Writing a short book is a great way for students – especially young students – to use their written language in a meaningful and creative way. This is an activity that lends itself to mixed-level classes.
In addition, if these books are kept, displayed, and referred to, they also offer a method of passive review – either as a class or by individual students. Finally, in teaching this lesson, it is important to read a completed book to the class before starting the activity, so that students can see the goal and understand the target of the story.
Here are some examples of simple books that can be made by young ESL/EFL learners:
The Silly House
The target language of the book is: “There’s a ______ in the ______.”
The story is simple, with the lens of the viewer focusing ever inward from house to the room to household object to a surprise.
The culmination of the story is the revelation that the final “unit” (a closet or box or shoe) conceals something silly or scary. For example:
“This is my house. There’s a bedroom in the house. There’s a closet in the bedroom. There’s a box in the closet. There’s a shoe in the box. There’s a tiger in the shoe. Oh, no!”
May I borrow?
The target language of this book is “May I borrow a ________?” and “Here you are!” The story revolves around a protagonist (a ghost, a reindeer, a rabbit, etc.) asking to borrow various objects from various other individuals.
In the end, it turns out that these objects are all decorations/supplies for a party.
Consequently, this is particularly good for holidays such as Halloween or Christmas.
For more advanced students, you can also include some refusals, “No, I’m sorry.”
“Ghost: May I borrow some toilet paper? Mummy: Yes! Here you are!
Ghost: May I borrow a candle? Jack-o-lantern: Yes! Here you are!
Ghost: May I borrow some candy? Trick or Treater: Yes! Here you are!
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Where’s my hat?
The target language of this book is: “Where is ______?” and “I don’t know!” This story follows the protagonist in his/her search for a missing object.
He or she then asks a variety of other characters about this missing object, however, no one knows its location.
Therefore, this story is particularly effective if the missing object is shown in every panel, just out of the view of the protagonist.
This way, children can follow the story with ease and can come to understand the story fully. In the end, the object is found successfully.
Puppy: Where’s my hat? Kitten: I don’t know. [hat is seen outside the window]
Puppy: Where’s my hat? Fish: I don’t know. [hat is seen floating in the river in the distance]
Puppy: Where’s my hat? Bird: I don’t know. [hat is seen flying in the background]
Puppy: Where’s my hat? Rabbit: I know! [shows the puppy the hat being slept in by baby bunnies].
What is it?
The target language of this book is: “What is it?” and “It’s a ________.” This is the simplest of all the books, and students can make as many pages as they want/can.
The book is a collection of questions and answers.
On the question page, the students draw a silhouette of an animal or object.
This is paired with the question: “What is it?”
The next page reveals the true identity of the animal or object: “It’s a rabbit.”
What is it? It’s a rabbit!
What is it? It’s a snake!
What is it? It’s a bird.
This book is particularly effective for students with very low artistic skills, most importantly, because the silhouettes are more difficult to guess.