Speaking and Listening: Describing Toys | EL Education Curriculum

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Speaking and Listening: Describing Toys

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These are the CCS Standards addressed in this lesson:

  • SL.K.1: Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about kindergarten topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.
  • SL.K.1a: Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions (e.g., listening to others and taking turns speaking about the topics and texts under discussion).
  • SL.K.1b: Continue a conversation through multiple exchanges.
  • SL.K.4: Describe familiar people, places, things, and events and, with prompting and support, provide additional detail.
  • L.K.1: Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
  • L.K.1f: Produce and expand complete sentences in shared language activities.

Daily Learning Targets

  • I can describe a toy. (SL.K.1, SL.K.1a, SL.K.1b, SL.K.4, L.K.1, L.K.1f)

Ongoing Assessment

  • In the Opening, observe students' ability to follow the steps of the Back-to-Back and Face-to-Face protocol. Use this information to inform review of the steps as needed.
  • During Work Time A, listen for students to correctly suggest names of classroom toys.
  • During Work Time B and the Closing, use the Speaking and Listening Checklist to track students' progress toward the standards listed. Listen for students to use physical attributes (color, shape, size, or texture) when describing their toy to a partner or the whole group.


AgendaTeaching Notes

1. Opening

A. Back-to-Back and Face-to-Face: Letter from the Principal (10 minutes)

2. Work Time

A. Working with Vocabulary: Toys and Play Word Wall (10 minutes)

B. Developing Language: Exploring and Describing Toys (30 minutes)

3. Closing and Assessment

A. Reflecting on Learning (10 minutes)

Purpose of lesson and alignment to standards:

  • During the Opening, students receive another letter from the principal with a challenge to become play experts by describing toys and indicating a preference for a particular toy. This communication motivates students by giving their work throughout Unit 2 a purpose and an audience.
  • Students are introduced to the Back-to-Back and Face-to-Face protocol. This protocol supports the development of conversational skills between students (SL.K.1, SL.K.4).
  • During Work Time A, students begin to build vocabulary for describing toys by posting names of classroom toys on the Toys and Play Word Wall. The Toys and Play Word Wall is a resource to support students' speaking, reading, and writing about toys and play throughout this unit (SL.K.4, L.K.1f). During Work Time B, students again engage in playful exploration of toys. Young learners need ample playtime embedded within their work. Use this time to circulate and converse with students about descriptions of their toys and their play. These informal conversations support the work they do in subsequent lessons by supporting development of vocabulary related to attributes.
  • During Work Time B, students name and describe a particular toy. This activity serves as an informal assessment of their descriptive language skills. The language of description will be a thread throughout this unit, leading to the assessment in Lessons 9 and 10 (SL.K.4).
  • To allow for a volume of reading on the topic of toys and play for this module, see the Recommended Texts and Other Resources document for this unit. Ensure that a variety of informational and narratives texts below, on, and above grade level for this topic are available during independent reading in the Reading Foundations Skills Block.

How this lesson builds on previous work:

  • In Unit 1, students explored toys with a focus on social-emotional skills needed to play together well. In Unit 2, students continue to reinforce those skills while also engaging in discussion about attributes and preferences related to toys to develop their ability to use descriptive language as well as their skills for speaking and listening.
  • Throughout Unit 1, students were introduced to Goal 1 Conversation Cues to promote productive and equitable conversation. Continue using Goal 1 Conversation Cues in this way, considering suggestions within lessons. Refer to the Unit 1, Lesson 3 Teaching Notes and see the Tools page for additional information on Conversation Cues.

Areas in which students may need additional support:

  • Look for opportunities to support students as they describe toys. Students who lack the vocabulary or syntax needed to name and describe toys will need additional support. Display the Toys and Play Word Wall and describing sentence frame in an area of the classroom where students can easily reference them.

Down the road:

  • The learning target for this lesson, "I can describe a toy," is intended to support students' first attempts to look closely and describe physical attributes of toys. In Lessons 2 and 3, students will focus on four specific physical attributes: color, size, shape, and texture. The learning targets for these lessons reflect these specific attributes.
  • In response to the letter from the principal received in this lesson, students will engage in a shared writing to create a response letter in Lesson 9. In their response, students will share their toy preferences and answers to the principal's riddle. In Lesson 10, students will celebrate their learning by reading the letter aloud to the principal and sharing a class song about toys.
  • Invite the principal to the unit culmination in Lesson 10. Discuss scheduling with other grade-level teachers if multiple classes will share on the same day. If the principal is not available, consider videotaping students reading the Letter to the Principal and singing the "Toys in Our Class" song.

In Advance

  • Review the Back-to-Back and Face-to-Face protocol (see Classroom Protocols)
  • Prepare:
    • Back-to-Back and Face-to-Face anchor chart on large chart paper. This protocol will be new to students. Consider having them practice the protocol ahead of time with some fun questions so that all students are prepared for this lesson.
    • Prepare Toys and Play Word Wall cards by choosing six to eight toys that are available in your classroom. Write or type the words in large print on a card and create or find a visual to accompany each word. Examples might include blocks, cars, dolls, puppets, Legos, pattern blocks, play dough, and puzzles.
    • Classroom toys will be needed throughout this unit for both play and exploration. Considering choosing toys similar to those in Unit 1. The toys can be grouped by their kind (e.g., all puzzles together) for ease of organization and cleanup. Math manipulatives such as pattern blocks would also be appropriate to use for this series of lessons. A sample set of toys might include:
  • Legos (or similar)
  • K'nex (or similar)
  • Dramatic play items (e.g., puppets, play food, dolls)
  • Pattern blocks
  • Stuffed animals
  • Wooden blocks
  • Puzzles
  • Play dough
  • Crayons and paper
    • Consider whether students are relying too heavily on background knowledge over classroom information about toys. Some students may have more experience with the toys featured in this unit than others, either at home or in previous classroom settings. Students need to be clear about the distinction between their background knowledge and textual information and where the two may overlap or diverge. To this end, consider making background knowledge activities short or a period of silent reflection or both. Then, revisit the background knowledge activities once students have gained text-based knowledge and discuss background in light of the topic or text.
    • Assemble a sample of eight to 10 classroom toys to introduce the concept of describing attributes at the beginning of Work Time B. This sample should showcase toys of different colors, shapes, sizes, and textures. Consider placing the sample of classroom toys in a bin near the whole group area for easy access during the lesson.
    • Classroom areas for students to explore and describe toys; set out toys in those areas.
  • Strategically pair students for partner work in Work Time B.
  • Post: Learning target, "Learning Target" poem, unit guiding questions, Letter from the Principal, Toys and Play Word Wall, describing sentence frame.

Tech and Multimedia

Consider using an interactive whiteboard or document camera to display lesson materials.

  • Opening A: The Letter from the Principal could be an email.
  • Work Time B: Record students as they play to listen to later to discuss strengths and what they could improve on, or to use as models for the group. Most devices (cell phones, tablets, laptop computers) come equipped with free video and audio recording apps or software.
  • Closing and Assessment A: Play recording of students from Work Time B to analyze with the group.

Supporting English Language Learners

Supports guided in part by CA ELD Standards K.1.A.1 and K.1.C.12

Important points in the lesson itself

  • The basic design of this lesson supports ELLs with opportunities to interact with tangible objects and to participate in structured discussion. If students struggle, redirect their focus to visual and kinesthetic elements of the lesson. Example: "It looks like you want to describe the color of the truck. Let's look at the truck again. What color is this? Green? Red? Now let's use the sentence frame on the board."
  • While it is important to encourage students to try their best, this lesson serves as a primer and pre-assessment for describing toys. If students struggle, reassure them that there is plenty of time to learn in the days ahead.

Levels of support

For lighter support:

  • During Work Time B, invite an advanced or intermediate proficiency student to model describing a toy for the class.

For heavier support:

  • Some students may need instruction for using sentence frames. Spend extra time modeling using the provided frames to describe toys. Check for comprehension by inviting students to use the frames during whole group time, before partner work.
  • Students may need repeated modeling and practice with the Back-to-Back and Face-to-Face protocol before it becomes routine.

Universal Design for Learning

  • Multiple Means of Representation (MMR): In this lesson, students are introduced to the Back-to-Back and Face-to-Face protocol. As you teach this protocol, you can guide students' information processing by inviting volunteers to help model what this protocol looks like/sounds like.
  • Multiple Means of Action & Expression (MMAE): During Work Time A, students are introduced to several new Word Wall cards that include names and pictures of classroom toys. As you introduce each new word card, provide options for expression by inviting students to mime playing with each toy, or create a hand gesture associated with each toy.
  • Multiple Means of Engagement (MME): During Work Time B, students are encouraged to choose a toy to study in detail. Proactively prompting students to discuss what to do if another student picks their preferred toy will help them manage emotions and support a positive classroom climate.


Key: Lesson-Specific Vocabulary (L); Text-Specific Vocabulary (T)


  • riddle, describe (L)


  • Document camera
  • Letter from the Principal (one to display)
  • Unit guiding questions (one to display)
  • Back-to-Back and Face-to-Face anchor chart (new; teacher-created)
  • Toys and Play Word Wall (from Unit 1, Lesson 1; one to display)
  • Toys and Play Word Wall cards (teacher-created; six to eight)
  • Commitments for Playing Together (from Unit 1, Lesson 6; one to display)
  • "Learning Target" poem (from Unit 1, Lesson 1; one to display)
  • Classroom toys (class set of variety of toys; enough for groups of three to four students to play with together; see Teaching Notes)
  • Speaking and Listening Checklist (see Assessment Overview and Resources for Module 1)
  • Describing sentence frame (one to display)
  • Sample toy (one for teacher modeling)
  • Magnifying glass (one for teacher modeling)
  • Magnifying glasses (one per pair of students)

Materials from Previous Lessons

New Materials


Each unit in the K-2 Language Arts Curriculum has one standards-based assessment built in. The module concludes with a performance task at the end of Unit 3 to synthesize their understanding of what they accomplished through supported, standards-based writing.


OpeningMeeting Students' Needs

A. Back-to-Back and Face-to-Face: Letter from the Principal (10 minutes)

  • Gather students whole group.
  • Using the document camera, display the Letter from the Principal.
  • While still displaying the text, read the greeting and first two sentences aloud slowly and fluently, pointing to each word as you read it.
  • Pause from reading the Letter from the Principal and direct students' attention to the posted unit guiding questions.
  • Read them aloud:

"What makes toys fun?"

"Which classroom toy do I prefer?"

  • Explain that the Letter from the Principal asks these questions, and these questions are important because answering them will help students to become play experts.
  • Direct students back to the Letter from the Principal. Read the next two sentences aloud, pausing after "Lastly, here is a riddle for you."
  • Tell students they are going to share their answers to the riddle in the letter using the Back-to-Back and Face-to-Face protocol.
  • Briefly explain that a riddle is a tricky question that you can solve by guessing the answer.
  • Direct students' attention to the Back-to-Back and Face-to-Face anchor chart.
  • Have students find a partner and stand back-to-back with each other, being respectful of space.
  • Reread the riddle from the Letter from the Principal aloud and give them 30 seconds to consider how they will respond:

"What toy is invisible, can be played with any time, and makes every other toy MORE fun?"

  • Before students respond, ask students about the word invisible:

"If something is invisible, what does that mean?" (You can't see it.)

  • Invite students to turn face-to-face to share their responses.
  • Ask students to return to their places in the whole group area.
  • Invite a few students to share their answers to the riddle with the whole group. If no one guesses the correct answer (imagination), you can choose whether to reveal the answer or continue to allow students to make guesses throughout the week.
  • For ELLs: Model the Back-t0-Back and Face-to-Face protocol for the class with two volunteers while discussing the anchor chart. (MMR)
  • As you display the Letter from the Principal, facilitate students' self-regulation skills by modeling socially appropriate ways to express enthusiasm/excitement about this new mission (e.g., silent cheer, give yourself a hug, take a deep breath and smile). (MME)
  • For students who may need additional auditory support: Share the Letter from the Principal using a document camera as you read from it. (MMR)

Work Time

Work TimeMeeting Students' Needs

A. Working with Vocabulary: Toys and Play Word Wall (10 minutes)

  • Refer to the posted Toys and Play Word Wall. Remind students that this Word Wall helps them speak, read, and write about toys and play, an important part of being a play expert.
  • Explain that you have some Toys and Play Word Wall cards with the names and pictures of classroom toys on them. Do not reveal the toy names or pictures yet.
  • Ask:

"Can you guess a classroom toy that might be listed on a Word Wall card?" (Responses may vary but should include classroom toys only.)

  • Prompt students:

"Listen closely to your classmates' ideas. If someone shares the same toy that you were thinking of, stand up in your spot!"

  • Invite numerous students to share the names of classroom toys.
  • Explain that you were thinking about many of the same classroom toys!
  • Reveal the Toys and Play Word Wall cards.
  • Taking turns, invite individual students to help place each card and picture on the Toys and Play Word Wall. Assist students as necessary.
  • After posting all Word Wall cards and pictures, reread all words on the Toys and Play Word Wall. Invite students to join as you read aloud.
  • For ELLs: Rephrase the question "Can you guess a classroom toy ..." in different ways to maximize comprehensibility. Examples:
    • "What are some classroom toys you know?"
    • "Tell me some toys we play with in the classroom." (MMR)
  • For ELLs: As Word Wall cards are posted, activate background knowledge by recalling previous classroom experiences with each toy. Provide options for expression by inviting students to mime playing with each toy, or create a hand gesture associated with each toy. (MMR, MMAE)

B. Developing Language: Exploring and Describing Toys (30 minutes)

  • Remind students that last week when they played, they worked hard to become play experts by taking care of each other and materials. Refer to the Commitments for Playing Together if time allows.
  • Invite students to "put on their learning goggles" to view the posted learning target:

"I can describe a toy."

  • Explain that this week, students will become play experts by using words to describe, or tell about, toys.
  • Invite students to take out their magic bows and take aim at the target while you recite the "Learning Target" poem aloud.
  • Explain that it is important to look closely and notice what a toy looks or feels like to be able to describe it.
  • Refer to classroom toys placed in play areas around the classroom. Explain that one way to look closely at toys is to play with them! Another way is to use words to describe what the toys look or feel like.
  • Briefly review expectations for taking care of materials and others during play as needed.
  • Call students in groups of three or four to walk to designated areas and begin playing.
  • Give students 10-12 minutes to play. Circulate and engage with students to help them notice and describe the toys they are playing with. Consider prompting them by asking:

"What does your toy look like?"

"What does your toy feel like?"

"What words can you use to describe your toy?"

  • Consider using the Speaking and Listening Checklist while observing the students.
  • Using your designated sound, such as a chime or whistle, signal students to stop playing and place their hands in their laps to listen.
  • Display the describing sentence frame.
  • Explain that now students will need their play expert tools to look closely at the toys.
  • Holding up a sample toy, model looking closely at the toy using a magnifying glass. Describe the toy aloud using the sentence frame. (Example: "This is a truck. It is large, red, and shiny.")
  • Invite students to choose one toy from their play area to describe. Allow them to place that toy on their lap.
  • Distribute magnifying glasses to pairs of students.
  • Refocus the group and designate one student as partner A and one student as partner B.
  • Ask students to consider the following as they use their magnifying glasses to examine their toy:

"What color is your toy?"

"What shape is your toy?"

"What size is your toy?"

"How does your toy feel?"

  • Invite students to look carefully at their toy with their magnifying glasses first. Allow 1 minute for students to examine their toy.
  • After 1 minute, prompt partner A to describe the toy to partner B. Remind students to use the describing sentence frame as a guide for sharing.
  • As students share, circulate and listen in on their descriptions. As needed, prompt and remodel using the describing sentence frame. Select two students with strong oral language skills to model describing their toy for the whole group later in the lesson, during the Closing.
  • Refocus the group and signal the B partners to begin sharing.
  • Use the designated sound to signal all students to stop.
  • Model cleanup procedures, keeping directions clear and brief.
  • Direct students to clean up their play area and then walk safely to the whole group gathering area. If using a designated cleanup song, remind students to clean up and walk safely to the whole group gathering area by the end of the song. Invite the two students who will model how to describe their toy in the Closing to bring their toy with them to the whole group gathering area.
  • For ELLs: Group beginning students in mixed proficiency groups, with at least one native speaker or advanced proficiency student. If possible, place students who speak the same home language together. Higher proficiency students can initiate discussions and observations about toys as they demonstrate speaking and listening skills using the home language.
  • To help students anticipate and prepare for sharing their thinking with a partner, give them index cards that designate whether they are partner A or B (numbers or colors could also be used). (MME)
  • Before students choose a toy from the play area to place in their laps, support them to manage frustration by prompting them to discuss strategies for what to do if a peer selects a preferred toy. Examples:
    • "You and a classmate may both want to study the same toy. What can you do if a classmate picks the toy you want to study?"
    • "Think of a first and second choice toy that you can study. That way, if a classmate picks your first choice, you can still select your second choice without getting upset." (MME)

Closing & Assessments

ClosingMeeting Students' Needs

A. Reflecting on Learning (10 minutes)

  • Invite the two students who will be sharing to bring their toys to the front of the whole group gathering area.
  • Invite those students to take turns sharing the description of their toy for the whole group. Guide students toward using the describing sentence frame as they share.
  • As each student shares, prompt the other students to look carefully at the student's toy.
  • Redirect students' attention to the posted learning target and read it aloud:

"I can describe a toy."

  • Invite students to show a thumbs-up if they were able to describe their toy to a partner.
  • Explain that you heard many wonderful words used to describe the toys during the playtime, and now many students will have a chance to share the words they used to describe their toy.
  • Invite many students to share a word they used to describe their toy. If needed, guide them toward physical attributes, such as the color, size, shape, or texture of the toy. Consider recording students' ideas to support language instruction in subsequent lessons.
  • Give students specific positive feedback regarding their conversations and descriptions. (Example: "John, I noticed that you used the words round, red, and shiny to describe the toy ball you played with.")
  • For ELLs: If beginning students struggle to demonstrate their knowledge through speech, provide options for expression. Allow them to identify key concepts by pointing to the toys. Example: "Which toy is red? Point to the truck that is large." (MMAE)

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