New Editions Children's Books
Children's Graded Readers
Theatrical Readers with CD
Story time is a standard part of the British primary school day that I think is all too little used in EFL. It provides lots of understandable input in context for the children to pick up natural language from, it allows each child to get involved or sit back as much as suits them, and it provides quiet time between more active EFL games. Although these books advertise themselves as Self-Study Readers for children, the 7 year old children I was teaching were only just literate in their own language, so I decided to use them for story time in the classroom.
The Super and Duper books provide different adventures of 2 cute looking characters, a short pink spotty one and a tall purple spotty one (I always had to be reminded which one was which by the children). The children really got to know and love the characters, and asked where the other one was when he didn't appear in one of the books. The books provide full page colour pictures on every page with lots more cute characters such as a wizard and some stowaway ants. The most unusual thing about the format is that it provides the story in a coloured box but also speech bubbles for the things people say. This would probably make it easier for someone reading to themselves, but means that a teacher using it in class has to simplify the story a little to keep the plot moving. With the exception of Duper and the Spy, the stories do not really have much of a beginning, middle or end either, but this also means you can improvise what you say to match your class.
The best things about these books are the fact that they introduce the characters before the story and that they have 2 pages of fun, colour activities (such as spot the difference) at the end. These are easily adaptable to be used as classroom activities, or could be given as homework. Similarly, the picture glossary at the back can be cut up into a set of flashcards to pre-teach vocab or practice it after the reading.
The stories and presentation were perfect for my 7 year old children, but might seem a bit childish nowadays with anyone older. As the stories have at least 400 words, this means that children will need a reading level in English far above what is common here in Italy for them to be used for self-study.
Similarly, in my school we were not able to use the Theatrical Graded Readers for their original purpose, which is as a basis to act out a play. The level of the language and the presentation of the stories meant they could be used with older children, but we found anyone older than 8 did not concentrate very well when being read a story. They also didn't respond very well to listening to the songs. These songs and the amount of action there is in the stories (including lots of slapstick humour) means that they could be suitable for some kind of project such as a play, and the fact that there are lots of characters including some peripheral ones that could be left out make them flexible enough to be used week after week.
I would recommend the Super and Duper books for someone who is experimenting with story time with a youngish class, or who would like ideas on how the story can be linked into the lesson with games/flashcards etc. These methods can then be used with books written for native speaker children. The Theatrical Readers are well worth looking at if you spend a lot of time with your class and are looking for a 'thread' that takes up a part of your lessons and builds towards a final product.Alex Case has worked as an EFL Teacher, Teacher Trainer, Director of Studies and EFL Editor in Turkey, Thailand, Spain, Greece, the UK and Japan. Alex Case is Reviews Editor of TEFL.net.