FYI interview Boris Johnson about the situation in the Ukraine

Older primary children and teenagers will find this FYI video very interesting. The presenters do a fabulous job interviewing Boris Johnson about the war in the Ukraine and the UK’s response.

Leave a comment »

Talking to children about war

I have had requests from many teachers asking me how to deal with the question of war with children.

First of all, I think we need to talk to any child worried about war in their mother tongue as they need to feel comfortable to ask any questions they need answering. I’m sure that your school will have a policy on dealing with the subject of war, and as teachers we must take great care not to go beyond what parents might not wish their child to know yet.

War is such a complex and distressing issue, I would say that we need to proceed with caution when talking to children about war.

First of all, I advise you go to the Unicef website:

They have some great advice for parents on how to deal with the subject of war with their children and this advice is also a good place to start for teachers.

The Scouts have a very comprehensive document in 6 languages.

As Unicef says,

“When conflict or war makes the headlines, it can cause feelings such as fear, sadness, anger and anxiety wherever you live.”

As teachers, we need to be aware that news of war around the world can be upsetting and confusing for children.  Young children generally react to adults around them, which is why I say to parents that it’s important to be careful with their own emotions around their children. Children need to be reassured that they are safe.

Unicef has 8 points advising parents:

1. Find out what their children know.

As Unicef says:

“Younger children may not distinguish between images on screen and their own personal reality and may believe they’re in immediate danger, even if the conflict is happening far away. Older children might have seen worrying things on social media and be scared about how events might escalate.”

2. Keep it calm and age-appropriate.

“Children have a right to know what’s going on in the world, but adults also have a responsibility to keep them safe from distress.”

3. Spread compassion, not stigma.

“Remind your children that everyone deserves to be safe at school and in society. Bullying and discrimination is always wrong and we should each do our part to spread kindness and support each other.”

4. Focus on helpers.

“It’s important for children to know that people are helping each other with acts of courage and kindness.

The sense of doing something, no matter how small, can often bring great comfort.”

5. Close conversations with care.

Unicef advises: “Remind the children that you care and that you’re there to listen and support whenever they’re feeling worried.”

6. Continue to check in.

Remember that children may still be feeling anxious which leads into the next point.

7. Limit the flood of news. – Anxiousness is often created because children are too exposed to news.  We have all had a tough few years through the pandemic and many children have already suffered a great deal of anxiety with having to stay at home and not be with their friends. Quite sadly, ‘anxiety’ was voted by children as their word of the year in 2021:

Unicef’s final point is to the adults in the children’s lives. 

8. Take care of yourself. – If you are feeling anxious, it is best not to bring up the topic of war as we can easily transmit our anxiety to the children. 

It would be a good idea to go to the Unicef links and the Scouts to read them in full.


Leave a comment »

New videos about teaching Sustainble Development Goals

One question I am currently being asked by a great number of ELT pre-primary and primary teachers is when should they integrate Education in Values and Global Citizenship and Sustainable Development Goals in their classes and I truly believe that the younger we start introducing the children in our classes to both, the more success we will have in making a difference to all of our futures.

I have started uploading very short videos to my video channel. More to follow.

Leave a comment »

Christmas activities for pre-school and primary ELT

Hi. I finally got round to posting some Youtube videos.

Video 2 is an activity that stands alone but can also be incorporated into a Christmas show:

Video 3 again could become a Christmas play but is a fun classroom activity anyway.

Video 4 is an ELT traditional favourite but with a fun twist. You can add extra verses to sing about the things your students like to do at Christmas:

The last Christmas activity is one I have done for many years at Christmas but this year we looked at the properties of an equilateral triangle so we added Maths to our Art project. STEAM can be quite simple if it happens naturally!

I am now creating videos to work on Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs with pre-primary and primary ELT students.

Leave a comment »

Vanessa’s videos for busy pre-primary and primary ELT teachers

Hi everyone. As I get lots of questions from all of you, I have decided that the quickest and easiest way to answer is with some short videos which I will regularly upload to YouTube.

Here is my YouTube channel link:

Hope you like the ideas.

If you would like me to do a video about an activity for pre-school or primary ELT, send me a message on this blog.

Look forward to hearing from you!

Leave a comment »

World Children’s day – November 20

Only 10 days to go until November 20, World Children’s Day!

This is a song I wrote many years ago to celebrate the day and I am very pleased that OUP Italy have uploaded it to Youtube for you to sing with your pre-primary or primary age students. The song provide our learners with the English to be able to sing about Children’s rights.

The lyrics are:

Happy children, healthy children, smile, smile, clap clap clap.

Happy children, healthy children, smile, smile, clap clap clap.

We need an education, yes we do!

We need food and water too.

All these things are important you see.

For children everywhere,

For you and me.

from Reilly, V, (2009) Surprise Surprise 3, Oxford University Press: Oxford

Here are the Conventions on the Rights of Children:

There are some nice activities on:

and also on:

Children’s rights are covered by the many Sustainable Development Goals and for me, SDGs come down to one word, RESPECT. Here is the way I remember the 17 Sustainable Development Goals easily.

Being respectful and kind is something we can foster very early in a child’s education. Young children start to develop empathy as young as 2 or 3 years old. One of my favourite activities to do with children of any age on World Children’s Day is a Kindness Paper Chain.

The children write messages about being kind on strips of paper and then you link the strips. If your class do not write yet, ask the children to think of kind messages and you can write their messages on the strips of paper. Now hang your class Kindness Paper Chain somewhere prominent in class to remind the children of the importance of being kind.

I leave you, the teacher, with one of my favourite poems about kindness by Topher Kearby:

Leave a comment »

World Music Day 21 June 2021

Music is a very important part of my everyday life both personally and professionally. I always have a song in my head, whether it is the last song I heard on the radio or one I am currently teaching. Any teachers who have ever taught a text book I have written will know how important music and stories (which in themselves can be musical) are to me when teaching pre-school and primary children.

Boyd Brewer said

“We all know how greatly music affects our feelings and energy levels! Without even thinking about it, we use music to create desired moods, to make us happy, to enjoy movement and dance, to energize, to bring back powerful memories, to help us relax and focus.  Music is a powerful tool for our personal expression within our daily lives – it helps ‘set the scene’ for many important experiences.”

Boyd Brewer, C, (1995). “Integrating Music in the Classroom.”

As J.M. Barrie says about the music in Peter Pan,

Free image from:

In the classroom, music can help the children to ‘fly’ in so many ways.

Music can make classroom management easy in English.

Find a traditional song that you can quickly and easily think up new classroom instructions to. The children know what you want them to do and where you want them to be.

I frequently use the ‘Happy Birthday’ tune to ‘sing’ instructions.

Please, sit on your chair.

Please, sit on your chair.

Everybody. Everybody.

Please, sit on chair.

Please, be quiet! Please, be quiet! Everybody. Everybody. Please, be quiet!

…It’s clean-up time. It’s clean-up time. Everybody. Everybody. It’s clean-up time.

or this idea I got many years ago from a colleague, who in turn learnt it from another teacher but good practice that works needs to be shared.

Everybody’s sitting down

Tune: London Bridge is falling down

Everybody’s sitting down, sitting down, sitting down.

Everybody’s sitting down. One, two, three.

to which I also sing:

Everybody tidy up, tidy up, tidy up.

Everybody tidy up. One, two, three.

and many other verses.

Music and songs for meaning with TPR (Total Physical Response) or actions:

✓ give clarification of meaning. As Murphey (1992) said, “With young children, language divorced from action seems to be mostly forgotten.”

✓ children can listen before they produce

✓ help children channel their natural energy into the learning process.

– American Sign Language for when you cannot think of actions. I use this website a lot for inspiration!

Music for Motivation

✓ Murphey (1992) refers to S-S-I-T-H-P, Song Stuck in the Head Phenomenon. This is when we cannot get a catchy song out of our head.
✓ So if we expose children to a song with the right language, they can leave our class and spend the rest of the day singing our curriculum!
✓ Music, songs and chants motivate children and can make them feel like they know lots of English as it helps them learn chunks of language easily.

Music to help Memory

✓ Many children are studying content in a foreign language (CLIL).
✓ Music and song are great devices to help them remember this new content or any content in English.
✓ Smitherman in Prescott (2005) states that, “With music, the steps are already implanted in your brain. Students can hum while a test is being taken – it’s right there in their heads.”

I am currently using some of my own songs along with some of the great songs from ELT Songs to do my English through dance, drama and movement classes.

As many of you know my motto is based on Alfred Mercier’s quote;

“What we learn with pleasure, we learn forever!”

by me (Hee hee!)

Singing and dancing are fun and children enjoy these classes no matter their age or ability. A ‘win-win’ for teachers and their young learners!


Brewer, C, (1995). “Integrating Music in the Classroom.”
Murphey, T. (1992) Music and song. Oxford University Press
Prescott, J.O., (2005), “Music in the classroom – an instructor’s handy guide for bringing music into your classroom.” on

Comments (1) »

Refugee week 14-20 June

Sorry to have been silent for a while but I felt the need to write today.

You may or may not be aware that this is Refugee Week.

If you work with children that have no experience of what it is like to be a refugee, it is so important that they understand what other children might be experiencing as this will help to develop their empathy for others. Just putting yourself in someone else’s shoes contributes a little to building this empathy. I would also use this story with teenagers.

The day war came by Nicole Davies is a beautiful story that deals with losing life as you know it to war. A tear-jerker at times but a very necessary comment on what others are dealing with in their lives.

Amazon says of the picture book. “Imagine if, on an ordinary day, war came. Imagine it turned your town to rubble. Imagine going on a long and difficult journey – all alone. Imagine finding no welcome at the end of it. Then imagine a child who gives you something small but very, very precious.”

My name is not refugee by Kate Milner is another wonderful book on the topic.

As the book is described on Amazon “A young boy discusses the journey he is about to make with his mother. They will leave their town, she explains, and it will be sad but also a little bit exciting. They will have to say goodbye to friends and loved ones, and that will be difficult. They will have to walk and walk and walk, and although they will see many new and interesting things, it will be difficult at times too. A powerful and moving exploration that draws the young reader into each stage of the journey, inviting the chance to imagine the decisions he or she would make.”

The Boy at the Back of the Class by Onjali Q. Rauf

My son and I read this book at the start of the pandemic in 2020 and we loved it.

Watch Onjali talking on Youtube about the inspiration for the book.

Check out the following website for some great activities to do with children and young people.

Some great suggestions of stories for all ages.

I leave you with a Read aloud of The Day War Came

Leave a comment »

Malala Yousafzai – Gender Equality SDG5

To quote Malala, “One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world!”

I have just bought Malala´s lovely story for children, Malala’s Magic Pencil. I can’t wait to read it to the children in school. Have a listen to the story read on Youtube.

It is actually quite easy to tell the children about Malala in English, even groups whose English is limited. I make everything present tense.

This is Malala Yousafzai.

She loves school.

It is 2007 in Swat in Pakistan.

The government says girls cannot go to school.

Malala has a blog.

She says it is not fair that girls cannot go to school.

In 2012, a man shoots Malala because he thinks the government it right. She survives.

She is only 15 years old.

Malala gets the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.

Malala is now famous all over the world.

Leave a comment »

Earth Day – April 22

I am really passionate about raising primary pupils’ awareness of how they can improve the Earth, after all, it is their future! Earth Day, on 22nd April, is the perfect date to work directly on a number of the Sustainable Development Goals. Goals 13, 14 and 15 are the most obvious but many others like goals 6, 7, 11 & 12 are also ones we may want to concentrate on with our primary-age pupils.

It is important to look at what pupils can do themselves to help the Earth as, although the children are willing and ready to save the earth, it may seem like a daunting prospect to them.

Children can be encouraged to:

Reduce consumption –

Turn off lights to cut down on the electricity the use.

Turn off the water when they are brushing their teeth to save water.

When possible, to walk or ride their bike to limit going by car!

Reuse things –

Take your their own reusable bags (bags for life) to the supermarket.

Use both sides of a piece of paper.

Use a reusable water bottle.


Help their parents to recycle.

Divide up rubbish to put in the correct bins.

Take rubbish to the recycling.

Here is a link to a video I made for pupils and their parents to celebrate Earth Day during the general lockdown in 2020.

The story and song are from Learn with us 3 (Oxford University Press).

Leave a comment »