Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Christmas with Bear - teaching children unplugged

"Is it possible to teach children unplugged?" - this a question I've often been asked on twitter. And of course, the answer has always been "Yes!". And then the next question came: "Ok, but how". Difficult to answer on twitter, innit?

Anyway, I finally had the opportunity to do a workshop on it at the local OUP conference in Budapest and it was entitled "Christmas with Bear", the materials of which are downloadable from this post. I thought that it would be useful for all of you who are already working with puppets and might be looking for Christmasy lesson ideas.

Well, I could tell you sagas about my friend, Bear, but that would be outside the scope of this post, so instead, I'll quickly summarise how Bear has become the main character in my dogme approach with children in my class (age 5 to 8 - a mix of non-readers/writers with readers/writers)

As you probably all know, an unplugged lesson has three main characteristics:
  • it is communication driven
  • it deals with emergent language
  • and it is very much materials light
Well, this is exactly what you can do if you have Bear around, a real little boy, who is the same age as the children you are teaching, someone who has his own life full of the wonderful things we all do. He travels, he sees and experiences, writes us emails, letters, asks questions from us, children ask questions from him, can get sick sometimes and we write him get-well cards, .... Oh well, could you list all the things that make up your life? Of course, not. Well, for the same reason I can't list all the things that make up Bear's life, but I can tell you it's a rich one.
So basically, Bear is
  • the source for real communication in English for the children in my class., me being non-native too (communication driven lessons)
  • Bear teaches whatever the children ask him to, and the kids tell Bear about their own lives too (dealing with emergent language)
  • And then the children produce the drawings, letters, postcards, whatever is needed in those situations (materials light - the lessons are based mostly on materials produced by the children)
Below you will find the summary of the three lessons I did with my class, including the materials they produced. Feel free to use their drawings and the worksheet available here. However, if you really want to make it a great personal experience for your children, use the drawings they produce rather than ones coming from completely unknown children.

And a few more practical tips:
If you ask children to produce the materials and you ARE planning to photcopy them, ask them to draw in pencil or a black felt-tip pen only without colouring first. Once the worksheets have been produced from their drawings, they can colour them in.
In case you are planning to use the drawings below as examples or as the materials of the lessons, do encourage children to colour them in.

If you have and questions or comments about teaching children unplugged or the Christmasy ideas below, do write to me.


Christmas Bear -teaching children unplugged with a puppet

Christmas Letter Bear

Christmas worksheet

Christmas Preparations Flash Cards
If you would like to find out more practical ideas about how Bear helps me in teaching English to Young Learners, come along to one of the workshops held at the OUP Bookhop in Budapest.


  1. Wonderful! Happy Christmas to you, your pupils, oh, and of course to Bear!

  2. Hey, David, thank you very much. Same to you, your loved ones and your students!
    Will certainly pass on your wishes to everybody, including Bear. He's going to be very happy!


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