The story below is based on this well-known children's joke:
Mum, am I a real polar bear?
Of course, son.
Then why am I so flipping cold?
The Christmas Stocking Joke Book, Shoo Rayner, Puffin Books
The story lends itself well to being acted out and can also act as a spring board to project work on polar bears. A final activity enables children to transfer the language acquired into a real life situation by creating their own personal checklist. The sequence and activities suggested below could be spread over two or three lessons depending on your time available and the amount of detail you wish to go in to. Begin and end each subsequent lesson with a retelling of the story.
- To introduce or revise the question Have I got …?
- To introduce or revise body parts
- To introduce or revise story-related vocabulary
- To learn or revise family vocabulary: mother, mum, father, dad, baby, son
- To learn or revise adjectives: big, medium, small
- To learn about the polar bear – habitat, diet, lifestyle, etc.
- To take on responsibility for getting ready in the morning and leaving the house by creating a mental checklist
- A world map
- Materials to make the masks (optional): paper plates, plastic beaker, pink card, white tissue paper, glue
- Polar bear fact file worksheet (optional)
- Cartoon template (optional)
Stage 1: Introduce vocabulary and the polar bear characters
Show a picture of a polar bear either from a book or the internet. Alternatively, draw a polar bear on the board – this way you could build up an Arctic scene which could provide a back drop to contextualise the story. If appropriate, ask general questions about the polar bear. Use the mother tongue if necessary.
- Where do polar bears live? Get pupils to locate the Arctic on a world map.
- What's the weather like in the Arctic? Do you know what the temperature is in the Arctic? Winter temperatures can drop to -50°C.
- What do polar bears eat? Mainly seals and fish.
- Can polar bears swim? They are excellent swimmers.
Elicit vocabulary: polar bear, ears, paws, fur, nose, head, neck, snow, ice, cold, sea, etc.
- Practise vocabulary by pointing to the picture, saying the words and having the children repeat.
- Now call out the words and children point, then invite children to call out the words and you point.
- To consolidate, children can draw a polar bear and an Arctic scene and label their picture.
Introduce the polar bear characters. You can either draw three bear faces on the board or, if you have time, make three bear masks. A male polar bear is almost twice the size of a female polar bear, so your masks will need to reflect these differences in size – big for the father bear, medium for the mother bear and small for the baby bear.
- To make the masks, you will need paper plates, white tissue paper, a plastic beaker for the muzzle and pink card for the ears. Cut off the end of the beaker. Tape it into a hole the same size, cut in the centre of the plate. Tape on the ears made of pink card and glue balls of white tissue paper around the edges. Glue balls of white tissue paper over the plate and the beaker. Use black paper for the eyes and nose and draw in a mouth with a black pen. Attach a stick (the type used for staking pot plants are good) so you can hold the mask in front of you. The masks can also be used by the children for acting out the story.
- Using your pictures or masks, introduce the characters, father bear – he's big, mother bear – she's medium and baby bear – he's small. Elicit son.
Stage 2: Question/answer activity
Review body words again – incorporating others that the children may already know (hair, eyes, nose, legs, feet, etc.) and some adjectives, e.g. big, small, long, short, blue, green, brown, black, fair, etc.
- Ask children questions about yourself, for example:
- Have I got blue eyes?
- Have I got brown hair?
- Have I got long legs?
- Have I got small feet?
- Children reply, Yes, you have. or No, you haven't. Practise the pattern using a rising intonation for the question. When children can produce the question, get them working in pairs asking questions about themselves.
- Explain 'real'. You may like to show one of the masks or your picture (or compare a picture drawn by yourself and a photograph of a polar bear) and ask, 'Is this a real polar bear?' Emphasise 'real' slightly to focus children's attention on the word.
Stage 3: Telling the story
Using your masks or pictures, tell the story. Make sure you rehearse telling the story a few times before you do so with your class.
Polar bear story
Far away in the frozen Arctic lived a father bear, a mother bear and a baby bear. The baby bear loved to play in the snow. But today was different ...
'Mum, have I got real polar bear ears?' [Use a rising intonation on the word 'Mum' and pause slightly before asking the question. Don't forget to use a rising intonation on 'ears' as well. Be consistent with your intonation for each subsequent question.]
'Of course you have, son.'
'Mum, have I got real polar bear paws?'
'Of course you have, son.'
'Mum, have I got real polar bear fur?'
'Of course you have, son. Run along now, I'm busy.'
So the baby polar bear runs off and finds his dad.
'Dad, have I got real polar bear ears?'
'Of course you have, son.'
'Dad, have I got real polar bear paws?'
'Of course you have, son.'
'Dad, have I got real polar bear fur?'
'Of course you have, son. Why are you asking me these questions?'
'Because I'm really cold!' [Say in a slightly high-pitched, shivery voice!]
- Retell the story, this time inviting children to join in by repeating key words (e.g. ears, paws, fur), gradually repeating more words as confidence builds (polar bear ears, real polar bear ears) and so on until they are repeating the whole question.
Stage 4: Follow-up activities
Depending on time available, choose from:
- Acting out the story. Retell the story inviting children to participate as much as possible. Invite volunteers to act out the story. Often shyer children are happy to do this behind the cover of a mask. Prompt as necessary. Children can the act out the story in threes, each playing one of the bears.
- Creating a cartoon. Develop a cartoon version of the story to display on the classroom walls. You can allocate different parts of the story to children and they draw a cartoon version. Give children a template to work on so they produce their cartoons to the same scale. Demonstrate to children by drawing an example yourself on the board. Cut out the story text line by line and give corresponding text to children so they can stick or copy this into speech bubbles. Display the cartoon in the classroom.
- Polar bear fact file. Make a gap fill worksheet for children to complete by drawing the outline of a polar bear on to a sheet of A4 landscape and inside write the following sentences, leaving gaps as indicated. Write the words in brackets on the board for children to copy and fill the gaps. Alternatively, you could do this activity orally as a quiz.
- The polar bear lives in ……………………… (the Arctic).
- The polar bear eats ……………………… (seals and fish).
- The male polar bear is very ……………………… (big) and twice the size of a female bear.
- The polar bear can ……………………… (swim).
- The polar bear has got thick white ……………………… (fur).
- The polar bear has got a very strong sense of ……………………… (smell).
- Create a story. As a group activity you may like to lead children in the creation of their own story using the polar bear story as a model, but choosing another animal.
Stage 5: My checklist
This activity allows children to transfer the language acquired through the story to a real life situation and helps them to be responsible for preparing for school each morning.
- Ask children to think about what they do to get ready for school. For example, what do they have to remember to take to school?
- Teach them how they can make a mental checklist by asking themselves questions.
- Revise the question Have I got …? and elicit an example, e.g. Have I got my school bag?
- Build up a mind map on the board by drawing a picture of a school child in the middle.
- Elicit from the class all the things they may need to remember to take to school and draw/write these around the child, e.g. bus/train pass, homework, school books, mobile, school bag, hat, gloves, coat, scarf, lunch box, sports kit, swimming kit, brush, comb, pencil case, keys, etc.
- As children say the things get them to repeat the question Have I got my ...?
Children then draw a picture of themselves entitled 'Me in the morning' with a thought bubble and write in at least three of the questions, e.g. Have I got my school bag? Have I got my homework? Have I got my swimming kit?
This site has lots of information, pictures and videos of polar bears:
This site has some nice activities to print for use in class, including a polar bear colouring activity and quiz: