If you’re an English teacher, you probably use storybooks in your classroom. We’ve previously written about why storybooks are essential in improving language skills. After you pick the right book and introduce it to your students through an amazing storytelling session, and your children have read it, are you left wondering “What next?” How will you make the jump from storybooks to language learning?
That’s a great question to ask! And let me tell you that if you’re stopping once your children have read the storybook you’ve brought to them, then you must read this article.
Without wasting any time, let me tell you that, in the BLPS method, we split our process into 3 broad steps:
- Pre-storytelling activities
- Storytelling + book reading
- Post-reading activities
You will notice that we’ve added activities to the mix. A clever choice of activities is what allows us to go from storybooks to language learning and achieve our learning objectives.
Why are Activities important?
There are 4 key language skills – LSRW: Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing.
Additionally, there are two cognitive skills –
- Comprehension: decoding meaning from sentences.
- Expression: coding meaning into sentences.
The mix of activities that we present to the children are spread across these 6 broad directions, as these represent the full scope of language learning.
In the BLPS method, we use pre-storytelling activities to set the context for the story that you’re about to tell. This helps to grab their attention right from the get-go! And to be honest, it’s perfectly fine if there are no skill-building activities during your pre-storytelling. We can worry about that later. Here’s an example:
Rooster Raga is a story about Ruru, a rooster who just can’t crow. Ruru asks all the animals for advice and tries to imitate their sounds. A perfect pre-storytelling activity would be to make as many animal noises as you can!
This activity checks these boxes:
- It’s related to the story.
- It will grab their attention and make them invested in the story.
- And (most importantly) it’s fun!
After the storytelling is over, you would want the children to read the book. As per the BLPS method, we recommend that you could move straight to the post-reading activities. If you feel this order is not working for your class, you can push the reading to after the activities.
Storytelling and reading take care of the ‘L’ and ‘R’ portion of the LSRW skills. While you can go ahead and plan your activities around the ‘S’ and ‘W’ skills, the BLPS method chooses to split activities as per the 3Cs – Comprehension, Communication, and Creativity.
Comprehension is a reflection of how well your children extract meaning from language. This is a very important skill. You would want to know: did your children understand the story or was the language too complicated? Were there ideas that they need help with? Was the story interesting? Try these activities and find out for yourself!
- Quiz – Transform your classroom into a quiz show! Have multiple rounds, buzzer questions and of course, a pretty good prize (could be a hand-made card or a mini-stamp).
- Story Maps – This is a great way for your students to recall the story. Rather than asking them a general question like “What was the story about?”, ask them to complete sentences such as –
- The main person in the story is __________
- The story takes place in a __________
- The main character’s problem is __________
- What did you like in the story? __________
- Guessing Games – Use clues from the story and ask your kids to guess what/who you’re talking about.
- Picture walk – While this can be used as a storytelling method in itself, it can also be used to talk about the details that fill the story.
- Crosswords / Word Searches – Turn things from your story into a game and it’s a guarantee that your students will go to any lengths to find the answer. There are multiple online tools such as Crossword Maker and Word Search that you could use.
- Explore and Research – If your students are hooked onto the story or the theme, then they will always want to know more, even if the class is over. Give them the chance to explore the topic on their own, find out interesting facts and present it in the next class.
Expression / communication is the opposite neurological process as comprehension. In this, your children have to use language to encode the meaning that they have in their minds. Try these speaking and writing activities to practice this key skill.
- Debates – Take key decision points from your story and use them in classroom debates. This works well with classes 1+ and really well with classes 6+.
- Speaking prompts – Ask your children to recall the story in their own words. Let them come up with their own stories using the same characters.
- Writing prompts – Use ideas from the story to give writing exercises. If your story is about friendship, for example, ask your students to write a few sentences about their own friends – “Write the name of your best friend and write 3 things you both enjoy doing together.”
- Book reviews – Let your children review the books they read. Give them a time limit and a structure they can follow to express their opinions about the book.
- Vocabulary activities – You probably already have vocabulary exercises in your regular English class, but do consider taking the context of the story to do a few more. Make it fun! Games like Word on the street or Contact can get your kids thinking about different words.
- Listening activities – Ask your students to listen to an audio recording related to your story and answer questions based on it. If your story is about Indian Independence, you can play Jawaharlal Nehru’s famous speech, for example.
No activity is one dimensional in the sense that it’s only about L or S or … It’s always a combination. The human brain does all of LSRW and coding/decoding at the same time. To this mix of 6 broad directions, the BLPS method adds creativity. It’s the direction that binds interest. We believe that all activities must have some degree of creativity in them. In addition, we recommend activities that allow children to express themselves in ways other than R and W. For example:
- Origami – There are thousands of tutorial videos and articles online, and it’s easy to pick one that suits your story and your students’ skill level.
- Drawing – Make comprehension activities even more fun by asking them to draw the answer! Get your kids to draw their own monsters, fantasy lands, mythical creatures, comic strips… This list is truly endless.
- Colouring – Pick out images from the story and create colouring sheets. You can include comprehension activities by asking them to colour in response to a question.
- Theatre – Role-play is a great way to get into the minds of the characters and move beyond the story. Ask your students to enact a scene from the story. You can also pick a couple of students to act as the characters while the rest of the class asks them questions.
The list of activities you can use is endless. Try out a few and see which ones your children like the best! You can look online if you want activities for a particular book. Most big publishing houses like Penguin and HarperCollins have a set of activities for their books. The official Roald Dahl website also has a huge number of lesson plans and activities.
Picking one or two activities is easy, but picking 200 of them, one for each day of the class is hard. One has to balance the various learning objectives. One has to avoid being repetitive. And most importantly, one has to be consistently interesting. Otherwise, the children will get bored. This is where the BLPS activity book comes in, preset with activities for each theme. Take a look at the BLPS activities for theme ‘Family’ in Level 1.