Tom and Keri A Expert Lesson Notes
Introduction to the Teacher’s Lesson Notes
As you know, the Universal Preschool Course was created with the goal of preparing children for a bilingual future with English as an additional language. It delivers an introduction to English naturally through contextual activities and play.
Its unique combination of classroom based materials and home‑learning edutainment offers a carefully planned and balanced approach that exposes young children to English daily as a normal part of learning and growing up.
The course is available in a number of versions to suit the teaching staff and time in the curriculum of different preschool settings.
The Expert programme targets the highest achievement rating in the Universal Preschool Course range. It is designed for teachers who are qualified to teach English and who deliver language lessons for more hours per class per week.
Expert Version Contents Overview:
Home Pack for pupils
Online subscription to the films, songs and activities home pack (Standard – to be completed before starting to use the books)
Online access to the audio storybook texts and recorded readings (Expert)
Audio Picture Dictionary with images to match key words and phrases (Expert)
Expert Classroom Pack for Teachers
Universal Preschool Course PLUS version (see directions for use below)
Expert Teacher’s Lesson Notes to accompany all stories with a broad range of activities using the expanded vocabulary and story contexts
Classroom activities include games, challenges, mime, simple acting , catch‑phrases and more
Pupil’s Pages to use as additional teaching tools
Additional Online Resource sheets for selected units
Online access to the audio storybook texts and recorded readings (Expert)
Audio Picture Dictionary with images to match key words and phrases (Expert – for reference only)
The role and use of the storybooks in the Expert course
The role of the storybooks is to extend knowledge and understanding using the audio‑book form. They are an opportunity to re‑live the stories in the films at the child’s own pace and using a wider range or vocabulary than in the films.
The role of the stories is not to present core language. That is the primary purpose of the films, because film can do that better, as explained below.
The storybooks are to be shared after the films have been watched so that the children understand a core range of words and phrases before they face the challenge of longer, narrative texts.
The order in which to use the materials is:
Starter Level: Baby Beetles
PLUS Baby Beetles films and activities (at home and/or at preschool)
Expert Baby Beetles storybooks and activities (at home and/or at preschool)
Levels A and B: Tom and Keri and
PLUS Tom and Keri A films and activities (at home and/or at preschool)
PLUS Tom and Keri B films and activities (at home and/or at preschool)
Expert Tom and Keri A storybooks and activities (at home and/or at preschool)
Expert Tom and Keri B storybooks and activities (at home and/or at preschool)
Why should children watch the films first?
The films present the context and tell a story with very few words. This means that children can start their exposure to a new language in a planned, measured and comfortable way. They are not exposed to too much unknown language too soon. They can follow the action using the visual clues and gradually, through repeated viewing, absorb the language to match.
Stories provide the opportunity to add more language and develop more language related skills, once children are comfortable with the characters, their contexts and the sound of the language in which those characters operate. Watching the films first allows children to build up an awareness of a core vocabulary that acts as a key. It opens the doors to the storybooks and to their expanded world of words.
Recommendation: Follow the steps in the course and let children watch all the films in the level. Once the films have all been viewed the recommended five times you can start to present the storybooks. The stories draw on vocabulary from across the Baby Beetles film collection, so the stories become a great way to consolidate and extend language once the films are familiar.
Perhaps present the storybooks as a reward! The storybooks draw on all the vocabulary from the level, right from story one, so check when you start listening to the stories that your child or class is comfortable and can follow the action. If not, watch the films again for a while and then return to the books. Learning is not a race but a personal journey. Children learn best when they enjoy the ride!
What is the role of written stories?
Written stories are different from stories told through film. In the modern era, their purpose has changed because we have film to execute the simple task of re‑presenting a sequence of events that affect certain characters. We do not need written stories for that. The role of written stories must therefore add to the experience of engaging with characters and events in extra ways. A key extra way is through the additional language styles that we can present – the language of narration, the language of scene setting, of creating atmosphere through words rather than images or music and the language that provides structure the written form of communication.
So how are the filmed stories and written stories different? Stories told through film use moving visual images to present context, to set the emotional scene of the characters and to imply many things that then do not need to be described in words. It means that we can tell stories to engage young children using a few, carefully chosen words and phrases. This is ideal for any form of language learning, if correctly planned.
Stories told through film use only conversation and very rarely (and then only as a specialist device) narration. The style of language used in film is that of speech. That is, normal every day communication with simple sentence structures and easy to follow expressions. The rest of the story is shown by the un‑said silences that the moving images of film can deliver. In the Baby Beetles films, the short lyrics are like short conversations in music and a few words.
The roles of speech, song and narrative text are different in the different levels of the storybooks. The Baby Beetles stories provide the space to expand the conversations and build in the basic expressions, questions and answers that match the simple activities of these young characters. The core Tom and Keri films contain more conversation alongside the songs. In fact, the role of the songs in those films is to consolidate and expand on the conversations. The Tom and Keri stories do not particularly extend the spoken sections, instead they represent in narrative language the scenes and steps of the story that are presented in the films as images.
This means that stories told through film can provide the immersion in every day conversation that makes learning language natural for young children. It parallels their experience of learning their home language in the early years better than written stories and gives them phrases that they can repeat and use instantly. This makes stories experienced through film the most natural way of presenting new language in context for children.
Stories through film still develop awareness of sequencing and story structure. These are skills that young children find useful to help them manage their own thoughts and learn to communicate in a structured way.
That is why the films sit at the core of the Universal Preschool Course.
However, written stories have several very important roles to play. Written stories fulfil five very important additional educational tasks:
Narrative Style of Language. They give us the opportunity to present the narrative style that demonstrates the true music and rhythm of a language. We have to start by using the phrases of time and place to set the scene. We have to fill in the gaps covered in films by images through descriptive language. This means using more adjectives, adverbs, and time‑linked grammatical forms, such as the present continuous. We have to use closing phrases that may have no useful meaning, but which just add a closing ‘cadence’ to a story that provides an audio ending to the tale after the characters have finished speaking.
Chunking. A storybook divides a story into a certain number of neat steps. Each step moves a certain part of the story forward, or builds an important scene in the story. The effect is to structure and sequence thoughts and events. This principal applies even where there is no clear start, middle and end, as in some of the Baby Beetles episodes, but rather a snapshot in a typical day in the lives of the characters that can parallel experiences of young children.
Imagination. Written stories cannot communicate every detail, so they leave the listener (the children are not reading yet) with the space to think about their own reaction to emotions, such as when they are sad or happy. The pauses between pages give them time to match the experiences of the characters with their own daily events and to feel empathy by linking the context in the films with their own circumstances in their imaginations.
Visualisation of written words. The images of the words on the page or screen show children how the (English) language looks in print. Even when children are too young to know the alphabet or to understand the concept of reading, they can follow the shapes of the words like patterns in rows. This builds a sub‑conscious awareness of how the language is visually different from their first language in storybooks. It is a pressure‑free familiarisation with words as images in preparation for reading in the years to come.
Multi‑media awareness. 21st Century learners will build awareness of the world much more through images, films and experiences than the previous generations of book‑readers. In some ways, it returns learners to the apprenticeships through which youngsters learnt by watching and copying with the benefit of some instruction in days gone by! However, the level of sophistication is now higher because films mean children to not have to be present with the instructor to experience learning. Pupils can experiment through apps with participation more safely and with more opportunities to repeat trial and error. Text still has a role within that mix and the stories that run parallel to the animated series give text its place and its added value for the modern multi‑media young learner.
Examples of language expansion in the written stories
Total new across the three levels: close to 1000 words and phrases in the films and stories combined
Total repeats across the three levels: nearly 2000 repeats, (excluding character names) in the films and stories combined
The role of the additional vocabulary
Not only does the additional vocabulary expand the child’s knowledge and awareness of English, it also offers an opportunity to make the difficult aspects of English as an additional language automatic.
Articles and prepositions
There are certain features of English that most non‑native speakers find challenging to master as later learners. These include knowing when to use the definite and indefinite articles (the/a) or which preposition goes where and when! These combinations become automatic if a child hears the set phrases often enough. Children then do not have to think, worry and choose – they pick the right preposition to use almost as a natural part of the word, like a partnership. In the same way that children learn the genders of ‘things’ in languages that have gendered nouns, children can learn the prepositions of place and so on in English through multiple exposures to them in memorable contexts. Stories are an ideal way to achieve this.
What to expect from your child or class at storybook time
1. Listening: The main purpose of the stories is to develop children’s familiarity with the flow of the written language, so listening is the key. The children know the action steps of the story from having watched the films, so it is less important that the child follows the images, but they are useful prompts and reminders. They also present images of new vocabulary items that you can point to.
2. Active response: Perhaps allow children to change the page on the screen so that they are active in responding to the ‘chunks’ of story represented by each page. At home, this also allows the child to spend as much or as little time as they need to or want to on a given section of the story. In class, it is helpful to watch the reactions of pupils and check that they are all following.
3. Comprehension not speech: The children are most familiar with the phrases from the songs in the films and do not know the new sentences in the text or the narrative language phrases in the book. Do not expect your child or class to use these phrases yet. The role of the longer speech phrases in the text is to develop comprehension. Classroom activities will focus on certain phrases to convert them to active language, but not all phrases at this stage.
Using the storybooks
Enjoy sharing the experience of a storybook together! You and your children control the pace, how you engage with the images and sounds and your own responses to the characters. The best result is if you can make story time into playtime!
Suggestions for activities after reading at home or in small groups:
You can use the stories to role‑play and copy the characters. a. This can be as simple as playing throw and catch or go and stop like the Baby Beetles. b. With Tom and Keri stories, you can pick our phrases and role‑play with whatever toys or props you have at home: trying on hats; watching what the insects do in hot weather; put on boots and jump in puddles; feed the ducks at a local pond; bake some simple, local cakes together; draw a picture of your home
Slowly look at the pictures and ask your child or children to point to and name items
Look through the pictures together and find categories of items: all kinds of transport; all kinds of weather; different items from nature (animals, insects, plants, features in the sky)
Choose the key item from each story (as shown at the start of the animations) and try to draw it together
Match a choice of activity to your child or children’s main interests at the time of reading, for example build a castle shape in bricks, run cars or a train around a track, take a bus ride, visit a butterfly house, aviary or pet shop, play hide and seek, have a little party and dance to the music with actions
Lesson Notes for Classroom use of the stories in the Expert version
The Teacher’s Lesson Notes provide in‑depth guidance on introducing the stories, presenting new vocabulary, extracting key phrases to use in activities and lots of ideas for classroom games.
Please see the demo lesson plans for specific examples.
Importance of Praise
Most importantly of all, praise every effort at every opportunity. Encouragement is key to making sure that playing with English remains fun and a positive experience. Children learn more than they can say or than they realise at the time. The benefits will come later. Just set the English language train off on its happy learning journey and share the benefits down the track, long into the future!
Claire Diana Selby