A right way to learn English?

I just had a baby so I’m not currently in my own classroom.  I am however, still a mommy and I just went to the parents’ information night at my kids’ school in Denmark.  I think that parents who are teachers have the hardest time accepting academic decisions of other teachers and they live in a constant struggle to support their kids’ teachers and yet wonder how they would of done something differently.  This describes my relationship with my kiddos’ school in a nutshell.

At the meeting, they pointed out that English is now taught from the earliest grades but there isn’t really curriculum to help them teach effectively.  Now when they mean curriculum, they mean workbooks.  In Denmark, teachers do not search for their own materials, they are not expected to ever buy products to use in the classroom, and they do not print, laminate, and cut things to be used in their classroom.  I teach through games and dramatic play at all grade levels and use worksheets as a reinforcement only.


This leads to a dramatic cultural clash but, every Dane under 50 speaks fluent English – I struggle to think that their system is wrong if it works so well.  I’m currently partnering with the English teacher at my childrens’ school and not only am I creating resources for her but I am slowly coaching her on international teaching methods of center based learning and how to use games as both instruction and repetition.  Yet, even as I mentor her in my methods, I’m learning that there is something to be said for the boring but thorough slow workbook method.

I will still advocate for getting students to talk to each other and feel like they are in real-life speaking situations in a safe dramatic play environment.  I still believe that games do what worksheets do but in a more engaging way.   However, grammar is a beast and worksheets and their repetition are blessings to help grammar become more automatic.  Perhaps there is merit in old school methods.  Do other EAL teachers struggle with this intersection of ideals?

Little Vikings


Blowing at Trees – Anger Management


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When kiddos get mad, they have trouble taking a few seconds to calm down before they hit, yell or say that thing they really shouldn’t say.   …. Or are my kids the only ones?

We started this at home and I then tried it in the classroom.  It has worked like magic in both places.  Basically, you need to give kids something to do for just long enough to calm down a wee bit.  We played off the idea that trees can turn carbon dioxide into oxygen, as well as, Shel Silverstein’s tried and true, The Giving Tree.    

I invented a story with their names in the place of  ‘the child’.  Feel free to change the story to fit your kiddos.

A long time ago in Denmark, there were certain magic trees that had very large hearts. Not every tree mind you but,  the magic ones that you could find if you looked hard enough.  These trees could take anger and bad feelings and change them into happier feelings.  All because their hearts were so big and so powerful.  These trees used to be easily found but people began to cut them down to build houses and to make fires.  So the magic trees hid themselves deep in the forest.  

This meant that there were fewer trees to help change bad feelings into good feelings. People began to become easily angered at each other and would sometimes even shout and hit.  A small child decided that it was time to find the King of  Trees and to ask if hte trees could come back to Denmark.   After a long journey through hills, brambles, and bogs the child finally found the King of the Trees.  The child bravely asked the King  if there was a way to have some of these big-hearted trees closer to where humans lived.  

The King thought about this idea and decided that humans can not always be trusted to take good care of trees.  The child was distraut.  Seeing this, the King decided to use his magic and create a small paper forest of big-hearted trees.  He gave the paper to the child and told them to hang it somplace that they could find when they were angry, hurt, or simply feeling bad.  The trees’ magic would start to work to to help the feelings go away and eventually change them completely.  We can still find these trees today and their magic still works thanks to the King of Trees.  

I then pulled out the the tree design I had made and attached it to a string.  We let my class place the tree in a spot determined by the students.

And … they … used … it.   It did help cut down on the little hits and mean words that can occur.  I will admit it was unnerving at first to see them run across the room and blow at a tree, but it worked at home and in the classroom.  Click the link below to get a copy of the tree we used, as well as, a shortened story.

Blowing at Trees

The King of trees