Wednesday, 29 May 2013

P is for Popsicles on Pinterest

Incredibly quickly Pinterest has become my favorite tool for research, ideas, and  solving problems in my ESL literacy class. So far, I believe it's the best place to go for a literacy practitioner. Said that, I came across some great articles of how teachers are using popsicles and craft sticks to develop literacy in children. I adapted these activities to the needs of my adult students and have never been happier with the results.

I have been using popsicles to teach ESL literacy students to space out words, not my idea, though. I've said it before and would like to repeat it: when you come into an ESL literacy classroom do not forget to clear off all your expectations. Expect the unexpected! I remember how one of my TESL trainees asked me why some of my students were drawing dashes between the words and I said that this is how they separate the words from each other. Not all of them can space out the words right away, some of them start writingallthewordstogether and then transition to separating-them-with-dashes. The problem here is that - and I remember my dearest Spanish teacher at university Mrs. Nadia P. telling me about it - re-teaching is much harder than teaching from scratch. I thought about it and tried to find an alternative solution to this. Instantly I found the answer on Pinterest in an amazing article  about the second grade classroom by a wonderful  teacher Amy (Crazy About Kiddos). I got the colored popsicles from the Dollar Store in crafts section. I showed how to use them to the students who were struggling with separating the words and here we go: the space between the words is ideal, just what it needs to be, not too big not too small. One of the students was able to abandon the popsicle in an hour or so and no more dashes!  Thank you very much, Amy!!!

My class and I, we just love wooden sticks: wood feels very natural and pleasant to touch and move around, they are compact and easy to organize on the table, fantastic for storage purposes, etc. We used them to learn the alphabet, first words, and develop letter to sound recognition. I buy them at arts and crafts section at Walmart and Target. First, I wrote the letters (capitals on the upper side and small letters on the bottom side) and then words starting with these letters on the other side vertically. It was easy for students to read and memorize the words but I decided to switch to horizontal presentation due to the fact that I noticed that some students copied the words from the sticks vertically in their notebooks which was very confusing. Remember, teach from scratch is easier than re-teach later on. I wrote the letters and corresponding words horizontally and some additional words on the other side. For example, C c - Canada on one side, and C c - celery on the other. When students arrive in the morning, I hand out a set of sticks to them to work on which is a fantastic practice and review exercise and it works very well for classroom management purposes as the students who come on time are busy working with their sets and are not disturbed by the late-comers.

I saw how successful the alphabet sticks were in my class and how students enjoyed working with them, so I decided to do more things using the craft sticks. They worked out ideally for learning and revising days of the week and months of the year. Similarly, I wrote a number and the corresponding day of the week or month - for example: 01 and January - horizontally on the sticks.

We also enjoy revising and practicing reading this way. My students have shown a special affection to reading stories about Sam and Pat which usually are 10-sentence long, so I transcribed the stories that we had learned on the sticks - one story making a set of 10 or so sticks - and also give them out to students every day when they arrive to class.

Conclusion: craft sticks is a must in the ESL Literacy classroom!!! 
Learn more about using craft sticks to develop literacy:

More ideas:

Sight Word Sticks

Story Sticks

What to do with used workbooks?


  1. I attended your workshop at the TESL Conference, and it was wonderful.Simply loaded with many useful ideas.

  2. Hi Fauzia!
    Thank you very much for the kind words. Please keep in touch. I'd love to hear about your experiences.


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