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15 fun ways of using pre-school storybooks

By Alex Case
Original ideas from Alex Case

1. Spot something in the picture
This works best with a detailed picture like Where’s Waldo?/Where’s Wally? but can be used with details of the picture (and text, if they can read) of almost any book, e.g. What colour are the duck’s boots?

2. Guess and check
For example, “The caterpillar wants to eat something blue. What blue thing do you think it will eat? Apple? No? Aubergine? Blue berry? Rika, what do you think? Let’s have a look” (Maybe opening the page slowly to add to the anticipation). There are possibilities for guessing something in almost any book, e.g. guessing what object will represent the next letter of the alphabet, or guessing what trouble the character will get up to in that room.

3. Guess the ending
A variation on guessing what the next page shows is the students using each page as a further hint to try to guess the end of the story, e.g. what animal the characters are tracking down. This works even better with pop up books and flaps.

4. Flash the page
Another way of adding interest to students looking at the next page is to open the book very rapidly and then slam it closed right away, starting so quick that no one has a chance to see it properly. Repeat, getting slower each time until everyone has spotted what it is or most people have shouted out what is there.

5. Say something wrong
And be corrected, e.g. “Miffy is under the bed” “No!” “No? On?” “Yes!” “Okay, give me the sentence then. Miffy is…”

6. Make up your own words
Students not being able to read the book can be an advantage, as you use the pictures on the page anyway you like. It may also mean you can use storybooks that are written in other languages in your English class. Good ways of varying the text include making it simpler, more repetitive, more tied to the rest of the class or course, more relevant to the country the students are in, building to more of a climax, chanting or singing the text rather than just saying it, or more suitable for guessing what comes next. If they can already read, you can still vary the text by sellotaping your own text into the book, or even just covering all or part of the text with blank paper.

7. Use it as flashcards
Almost anything you can do with flashcards, e.g. introducing and drilling vocabulary, can be made more stimulating by using a picturebook instead/ as well. This is particularly true of books with flaps or pop ups.

8. Let the kids turn the page
They can either take turns revealing the next page or opening the flap for everyone to see, or (in a small class) each child in turn can flash the page open to take a look. The latter method is great for building up the anticipation of children who haven’t seen the picture yet.

9. Make puppets of the characters
The easiest way to make puppets is to photocopy a page of the book, cut round the edge of the characters and stick each one on a loop of paper that you can put around your finger or hand. These can then be used to get the students asking questions to the character (and vice versa), to bring the language into the classroom (e.g. putting the puppet on the window to continue prepositions practice), getting the kids to act out the story while you or the class recite it (with or without help from the book), or leading into the story. Other ways to make puppets include sticking flat pictures onto poles, sticking their cut up facial features and clothes onto socks and using cut out sillouetes of easily identifiable characters as shadow puppets (e.g. on an OHP).

10. Make worksheets
The easiest way is to photocopy a page from the story and get students to colour it in. A step up is to photocopy and cut up pictures from throughout the book to make a composite worksheet. Another easy way of using a picture is to cut it up into a jigsaw for students to put back together, glue onto card and colour (making sure the glue doesn’t soak the paper and make it impossible to colour).

11. Act out the story
Instead of/ after getting students to act out the story with puppets, they can also do so with their hands and/ or their whole selves. In a large class, get a few students acting but the rest of the class saying their lines or telling the story.

12. Memory games
For example, test the students on a book they already know, e.g. “What animal is on the next page?” Alternatively, you can slam the book closed and test them on what they just saw. A variation on this is just to cover one part of the picture or text and test them on what is there. Students can test each other in the same ways.

13.Question/ response
Also known as the panto method! For example, (teacher) “Can a hedgehog wear a dress?” (Students, individually) “No, it can’t” (turn page to check, then students chant together one more time) “No, it can’t!!”

14. Read just one word
If students are at an intermediate stage in their reading, you can just get them to read one word on each page. This works best if the picture gives a hint to the word but they still need to use some reading skills such as first letter recognition to identify it correctly. If the picture gives too much information and so stops them bothering to read, cover the picture with a blank piece of paper and then reveal to check. You might also want to cover the rest of the text on each page so that they can easily concentrate on the one word they need. Alternatively, you can photocopy the words from each page and show just that word as a flashcard or by pointing to it on the whiteboard before turning the next page to check if they have identified it correctly or not.

15. Find the right page
E.g, “I need something that is a circle. (Turning to first page) Is a bus a circle?” “No!” “(Second page) Is an orange a circle?” “Yes!” As you progress or use the same book again they can shout out what you are looking for before you reach the right page. Alternatively, in a small class the children can take turns flicking through the book to find the right thing.

Written by Alex Case for Tefl.NET September 2008
Alex Case is the author of TEFLtastic and the Teaching...: Interactive Classroom Activities series of business and exam skills e-books for teachers
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