Learning English   

This is an extract from a book for Learners of English. A selection of books which may be downloaded can be found on the website of the Liberal Party of Sri Lanka (www.liberalparty-srilanka.org) in the English and Education Section. Books which are still in print may be obtained from International Book House, 151 A Dharmapala Mawata, Colombo 7.

Below  is the first Unit of the Grade 6 Junior English Textbook published by International Book House for the use of Sri Lankan students. As noted in the introduction,    

this book explains elements of English in a manner that will help both students and teachers to understand what they learn and teach. ..    

Each unit contains one or more reading texts, on which several exercises are based. Pre-reading questions are given in some instances, and … writing tasks should be given due attention and … Each unit also includes a Conversation section, which avoids the familiar practice of setting out a dialogue which students learn by rote. Students should first develop understanding of the speech patterns they use, and for this purpose they should first fill in the blanks as indicated. Initially much help may be required, and group work may be desirable….Teachers are also advised, on the pattern of the texts included here, to encourage active learning of useful subjects… including matters of wider interest that will be useful for students in the future.   

  Unit One – A Visit to the Zoo 

When you study this unit, pay careful attention to the building blocks of language given below. Be careful to write and speak carefully, after you study these sounds and the shape of these letters. Also be careful to use correctly the grammar of English that you learn here. Also pay attention to the new words you learn.    


Using these building blocks or tools of the language carefully, you will soon be able to use English actively. The order in which you should do the exercises is suggested by the numbers. Read the text carefully before you do the exercises, and also practice the Conversation section carefully.    

The Tools of English   

Simple and Capital Letters – writing Proper Nouns, shaping difficult letters    

Pronunciation – focus on v,w,f,p,s and pronouncing the s in plurals    

Grammar – the ‘be’ verb (am, is,are); pronouns; prepositions    

Reading Text – A visit to the Zoo   

Mala and Ravi are asleep in their beds. Their mother comes into the room    

“Get up, children. We must leave early today.”    

Ravi looks at her sleepily from the bed. “Why must we go early? Where will we go?”    

“We will visit the Zoo today,” she tells him.    

“Oh, good,’ shouts Mala and jumps out of her bed.    

The children get ready quickly. They are happy to go to the Zoo.    

The bus stops at the Dehiwela Zoo. They get off and go in.    

“Look at those birds,” says Mala. “What is that bird with a long tail? Look at its colours – red, green, yellow and white.”    

“That is a parrot,” Ravi tells his sister.    

Ravi likes to look at the lions, tigers, leopard and bears in their cages.    

“Don’t they look big and strong? Look. See how they walk up and down in their cages. I think they want to come out,” he tells Mala.    

Mala does not like to think about that.    

Then they go to see the elephants. It is 3 o’clock, and the elephants have tea and then dance round in a ring. Mala’s eyes open wide as she watches them. “Look how they hold the cups with their trunks,” she says. “This is the best part of our visit.”    

“Let us have some ice-cream while we watch the elephants,” says their father. Mala and Ravi are very happy. They like ice-cream.    

It is late when they get back from the Zoo. Mala is very tired and her father has to carry her.    

Ravi is excited. “I want to be a zoo-keeper when I am big,” he tells his parents.    

Learning to speak and to write

Exercise 1    

Say the following sentences aloud. Listen carefully to your teacher so that you say the words correctly. Notice the difference in how you pronounce the letter ‘v’ and the letter ‘w’.    


  • “Where will we go?”
  • “We will visit the zoo today,” she tells him.

Practice this in pairs, replacing ‘the zoo’ with ‘the river’, ‘the stream’, ‘the sea’, ‘the pond’, ‘the pool’, ‘the forest’. Which one of these six words is different in meaning from the others?  Notice the difference in how you pronounce the letter ‘v’ and the letter ‘w’.    

Write these two letters in their simple and capital forms. Notice how they are similar in size, and where they appear on the line on which you write.    

Exercise 5    

Practice the sentences in Exercise 1 again, in pairs, replacing ‘the zoo’ with ‘the kovil’, ‘the temple’, ‘the mosque’, ‘the church’, ‘the pola’, ‘the factory’. Which two of these five words are different in meaning from the others?  Notice the difference in how you pronounce the letter ‘f’ and the letter ‘p’.    

Write these two letters in their simple and capital forms. They are similar in size. Both capital letters appear in the same place on the line on which you write, but one of the simple letters goes below the line. What are the other simple letters that go below the line?    

Exercise 8    

Read these sentences also aloud. Practice them carefully.    

  • Ravi likes to look at the lions, tigers, leopards and bears in their cages.
  • Mala’s eyes open wide as she watches them. “Look how they hold the cups with their trunks,” she says. “This is the best part of our visit.”
  • It is late when they go back after their visit to the Zoo. Mala is very tired and her father has to carry her.


Be careful when you read words that end in the letter ‘s’. When it comes after another consonant (letters except a,e,i,o,u), you must pronounce both letters. In English we usually form the plural (more than one)  of nouns, by adding ‘s’ to the singular. We must pronounce this clearly when we speak.    

Some words that end in s or y have different ways of forming the plural (dress-dresses, baby-babies) and in a few words there are big changes, but for most words you only need to add s.    

Exercise 2    

Write down the words that begin with capital letters in this passage. Some words begin with capital letters only when they come at the beginning of a sentence.    

Write down names of people that begin with the following letters –    

d, m, r, s, v    

Names of people must always begin with capital letters.    

Exercise 6    

Write down names of places that begin with the following letters –      

b, c, j, k, m.    

These must always begin with capital letters.    

The names of places and people are called proper nouns. They always begin with capital letters. Nouns are naming words. Other nouns, that name things or animals for instance – room, bed, bird, bus – are called common nouns, and begin with simple letters (except when they begin a sentence).    

You must always use simple and capital letters correctly when you write English. If you remember the rules given above, this will not be difficult.    

Reading and Writing

  • Group  work.

Exercise 3    

What are the animals mentioned in this story? Write down the names of animals that begin with the following letters – a, c, d, m, o. You can include birds and insects in your list.    

Exercise 10    

Why do you think Ravi wants to be a zoo-keeper? Discuss in groups what each of you what to be when you are big. Individually write this down, with reasons.    

  • Individual work.

Exercise 4    

Show the meanings of the following words through actions – sleepily, quickly, tired, big, happy, excited, wide, jump, dance, open.    

Write down the opposites of the following words – quickly, big, happy, wide, open. Use them in sentences of your own.    

Exercise 12    

Write five sentences about your favourite animal. You should describe it, and also why you like it.    


Exercise 7    

Write down the words ‘am’, ‘is’ and ‘are’ when they appear in the passage.    

Use the correct word to fill in the blanks in the following sentences.    

  • Who ….. you?
  • I ….. Mala. I … ten years old.
  • Who ….. that?
  • That …. my brother. He  …. twelve. His name …. Ravi. What …. your name?
  • My name …. Priya. I …. also ten. My brother …. Suresh and my sister ….. Lakshmi.
  • How old ….. they?
  • He …. three years older than me and she …. one year younger than him.
  • I see. So he …. thirteen and she …. twelve.
  • You … right.
  • Where …. they?
  • They ….. at school now.

Exercise 9    

Look at the following table. Copy it into your exercise book.

I Me My
You You Your
He Him His
She Her Her
We Us Our
It It Its
They Them Their

These words are called pronouns. Find out those that appear in the passage, and underline them in the table in your book. The words in the first five rows are used usually of people and those in the sixth of animals or things. The words in the last row are used of people and animals. See the examples in the passage.    

The words in the last column are used to show ownerships.  Look at the following paragraph.    

I have a dog. Its name is Bindu. It is white, with black spots. I love my dog very much. It greets me when I come home from school and licks my feet. Then it tries to bite my toes.    

Sometimes people like to treat their pets as people, so they call them ‘him’ or ‘her’.    

Write a short paragraph like the one given above, about a pet or about a brother or sister. You can also look at the conversation in Exercise 7.    

Exercise 11    

Find the words ‘bed’ (or ‘beds’) and ‘Zoo’ (or ‘Dehiwela Zoo’)  in the above passage. Look at the words that come before them. Apart from pronouns and ‘the’ you find    

in, from, out of, to, at, from    

These words are called prepositions. They link words. In English prepositions come before the noun or pronoun that they link to the rest of the sentence.    

Find other examples of these prepositions, and of others – with, of – in the passage, and say to what noun they are connected.    

Use the following prepositions correctly in sentences of your own – to, from    

The word ‘in’ is in the box shown below. Copy the box in your exercise books, and write down the following prepositions in suitable places – on, under, above. Use arrows to indicate to, from.    



Introduce yourself    

Fill in the blanks in the following sentences with suitable words from the list below. Then fill them up correctly with information about yourself.    

  • Teacher – Hello, everybody. I’m your teacher. My name is Miss ……. I come from Kuliyapitiya. Tell me about yourselves.
  • Students – Good morning, ……….
  • I am …..
  • I’m …..
  • My name is…..
  • I am ….. years old
  • I’m ………
  • I come from ……….
  • My home is in ……..
  • I live in ………

Mala, eleven, Ratnapura, teacher, Kuliyapitiya, Ravi, Lakshmi, twelve, Vavuniya, Fernando    

Write cards with names and ages and places. Students pick these out and introduce themselves according to the cards they have.