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Read to learn

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know that I love using stories to get kids involved in their English learning. And since I started teaching English online, it's become something absolutely fundamental for my students' progress. Why? Because online lessons require more attention on the students' part, so by using fun activities like stories, I can be sure not only that my students are involved in the lesson, but also that they are enjoying what they're doing, making the learning side of things much more effective. Kids learn best when they enjoy what they are learning, and online learning requires a different set of activities with respect to the traditional classroom setting in order to make the lessons enjoyable. In this post, I'll give you some tips to use stories at home or in your English lessons (if you're a fellow teacher), as well as some ways to make the most of all the resources that the Internet can provide to make it an enjoyable and productive learning experience.


How to use stories to teach English

The first step is to choose stories that a specific child or group of children are interested in. If I'm teaching a group of kids that don't like sports, for example, I probably won't choose a book based on a football game. If I know my student loves animals, I know that I'll have great success with stories that have animals as the protagonists, or that are about animals in general.

The second step is to choose a story that is adapt for the child's age. I don't worry so much about the exact level, because reading in a second language is obviously going to be a bit different than reading in the child's first language. For as simple as the book is, they probably won't understand every word or sentence, but that's okay, that's not the point! The point is that the child can get involved with the story and its characters so that they can then begin to learn new words, practice their listening comprehension, and start practicing their pronunciation. For smaller children, I always choose books with lots of pictures, bright colors, and easy to identify with characters and problems. For older children, I try to find books with more dialogue, but that is always supported by pictures that help further their understanding.

The next step is to read the story with the child, and to get as excited as possible about every single page. With very young children, I rarely read the story word for word, unless the text is simple enough to have the child read with me and repeat the words and phrases. I often make use of the pictures to tell the story, and get the child involved by asking lots of questions, adapt to the child's level, of course. For example, if I'm reading a story about the zoo with a 6 or 7 year old, I will have them tell me not only the names of the animals they can see on the pages, but also the colors they can see, how many of a specific animal they can see, and I'll also ask them simple questions like, "Do you like zebras?", to get them using simple structures in English.

The final step, which is optional, is to do some sort of follow up activity after reading a story. In my lessons, we often play a game or sing a song about a vocabulary topic related to the story. To use the above example, if we read a story about the zoo, we will then play a game or sing a song that has zoo animals in it to reinforce the vocabulary seen in the story. When doing these activities at home or in a classroom, a simple coloring page or writing activity (for older kids) is a great way to get the kids thinking about what they learned in the story.


Tips and tricks

If your first language isn't English, don't worry about your pronunciation! You can set the example for your child just by getting the book out, telling your child that you'll be reading a story in English, and going through the pages, perhaps reading, perhaps just inventing a simple story using simple words that you are comfortable with. You can have your child help you read by asking them to say simple words or phrases that you know they recognize.

If you want to buy some books to add to your child's bookshelf at home, choose the books together! If you go to the bookshop, ask your child to pick out one book that they like, or if you want to buy books online, sit down together and choose a few. I always recommend buying books from a site where you can see at least one or two of the pages, that way you can be sure that the pictures and text are suitable for the child's age and interests.

Children's books can be expensive, but there are plenty of ways that you can take advantage of the Internet to limit costs, and even find great alternatives, for free! As a teacher, I have access to paid websites like Twinkl where I can find tons of e-books for my online lessons, but before I could pay for their subscription, I often just used YouTube (I still do)! I just do a quick search for the topic I'm looking for and add "stories for kids". For example, I might search "animal stories for kids" - and tons of awesome things pop up! One of my favorites is the Pete The Cat series. They are the most adorable stories that kids of every age can enjoy, even the older ones! Sometimes I let the kids watch the video (which is usually just the story being read out loud, often with some added animation), and then we either re-read or just talk about the story, but other times, I mute the audio and we read the story together, as if it were any other e-book on my computer. You can do the same!


Usborne Children's Books

I've recently become a partner with the publishing house Usborne, so if you're looking to buy some books for your child's bookshelf but don't know where to start, I can help! You can browse their selection here, but unless you want to buy 100€+ of books, the shipping costs from the UK can be a bit high, but that's where I come into play. As a partner, I can order the books with a reduced shipping cost, and then send them off to you for a much lower shipping cost. Win win right? If you're curious to know how you can go about selecting and buying some books from them, get in touch and I'll tell you everything you need to know. I can also help you choose the best book(s) for your child(ren). You can contact me here or send me a message on Instagram (claire_teaches_kids) and I'll get back to you ASAP!

I hope today's post was useful for you, drop a comment and let me know your preferred way to read books with your child (or students)!

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