Teaching English is not just about teaching the language, but using the language to learn about the world around us.
This is true even with very young learners and one of the topics that enables us to develop both language and learning for life is recycling.
To introduce the topic, cut out and laminate three recycling bins: one blue, one green and one yellow. Show the children a bottle and ask them which bin to put it into. Do the same with some paper and a yoghurt pot. Repeat this as you sing the song (to the tune of Put your finger in the air):[quote] Put your paper in the blue bin, in the blue bin
Put your paper in the blue bin, in the blue bin
Put your paper in the blue bin, your paper in the blue bin
Put your paper in the blue bin, in the blue bin.
[/quote] Adapt the verses for glass (green bin), cans (yellow bin), card, cardboard… Finally, give each child an object to throw away as you sing the song again.
Next, tell the following story –Save the Planet story -using either images or cuddly toys.
[quote] One day, Tracey Teddy was walking along the road when she saw Froggy Firefighter.
Froggy Firefighter said, “I’m a firefighter. I’m important. I save lives.”
She dropped some paper on the floor and carried on walking. Tracey Teddy picked up the paper, put it in the blue bin and said, “I wish I were important”.
Tracey Teddy carried on walking down the road when she saw Doggy Doctor.
Doggy Doctor said, “I’m a doctor. I’m important. I save lives.”
He dropped a bottle on the floor and carried on walking. Tracey Teddy picked up the bottle, put it in the green bin and said, “I wish I were important”.
Tracey Teddy carried on walking down the road when she saw Piggy Police Officer.
Piggy Police Officer said, “I’m a police officer. I’m important. I save lives.”
He dropped a can on the floor and carried on walking. Tracey Teddy picked up the can, put it in the yellow bin and said, “I wish I were important”.
Suddenly Super Ted arrived.
“Tracey Teddy. You are very important. You put paper in the blue bin, you put glass in the green bin and you put cans in the yellow bin. You are helping me to save the planet. Now you can be my helper. So now Super Ted and Tracey Teddy save the planet and Tracey Teddy is very, very happy.
Help the children to see how we can all become superheroes in our own way. After they have heard the story a number of times (using story cards, a television – see below, asking them to join you in saying the character’s words…), assign roles for the children to act out the play, preferably using props.
Once the children have acted out the play, you can show the first of the (almost) 101 uses of a toilet paper tube, as a way to recycle and reuse something you might normally throw away.
1. Show the children how to paint the roll and give each child a Super Ted to colour in. Once cut out, the picture can be glued to the tube and granted to the cast as ‘Oscars’.
2. You can also use kitchen paper tubes to make a ‘television’. Insert them into a shoe box, cut out the screen and join sheets of A5 paper to make a long roll. Divide the roll into as many sections as there are scenes (plus one blank one on each end), draw the scenes and affix the roll to the tubes. Turn them in the same direction to change the scene.
3. Thread wool or ribbon through a decorated roll to make a necklace, which can be worn by the class leader or by groups. All the children in one group can wear green ones, others red…
4. Give children/groups a tube each time they win a point. At the end of the game, line them up to see which team has the most or ‘draw’ a picture with them and see which has the most complete picture.
5. Use kitchen roll tubes as Lummi sticks: You can find examples on YouTube such as The Spotted Octopus Chant and Let’s Take a Break; and more are available on the Internet, found by searching for Lummi sticks or rhythm sticks.
6. Make skittles. Add heads and/or hats, faces…. Line them up and ask the children to roll a ball to knock down as many as they can (count how many of each colour or write a phoneme on each and ask the children to read the phonemes they have knocked down).
7. Make twisters by using two rolls, one partly inside the other. Write a rhyme on one roll and onsets on the other. Twist the roll so that the children can form and read new words.
8. Make rockets, binoculars, telescopes, puppets, shakers, pencil holders, napkin rings, flower pots, lamps, 3D pictures, Christmas crackers… The possibilities are endless, even more so if you ask the children to ‘invent’ a use at home, which you can then describe and display. Likewise, if a child brings in a tube he/she has painted, decide together on a use for it.
It’s never too soon to make children aware of the need to help save the planet by disposing of their waste in the right way. Besides, you can have so much fun that you’ll end up wondering why you didn’t start earlier!