I WANT TO BE BILINGUAL1

Try This Really Fun and Effective Activity with an Early-Reading Child or Language Learner

April 20, 2019

I Know a Lot About...

Over the years, I’ve amassed big piles of papers that hold teaching materials, creative writing, and ideas for future blog posts, books, and other projects. From time to time I’ll sift through these piles in an attempt to file the papers I want to keep and discard the ones I no longer need.

But the truth is, I never seem to get all the way to the bottom of these stacks and so the piles begin rising again as I add fresh papers. One of my goals in connection with our move last August was to tackle this task and finally eliminate all the piles…and yet it’s now eight months later and they’re still growing like weeds.

The thing is, it’s a lot more fun for me to add to the piles with new inspirations than it is to get everything properly sorted in my filing cabinet.

Still, last night, as I was halfheartedly making another attempt at this aim, I came across a paper that was fun for me to rediscover…and might be fun for you to try with your own kids or students.

A humorous twist

When my children were younger, and first learning to read, I created a kind of worksheet designed to promote both vocabulary and early reading. If you’ve been following this blog over the years, you know that my mind is continuously trying to put a humorous twist on language activities for my kids and students because this sort of playful approach tends to make the activity more engaging and more productive. Of course, there’s nothing “wrong” with pursuing the same language targets—like saying the names of animals and reading some simple sentences—in a more conventional way. But, in my experience, a humorous twist holds the power to make the activity more enjoyable and more effective.

So here it is: the worksheet I used with my kids, and then with my younger students (renewed for this post); a simple activity that turned out to be a fun, language-filled success each time I tried it. (In my case, the target language is English, but this activity could be pursued in any language you like, and with any age, really, which means the same idea would no doubt work well with language learners.)

“I Know a Lot About…”

I Know a Lot About Animals

Click here to get the PDF of my worksheet. Feel free to use it as you like or modify it in any way that works for you.

Step 1. With the worksheet in hand, but hidden from the child’s view (on a clipboard or other hard surface for writing), ask the child to give you the names of animals, one by one. Write these names down in the blank spaces on the paper. The humor, as you’ll quickly see, comes from the mismatch between the “expected” answers and the answers given.

Step 2. After the paper is filled in, hand it to the child and ask him/her to read it out loud. Let the giggles begin!

Variations

*Have the child write the animal names down on a separate paper first (for a bit of writing practice), then tell you these names orally.

*The roles could be reversed for step one, with the child asking the parent for the animal names and writing them down himself/herself. The child could still read the completed paper out loud, as in step two.

*Similar “I Know a Lot About…” worksheets could be made on other topics, like countries, cities, or numbers (math), and such topics might also suit older children. The basic aim, as in the humorous twist with the animals worksheet, is to create an amusing “gap” between what the child says he/she knows and the answers that are actually given. For example: “The biggest country in the world is __________.” “The capital of France is __________.” “Ten plus twelve equals __________.”

I hope you have some productive fun with this idea! Please let me know how it goes in a comment below! :mrgreen:

How about you? Why not give this activity a try with your children or students?

1 Michele Cherie April 20, 2019 at 11:46 am

My daughter, now age ten, is really into Mad Libs right now. I think I’ll translate this into French for my children. Arigatou! Also, we have been doing a lot of origami this year, and we have continued to use the little book your children sent us (especially to fold many miniature upright pianos—my daughter’s favorite item in the book). Their (and your) kindness is still appreciated!

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2 Adam April 20, 2019 at 2:15 pm

Michele, the years are passing so quickly, aren’t they? Before we know it, our kids will be off on their own journeys in the world. So let us savor each day, as best we can, with Mad Libs and origami and many more fun (and productive) activities. (See this page for another Mad Libs-related post.)

It’s always good to hear from you, Michele! I send my best wishes to you and your family! :mrgreen:

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3 Nat April 21, 2019 at 7:28 pm

Hi Adam,
I remember using with my pupils a couple of different ones you had shared with us before. They were great to practise grammar (give me a noun, a verb, an adj etc..). They loved them, they always turned out very silly (I always remember ‘I love pizzas with lots of babies on’) and the kids always wanted some more!!! Thanks for transmitting your fun. From sunny UK (only till tomorrow)

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4 Adam April 21, 2019 at 8:16 pm

Nat, I’m happy to hear this! I’ve had the same experience with eager students, from children to even university learners of English. This sort of activity is so engaging.

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