children learning english

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.


3 Responses to “Bear and very young learners – some first time tips”

  1. Regina Dunne says:

    Thanks for the really clear tips Mary! My favourite is ‘keep it simple’. When I first started using Bear I needed to carefully plan what he would do. Sometimes I didn’t know how to remove him from the lesson for little while when the children were so happy to have him there. I found it difficult to operate the interactive whiteboard if Bear was on my hand. So he started sitting in a corner to read a book, or went into his box to take a nap, or went to have a chat with the stick insects at the corner of the classroom. The children really accept these activities and it takes the pressure off the teacher when learning how to use Bear. I loved the tip about moving his head towards the child to listen – I have been moving him physically closer which is difficult with larger classes.

    • Mary says:

      Thanks for your comment Regina and for sharing your own experiences. Great to hear what you are doing and how Bear is occupied while you are using the IWB!!

  2. Alex Case says:

    Just left a comment on Jeremy Harmer’s blog saying I’d love to read how Bear could interact with technology such as Skype:

    Any plans to write about that?

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