Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Activities on the topic of Emergencies and Road Safety for Very YLs

As I promised on Twitter this morning, here are some activities suitable for very young learners on the topic of road safety. The focus is on traffic lights and accidents but you can also bring pedestrian safety into the discussion. The main appeal of this topic with my learners is that they get to dress up as a police officer or doctor, as well as being taken to "prison" or "the hospital". Young kids actually love this kind of stuff.

Useful Materials:
  • A police officer's uniform or hat (you can always try to make a police badge if you lack real or toy props, although in Spain at least you can find cheap toy police sets in the Chinese-owned shops)
  • A doctor's coat or bag. I bought both these uniforms in an Ethel Austin shop in the UK a couple of years ago, but I heard that these shops may have closed down.
  • Coloured card (red, green and yellow) to represent traffic lights.
  • Pictures of a police car, ambulance and fire engine.
Activity One: Traffic Lights
You can either make a set of traffic lights out of card, or just hold up pieces of card. Show the children the three colours and ask them what they represent. They should guess that it is a traffic light. Elicit what each colour means. Don't go into detail, but make sure they know that red means "stop", yellow means "slow" and green means "go".

Now do some practice by getting the children to drive around in imaginary cars, paying attention to the coloured cards (traffic lights) you hold up.

Activity Two: Song: Beep Beep Beep
This song is taken from the book "Very Young Learners" from OUP's series Resource Books For Teachers by Vanessa Riley and Sheila M. Ward. This book has some lovely activities based on traditional songs and games.
The song goes: Beep, beep, beep in my little car x3
                        Red means STOP! and so on. (For copyright reasons I only include a part of the song, but really you can adapt the words and sing it to any tune. I often make up my own little songs by singing them to a familiar tune. I will post about this another time.

While singing the song, all the children pretend to drive around the classroom and do as the song says.  For example, after singing "Yellow means SLOW" I then proceed to sing the following verse very slowly and they have to drive in the same way. Changing the rhythm in songs makes them more fun and less repetitive, meaning you can get the children to sing it over and over again, learning the words, without getting bored. This activity ALWAYS works with kids between 3 and 6 years of age. Both girls and boys love pretending to drive.

Activity Three: Emergency Services
Show the children the pictures of emergency vehicles you have prepared and teach them the vocabulary. Ask them how they can contact these services and if they know the telephone number. In Spain the general emergency number is 112. Make a point of pretending to phone this number and ask for each emergency service, and get the children to point to the right picture.
e.g. "One One Two. Hello, can I have an ambulance, please?"
Now give each child a role - one of the three emergency services. If the children are very young, it is best to give them a small picture or card of their role, so that they don't forget it.
Then, stand at the back of the room or against one wall. The children should be at the opposite side of the room. Pretend to phone the emergency services and ask for one, say, a fire engine. All the children who are fire engines have to run to you and help, e.g put out the fire.

Activity Four: Traffic Accidents
This is a role play activity, where the amount of language you expect the children to use will depend on their age and how long they have been learning English. There should be one police officer, one doctor, and two or more drivers.  The drivers are driving around, and you show the green light. Then, quickly show one of the children the red light, at which point it will be too late and the children should crash into each other. If this doesn't happen, you can stage it this way, telling the children that in the game they should ignore the red light.
Then, the police officer arrives on the scene, calls an ambulance to aid the victim and arrests the child who passed the red light. The doctor takes the injured party to hospital and the police officer takes the "criminal" to prison. Kids love this, but make sure you discuss with them the dangers of not respecting traffic lights. Many of them will come up with stories of how their parents have gone through a red light, or accidents they have seen. As I said before, you can go from the simple "Hello, ambulance please" to whole dialogues, if the children are ready.

It is important to talk about serious topics like this one with young children, because they do see them in their daily lives, in the street and on TV. However, making a game out of it makes it more light-hearted and fun, which is fine, as long as the children understand why we these disasters can happen.

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