February 13, 2008 – ¡Vámonos!

Day: February 13, 2008

In the previous post, I suggested some ways to use items from IKEA in my teaching. Storage, cushions and soft shoes were all mentioned. This post focuses on items to enhance and facilitate speaking and listening in PLL.

One of the main obstacles I find in getting pupils to speak Spanish (or French, German, or any other language) is the ‘hang up’ that it sounds funny. Whilst this is not such a big problem, in my experience, in PLL, there is still some reticence on the part of some pupils to speaking the foreign language. Using puppets is one way of getting around this. Puppets come in all shapes and sizes – you can download patterns for card finger puppets here and here: you can use sock puppets – see Jo Rhys-Jones’ video in which pupils converse using their alien sock puppets; you can use glove puppets – I have a HUGE collection of those (including Ana and Jaime); and you can use finger puppets.

As well as charity shops , jumble sales and my childrens’ toyboxes, IKEA are the main source of my finger puppets. TITTA are sets of 10 finger puppets, costing £5. I have three sets (about time they brought out a new set!) – a sea set (right), a fairytale /royal court set (not pictured) and a jungle set (left). Pupils prefer the animals and give them names and different voices. By using the puppets they are distancing the ‘funny noise’ that some of them associate with speaking Spanish etc and displacing it onto the puppet. Using silly voices is another useful ploy – and is encouraged – as long as the voice doesn’t make understanding impossible! Additionally, puppets seem to increase confidence and encourage creativity in a way that ‘turn to your partner and practice the phrases’ doesn’t. Not hard to see why when you’re dealing with kids who associate role play with using props and dressing up and having fun.

If you were at the IoW conference in October, or even read about it, you may have seen a picture of me as a cat! For the benefit of those who haven’t, here it is!
The previous week I had popped over to our nearest IKEA in search of gingerbread for Christmas and come across these lovely animal masks and ears! There’s cat, a dog (with floppy ears on the mask), a rabbit (ears on a headband as well as mask) and a bear. I’ve used these in a similar way to the finger puppets – these give pupils even more to ‘hide behind’ as they are masked! We’ve used them for storytelling and for songs like El granjero tiene una granja. Always a clamour to wear them so there’s the incentive to take part and contribute to the lesson too, as ‘I only choose people who are working hard and trying their best’ ;o)

Well today, I made another discovery – more masks and this time not just animals! An alien with antennae, a flower, a spider, a princess, a dinosaur, a ladybird and a bumblebee form the latest set of play masks. This time I managed to find two ‘willing’ volunteers to model them for me (although I didn’t completely escape as you can see!).

As well as using these masks for the activities mentioned above, I’d like to use them to encourage pupils to be creative and make up their own (simple) stories that they can act for one another.

You’ll notice that some of the pictures are framed by a green and blue ‘stage’. Today IKEA were selling puppet theatres for 49p – made of cardboard admittedly but nonetheless worth a small investment! As demonstrated by my ‘dos voluntarios’, they can be used as a stage for conversations using the masks, and would work equally well with finger, sock or stick puppets.

Can’t wait to have a go in the classroom! But until then, I know two people who’ll be having fun giving me more ideas!

Inspired in IKEA


Anyone who knows me will vouch for my ability to shop ’til I drop – not necessarily buying lots but always on the lookout for something new and exciting. And anyone who has been in one of my lessons, or attended a session I’ve led will also know that I love IKEA. My first outing after having #2 son was not to a restaurant, or even a pub, but late night shopping at IKEA. And, if you ignore the wardrobes, beds and sofas, and look at the smaller items, there are many things that can be used to inspire and facilitate PLL.

boxes are great for storing bits and bobs – and are different colours so allow for spontaneous questions: ¿Qué hay en la caja verde? ¿Los dados, las tijeras o las cartas? or instructions: Dame la caja azul por favor. Pon los dados en la caja blanca por favor.

Also good for storage are MINNEN velvet bags. I have a collection of these – I keep my finger puppets in one, and my paper puppets in another. I also use them for games such ¿Qué hay en la bolsa? – hide a number of small objects in the bag and children name an item by touch. I’ve recently done it with small farm animals and also fruit. Note to self – next time use plastic fruit to avoid a soggy bag smelling of strawberries! The element of wondering what’s in the bag adds to the exercise and keeps the class on its toes. It also allows for self differentiation as a child can pull out an item that they are pretty sure they know rather than be put on the spot.

And finally on the storage front, NOJE storage boxes are collapsible so saves space – important at the best of times, but when your storage cupboard is the boot of your car, all the more vital – and, like the bags, have a use beyond the intended. I use mine for simple games.
A favourite is throw the beanbag into the correct box. For the youngest children, I ask them to throw the beanbag into the same coloured box, reinforcing the colour vocabulary: el saco rojo en la caja roja. Then, to make it harder, I ask them to throw it into a different coloured basket: el saco azul en la caja verde. Teaches and reinforces colours as well as enhancing motor skills.
I also used them to separate food into ‘healthy’ – es bueno (green), ‘unhealthy’ – no es bueno (red) and ‘undecided’ – no sé (blue) The physical act of moving food adds movement to the lesson and was again tactile, reinforcing the groupings.
And you can play memory games too – ¿dónde está la manzana?

What about these UNDERBAR discs – my boys use them as frisbees although they are intended to be seat cushions. Why not use them as stepping stones, or for dancemat activities (they are textured so no danger of slipping) – both these activities allow sequencing and enhance memorisation skills.

When I ask questions, I like to throw things! I think it goes back to my early days of learning Spanish when my Colombian teacher had the habit of throwing someone’s pencil case around the room to keep us on our toes. It certainly did that, especially as it was a well packed case! Anyhow, the theory make sense to me although I prefer to avoid the danger of knocking out my pupils and so favour a small soft ball. I bought one from IKEA that contains a bell, so we could play with our eyes shut to work our auditory skills! I find it adds to the pace of the lesson, and pupils love being the teacher and getting to throw the ball. Recently, I got fed up of the ball and decided to go for something a bit more exciting – cue BÄSTIS! Actually dog toys, but I now own a pair of shoes
(trainers) that fly around the room. I wanted the pink boots but was informed by #1 son that they were not aerodynamic enough and #2 son that they are too girly!

That’s just the start of my IKEA inspired ideas – the best comes in the next post! Back in an hour or so :o)

Ideas @ IKEA

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What has IKEA got to do with PLL? Come back later and I’ll let you know my ideas! Just got to do some more shopping …

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