I think what every teacher needs to know is this simple secret to successful ESL/EFL classes: Students can accomplish so much more if the lesson has proper support. It is very difficult for students, particularly at the EFL level, to stand up in front of the class and spontaneously tell a story or talk about their lives. One great way to provide support is with a simple, versatile craft called a Flap Book. Students can use these as a prop for communication as they hold their Flap Books and then lift the flaps as needed to remind them of what they want to say.
All you need to make a flap book is a piece of paper (construction paper works best, but any kind of unlined paper would do), scissors and pencils or crayons. Fold the paper in half lengthwise. Make vertical cuts on only the front page to the center fold, leaving the back page intact.
Here are two easy example lessons to get you started.
After reading the story to the students, elicit the characters who were present the last time they pulled the turnip. Then, make a flap book with eight flaps. Have the students write the word “mouse” on the first flap, “cat” on the second flap, “dog” on the third flap, “girl” on the fourth flap, “boy” on the fifth flap, “woman” on the sixth flap, “man” on the seventh flap and “turnip” on the eighth flap. Then, students can draw a picture of a mouse on the paper under the “mouse” flap, a cat under the “cat” flap, etc. (If you think drawing pictures is too time consuming, either assign the picture drawing for homework or make a worksheet using free clip art for all the characters that students can quickly cut out with scissors and glue under the flaps.) Once the flap book is completed, students can now use it to tell the story of the Enormous Turnip. Show the students the page of the book where all the characters are pulling the turnip, right before they finally pull it out the ground. This will be the part of the story that the student will tell. First the student lifts up the “mouse” and “cat” flap and says, “The mouse pulls the cat.” Then, the student lifts up the “cat” and “dog” flaps and says, “The cat pulls the dog.” Students continue going down the length of their flap book, lifting up two flaps at a time and saying, “The ___________ pulls the ____________,” until they finally reach the end of the flap book and say, “The man pulls the turnip.”
Any type of simple story that repeats information or adds information would be ideal for a flap book, such as, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt or Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?
2. My week
Pre-teach the days of the week and after-school lessons and activities. Then, make a flap book with seven flaps. Hold the book vertically and write one day of the week on each flap. Students will write what they do after school under the flap for each day of the week. For example, if students go to soccer practice on Monday, they should write, “I go to soccer practice.” under the Monday flap. For the days students do not have after school lessons, I teach them the sentences, “I’m free.” or “I play with my friends.” Once the flap book is completed, students can take turns standing in front of the class and talking about their week. The student will lift the Sunday flap and say, “On Sunday, I ________.” and then continue for the rest of the days of the week.
When having the class make a flap book, it is important for this not to turn into an art project and take up valuable time that could be used to speak and practice English. Give the students a set amount of time upfront (around 10 – 15 minutes is ideal), set a timer, walk around the class to check up on how students are doing and let them know when they only have five minutes left.
Flap books are quick and easy to make and students really enjoy making and using them in class. They especially enjoy taking them home and presenting them to their families, which is a fantastic way of bringing their experience inside the English classroom into their real life!
Lesley Ito, originally from Florida, has been teaching English to EFL/ESL students in Nagoya, Japan for over 17 years. She is a teacher trainer, author and the owner of BIG BOW English Lab, a private language school with a unique cross-curricular focus. You can access her articles and free downloads at her school’s website at http://www.bigbowenglish.com/teachertraining.htm or read her blog at http://www.bigbowenglish.com/itolesley.htm. You can also follow her on Twitter.