey.
Today, we want to share six English stories set in Britain that provide cultural, historical and social aspects of British life, both past and present.
So sit back, relax and let us take you on an adventure.
Written by Jane Austen (1775-1817)
This story about the intelligent and beautiful Emma was first published at the end of 1815. The book, which takes place in a fictional village called Highbury (located in the charming county of Surrey), covers themes such as romance, social class and female empowerment.
Emma is a social person who enjoys seeing people happy and contented. She spends her time arranging marriages between her friends but sometimes makes mistakes. Will the problems she causes upset people? And can she find love herself?
2. The Picture of Dorian Gray
Written by Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)
This philosophical yet supernatural thriller, first published in 1890, is full of lies, secrets and mystery. The tale revolves around the main character, Dorian Gray, who after inheriting a property from his grandfather, travels to London and soon makes new friends. One of his new acquaintances paints a portrait of Dorian, who makes a dangerous wish that he would give anything - even his soul - to stay as young and good-looking as he appears in the painting.
Soon, things start to go wrong and his life gets out of control. But he doesn’t seem to get older. Why? The terrible secret he’s hiding in his attic is the answer. What could it be? Allow yourself to travel back to Victorian times and see London through the eyes of this handsome and hedonistic young man.
Written by Mary Anne Evans (1819-1880)
Written under Mary’s pen name,George Elliott, this work of realism was first published in eight installments during 1871 and 1872. The story, set in the fictitious Midlands town of Middlemarch from 1829-1832, tells a tale of science and discovery. It follows Dorothea, a young woman determined to change the world and Dr. Lydgate, an ambitious man who wants to be a leader in science. Dorothea and Dr. Lydgate are both married, but soon their marriages go wrong.
Can they ever be happy? Will they achieve their dreams? Although the central theme of the book revolves around the marriage of the two main characters, with many historical references such as the 1832 Reform Act, the beginnings of the railways and the death of King George IV, Middlemarch is great for those who are interested in history as well as provincial life.
4. Four Weddings and a Funeral
Written by Richard Curtis (born 1956)
Those looking for a more modern look at British life can learn plenty about customs and cultures in this contemporary book, which has been adapted from one of Britain’s funniest and most popular films. Released in 1994, Four Weddings and a Funeral is about Charles (played by Hugh Grant in the film), a charming man who is very unlucky in love.
One day, during his friend’s wedding, he meets a beautiful girl called Carrie. Unfortunately, she does not plan to stay in England, and travels back to the United States. But they keep meeting each other, so maybe things can work out for the couple. Laugh while discovering the ins and outs of the British social scene in this romantic comedy.
5. North and South
Written by Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865)
North and South, published in 1855, is about a young woman named Margaret Hale who moves with her parents from rural southern England to an industrial town called Milton in the north. There, she meets a wealthy mill owner named Mr. Thornton, and though she dislikes him, he immediately falls in love with her.
During her time in Milton, she witnesses what it’s like to work in the mills where employers and workers constantly clash. As his workers go on strike, will Mr. Thornton be able to charm Margaret? This complex and provoking story follows the working class struggle during the Industrial Revolution.
6. Oliver Twist
Written by Charles Dickens (1812-1870)
Published in 1832, Oliver Twist was Dickens’ second novel. The story tells the tale of a young orphan we can all feel for. Oliver is brought up in a workhouse where he is beaten, starved and poorly treated. With no parents to look after him, he decides to run away to London, where he joins a gang of thieves.
His new friends look out for him, but can they protect him from a life of danger and crime? An interesting look at the darker side of Britain’s capital, Oliver Twist is still popular today with film, musical and TV adaptations.
Want some more reading inspiration for your English lessons?
Discover graded Readers featuring some of the world’s best-loved authors.
Pearson has Readers adapted from classic English novels with audio files and a comprehensive teacher resources section, meaning you can use them in class with your students too.
In the fast-paced world of business, there is one undeniable fact that holds true: employees are the key to success. Their commitment and expertise propel organizations towards their objectives, which is why investing in a learning culture is essential. The advantages are numerous and include improved staff retention, increased productivity and the goal of higher employee engagement.