ESL Kids—Teaching English to Children
Teaching English to Children
ESL activities for kindergarten English learners, preschool lesson themes and fun exercises for kids have become an important aspect of foreign language teaching. Learning English as a foreign language in preschool has become an increasing trend in many different countries across the world. Kindergartens all over the world offer the opportunity of second language learning, usually of the English language.
Of course, the content, preschool lesson themes, and ways of transferring knowledge based on fun ESL activities are adapted to kindergarten age and social environment. Methods, techniques, and tools are numerous; international kindergartens normally use language immersion as the main teaching method, and most national state and private kindergartens offer the possibility of second language learning using different foreign language teaching methods (such as the series method)—it depends on the country.
Second Language Learning in Kindergarten
Some people are not sure whether it is right for their children to start learning a foreign language at such an early age (3-6), and some believe that we are imposing too much on them by asking them to do so, but this is really wrong. It is already scientifically proven that children at this age actually have a strong potential to acquire almost an infinite number of new information, especially when second language learning is concerned. Moreover, it has been proven that children who learn a second language at a very early age (compared to those who don't), have more active brain spheres and later have fewer difficulties in school subjects other than English.
Second Language Learning—When to Start?
Most teachers who begin teaching English as a foreign language in kindergarten think how easy it is going to be to teach this age group. Soon they discover that the task is not easy at all. Early language learners have to be interested, constantly animated and involved in a variety of fun ESL activities and exercises for kids.
Nowadays, the Internet provides us with an infinite number of games, songs, rhymes, and other fun ESL activities, but one often doesn't find ''the head and the tail'', or in other words, where to start and where to finish preschool lesson themes.
ESL Games For Kids
English games for kids are so much fun!
In some kindergartens where non-native speakers learn English, children are usually divided into two groups: those aged 3-4 have a different syllabus and different (but similar) teaching methods and ESL activities than those who are ages 5-6.
Teaching ESL in kindergarten to 3- and 4-year-olds is restricted to action-based activities, playing games, singing and dancing; with 5- and 6-year-olds the methodology of teaching English as a foreign language is extended by using storytelling, role play, and dramatization techniques. Play and interactive preschool lesson themes and fun ESL activities are the basic tool for second language learning, and grammar and vocabulary development in both groups.
Teaching Materials Used for Preschool ESL Activities
There is a great number of pre-school teaching materials for teachers to use and apply on preschool ESL activities. This is the part in which the teacher's creativity is most visible and most important. Children like to see all different kinds of visuals: posters, flashcards, pictures, videos, picture books, pictionaries or picture dictionaries for children etc.
The best is to combine hand-made materials with factory manufactured materials. Children like to be engaged in practical, fun activities and exercises for kids, and participate in making things like Christmas postcards or paper airplanes, ships, etc.
ESL Activities and Teaching Methods
Still, keep in mind that it takes a lot of time for the little ones to make things, therefore, the method of practical works is more appropriate for seasonal, festivity and birthday themes.
As a parent or teacher, you will notice that children tend to conversate and make funny jokes in their mother tongue while making things, so be careful not to waste time forgetting that you are in the middle of an English class.
Methods of drawing and conversation are very effective; you teach new vocabulary by showing pictures, flashcards or other visuals, by talking about given topics (try to use English as much as possible) and the children are learning by listening, looking at pictures, drawing, colouring and eventually talking. Free colouring pages and worksheets with numbers or alphabet letters, connecting dots, animals, seasons, etc. can be found on the web (type in colouring pages into the search engine search box).
Fun Preschool ESL Activities—Total Physical Response (TPR)
TPR imperatives in teaching English as a second language in kindergarten or ELL environment are seen as an important second language learning method (or, according to some linguists, approach).
TPR is one of the most important teaching approaches which can be adapted to a various number of teaching situations, and children really have fun doing it. It helps to practise vocabulary connected with actions, tenses, imperatives and instructions, classroom language and even storytelling. It can be combined with the techniques of singing and dancing; English songs and nursery rhymes for pre-schoolers should be included in almost every theme.
ESL activities in Kindergarten
Many parents and teachers wonder what preschool lesson themes and English activities for kids would be most interesting to children learning English as a second language. The topics are pretty simple and universal in the early language learning syllabus; small kids will stay interested as long as you succeed in making ESL activities funny and understandable.
You should start your ESL lesson with English games for kids through which you can repeat previously learned vocabulary.
Note: Ask children to sit on the floor in the middle of the classroom and ask them to cover their eyes with their hands (and warn them not to peek!). Take an item, such as a plastic apple or pencil (or anything else), and hide it somewhere in the classroom. If you hid a red pencil, tell your early language learners to search for a red pencil (in the target language). Repeat the activity a few times using different objects.
Preschool Lesson Themes and ESL Activities
Hello! Good morning! Good afternoon! Good evening! Good night! Goodbye!
- You can practise saying hello and goodbye by knocking on wood and saying: ''Hello! Is there anybody home?'' and by waving your hand on saying ''Goodbye!''
- Play the "day and night" game (you can use this game to teaching them opposite words like morning/evening, summer/winter, big/small etc). Always explain why you are playing the game and introduce game rules. For example: "we sit down when we say evening because we are tired after a long day and we stand up when we say morning because then we get up from bed ready to live the day", etc.
Be careful that your intonation is musical because the words are then easier to remember!
Teach your early language learners 11 different colours: yellow, red, blue, green, orange, pink, black, white, grey, pink, purple. To teach colours you can use flashcards or simply different objects with different colours.
- Take coloured pencils and say the names of the colours. Then ask the children to repeat after you. (Remember there is lot of repetition in teaching English to small children).
- Take out the pencils and ask the children to speak out the names of colours, or take any other object, or colour flashcards for this ESL activity.
Numbers 1 – 20. First teach your early language learners to say the numbers up to 10, and once they've acquired them in the foreign language, teach them numbers from 10 to 20.
Use flashcards, write down the numbers on the board or find games with numbers on the Internet. If you use the cards with numbers turn them face down, ask the children to pull out the cards and then to guess the number on the card.
You can combine the numbers and colours by drawing on small pieces of paper or a big piece of paper (where you put all the numbers); perform an activity in which you call the children to come and colour the number by saying, for example: ''One is yellow. Two is red. Three is blue…etc.''
Remember to always demonstrate the ESL activities yourself before asking the children to repeat or continue.
Mother – Mum, Father – Dad, brother, sister, grandfather – grandpa, grandmother – grandma. Introduce the words baby and family into this word class.
- Use drawings/flashcards, talk about family, ask children the names of their parents, brothers, and sisters, ask them to draw their family on a piece of paper.
Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes Video
Introduce the word body.
- Stand up, point to the parts of the body that you are speaking out loud: hair, head, face, eyes, eyebrows, eyelashes, ears, cheeks, nose, mouth/lips, teeth, chin, neck, shoulders, arms/hands, fingers, belly, legs, knees, toes, back.
- Use TPR: Show me your head/shoulders…etc., or phrases followed by demonstration: I wash my hair/face/teeth…I brush my hair.
- Ask them to draw certain body parts that are easy to draw, use flashcards or draw on the board.
- Teach them to sing the popular English song ''Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.'' Make them sit down and point to these body parts while singing.
Old MacDonald Had a Farm song video
Teach your early language learners the names of domestic and wild animals using the usual materials and ESL activities. If you have animal figures or toys give them to your young learners and ask them to imitate animals sounds ( sounds made by animals the figure of which they hold in their hands). Make a list of animal sounds for yourself to decide which sounds (English verbs) you would like to introduce for play.
Use nursery rhymes on this topic and teach them children's animal songs such as "Old McDonald had a Farm." The song is about an old farmer who keeps different animals on his farm.
Home: House and Furniture
Roof, chimney, wall, window, door.
Bedroom, bathroom, living-room, kitchen.
- You can each them words like: bed, chair, table, curtains, basin, towel…etc. First teach them basic words and then expand the vocabulary by making associations with another word class.
- Remember: you shouldn't teach one unit per hour but always repeat previously taught vocabulary and you don't have to introduce all the words in one class at the same time.
- Introduce new words slowly and do a lot of repetition. Follow their rhythm and decide on your own when to move on, how long to repeat – you will sense this by playing games with them in which you can verify their memory status.
In the Kitchen: Food—Fruits and Vegetables
Teach these words slowly (it's a big word class). Use colouring pages, drawings, flashcards. Talk about specific topics – start a conversation to introduce any theme, for example, ask them what they like and don't like to eat and similar things. Of course, to introduce a theme using this very important method – conversation – you may use mother tongue, but always ask children to remember how we say "things" in English. In this word class you can also introduce the words: breakfast, lunch, dinner and verbs eat and drink.
Pick the words you would like to teach and combine them with the four seasons. Use the usual materials and/or the clothes that you and the kids are wearing at the time of lesson.
Weather and Celestial Bodies, Four Seasons
Sun, moon, cloud, rain, thunder, snow, snowflakes, stars.
Repeat the words night/day and parts of the day: morning, afternoon, evening.
Autumn, winter, spring, summer.
If the children don't know any of the words you teach them, teach them in their mother tongue first, then in English.
Use the usual material and activities (drawings, cards; drawing and colouring).
Teach them nursery rhymes such as "Rain, rain, go away, come again another day!"
With the word rain, introduce the word umbrella.
Give a blank piece of paper to the kids and ask them to draw these: sun, cloud, bird, tree, flower, ladybug, butterfly and similar.
Tell a simple riddle and ask for feedback:
''What's in the sky;
it's not a cloud,
it's not a bird,
but in winter and summertime, it keeps us warm?''
(The sun), or
''What is it that flies in
the air and
we know it's not a bird or a plane?''