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Reading “Where’s Spot” in EFL class

How to use the all-time classic children’s book “Where’s Spot?” in class for all levels and for ages 2 to 9.

Where’s Spot? by Eric Hill is one of the all time classic children’s book for both native and non-native English speaking children as it somehow manages to combine a simple repetitive formula with fun, realistic uses of things hidden behind flaps and a real storyline with a happy ending. It can be used at all levels and ages from two to eight or nine for names of animals, household vocabulary, colours and/ or prepositions, or just as an end of class treat. Below are some tips on how to make its use involving, fun and a great source of language learning. 

Pre-reading

  • If the students are old and high level enough to be learning prepositions they probably don’t need the animals to be pre-taught at all as you can teach the unfamiliar ones as you read the book. If you are using this book to teach animals rather than prepositions, pre-teach at least some of them with flashcards or plastic animals, getting students to do an action for each one (see below for possible actions).
  • Pre-teach some of the furniture in the book by getting students to run around the room touching the things there to your instructions, e.g. to the song Tables and Chairs (FAB Red, Saxoncourt Publishing), which goes “Touch touch touch the table. Touch touch touch the chair. Now come here. Very good” etc.
  • Pre-teach prepositions by putting your hand on top of your head then in your mouth then under your chin while saying “On in under” over and over, then doing the same by getting students to put their hands “On your shoe, in your shoe, under your shoe”, “On the cupboard, in the cupboard, under the cupboard” etc. You can also do the same thing with other body parts (“Put your nose under the table”) or objects such as plastic cups (“Put your cup on your head. No hands!”), foam blocks, or plastic fruit or animals.

While reading

  • On the first page, ask them how many dinners there are, what animal they can see, how many dogs there are, if the dog you can see is the baby or mummy, and then ask “Where’s the baby dog/ puppy?” with your shoulders and palms raised to show a question and looking all around the room, e.g. under the chair you are sitting on
  • You probably can’t introduce “behind” at this level, so skip the second page (the door), relabel it “in the room”, leave it till last, or just ask them if it is on the door or under the door and then open it
  • On each page, elicit the furniture you can see and maybe do a mime for each one, e.g.
    • sketching the outline of a door with your index fingers in the air, knocking on a door or opening and closing a door
    • drawing the outline of a bed with your index fingers, making a bed or sleeping
    • walking up and down some stairs with your fingers as the legs
    • opening and closing the two doors of the wardrobe and taking out and putting on your clothes
    • doing a techno dancing style “big box little box” with your arms
    • carrying a basket and putting supermarket shopping or mushrooms you pick into it
    • arms stretched out at about 4 o’clock, then moved round while saying “Tick tock clock”.
    • You could also ask what colour they are in the book, point to any of those that are in the classroom and/ or ask what colour the ones in the classroom are
  • Then ask students whether you should look “On the (bed)? In the (bed)? Under the (bed)?” and with higher level classes “Next to the (bed)?”
  • Maybe get them asking you to knock on the door, clock etc, or chant “Knock on the door/ Knock knock” as you let them knock on the flap in the book
  • Flash open the flap very quickly to give them a quick glimpse of it, ask them if it’s a baby dog and see if they can shout out or mime the animal that is there
  • Get students to chant “Open” and “Shut” as you flash the flap open for them to get a glimpse of what animal is there, or chant it as you let the students flash open the flap (after asking with “Me please” or “Can I see, please?”)
  • Once it is clear what the animal is, get all the students calling out the name and doing a mime
    • Walking slowly with arms out and giving a bear hug
    • Walking very slowly for tortoise/ turtle
    • Opening your mouth very wide for hippo/ hippopotamus and crocodile/ alligator, with arms bent for hippo and straight for crocodile
    • Opening your mouth and roaring loudly for lion
    • Sliding like a snake with your whole body or two hands stretched in front of you
    • Waddling from side to side with your arms down at your sides at a slight angle for the penguins’ wings
    • Flying for the bird on the back of the hippo (although this one can be left out if the students don’t notice it)
  • Maybe ask other questions about the animals such as their colour, what they can do and their body parts
  • Ask again where the animal is, what animal it is and if it’s a baby dog. Maybe ask how the mummy dog feels (sad because she can’t find her baby or scared because she saw a snake etc) then ask “Where’s the baby dog?” with actions and move onto the next page
  • If you taught the time in a previous lesson, you could ask what time it is on the clock page
  • If you’ve done a song that includes going to bed/ sleep, e.g. Mulberry Bush, We Like to Walk (FAB Red) or Teddy Bear Teddy Bear, you could do a quick rendition on the page with the bed
  • When the mother finally finds Spot, mime and chant that she is “Happy happy happy”
  • On the last page mime and chant “Eat my dinner” and then offer some of the dog food for students to eat, maybe asking “Do you like (brown) dog food?/ (Is it) delicious?”

Useful links

Written by Alex Case for TEFL.net January 2010
Alex Case is the author of TEFLtastic.

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TEFL.net : ESL Lesson Plans : Classroom Ideas : Young Learners : Reading “Where’s Spot” in EFL class