Wednesday, 24 August 2016

The Small Ghostie

Creating one’s own resources: a thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding enterprise

As a teacher I find that creating my own resources rather than relying exclusively on a coursebook is one of the most challenging and rewarding aspects of my job.
It is challenging in the sense that I have to make the right choice of text depending on the level, age and interests of the students it is aimed at. This involves quite a lot of sifting through online sources as well as searching among a collection of books acquired over decades. The material I use includes poems, short stories, literary extracts and articles or news items. The next step, which is more demanding, consists in customising the presentation and/or activities for my learners.
In this post, I am going to focus on how a poem can be used as a vehicle for teaching contextualised vocabulary and practising the new words by miming.
The poem I am going to discuss is The Small Ghostie by Barbara Ireson, and it is an excellent choice for young children. The learners can listen to it (link provided) but there is no better substitute for a teacher’s dramatization.
I introduce it gradually, by verse, as there is a lot to teach and practise and it also creates an ambiance of suspense.
The main focus is on words related to different kinds of sounds but there are other items which can be dealt with in different ways. Personally, I find that the right ages to teach sounds and movements are between 5 and 10, when children are more spontaneous and less reserved and only too willing to join in the fun.  
Here is the first verse:

When it’s late and it’s dark
 And everyone sleeps ...
 shhh shhh shhh, Into our kitchen
A small ghostie creeps ... shhh shhh shhh

For “dark”, if my students do not already know the word, I draw the curtains and switch off the lights. Later when they practise, they simply mime the movements. In fact, most of the kids I have used the poem with take a liking to miming “shhh” for some reason!
For “sleeps” another mime and for “creeps” the same. They love miming “creeps”. And of course for “ghostie” a white sheet can make them really excited though they already know the word. But, of course, young children never tire of make-believe.
The second verse goes:

We hear knockings and raps
And then rattles and taps

I simply knock on the door for “knockings”, I use a ruler on the desk for “raps”, I bring in a baby rattle for “rattles” and I tap on the window for “taps”.
And so on till we come to the fourth verse

And he whistles and yowls
And he screeches and howls …

by which point I assign each different sound to those better suited to the task than me: my students! Screeches for braking cars, howls for wolves and so on – each one in their element.
However, the real fun comes in the last verse, we all lie down on the floor and pull an imaginary blanket over our heads. Make sure the floor is spotlessly clean!

So we pull up our covers over our heads
And we block up our ears and WE STAY IN OUR BEDS

This particular poem is easy to practise as all you have to do is reverse the presentation. In other words, you mime the movements inviting your students to guess the words. You can have the sounds recorded and elicit the words from the students by playing the sounds.
Alternatively and assuming that the size of your class allows for this, you can divide the students into two groups and ask them to take turns miming and coming up with the right word. They can be further motivated by winning points for each correct guess (word).
I must admit I enjoy the process just as much as the children!

Wish you all fun!

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