Tale of the Tooth Fairy

Tale of the Tooth Fairy

by Susan Litt

Combine teaching American culture with the use of wordless books for this September lesson plan. Introduce your students to Tomie de Paolo with an engaging story about the tooth fairy. This is an ideal activity for an early elementary multi-level ESL group.

Wordless books are a wonderful tool to use in your ESL classroom. They are flexible in their use and can be adapted to the language and ability level of your English language learners. Combine your students' curiosity about American customs with their love of storytelling to stimulate their imaginations and engage their interest.

Lesson Topic

Learning about American customs: The Tooth Fairy

Proficiency/Grade Level

Multi-level early elementary ESL classroom

Goals and Standards

Goal 1, Standards 2 & 3: Participating in popular culture; Sharing social and cultural traditions and values; Seeking support and feedback from others; Develop listening strategies to understand what is heard; Testing hyposthesis about language

Goal 2, Standard 2: Explaining actions; Selecting, connecting and explaining information; Representing information visually; Elaborating and extending other people’s ideas and words.

Background Knowledge

Brainstorm with students about what changes happen to their teeth when they are in 1st grade. Ask who has lost a tooth? How old were they? Encourage those students who are able to talk about losing a tooth.

Concepts and Skills

This lesson will develop oral language, listening skills, reading skills, reading comprehension, and grammar skills.

Materials or Resources

A picture book such as Tomie De Paola's Flicks; language experience chart paper.


1. Choose an appropriate book. I decided to use the book Flicks by Tomie de Paola, which I got from the public library. It has 5 "silent movie" (flicks) stories in it. Each story provides a great theme for elementary students. I chose the first story, "Tooth Troubles," because the theme is an excellent introduction to the tooth fairy in our American culture.

2. Preview the book with your students. When you look at the book with the children don't provide them with the title chosen by the author. Let them decide on an appropriate one themselves. As you go through each picture ask questions such as:

Go through the entire story using this method. This is an opportunity for you to develop the background knowledge needed to understand the American customs about the Tooth Fairy.

3.Brainstorm Vocabulary. Help students develop the vocabulary needed for the story. Make a web or a list of words that the children come up with that can be used for the writing. This list will vary according to the language levels of your students. Examples of vocabulary needed for "Tooth Troubles" are: string/twine; tie; success; quarter; push/pull; pain; dentist; knock; loose; door knob; jiggle; tooth fairy.

Now is the time to brainstorm names for the characters in the story. Ask the students to suggest names. Write them on the board. Take a vote. You also may want to vote on a title for the story or you may want to wait until after the story is composed.

4.Compose the story. Start to write the story as a group. Have the children tell you what to write. Depending on the proficiency level and grade level of your students the stories will vary greatly. You may want to have very beginning students draw a picture and label it.

As you can see, it can be a very simple story or more grammatically complex, depending on the ability of the students. I believe that when doing the composing with the class you quietly need to write the sentences correctly in spite of the errors they may give you. For example: If a child says, "He goed to the dentist." You say and write, "He went to the dentist."

After each sentence is written it should be read out loud. Writing the story doesn't take one session. So, when you come back to the story to continue writing make sure the story is read out loud all the way from the beginning so the students can remember the flow of the story.

5. Reading the story. When the story is finished the teacher should read it to the class. Then the group can read with the teacher followed by having the students read individually. At this point in time, you should type up the story and make a copy for each student to work with and to take home to read to the parents.

6. Develop Reading Activities.

7. Follow-up discussions and activities

When you've finished this story go back to a discussion of the tooth fairy which was introduced when developing background knowledge. Discuss again what the children do in their countries when they lose a tooth. Make a chart of customs from various countries. Ask students what they would do when they lose a tooth now that they live in the United States? Read them a story about the Tooth Fairy. Do a graph showing how many teeth each student has lost.

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