Monday, 13 August 2012

Book Review: '500 Activities for the Primary Classroom' by Carol Read

500 Activities for the Primary Classroom
Immediate Ideas and Solutions
Carol Read
MacMillan Education 2007
ISBN 9781405099073

Publisher's Website
From the blurb: 500 Activities for the Primary Classroom is an indispensable collection of practical activities for teaching English to primary-aged children. It aimes to develop an awareness of the complex factors involved in working effectively with classes of children and to lay a solid foundation in primary language teaching skills.



TO ENTER: Easy! Write to and say '700'!
~ CLOSING DATE: 21st August, 2012 ~

Unlike its earlier stablemate, 700 Classroom Activities, Carol Read's book positions itself as much more of a 'handbook', 'the definitive handbook for all primary teachers and teacher trainers', no less, whilst still offering its eponymous 500 Activities for the Primary Classroom.

The tone is set by the rather meaty 12-page introduction which is excellent reading for new and needing-reinspired teachers alike.

After an introduction to the book itself and how to use it there's a 'Working with children section' which explores ideas on 'creating optimal conditions for children's learning'. The (literally) Child-centred C-Wheel model is introduced, followed by descriptions of each of the eight cutely coordinated C-chosen categories: Context; Connections; Coherence; Challenge; Curiosity; Care; Community and Creativity.

Having done a Primary Teacher Training Certificate with Carol at the British Council in Paris a few years ago I can assure you, without going into too many details, that this is the real deal and a great introduction to the topic.

This is followed by sections on 'Managing children positively', 'Relationships', 'Rules', 'Routines', 'Rights and responsibilities', 'Respect' and 'Rewards'. After the C-Circle I'd have thought there was definitely scope for an R-Rectangle there Carol!

The judiciously weighty intro finishes with general guidelines for setting up activities and then we're ready to rock and roll into the... introduction to the Listening and Speaking Activities section.

In effect, each of the activities sections has a three-page introduction giving specific information and hints and tips on the types of actvities therein. As well as a Listening and Speaking section there is Reading and Writing, Vocabulary and Grammar, Storytelling and Drama, Games, Rhymes, Chants and Songs (my favourite), Art and Craft, Content Based Learning, the appropriately up to date ICT and Multimedia, and that old chestnut, Learning To Learn.

As with the companion title for older learners, 700 Classroom Activities, there's far too much here to get into describing individual exercises. Therefore I'll do what I've done before and open at random and cite a few activity titles:

From the Games section: Jumping Beans; Hopscotch; Abracadabra; Pass The Secret; Feely Bag Games; Name Games; Can I Cross Your River, Mr Crocodile?

From the Rhymes, Chants and Songs section: Clapping Chants; Instructions Rhyme; The Name Rap; Animal Noises; Spot The Rhyming Words; Counting Songs; A Rhyme A Month.

From the Content Based Learning section: Mixing Colours; Metal, Plastic, Glass or Wood?; Characteristics In Common; Bug World; Life Cycles; Growing A Plant; The Water Cycle.

From the ICT and Multimedia section: Email A Friend About A Book; Weather Check; Class Email Group; Subtitle Options; Repeat What They Say; A Visitor In Town.

From the Vocabulary and Grammar section: Secret Letter; Word Tennis; Sentence Chains; Physical Line-up; Monster Adjectives; It Looks Like...; Beep!; Mime The Grammar.

Apart from the delightfully kids-oriented approach to each subject, the activities include extremely clear instructions and necessary information, including Level, Age, Organisation, Aims, Language Focus, Materials, Procedure and very useful Comments and Suggestions allowing you to adapt or prolong activities or their themes based on your own teaching situation.

The aforementioned Learning To Learn section is also one of my favourites, as it allows children to become aware of and to an extent take charge of their own learning aims and progress towards them. Teachers, in particular, will find this section invaluable, especially in the eyes of the parents I would imagine, as it allows you to show explicitly what children are learning and the successes they are achieving in their own words and creations.

Activities include Setting Goals, Grammar Mind Maps, Vocabulary Networks and Clines, Class Contracts and Classroom Jobs, Things That Help Me Learn, How I Like To Do Homework (!!!!!), Self Assessments, Learning Diaries and so it goes on.

It's doubtful that all of these could be done with a single class but I'm sure that's not the intention. Teachers would probably pick three or four of these techniques and try them out with their class to see how it goes, but the resources are valuable and worthy ones.

To sum up, 500 Activities for the Primary Classroom is a superb resource for any teacher looking to spice up their lessons, discover hundreds of new things to do with their classes and re-energise themselves in the most fun and satisfying way possible.

 P.S. For the next week we are giving away 5 copies of companion volume 700 Classroom Activities - see below for details!



TO ENTER: Easy! Write to and say '700'!
~ CLOSING DATE: 21st August, 2012 ~


Sab Will is, or has been, a freelance teacher, teacher trainer, director of studies, ELT writer, fanatical blogger, Facebook freak and website weirdo. He is also a well-known street photographer, abstract artist, poet and Paris city chronicler. The 'well-known' bit only applies to those who know him well, however.
Hotch Potch English: 'The ELT Resources Review' ~ Book Review: "500 Activities for the Primary Classroom"
© 2012 Sab Will / Hotch Potch English

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