Soaring High with Kites
by Judie Haynes
Help your ESL students obtain new heights in English language learning through this dynamic unit on kites. Through this topic your students can study the importance of kites in cultures around the world and investigate the role that kites have played in scientific discovery,
Combine the study of science, art, and culture with this dynamic thematic unit about kites. Have students investigate cultural importance of kites around the world and the development of flight. Teach students how to retell kite legends and stories from various cultures.
This unit can be taught to students over a wide range of grade and English language ability levels. The ESL teacher can also work with students who are developing their listening, speaking and social skills; and, at the same time, include those older students who are reading and writing.
Proficiency/Grade Level:Grades 2-6; High Beginning to Advanced students.
Science concepts: Weather, wind, flight, inventions
Cultural concepts: The importance of kites in various cultures.
Kite vocabulary ; including parts of the kite; types of kites and verbs to describe what kites do in the air.
Books about kites (fiction and nonfiction); photocopy paper, art supplies, straws, tissue paper
This topic was taught over a wide range of grade and ability levels in three different ESL groups. My 2nd graders made simple kites from patterns and wrote kite safety rules. They also each wrote a short haiku. Third and fourth graders listened to stories about kite festivals in different countries. They wrote about these festivals and made their own kites. Fifth and sixth graders designed unique kites and wrote about kite legends from Asia. They also wrote diamante poems about kites.
To see an overview of the unit download my Kite Thematic Web.
- To introduce the unit, I asked students to tell me what they know about kites. I showed students a few kites that I have from Asia. I also brought in a simple plastic kite. We compared the two types as a group.
- Next, I read Jane Yolen's book The Emperor and the Kite to my students in Grades 2-6. Students then talked about Djeow Seow's feelings in different parts of the story and we reviewed that vocabulary. We also discussed how the kite was used in the story.
- I asked students to hypothesize how kites fly. We brainstormed a list of guesses. Students then consulted the website Go Fly A Kite. We compared out guesses with the kite flying information on the site.
- We looked at various books on kite design in China and Japan. Best Ever Paper Kites written by Norman Schmidt contains beautiful and brightly colored pictures of kites. For older students there are patterns to make these intricate kites. I asked students in grades 4-6 to think about what the kite designs from Asia said about the importance of kites in those cultures.
- All students learn the names of different types of kites. Those in grades 4-8 learned the parts of the kite. Much of this information is presented in very simple form in Teacher Created Materials theme book Kites.
- We brainstorm a list of kite safety rules. First, we brainstormed places we see kites flown in the neighborhood. Then we talked about places where it would be dangerous to fly kites. The thematic unit book has rules but I prefer to have students come up with their own. They included in their rules what would happen if you don't follow the rule. For example, one student wrote "Stay away from cars. Cars could break your kite or could hit you."
- We checked various websites to find directions for making simple kites. We looked at Simple Clown Kite, The Virtual Kite Zoo and Clem’s Homemade Newspaper Kite. Students used the simple contruction shown on Anthony's Kite Workshop but decorated the kites using their own ideas. We had Korean flags, bumblebees, butterflies, flying squirresls, birds, and other exotic designs. We attached colorful tissue paper tails to the kites and used them to make a display/bulletin board.
- We then studied the history of kites and inventions. Students were fascinated to learn that kites were the forerunner of the airplane. They also learned how early kites in the U.S. were used by the U.S. Weather Service. Each Grade 3-6 student wrote a kite fact related to inventions.
- Grade 5-6 students listened to legends about kites in Chinese, Japanese and Korean history. They retold these legends in their own language and wrote down their stories.
- All students wrote either Haiku or Diamante poems to go with their kites. If you'd like a model for this type of poem,goto
diamante kites.In order to have enough vocabulary to write poems about the kites,poems about kites from the Teacher Created Materials book on kites. Students took words from these poems and made a word wall on a kite-shaped piece of art paper. We practiced the meaning of each word including a list of kite "ing" words.
- When the weather is nicer, we will attach string to our kites and take them out to fly.
© 1998-2007 Judie Haynes, www.everythingESL.net