Children learning English

Happy New Year

All the best in the year ahead!Bear 1 January 2014

Bright days

There are some occasions that never pass without our noticing them. The summer solstice, the longest day in the northern hemisphere is such an event. Time seems to stop.  The wonderful light brightens our day to almost midnight.

For information about Irish traditions look at

And as it is also nearly time for school holidays Bear spent all day outside doing his mid summer gardening!

Bear tidies the lettuce

Happy Solstice!

Happy St Patrick’s Day 2013

Most people are surprised to learn that the Irish national colour is blue. Of course everyone knows that our  symbol is the harp!

But this is St. Patrick’s Day so Bear is wearing some green shamrock and sending his best wishes to all his friends.Bear on St Patrick's Day

Slainte agus saol chugaibh!  Health and long life to you!

Happy New Year

After a busy few months the bears are out and about on this beautiful first day of the New Year!

 Wishing all friends the very best in 2013 – good health and good experiences!

Dancing in Lúnasa

Can’t believe it’s already August, or Lúnasa as we say in Irish.   Bear has been doing some reading support work over the summer holidays and is now taking a break to enjoy one of his favourite activities  - berry hunting! He needed to put on glasses so as not to miss any on this bush!

Bilberry picking on the hilltops was traditional in Ireland.  Bear wants to keep up all these customs, especially dancing of course! So he’s practising his steps and was delighted with the following link from a friend Dancing. You can read more about Dancing Matt here.

Bear celebrates midsummer

Although it doesn’t feel like midsummer today – being a bit on the cool side - nature is still at its most abundant with long hours of daylight and the lushness of trees and plants.

While Bear has been busy working in his garden for the last couple of months he is now out and about for Midsummer Day. He always tries to grow plants that attract bees – so the hives will now be full of honey!! And like his big cousins in the mountains he loves the berries that are just beginning to ripen in the sunshine.

But the Midsummer Day tradition that Bear enjoys most is staying up late and dancing around a bonfire. This custom of lighting a bonfire to celebrate the sun is still practised here.  Of course in Bear’s case it has to be a candle – we don’t want our little friend getting toasted now do we?

Bear and very young learners – some first time tips

Teachers often get in contact to tell me about their experiences using Bear.  Based on actual classroom situations their comments and questions are always very perceptive. Recently I put together some tips on working with Bear in the very young learner classroom . Obviously Bear can be “he’ or ‘she’ – props help and children don’t mind. In the lesson tips below Bear was a he!

  • Practice hand movements

Find a comfortable hold for your puppet. I use second and third fingers in the head – thumb in one arm and fourth and fifth finger in the other arm. Some teachers like to practise in front of a mirror so they can see what the children will see.

  • Make a list of the most useful moves for your lessons.

Children love when Bear does something so think of actions he could do – then practise the movements! In this very young learner class he is putting his special stamp on the children’s notebooks!

  • Keep it simple!

Bear is a responsive puppet so when using him for the first time you need to plan when and how to get him involved. As you plan your lesson look for opportunities to include him. You could begin by simply asking Bear to do an action such as Where’s the red notebook Bear? Can you see (child’s name)? Later you can extend Bear’s function as a language assistant with question and answer routines.

  • Use Bear to model good practice.

Very young learners have to get used to classroom routines. Use Bear to model behaviour such as hands-up, good listening, tidying up etc. They especially love when Bear is listening – he does this by just turning his head to look at an individual child when he or she speaks!

  • Enjoy the positive atmosphere

Bear is always kind and friendly and he supports and praises children’s efforts. So as soon as he appears he brings a positive attitude with him!  A teacher explained in a recent message that it “was amazing how the children immediately understood that he was their friend, and they tried to speak more English with him and to explain more things to him.”

  •  Use props

Years ago I added a simple jacket and then glasses – after that Bear acquired anything that suited our lesson topic!   The props can be whatever the children have at school or at home and any teaching material e.g. vocabulary cards, wordles, photos etc. And of course Bear always wants to go outside when the weather allows!

A big thank you  to Regina, Begoña and Lucía for permission to include their class photos.


Bear in Spring

New Year celebrations took up most of January for Bear!  However as in the Celtic calendar 1 February is the first day of Spring Bear also had to get back to his roots and do some gardening!

Christmas 2011

Where does the time go? It’s Christmas week and I’m way behind.  Thankfully I have the bears to rely on. As you can see they are out and about collecting natural decorations to make the house look seasonal. Now if I could only get them working on a few other projects !!

Happy Christmas to all !

Sounds and languages

It’s always fascinating to listen to children discussing language learning – explaining what they understand and what puzzles them.   As teachers we know that when children think about their own learning they are ordering and labeling their experiences. As they do this they are developing learning strategies – tools they can use throughout their lives.

Recently some children I visited were asking lots of questions about why languages that use the same letters as English don’t all sound the same. Great question !!

In classes with lots of different mother tongues there are instant examples of what different languages sound like and children can hear how the sounds represented by the writing vary from language to language.

In monolingual classes I’ve found the language of the month page at Newbury Park Primary School website an excellent starting point for listening to the sounds of different languages. The site is a wonderful learning resource which promotes respect and understanding of other cultures and languages with lots of activities.

And of course children love making their own collections from one language or several. In this photo you can see how this class added their  “welcome” wordle to their existing  wordle wall.

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