Dark, damp and quiet? Dirty or wet? What would it be like to live under the ground or under the water?
If you have already challenged your students to think like a kite high in the air, this underwater and under earth adventure is the next step. Even if you have not, imagining what it would be like deep in the earth will be fun for your students and get them writing creatively.
U: Underwater and Under Earth Adventures In Your ESL Classroom
Are your students young enough to enjoy a dance party? If so, play one or two songs that describe what it is like to be deep underwater. You can use “Under the Sea” from The Little Mermaid or “Octopus’s Garden” by the Beatles. Let your students listen to the music and move their way around the room pretending they are underwater. To set the scene even further, post pictures around your room of life under the water or under the earth. If your students are too old to dance, give them copies of the lyrics and have them read along with one of the songs still imagining what it would be like to be there.
Once they have imagined themselves there, ask your students what it might be like to be deep under the water or deep under the earth. Encourage your students to use all their senses when they picture themselves in one of the places. How does it feel? Cold? Damp? Can they hear animals or water moving around them? Is it dark, or can they see? Can they smell anything? Make a class list of the sensations your students imagine it would be like underwater. Make a second list of what it would be like deep under the earth. Your students can use these lists as a resource later when they write about these environments.
Now work on their listening skills by reading some books about these under the surface locations. You might want to use Exploring the Deep, Dark Sea by Gail Gibbons or Under the Ground by Claude Delafosse. You can also ask your students if they have had any experiences in these places and allow them to share with the class. Add to your class descriptive lists as new ideas come to your students.
At this point, your students should have some idea what the depths of earth and sea might be like. Now they will write about one place or the other. Explain to your students that they will write a descriptive piece of writing. That means that they will be describing the depths of either the sea or the earth. They can approach the subject two different ways. They can imagine that they are an explorer or scientist or another person who is visiting or exploring the deep places. On the other hand, they might choose to pretend they are an inhabitant of the deep sea or the deep earth, a fish or a mole for example, and write from that creature’s perspective. Have your students write one or more paragraphs and then illustrate if desired. They may find the writing easier if you allow them to consult with a small group as they write, and the group will also help them get some conversation practice at the same time.
You can design a bulletin board to display the written pieces and illustrations easily. Along the top boarder of your designated area, draw the surface of the earth and a shallow band of what one may find beneath it: plant roots, rocks or animal burrows. At the bottom of the designated area, draw the ocean floor and a band of what you might find at the bottom of the ocean: plants growing in the sand, fish, shells or coral. Use the space in the middle of the area to display what your students have written and illustrated. If you like, you can post the underground pieces toward the top of the blank area and the underwater pieces toward the bottom. You can also bring art into the curriculum with an easy craft project that makes fish and post them on the wall as well. If you lack the wall space for a large display, compile the pieces your students have written into class books that they can read during their free reading time. You can assemble one book about being under the earth and another about being under the sea.
Visitors Among Us
To take the activity even further, ask your students to find pictures of special tools that people use under the water and under the earth. You might want to give them some old magazines to look through for this activity. Post these pictures around your classroom to set the under the surface mood. You might want to include pictures of scuba gear, flashlights, hard hats, shovels, rope, gloves, cameras or any of many other possibilities. This is also a perfect opportunity to invite a guest speaker to your class. You can have a miner speak to them about working under the earth, or you might want someone with experience scuba diving to talk to your class about the deeps of the oceans. Either way, prepare the students by having them write questions for the presenter the day before that person comes. Have your special guest give a short presentation to the class and then allow your students to ask any questions he or she did not already answer. Afterward, you can have your students compare and contrast how they imagined the depths would be with what your guest knows from experience.
Children like to play imaginative games, so why not use their imagination to further their English studies. When they picture themselves deep in the earth, your students will learn new vocabulary and get practice using sensory details in their writing.
If you can bring a guest speaker in your class will have even more fun. In any case, their imaginations will be stretched as they live under the surface in their minds.