Halloween: fortune-telling, vampires and witches, brain pudding and eating “land shrimp” –

Fortune telling – only 100 czech crowns (4 euros) per question!

I gave a lesson around Halloween time involving the future tense, with a complete Fortune Telling business – only four euros per question! Every child has a role (not fixed, rotated): a secretary for writing the questions, another for writing the various answers, a cashier, two fortune-tellers, a “cook” whose “soup” contains some of the answers, a “turtle-whisperer” whose turtle is named Nostradamus, a crystal-ball interpreter, two witches, and of course, some knowledge-hungry customers. Everyone contributes to the questions and answers. Roles are rotated to avoid monotony and to have fun while including all kinds of verbs, nouns, adjectives, geographical locations, famous people, facts and principles from various school subjects so the children remember what they learned in their lessons with their classroom teacher. All in English!



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Above:  Halloween is a great way for children to learn not to be afraid of the images associated with death.  Mexico’s Day of the Dead is a good example of this.  Next year I will introduce the Day of the Dead to my students; this year I focused on some of the more American stapes of Halloween: Count Dracula in his coffin, the Grim Reaper by his side, and their teacher as a witch ;), eating vanilla pudding from a brain mold and making “witch soup” in a cauldron.



In another Halloween lesson, I created a “Zombie Restaurant” complete with both real and imaginary dishes from around the world. The students had to look at a powerpoint presentation of various dishes and vote which ones were actually real.  Some of the real dishes included various stir-fried insects from Thailand, grasshoppers from Mexico, snails and frogs’ legs from France, fried bats from New Guinea. We discussed nutrition, personal tastes and the concept of an open mind.  We also talked about what hot-dogs and chicken nuggets from fast-food restaurants are really made of.  The point here was not to convert children into eating strange and foreign things for their own sake, but to not be quick to dismiss them or at least to understand the idea that what seems “gross” to us can be a delicacy to someone else… and that some of those strange foods are actually full of nutritional value and certainly healthier than the fat, salt and processing that goes into making a hot-dog!  Some aspects of the animal treatment behind the making fast food and processed food was also discussed.

At the end of the class, one child cleverly suggested that insects were “land shrimp” … and most of us will agree that shrimp are delicious!


Why wait for Carnival? Getting into character – and into engaged learning

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 An English lesson about London, England and Great Britain – in costume and in character – makes kids so eager to participate that learning is effortless! 

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Note: the child in the video above, presenting London, knew very little English, and also very little about Tudor history and the current royal family until ten minutes before he did the presentation.  I am so proud of him! 

Carnival is not around the corner, but Halloween is only about five weeks away.  Why wait, though?  Since I have about 150 costumes (for both adults and children) in my collection, I like to use them whenever I can. As a foreign language teacher (who uses a strong communicative approach through drama and music), adding some festivity to any lesson is guaranteed to get children to learn their lesson, provided you let them know that the costumes are part of a lesson, rather than a free-for-all.

Last week we had a lesson about England and Great Britain, with a focus on London and some of England’s most famous monarchs.  We also included Scotland and the boys in the class were amused by the Scottish kilt, until I reminded them of the many kinds of traditional clothes. from around the world that include some kind of “skirt” worn by men.

Here are some photos of the teacher (Yours Truly) dressed as Queen Elizabeth the First, accompanied by a Queen’s Guard (yes, I know, the Palace Guards with the tall bearskin hats did not exist in Tudor times but from the Battle of Waterloo onwards – but the boy in that costume was able to explain to the class that he is in the service of the second Queen Elizabeth, the current monarch of Great Britain.)

Another child dressed as the formidable King Henry the Eighth.  He was loved pretending to be “my father”  :).

Included in this post is a video of a presentation of London, whose installation is made up of an amazing 3D map of the city (the children loved inserting the 3D representations of London’s historic and modern buildings into the spongy map base, and then adding the labels.)  There are also dolls representing King Henry the Eighth, Queen Elizabeth the First, her buddy William Shakespeare, Ada Lovelace, Jane Austen and Sherlock Holmes. There is also a plastic doll of England’s current Queen Elizabeth the Second, solar-powered to wave her hand to the crowds :).  Of course, there are lots of colorful photos of the many famous London landmarks, and a pop-up book as well.  Between the 3D map, the photos, the pop-up book, the realia and the dolls, there are enough materials to give each student a useful role in presenting London.

The children are aware that these historic characters did not all live at the same time, and were able to put them onto a five-century-long timeline.

I am so proud of these kids.  Most of them have not been in Germany longer than two years.  Fluent in German already (and helping me to get fluent in German as well), they are now learning English, and having a lot of fun in the process! Not to mention they can help tourists find their way around London using an Underground map (from my realia collection), tell you plenty of things about Tudor history, and describe Britain’s current royal family.

This lesson promoted the following vocabulary and acquired skills:

  1.  the family
  2. clothes (of the past and the present)
  3. the present and the past tense
  4. correct placement of people and events in history
  5. political geography and culture
  6. public performance
  7. team-work and confidence building through fun!