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Flap Books: A Simple Secret for Student Support! (by Lesley Ito)

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.

1. Storytelling with The Enormous Turnip.

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.

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10 Comments

  1. Barbara says:

    I love ideas like this–easy to make, infinitely adaptable, and recyclable! Thank you so much for sharing this idea. And for giving such clear instructions. I know what my kiddos will be doing in class next week :)

  2. Sputnik says:

    What a great idea! It reminds me of the lure of the advent calendar – that basic instinct to find out what’s behind the door. Very simple, but very clever. Cheers!

  3. Catherine Oki says:

    KISS in full effect! Thanks Lesley!

  4. Love it, Lesley! Super activity. Very versatile and requires very little explanation. :-D

    A+

    Steven
    Nara

  5. Matt says:

    Great idea, thank you! I will be doing this in class today with my students.

  6. […] There are guest posts often, so many different ideas. For example, check out this nice post on Flap Books. Flap Books are really cool, and I have been having some great classes this week creating these with […]

  7. Carmela Kondo says:

    I go over it was very good idea that I should apply this to my students.
    This is very excellent way of retaining what to do next and to help them to speak easier.
    I must follow and do the best of your being creative and share to all ETJ teachers.
    Wonderful.
    All the best,
    Hideomae Pky. Footprints( AICHI)
    Carmela Kondo

  8. Carmela R. Kondo says:

    Ms. Lesley, I’m really interested all your ideas that enhance the children to widen up their interests and so far I applied of what I’ve learned from you and more they are enjoying english speaking using some of the brochures and cards. They talk each other having them and even asking questions based on their dialogue of what’s really happening while going on. It is really interesting because its flexible to speak and talk just having those materials and some other stuffs to encourage them to react during their conversations. However, for the adults Could you give me some advise on how to do some brainstorming before I have start my main lesson. I mean to switch on their mind into english not knowing they speak english without thinking into Japanese. Is there any hint What to do? You are highly appreciated.

    MORE POWER, Lesley.

    Hugs.

    All the best
    Carmela

  9. Carmela R. Kondo says:

    Thank you so much ,Lesley.

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