The Berenstains’ B Book: 6 teaching ideas

This week’s Fun Friday book that I brought for my students was The Berenstains’ B Book, a Bright & Early Book for Beginners, published by Random House (available for $2 here).  Each class was on a slightly different topic this week, but I was able to read the book in all five classes… simply because this is a wonderful book.

This book is great for ESL students — especially beginning ESL students — because it introduces small phrases at a time, then repeats them and builds off of them.  The illustrations are great too.  And students enjoy learning new sound effect words like “boom”, “bonk”, and “bop”.  There is even an opportunity for character education discussion (see teaching idea 5).

So, here are six different concepts you can teach/reinforce using The Berenstains’ B Book.

1.) Phonemic Awareness: word initial /b/

Granted, this is the most obvious of the five concepts, but my students were really surprised that so many words in English could begin with the /b/ sound… much less that you could make up a whole story using those words.

Some of my kindergarten and 1st grade students were having trouble remembering that words rhyme when the end sounds the same, not the beginning.  I was able to compare this book with another (Green Eggs and Ham would be a good one) to show the difference.

For upper grade student who are still beginning readers, this is a great way to introduce “alliteration”.

2.) Reading Fluency

As I mentioned before, since this book builds off of itself by introducing phrases and then repeating and building off them, this book make great reading fluency practice.  I gave students a fuzzy friend (i.e. “pipe cleaner” or “chenille straw”) to track the print.  Tracking print with a fuzzy friend almost guarantees undivided attention to reading… at least with my students.

3.) Adjectives

One of my classes is learning parts of speech, and this week was adjectives — what they are, what they do, and where you put them.  This book is full of adjectives.  If you go on to use plot continuation (#5), you can introduce adjective ordering and commas, too.

4.) Cause and Effect

This book is a light-hearted reinforcement for cause and effect.  The animals’ biking backward causes them to bump other animals, which in turn causes those animals to land on Baby Bird’s blue balloon… the effect is that the balloon pops.

5.) Plot Continuation

Now that I’ve given away the ending, I have to add that, for my tender-hearted students, this is a pretty rough ending.  They don’t want Baby Bird to be sad.  So, after reading the book, we come up with a happy ending for Baby Bird.  First, we create a word bank of words beginning with /b/.  Then, we write a sentence using mostly those words to finish the story.  The students then draw the sentence on their drawing/writing pages.  Based on the students’ English level and grade level, these were the sentences you can create:

Baby Bird got a bigger blue balloon.

Baby Bird bought a bigger, better blue balloon.

Big brown bear, blue bull and beautiful baboon ballerina bought Baby Bird a bigger, better, brand-new blue balloon.

(The last sentence goes well with a lesson on moral responsibility. ;)).

Or, as one of my kindergarteners told me, the new balloon would be blue, brown, and black.

6.) Vocabulary Development

Not many young ESL students know words like “bull”, “bagpipe”, “bugle”, “beagle” or “baboon”.  The way this book is written gives reinforcement for the meaning of these words without having to repeat using flashcards.   Also, creating a word bank of /b/-initial words for the writing lesson can introduce other words such as better, bigger and brand-new.  Students are very impressed when they get to the end of the book and see a whole page full of words that begin with /b/.  After creating a words bank on the board, students see the list of words they know that begin with /b/ and get positive feedback on their English abilities.

… and there you have it.  Best book ever.

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