Summer Literacy and EAL Fun

I’ll admit I had grand EAL-at-home plans for summer learning.  Except, this year in Scandinavia, the sky is all about rain.  So we’ve been playing lots of card games that we’ve played with all year.  We have plans for an English water balloon war on the next sunny day that we are blessed with.  We’ve taken balloons and written words or phrases in Danish.  The kids can’t throw them until they translate them into English.     I’d rather just get them talking but my kiddos currently need a confidence boost in their ability to speak and understand English so we’re going this way.  (Come on sun so we can post pictures!)

We’ve also got a candy store role play set up at Grandma and Grandpa’s house.  The kids are the shop owners and are trying to sell us some candy.  This is because one: candy is their greatest love in the world and two: they are very convincing in Danish about why people should eat it.  We thought we’d give them a chance to translate their love of all things sugar into speaking English.  Plus: there is candy at the end for them!  (Pictures forthcoming)

To see some of our rainy day activities and others posted by great teachers, check out this week’s linky party.


Adventures in Elementary



Role Play Writing – Writing Wednesday

writing wed header

I’m linking up with other bloggers to talk about writing and how important it is in all of our curriculums.  The last Wednesday of every month will be dedicated to talking about writing strategies and ideas.  This time, I want to highlight how to give opportunity for meaningful writing outside of a set writing time by creatively using role plays and play-based learning.

Both Sweden and the International Baccalaureate focus on play-based learning as essential until at least age 7.  At first, I kept asking how I would get my curriculum in and then I realized the key: play-based learning simply gives curriculum a meaningful context.

fairy tale store cover

Here is an example of what this could look like:  we set up a fairy tale store role play in our first grade classroom.  We wanted to use what they were learning in other times of the day to create meaningful writing opportunities.  In their set “writing time”  we were explicitely teaching how a story has a beginning, middle, and end, how to fracture a fairy tale, and how to get their ideas down on paper.  We first set up a section of the store where they could buy fairy tale books.  These were books that were written and illustrated by their classmates.  Our book sales were through the roof!

rhyming spell

The kids then kept talking about potions and spells and we set up a section of the store where they could write rhyming spells and sell them.  Here is an actual student spell:

A spell for flying when you need it the most
Bim bam boom
Fly on a broom
Fim fam foom
now I can fly to the moon.

Suddenly, they were playing with rhymes (and almost rhymes) and writing spells faster than they could sell them to each other.  I even heard these spells being “used” at recess.  We then set up a potion station so they could play with capacity and writing.  They started measuring in teaspoons and milliliters and creating terrifying potions that involved dragon claws, and mud from between your toes!  Again, they loved it and we saw them beggging to get more writing time to create longer fairy tales, more spells, and more terrifying potions.

potion formulaWith emergent writers, we want them to write (and write a lot) so that they become more comfortable with the process.  Their spelling and handwriting also improved dramatically because they wanted to sell their products and we all know that a good product should be neat and readable.

Feel free to check out both the fairy tale store role play and the dinosaur museum in my store.  They are both role plays that have lots of built in writing for emergent writers.

Also check out these other great resources for Writing Wednesday from other teacher bloggers.

Thanks to Lit with Lyns for setting this up!
Little Vikings


Build a dinosaur skeleton from toilet paper rolls

build a dino skeletonOur PYP 1 class has an amazing unit on extinction.  They inquire into dinosaurs, fossils, and why things that used to be on Earth aren’t anymore.   We typically take a trip to the local natural history museum in Copenhagen so that the kids can touch skulls, see actual dino bones, and interact with fossils in person.  This year, Europe has a refugee crisis.  Which suddenly means that going across the bridge from Sweden to Denmark became an insurmountable obstacle of needing every child’s passport!

museum 1We wanted to duplicate the museum experience, which is what made us create the paleontology museum role play.  We figured out how to make fossils with salt dough but how would we get the huge skeletons?  Build one

Step 1) collect a million toilet paper rolls. Seriously, you’ll need a lot

Step 2) take a large piece of chart paper (or several taped together) and draw a rough outline of the Dino’s skeleton from one side

build a dino

Step 3) place yarn or strong string on the backbone of your drawing.

Step 4) have the kids place toilet paper rolls on the lines you’ve made for rib cages, legs and arms   On the backbone and tail they can start stringing the the rolls onto the string. (i.e the string is inside the rolls and then they tape the rolls together). We discovered that if you use masking tape, you will use mountains of tape. Go for duct tape if you can.

dino skeleton making

Step 5) once you have created a backbone and one side of the rib cage, use more string to hang your dino up. (You will probably have cheering children at this point.)

Step 6) talk about symmetry – build a duplicate rib cage so you have two of each rib, arm, leg, etc.  The kids love this step.

IMG_4348 (1)

Step 7) with rolled up paper create the claws/fingers and toes and attach to your arms and legs

Step 8) name your dino.  Pictured here is “Blood Roar”.  Proudly display in your museum.

Zahra (banner)Little Vikings





When Inquiry (or Pirate Ship Building) Goes Wrong

Pirate-FlagWe were so excited.  Our K-er’s had a class discussion and decided that instead of their teachers setting up an in-depth role-play station, they wanted to do it.  We let them know that  we needed the role-play to be able to work with 2D and 3D shapes, allow for science experiments, and have some form of writing.  They took our requirements and came up with the best creative idea: Pirate Scientists.  They would build a pirate ship out of 3D shapes and then do science experiments in the ship.  Brilliant.

We started collecting boxes and all manner of junk, but the K-er’s couldn’t make their ship stick together.  Ticky-tac didn’t work, so they upped their game to try glue.  Our glue sticks didn’t work, so they wanted to make cement.  We finally all came to the conclusion that we needed 1) all of our materials to be the same size – we voted on milk cartons and 2) they needed the strongest-holding-together-thing on earth – i.e. duct tape.  Once we had the right materials our pirate ship made rapid building progress and the kids did indeed role-play as pirate scientists.  They all brought costumes from home and were free to put them on and play in the ship with their “science experiments” and shapes. We had visitors coming to see our role-play area and we even got a shout-out from our colleagues at a PYP course in Vienna.  What more could we ask for?

We loved the ship so much we let it stay up over Christmas break.  We finally all decided we wanted to use the space in the classroom for something else, so we gleefully set to destroying our pirate ship.  The only problem was, we had made it out of milk cartons and despite dedicated attempts to check all cartons, some were used as building materials without being thoroughly cleaned.  We had 8 weeks of decomposing milk hidden within the building blocks of our ship.  Black moldy milk was flying across the room in beautiful, smelly arcs.  Lets just say that  the smell (“really smelly Danish cheese” was the constant yell) and the resulting discussions (why would old milk smell like cheese?) taught us more science than all of our carefully laid out experiments.  Though we are all a little leery of pirate scientists now.

(For your enjoyment, a picture of the partially dismantled pirate ship seconds before the “smell to end all smells” is revealed to the world.)

the dying pirate ship