April is National Poetry month. Poems are an amazing tool for elementary classrooms - and especially for Multilingual Learners. Poetry can help students practice oral fluency, work on rhyming, and introduce them to new vocabulary. You can read all about why I love using poetry in my classroom in THIS blog post. Just in case you are looking for some new books of poetry you can check out one of these six collections of poems.

Out of Wonder by Kwame Alexander

I couldn't think of a better book to highlight first than this collection of poems celebrating poets by Kwame Alexander with Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth. The poems themselves are amazing, but when paired with Ekua Holmes' artwork - this book is stunning. My personal favorite is the poem celebrating Maya Angelou. If students are drawn to a specific poem they can learn more about the influencing poet from the short biographies at the back of the book.

The B on Your Thumb by Colette Hiller

OK, so this book of poems is too cute! These are actually poems to help with letter sounds, spelling patterns, irregular spellings, and homophones. There is also a section in the back of the book for teachers and parents to help them make the most out of the book with suggested activities. If you teach young kids learning to read and spell, this book is a great one to have on hand.

The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog

How cute is this book! This collection of How-To Poems is great for poetry month, and as examples during a how-to writing unit. These poems will spark some creativity in your students' writing. Like with many other poetry books, the artwork is the perfect complement to the text. Definitely, one to check out!

A Stick is an Excellent Thing by Marilyn Singer

This is a fun book, not only for poetry month but also for spring and summer. All of the poems celebrate the joy of playing outside. I think we can all agree that after a long winter, anything to encourage kids to go outside and play is a good thing.

Did You Hear What I Heard? by Kay Winters

This collection of poems is great for poetry month or anytime in the school year! The poems are in chronological order from the first day of school until summer break. My favorite is the poem about seeing the teacher outside of school, but students will love them all!

Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reverso Poems by Marilyn Singer

This is a fun collection of poems. Each one is a unique take on a classic story. However, the poem can be read in two directions each telling a different tale. This is a great set of poems for talking about point of view!

Do you have a favorite poetry collection that I should check out? I'd love to hear about it! You can e-mail me at or find me on Instagram @TeachingEternity.

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6 Books of Poems for the Elementary Classroom

Saturday, April 22, 2023

English Language Learners need a lot of opportunities to practice their vocabulary in all four language domains. Students need to work on Listening, Speaking, Reading, and Writing. As an ESL teacher, I was always looking for new and exciting ways to practice those language skills. Writing skills can be hard for English Language Learners to acquire. These activities practice writing in a variety of engaging and simple ways can be used with any vocabulary list. These activities are simple to prepare, and require no fancy materials.

Acrostic poem

This writing activity is perfect for any vocabulary topic. Simply provide students with a piece of paper and a bank of words to choose from. Once they have chosen a word they write the word vertically down the piece of paper. Then they write a word or phrase related to the vocabulary word for each letter. You can also offer students the option of writing the word down the middle of the paper, and writing words and phrases that simply have the letters, rather than starting with the letters of the vocabulary word. Acrostic poems are very manageable for English Language Learners because there is no pressure to make sure the lines have a rhyming pattern. You can extend this activity into a speaking practice by having students share their poems with the class.

Poems from my Zoo Vocabulary Unit

Advertisement or Commercial

Writing an advertisement is a great way for students to be creative and practice persuasive writing. Students simply choose an object (toy, stuffed animal, etc.) and create a writing piece that can be used to ‘sell’ that item. This is especially effective if you are using realia in your classroom - students can use those items for their advertisements. After they are done writing, display the item with their writing and set up a store. Then invite others to view their ads and comment on which items they’d most like to buy. If you want to have students present their advertisements they can write it out as a commercial and then act it out. 

How To or Sequencing Writing

Students love showing off what they are an expert at! How to writing is the perfect way to let them do that. It is also a great way to have students practice using transitions. Depending on your students you can ask for three to five steps for their directions. It may take a bit of forward thinking, but you can probably tie a ‘how to’ into just about any vocabulary theme. Studying animals - write about how to take care of them. Learning about food groups - write a how to for their favorite recipe. Looking at the seasons - write about how to rake leaves, put on snow gear, plant flowers, or build a sand castle. If you want to scaffold this activity for students, give them images that show how to complete a task. Ask the students to put the images in order (sequence) then describe the steps.

Sequence Writing from my Winter Vocabulary Unit

Letter or Email Writing

I don’t know about your students, but my students always loved to get mail! Writing a letter or an email is a great activity that can help connect your students with the community. It is also very important for students to learn how to compose a friendly letter or email, since chances are good they’ll need the skill later in life. Depending on your current theme, students can write to a local expert. If you are studying animals, that might be a zookeeper or veterinarian. However, you might keep it a little closer to home and have students write to their parent to share what they are learning in class. A back and forth with a pen pal will encourage more writing, so you might even try to find a group of students you can correspond with throughout the year.

Letter Writing Activity from my Farm Vocabulary Unit

Picture Description

This writing activity is very easy to set up and very easy to differentiate. Do a quick search online for a picture that goes with your theme. Then ask students to describe that picture. You can also look for photos or illustrations in a book. For students who need more support they can simply label the various things they see in the picture. More advanced students can be asked to expand their writing using adjectives or even create a fictional story based on the picture.

Picture Activity from my Polar Vocabulary Unit

Sentence Writing

This very simple writing activity asks students to write a sentence using the target vocabulary. If you have other skills you are working on you can include them. For example - if you are working on fact and opinion, ask students to write one fact and one opinion for the vocabulary word. If you are working on asking and answering questions, have one student write a question using the vocabulary word, and have another student answer the question. You can also use this activity for a fill-in-the-blanks reading practice. Once students have written sentences using the vocabulary, type those sentences out leaving a blank where their vocabulary word goes. Then give those sentences back to the group and ask them to fill in the blanks. You can see this activity here.

Vocabulary Cards from my Grasslands Vocabulary Unit

Sticker Story 

Kids and stickers go together like peanut butter and jelly. For this activity simply give students some stickers and something to draw with. They can create a scene using the materials, and then write about it. If you want to make this thematic you can search online for images of your target vocabulary. Copy the images into a program like google docs or slides to resize them as stickers. Then when you print the pictures students can cut them out and glue them to a new paper to create a scene. 

Vocabulary Cards from my Polar Vocabulary Unit

Story Chain

This fun, group writing project will delight your students. Split your students into groups of three to five students, and give them some strips of paper (you’ll want enough strips for each student to have at least 2). Then have students take turns writing 3 words in a story on their strip. For example - student A: One day I, student B: went to the, student C: North Pole and, student A: saw polar bears. The writing continues until the story reaches a conclusion, they run out of strips, or class time is up. To spice up this activity you can have the students create a chain out of their strips by looping them through each other in a paper chain. Or you can have the story taped to a larger piece of paper to be read.

Wordless Picture Books

Have your students ever looked at a wordless picture book and wondered what the pages would say if the author had added text?  Well, give them some sticky notes and tell them they’re the author! You can find a lot of amazing wordless picture books with a simple internet search. Provide the students with a copy of the book, and ask them to write what they think the words on the page should be. You can assign certain pages to certain students to make sure no one is overwhelmed by the entire book. This could also be a great group activity if you are able to project the book onto an interactive white board. Then you can work together as a class to decide what words belong on the page.

Books Pictured: 
Top: Flora and the Penguin by Molly Idle
Bottom: Where's Walrus? by Stephen Savage

Word Cloud

For a word cloud activity you will ask students to write all of the words they can think of for a certain topic. Basically, they will make a list. Encourage students to stick to single words rather than phrases or sentences. Once all of the students have created their list you can use a website such as to create a word cloud. It is important when you insert the word lists into one of these sites that you put in the repeat words. This way the words that your students listed most often will be larger than the less common words. For this activity - the more words you have the better!

Vocabulary Cards from my Polar Vocabulary Unit

Are there any writing activities your students love that I missed? Did you try one of these activities? Share them with me by commenting, or connecting with me by email,, or find me on instagram, @TeachingEternity.

10 Activities to Practice Writing

Monday, March 27, 2023

English Language Learners need a lot of opportunities to practice their vocabulary in all four language domains. Students need to work on Listening, Speaking, Reading, and Writing. As an ESL teacher, I was always looking for new and exciting ways to practice those language skills. Reading skills can be hard for English Language Learners to acquire. There are many components - decoding, fluency, comprehension. These activities practice a mix of all three and can be used with any vocabulary list. These activities are simple to prepare, and require no fancy materials.

Scrambled Sentences

This activity is a simple one with many variations. The idea is that students will need to reassemble a sentence or passage after it has been all mixed up. Start by writing or typing out sentences that use your target vocabulary. Then cut each word apart and mix it up. For students who need more support, you can provide a sample sentence that they then match the mixed up pieces too. If you want to add movement to the activity, give students an envelope with the mixed up sentence in it, and tape a matching sample sentence to the board. Students go up to the board, read the sentence then return to their desk to put the sentence together. If you want to make that more challenging, add a few extra words to the envelope. If your students enjoy some healthy competition, split them into two groups and make it a race! You can also do this with a short passage, cutting apart sentences instead. I used an activity like this to practice opinion writing. You can read about that and grab a free activity here.


This is another activity that is very simple to set up. Simply write out sentences using your target vocabulary, and then delete the target word and place a blank. Students will need to read the sentence and decide which word best fits. You can provide a word bank if that helps your students. You can make it more challenging by changing the word grammatically. For example, write the sentence so that students need to add an ‘s’ or ‘ing’ to the word. 

Odd One Out

“One of these things is not like the other…” Admit it, you sang that. Well that is the idea behind this game. Provide students with three or four words or sentences and ask which one doesn’t belong. For example you could say, “sloth, toucan, cow, anteater”. Students would identify the cow as the odd one out, since it is a farm animal, not a rainforest animal. You could also do singular vs plural words, common vs proper nouns… the ideas are endless. If you want to bump it up a notch, do the same with sentences. Maybe writing two facts and an opinion, or two sentences in the present tense and one in past tense.

Ball Toss

You’ve probably seen or played this game yourself. It is a fun one, especially for kids who like to get up and move. Simply write some words or sentences on a ball and toss it around. Whoever catches the ball reads the word or phrase facing them. You can do this with a beach ball - simply write the words on the ball before inflating it. If you use a sharpie on a beach ball, you may even be able to erase it afterwards with a magic eraser or hand sanitizer. This may work differently on different beach balls though, so test it first! Another option is to write the words or phrases on address labels and then stick them to a playground ball. This way you can simply remove the labels, and use the ball for a different game later on. 


This fun reading game is great for vocabulary or high frequency words. Write out your target words on large popsicle sticks. On a few popsicle sticks write the word Kaboom! Place all of the sticks into a cup. Students pull a stick from the cup one at a time and read the word. If they pull a stick which says Kaboom! they put back all of their sticks. You can keep going around the group until time runs out, or all of the sticks have been claimed. If you don’t have popsicle sticks, you can write the words on folded paper and put them in a bucket to pull from.

Wacky Punctuation

This activity is great for practicing reading fluency, and is best for older students who are working on understanding punctuation. Write out sentences or a passage and change the punctuation at the end of a sentence, or add in an extra comma. Students will read the sentence out loud using the tone, volume, and pauses associated with the punctuation you’ve inserted. 

Follow the Directions

This activity is one I talked about in my Listening Activities blog post, but it can also be used as a reading activity by simply giving the students the directions written out, rather than reading them out loud. First, find a coloring page that uses some of your target vocabulary. Then write out directions for how you want your students to color the page. Give your students those directions on paper so that they can read and color. 

Reading Tower

There are two pays to play Reading Tower. In the first version you write words or sentences with your target vocabulary onto blocks. Then students take turns choosing a block and reading it out loud. If they read it correctly, they can place the block on their tower. If they do not read it correctly they need to return the block. Play continues until all of the blocks are gone. You can use any type of block for this, wooden blocks or toddler building blocks work well. In the second variation, you can play Jenga. This is great for a review game when you have a lot of vocabulary to write on the blocks. Put one word on each block. When a student pulls out that block, they must read the word before placing it on the top of the tower. You can add some complexity to this by asking them to read the word and then use it in a sentence or define it. 

Word Hunt

Word hunt is exactly what it sounds like, and one of the activities I mentioned in my Vocabulary Activities Blog Post. For this activity you give students a book or passage with the target vocabulary and ask them to find the words. You can give them sticky notes to flag the words, or highlighter tape. Picture books are great for this activity.


Ok, so maybe this one is obvious, but in order to sharpen their reading skills, students need to be given time to read. No fancy game, no activity, or questions, just simple, for-pleasure reading. With all that we want to accomplish in the little bit of time we have with our students it can feel like there is no time. I usually used free reading as an early finisher task. You can make free reading part of your class routine, maybe the first five minutes of the group time is dedicated to reading quietly. It can also be a reward they are working toward - a teddy bears and books day. No matter how you do it, giving students time to simply read will help them become better readers.

Are there any reading activities your students love that I missed? Did you try one of these activities? Share them with me by commenting or connecting with me by email,, or find me on instagram, @TeachingEternity.

10 Fun Activities To Help Improve Reading Skills You Can Try Today

Thursday, April 14, 2022

English Language Learners need a lot of opportunities to practice their vocabulary in all four language domains. Students need to work on Listening, Speaking, Reading, and Writing. As an ESL teacher, I was always looking for new and exciting ways to practice those language skills. These are 10 activities you can use to practice speaking skills. These activities can be used with any vocabulary list, and do not require a lot of preparation or fancy materials.


A debate is a great way to practice speaking skills. As opposed to a presentation of a set of facts, a debate encourages students to speak convincingly. You may need to do some modeling of how to use tone and volume to help students with this skill. To set up a debate in your classroom split the group into two teams. Provide a statement that is open for debate such as “Zoos are a good place for animals,” or “Schools should be open all year”. Assign each team a position - either they argue for or against the statement. Then give each team time to discuss their position and come up with talking points. After a set amount of time, have students from each group share their talking points. When you are done with the debate you can poll students on which side of the statement they fall, and which argument they felt was most convincing.

Interviews and Surveys

Asking and answering questions is an important speaking skill for English Language Learners. Conducting interviews and answering surveys is a great way to practice these skills. You can have students do a simple getting to know you survey at the beginning of the year where they ask and answer questions of each other. Or you can do interest surveys with students one-on-one. These activities will not only help practice speaking but they will help build relationships in the classroom. You can also have students write questions and then survey community members. With modern video call technology students might actually be able to interview a zookeeper during your zoo unit, or a local meteorologist during a weather unit. 


Poetry reading is a great way for English Language Learners to practice speaking. So great in fact, that I have an entire blog post about it - HERE. To practice speaking with poems, search online for a poem that matches your current theme. If you can’t find one you can write one yourself. I find it best to choose a recognizable rhythm from a nursery rhyme and then write lines to match that rhythm. Then present the poem to your class. Our routine was for the students to first listen to me read the poem all the way through, then we would do a call and repeat of each line, then gradually increase the text read until they were able to recite the entire poem. I would do this as a whole-group activity. 

See, Think, Wonder

See, Think, Wonder is a great way to get students to notice and talk about details. For this activity, you will need to find a photograph that will interest your students and give them a chance to practice target vocabulary. I recommend checking out a free photo website like Deposit Photos or Unsplash to find quality photos. Once you have a photo ask your students what they see in the photo. Ask them to talk about the big picture as well as small details. “I see a lion roaring” and “I see dirt in the lion’s mane”. Then move on to what students think about the picture. This requires more higher-level thinking, and probably more language production. “I think the lion is angry because he is roaring.” The final step, and the most difficult question, is to ask students what they wonder about the photo - “I wonder how loud the lion’s roar is?”

Show and Tell

Raise your hand if show and tell was always your favorite day in school. *raises hand* Students love show and tell! This is pretty straightforward - students bring an item to class and tell their classmates all about it. If you have a student who isn’t able to bring in an item they’d like to discuss, you can ask them to draw a picture of it, or ask their parents to send in a photo. If you want to keep the show and tell thematic you can present the students with realia related to your theme and ask each student to present one item to the group. 


What kid doesn’t love playing pretend. Come up with a few different scenarios relating to your current unit. Make note of how many ‘actors’ each scenario will need - try to stick to 2 or 3. Break your group up and give each pair or triplet a scenario. Give them time to practice what they would do and say if they were in that situation. As groups practice, you can walk around the room to offer suggestions and observe their speaking skills. If it is appropriate for your students, each group can present their skit to the class. You can really bump this activity up a notch by providing props!


The popular game Taboo is all about speaking! To set up play, choose target words and taboo words, and create game cards with those words. Then split the class into groups of three- one person to give the clues, one person to guess, and one person to make sure no taboo words are used. Give each group a set of cards. The students will take turns in each role. The first student will pull a card and try to get the second student to say the target word. If they use a taboo word they lose their turn. You can also play this whole group in a format similar to pictionary or charades. 


The classic speaking game of telephone is great for English Language Learners, and is actually a great two for one activity since it practices both listening and speaking. In telephone, one student whispers a sentence or phrase to the next student, and that student whispers to the next. It continues until the final student says the sentence out loud to see how much of the original message was preserved. You can either provide the first student in the chain with a sentence, or let them come up with their own. However, I suggest the original sentence is written down somewhere, so that you can compare it to the final sentence in the end.

Two Truths and a Lie

Two truths and a lie is another fun activity for building relationships in your classroom. In this activity each student will come up with three statements about themselves. Two of those statements will be true, and one will be a lie. Then they present those statements to the group without revealing which one is false. The group has a chance to ask questions about each statement, and once everyone has a chance to ask a question, students can make note of which statement they think is the lie. They can write it on a post-it or small whiteboard. Finally, the presenter can reveal which statement was the lie! Students may have additional questions about the truths if they are especially fascinating, so be prepared to give extra time for extra questions.

Would You Rather

This game asks students, not only to state a preference, but to back it up with an explanation. The explanation is the key part in expanding the language production. In a Would You Rather game students are asked a simple would you rather question. You can make these questions whatever you want, or even ask the students to come up with them on their own. Simple questions like “would you rather be a lion or a penguin” can bring up great discussions. You can make them more complex too - “would you rather be a lion living in the arctic, or a penguin living in the desert?” Either way, a Would You Rather game will have students thinking and speaking.

Are there any speaking activities your students love that I missed? Did you try one of these activities? Share them with me by commenting or connecting with me by email,, or find me on Instagram, @TeachingEternity.

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10 Activities to Practice Speaking Skills

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

English Language Learners need a lot of opportunities to practice their vocabulary in all four language domains. Students need to work on Listening, Speaking, Reading, and Writing. As an ESL teacher, I was always looking for new and exciting ways to practice those language skills. These are 10 activities you can use to practice listening skills. These activities can be used with any vocabulary list, and do not require a lot of preparation or fancy materials. 


Dictation is an oldie but a goodie. To do a dictation activity you need sentences or a short passage to read aloud. As you read students will listen and write down what you are saying. The length of your passage will depend on your students. You can find a passage that corresponds to your current vocabulary unit. A very simple and straightforward activity - dictation actually practices many skills in addition to listening. They are also practicing writing skills and conventions. Students need to include correct spelling, capitalization, and punctuation.

Flyswatter Game

This is a fun game to get students up and moving. In this game teams of students race to swat a vocabulary word after you have called it out. You can change this game up in lots of ways depending on the level of your learners. First, put your vocabulary words or images on the board or wall. Then, break your students into two teams and have them stand away from the wall. You can call out the word, definition, or another clue. Students will race to find and slap the word with their flyswatter. If you don’t have flyswatters, students can give the word a high five.

Vocabulary Cards from Farm Vocabulary Unit

Color By Instructions

Do your students love to color as much as mine did? This fun listening activity is a creative way to practice listening. Search online for a coloring page that matches your current topic. Then write some instructions for how you would like students to color the page. For your beginner level students, you can use simple one-step instructions such as “color the sun yellow”. For more advanced students you can give two-step instructions such as “color the center of the sun yellow, and the rays of the sun oranges”. To extend this activity past listening, you can ask students to write a description of the coloring page. 
Coloring Page and Instructions from Farm Vocabulary Unit

Listen and Draw

Listen and draw is an activity very similar to Color by Instructions. However, this time students start with a blank page, and teachers give directions for what to draw on the page. This can be a great activity especially during a unit on shapes, directionality, or positional words. For example, you might ask students to draw a circle in the bottom right corner, draw a large square in the center of the page, draw a triangle inside of the square. You can spice this activity up a bit by giving students stickers. Then you can give directions for where to put those stickers.

Movie or Book Vocabulary Search

In this engaging activity, students listen to a book or watch a short movie and listen for target vocabulary. You can differentiate this activity by how much you scaffold this activity. For more advanced students they can start with a blank piece of paper. To provide more support you can give students a bank of words and ask them to cross out the words as they hear them. If you do not have time for a full movie, you can search for short films, or watch movie trailers. This also works really well during a read-aloud. 

Mystery Box

This fun activity does take a little bit of preparation, and some materials gathering. To do this activity, find a box large enough for some manipulatives related to your theme. Cut a hole on the side of the box. The hole will need to be large enough for a student’s hand and any item to fit through. Once you are set up, describe an item to the student. They will need to listen to your description, then find the item by feel in the box. This is a great way to practice descriptive words such as soft, hard, long, fuzzy.

Not Quite the Same

In this activity, students listen to two almost identical sentences and identify the differences. First, you need to write two sentences with a few differences - the number of differences will be dependent on your students. For example, the sentences could be: ‘The horse was eating a bale of hay’ and ‘The horses were eating a bushel of apples’. In this example, students would identify that the number of horses changed and so did what they were eating. If the grammar of the sentence is changing you can use it as a teachable moment. In the example above I would point out that an ‘s’ was added to make horse plural, and that the verb needed to change as well.

Short Stories

This activity is a combination of a dictation activity or a vocabulary hunt. Write a short story using your target vocabulary. Give students a copy of the short story with the vocabulary words removed. Then students will fill in the vocabulary words as you read the story out loud. If your students need additional support you can provide them with a word bank to identify the words that they hear. You could also allow students to visualize the story. Simply, allow them to draw a picture to go along with the story as you read. 

Short Story from Farm Vocabulary Unit

Simon Says

This classic kid’s game is great for listening! Plus, it gives students a chance to move around a bit. It was always a favorite during our units on body parts. However, you can use it with any vocabulary theme, especially by incorporating Total Physical Response. You can ask students to ‘run like a horse,’ ‘drive a tractor like a farmer,’ or ‘snort like a pig’.


Another classic game is a listening activity in disguise. In telephone, one student whispers a sentence or phrase to the next student, and that student whispers to the next. It continues until the final student says the sentence out loud to see how much of the original message was preserved. This activity also practices speaking. You can either provide students with sentences, or allow them to create their own.

Telephone Sentences from Farm Vocabulary Unit

Are there any vocabulary activities your students love that I missed? Did you try one of these activities? Share them with me by commenting or connecting with me by email,, or find me on Instagram, @TeachingEternity.

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10 Activities to Practice Listening Skills

Tuesday, February 15, 2022