“I am Special” – An ESL writing activity

Today I am going to share a little project with you that I like to do from time to time at the start of the school year. It’s called the “I am Special” project and I use it to expand my students’ ability to talk about themselves and to add in some positive vibes right at the start of the term.

The photos that I am including in this post come from last year’s project and what’s great is that I got a lot of help from Twinkl. If you have not heard of Twinkl (you can thank me later!) it’s an online platform that provides worksheets for teachers, students and homeschoolers at a yearly price. You can get it for free, but in my experience as a teacher, it’s not enough and I had to move up to a yearly subscription.

What I found really useful about Twinkl is that most of their worksheets are differentiated! And if you are a teacher, I am SURE that you’ve had that word drilled into your head for the last few years. ALL schools are looking for teachers that are willing to differentiate in the classroom and yet no one can seem to tell you how to do that without working nonstop night and day...Right! Well, that’s where Twinkl comes in – You pick a subject (and I mean ANY subject) and hone in on a specific area. Once you find what you’re looking for you’ll more than likely have at least 3 options (easy, intermediate and difficult) to choose from. Simple! AND, your students will all be working on a worksheet that looks similar – so no more – “Oh, yours is so easy!” or “Hey, why is mine so much harder than so and so’s?”

Here’s a simple rundown of how I run this class:

Introduction: Gobo (my puppet) comes out and starts talking about the fact that he is not sure if he is special or not. I reassure him that he is and talk about how everyone is special, even when we are not so nice or when we do things that we’re not supposed to, etc….

I will then get into a conversation with my students about what makes them different from one another. What do they look like? Does everyone look the same? This is where we’ll talk about our facial features, hair color, etc. and the things that make us special visually.

Next, I’ll introduce the “I am Special” poem from Twinkl. We will help Gobo fill one out his poetry worksheet whole group (that means that the whole class helps in this) and then I’ll have the class break into partners to fill in their own worksheets and I’ll also ask them to make a self portrait (a rough draft) on the back of their worksheets when they are done. I like the partners to consist of at least one person that can manage the activity on their own. Or, two students that will at least give it their best shot. Remember, since the activity is differentiated, some students will have a word bank to work from, which helps a lot. Also, I will have left our Whole Group poem (Gobo’s poem) on the interactive white board.

As the students are working I will walk around the room helping the partners who need assistance. As soon as I see students working on their portraits I’ll know that I can check their work too.

During out next lesson I will ask the students what it means to be special, who is special and how they themselves are special. All of this will have already been discussed in our first lesson and so it will be a good starting point for our second class.

This is also a time where I’ll pass out their work and ask if anyone would be willing to share their poems so far. I usually have a lot of volunteers, so this can take a few minutes.

Next, I will show the students an example of a finished poem (which will be handwritten on another piece of paper) and a completed self portrait. At this point I will have several piles of construction paper that is of different size and color that will be used for the writing and drawing part of this project. My students (if they’re ready) will receive their materials and get right to work either reviewing and editing their poems or starting their first or final drafts of their self portraits.

What I like to do is give a check mark to the poetry rough drafts. Once a student receives that, they’ll know that they can take a specific piece of construction paper and get to work writing out their final drafts. I use the same method for the art work too. If a child has a check mark on the rough draft of their self portrait, they’ll know that they can take a specific piece of construction paper to begin the final draft of their portraits.

I like working this way because it help the students to know that work is all about PROGRESS and that a rough draft is meant to be worked on before finally moving on to the finished project.

In addition to the activities that I already mentioned, I usually always add a picture book to read from that connects to our project and we, of course, always start and end our lessons by singing songs. At the very end of our project Gobo is usually invited back to see our work.

They just love impressing him :)

Please let us know if you try this project out or what you think of Twinkl.

Wishing you a nice day,


ESL writing activity

Summer Reading Comprehension Skills

Hello there!

I wanted to share a series of reading comprehension workbooks with you that I picked up while visiting family in the United States this past March. Below you’ll find out how I decide on the workbook level and how I teach my own children reading comprehension skills at home. I hope that this information can be of help if your children are still distance learning.

How I choose their grade level:

My children are bilingual and because they have mainly stay focused on their French writing skills, I decided to pick out workbooks in English that were below their current grade level. This gives us two benefits:

1) It allows me to go through the steps of reading and answering questions about these types of texts while using language and vocabulary that is easier for them to understand.

2) It also allows them to reach a level of understanding with more ease, thereby increasing their level of confidence.

Teacher tips on how to approach a reading comprehension exercise:

1. Read the title and study the images that accompany the text

2. Give your child the opportunity to talk about any previous knowledge that they may have (or have observed/heard about) on the subject

3. Read the questions and make sure that the child understands what they are asking

4. Circle any key words in the questions that they should probably look out for in the next

5. Read the text paragraph by paragraph.

6. Remind your child that the main idea of the paragraph is usually in the first sentence of that paragraph. Have them underline or circle the main idea.

7. Underline any important pieces of information and circle any key words.

8. Periodically look back at the questions. If you think that you’ve found an answer in the text, label it with star.

9. Once you are done reading you can begin answering the questions. Remind your child that they must be able to “prove” their answers by finding them in the text. Once they find an answer they can label it with the same number as the question it answers.

10. Explain that some questions might ask them for their opinion. This is a good time to discuss the difference between a fact and an opinion. To keep it simple, facts are things that you can prove (with evidence) while opinions are your personal feelings or point of view about things.

While this process takes time and patience to initially install, once they’ve become accustomed you should be able to see a huge difference in how they evaluate texts. After a short while they should become autonomous enough to complete most of the steps on their own.

Have a lovely day everyone!


Recycled Chi Dollhouse


I am not sure if you are a fan yourself, but we quite enjoy reading about a little cat character named Chi. The books come in the form of comic books or chapter books and are written and illustrated by Konami Kanata.

The books have been a wonderful distraction during this peculiar time of physical distancing and so it was with pleasure that I accepted my daughter’s offer of working on a small project with her. As it turns out, the birth of this project came from a card (that came with one of the books) of a paper version of Chi, a basket for him to sleep in, two food bowls and a milk carton. Once we put those items together we were hooked and the Chi Dollhouse Project was born.

This project requires a recycled cardboard box (the smaller the cuter), white paper, scissors (a boxcutter would also come in handy), glue, markers and coloured pencils.

I’m including the process in the form of photos below:

The first part consisted of tracing all of the sides of our box onto thick paper. You’ll have to take care to label the sides “up” or “top”  and “inside” or “outside” so as to know the correct way to glue it on the box once you’re done decorating it.


Now it’s time to make a staircase!

Use your box to measure out your roof. Keep in mind that you’ll need to make it longer so that you have room to glue it onto the top of your box. We also thought about adding wood panelling on the inside of our roof to make the attic look pretty :)

This next part is fun because you get to see the house coming together. This is where you’ll notice why having an “extra long” roof works out well. It allows for you to safely glue the extra bit under the floorboards.

We used the paper cat bed that came with our book to make another bed. Then we took some old material and folded it to make curtains and bedding to fit our matchbox bed.

Now we had to figure out where to put the stairs and the entryway to our attic. I used the boxcutter to make the small opening and was careful to ask my daughter to step away during that process. I find boxcutters to be so useful and yet they scare the living daylights out of me!

You’ll notice that we glued the stairs in before noticing that they were white and not wood coloured. My daughter quickly fixed that.

After adding a ceiling lamp, we were all done! We think that it’s pretty cute, if we do say so ourselves! :)



The Watermelon Seed by Greg Pizzoli

Hello Class,

I had a very nice time reading to you over Zoom the other day! I really like “The Watermelon Seed” and I was happy to be able to share this fun book with you.

For today’s lesson you will be asked to watch my video of “The Watermelon Seed” read aloud and to then follow up with a craft and oral language exercise. I hope that you enjoy this little project as much as I enjoyed making it for you!

By the way, Gobo wanted me to tell you that he made you a special little video to go along with this project :)

Have fun!



A. Go to LearnPlayAnglais’s YouTube channel to watch Danielle read “The Watermelon Seed” to you.

B. Make watermelon slices:

For this craft, you’ll need the following materials:

1 piece of green construction paper

1 piece of red construction paper

1 white piece of A4



Black Sharpie

Please follow the photo instructions below:

Your green paper remains its original size, but you’ll have to cut a piece off of the other two pieces.


C. Practice your oral language and writing skills by reading  and writing a passage from the book. You can use thisThe Watermelon Seed Passage Work to help you.

And now you’re done! Remember to go to ourYouTube Channel to check out the two videos that go along with this project.

Wishing you a great day!



Listening skills and the Cat in the Hat

Gobo looks at computer

Hello Parents and Kids,

I’ve come up with a new assignment for my students and I have a feeling that you will like it. For this little project you will be practicing your listening skills! But you’ll also get to write and draw too.

I’ve used the help of readlearngrow14 and her video read aloud of the the book, “The Cat in the Hat” as well as the help of Art for Kids Hub  and his video on how to draw the Cat in the Hat. Don’t worry, he is a fantastic artist and he will give you step by step instructions so that your cat will come out looking great.

The last part of our project involves a little writing to accompany your drawing. I can’t wait to see my students’ results and I’m sure that yours will be great too!

Have fun and remember, just speak!



1. First you will listen to the story, “The Cat in the Hat” which will be read to you by learngrow14.

2. After listening to the story you will listen to it a second time, but this time you will pay close attention to the rhyming words (cat and hat, hit and sit, two and do…) and to the phrases that get repeated. For example, “He should not be…”, “Look at me…”, “I can hold…” etc.

3. Once you are done with the read aloud you get to visit Art for Kids Hub.  This is the part where you will be needing a few material like paper and markers.

Remember, if you are using Sharpies, you should protect your table top or you could end up leaving some marks..

Gobo marker in mouthGobo looking at Cat head


4. After you are done coloring in your cat, it is time to go back to the audio reading of “The Cat in the Hat”. Now you are going to have to decide if you want to do Part A or Part B:


Part A is for kids who are already are a bit more advanced in their reading and writing skills in their 1st language:
2. Stop at this time- 8:45
3. Copy down the entire text next to your drawing of the Cat in the Hat.
4. Practice reading it out loud.
Part B is for kids who are just starting to feel comfortable reading and writing in their 1st language (or if you find Part A a bit intimidating…it’s ok!). Instead of writing a lot of text, I would like you to find some rhyming words and write them next to your drawing of the Cat in the Hat.
You can also use the list that I’ve provided you with below:
play, day
two, do
ball, all
sit, bit
bump, jump
Please feel free to add some more rhyming words! Remember, your main goal is to practice your listening skills and to have fun!
Wishing you a great day!
Danielle and her classroom friend, Gobo



The Cat in the Hat
This is an example of what Part A could look like.

The Cat in the Hat, rhyming words
This is an example of what Part B could look like.

Paper dolls and a short dialogue



It’s been a while since I last posted an activity for all of  you to try at home but, now that we are in a lockdown situation here in France, I thought that I’d provide you with a fun activity to help keep your children busy with a fun dialogue and a paper doll activity.

This activity is actually one of the activities that I have given to my own students to do at home next week. I thought about it as I was viewing some easy English dialogue videos online. One of the most interesting ones came from the English Singsing channel on Youtube. I found it so appropriate for the times. Why not practice calling a loved one during a time when most of us are forced to stay inside? This would be a great way for a child to practice and then show off their English skills to a grandparent, for example.

Below, you’ll find the directions. Enjoy!

  1. Go to this link from English Singsingand watch their cute telephone video.
  2. After having watched it a few times ,and after having practiced the different parts, draw the two characters below:


3. Now you are ready to cut out your paper dolls and look around the house for a stick, paper straw or a strong piece of card stock to tape to the back of your dolls.



4. With a partner, decide which part of the dialogue you’d like to write out. My daughter decided that she wanted to write out both parts but you can just pick one if you’d like.


5. Now that your paper dolls are ready to “talk” you can stick the speech bubbles up on the wall (alternatively, you can also place them flat on table in front of you). Now you are ready to act out the parts and even make a little video of yourself, why not? I always find that children love finding out what they sound like and experimenting with different voices.

Wishing all of you a lovely day!

Just speak!


p.s. I almost forgot, I’m going to upload a video to my YouTube channel of when I used the puppets with my own children :)