How to Teach English to Children Using Recycled Magazines

ESL Learning Game - Will and TomOld magazines are an excellent resource to teach English grammar rules to children and adult ESL learners through humorous comparison sentences. Doing your bit for the environment can actually be a lot of fun with this hands-on classroom activity that your students will love getting involved in. The purpose of this exercise is to enliven an otherwise dull lesson on the subject of comparison sentence patterns as well as reinforce recently learned vocabulary. The activity can last a full lesson once the new rules have been taught or it can be split up into several lessons, with each lesson a little different and harder than the last.

The comparison sentence patterns that you will use include: A is as something as B, A is more or less something than B, A is a lot or little more or less something than B, and A is more or less something then B by a certain amount. The materials needed for this idea are relatively little and easy to obtain, making this a very cheap activity. In fact, you may have all or most of them already in your house or school.

The benefits of this activity:

  • More fun for students to reinforce or learn new comparison sentence patterns
  • More fun for students to reinforce or learn new vocabulary
  • Allows students to see real-life examples on how to use this grammar rule
  • Breaks up an otherwise dull lesson
  • Builds enthusiasm among your students to learn English
  • Creates interaction between students
  • Develops a child’s creativity, which spreads to all other areas of study
  • Helping the environment by recycling old magazines and catalogues

What you need:

A stack of old magazines Child safety scissors Non-toxic glue sticks
Assorted marker pens A4-sized card in assorted colors Entertaining music

Before you begin

Begin by teaching your students the basic method of constructing the comparison sentence patterns in English. You can decide if you will teach one or more rules during each activity. Use plenty of examples to ensure that they understand completely, and ask each of them to give you another example before you begin the activity. Write the sentence pattern(s) and all the vocabulary words you want them to use on the board so that all of your students can refer to them whenever necessary.

The activity

  1. Grab a sheet of colored card and hold it up in landscape orientation for the students to see. Tell them they can choose their favorite color.
  2. Hold up the magazine and flip through to a (predetermined) page.
  3. Cut out the person, celebrity, animal, or object (depends on the sentence pattern) on the page. It does not need to be neatly cut out. In fact, it looks very retro when the pictures are cut out chaotically.
  4. Flip to another (supposedly random) page and again cut out the person, celebrity, animal, or object.
  5. Using the glue, stick the first cut-out on the left side of the card near the middle and stick the second cut-out on the right side next to the first cut-out.
  6. At this point you could ask the students to name a difference or similarity of these two people, celebrities, animals, or objects and write on the card. Otherwise, write the comparison statement below the two images and show it to your students.
  7. The students will now copy the same steps 1 to 6. I have provided lots of examples below for each sentence pattern.

Note: If the students are cutting out people they do not know or recognize, then they can invent names for each one or you can provide some that they can use.

People & Celebrities

The purpose of this exercise is to teach students how to compare two people or celebrities. There are five sentence patterns in total covering: comparing similarities of two people or celebrities, comparing differences between two people or celebrities (x2), comparing differences between two people or celebrities by a certain degree, and finally comparing differences between two people or celebrities by an exact amount.

A is as something as B – Examples
Sally is as old as Amy
Justin Bieber is as famous as Katy Perry
Miss Jackson is as pretty as Miss Thompson
A is not as something as B – Examples
Jennifer is not as tall as Sally
Mark Zuckerberg is not as rich as Bill Gates
Mr. McDonald is not as dirty as Mr. King
A is more/less something than B – Examples
Jack is fatter than Paul
Princess Catherine is thinner than Prince William
Mrs. Walker is more relaxed than Mrs. Brown
A is a lot/little more/less something than B – Examples
Richard is a lot taller than Dory
Ryan Reynolds is a little stronger than Chris Evans
Mr. Smith is a lot happier than Mr. Jones
A is more/less something then B by a certain amount – Examples
Chris is older than Ben by 3 years
Will Smith is taller than Tom Cruise by 18cm (7”)
Mrs. Patrick is less excited than Miss Dunn

Chair Desk comparison ESL activityObjects & Animals

The purpose of this exercise is to teach students how to compare two objects or animals. There are five sentence patterns in total covering: comparing similarities of two objects or animals, comparing differences between two objects or animals (x2), comparing differences between two objects or animals by a certain degree, and finally comparing differences between two objects or animals by an exact amount.

The A is as something as the B – Examples
The chair is as old as the desk
The tiger is as angry as the lion
The coffee is as hot as the tea
The A is not as something as the B – Examples
The pen is not as sharp as the pencil
The dog is not as young as the puppy
The pasta is not as spicy as the curry
The A is more/less something than the B – Examples
The football is rounder than the hockey puck
The horse is more beautiful than the pig
The orange juice is tastier than the soda
The A is a lot/little more/less something than the B – Examples
The paper is a lot lighter than the notebook
The elephant is a lot slower than the zebra
The hot dog is a little longer than the bun
The A is more/less something then the B by a certain amount – Examples
The whiteboard is wider than the door by 1m
The mouse is faster than the rat by 5s
The milk is colder than the water

Showing off their artwork

Hore Pig comparison ESL class gameWhen your student’s have finished, hang their masterpieces on the wall for all to see or let them take them home to teach English comparisons to their parents. They will feel so proud of their accomplishment and that enthusiasm will ensure they are eager to return to your class.

How to progress from here

Here are some ideas to increase the difficulty of this exercise and help with the progression of your student’s English studies:

  • Add locations: “The table on the left is cheaper than the table on the right by $20”
  • Add descriptions: “The woman holding a bag is taller than the woman wearing sunglasses”
  • Add colors: “The yellow banana is longer than the red apple”
  • Add measure words: “The can of salmon is more expensive than the can of tuna”

If descriptions and colors are unknown then challenge your students to make them up.

Cleaning up

I apologize if this activity has left your classroom or living room in a bit of a mess. Offer your young friends the reward of extra play time for helping you clean up. You can even let them choose the next activity for play time.

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