ESL Kids Teaching Points Tips
Alphabet Boxes. Here is a great class activity I came across recently called Alphabet Boxes: You need 26 tissue boxes or plastic tubs and various items to go with each letter (e.g. apple magnet for the letter A) & permanent marker. Write the upper and lower case letter on each wipe box, one letter of the alphabet for each box. Get your Ss to fill each box with items that begin with that letter. Some can even be pictures of items (this can be done slowly over a matter of weeks/months). Each class show the items to the children and pass them around, this captivates the children! One box is used at a time. You don't even have to fill all the boxes at once but fill them as you go through the year. This hands-on experience is a big hit!
Balloon Vocab. Using balloons is a good, fun alternative to using flashcards to review vocab. Draw the vocab pictures you want to review on different colored balloons. Show Ss the pictures and the S who gives the correct word gets to pad the balloon back to the teacher. Then, put the balloons in a line and T says to S1 a vocab word on one of the balloons. That S has to choose the correct balloon and either return it to the T or give it a big kick!
Big, Small / Long, Short. Here are a few visual aid ideas for teaching these adjectives: big/small - get some small plastic fruit (many toy shops such as 'Toys R Us' have them) and some realistic sized plastic fruit (some department stores have them, such as Tokyu Hands in Japan) to teach the sizes; long/short - use a long balloon and have the students stretch it to teach long/short (you can also use rubber bands). Long short pencils work well as well as comparing students' long/short hair.
Calendars. Have a big, colorful calendar on your classroom wall. At the beginning of each class have your Ss point out the correct date and tell you the day and date in English: "Today is Monday the 4th of August". Try doing this quick activity each class.
Classroom Races. Races are a fun way to teach a lot of different action verbs and adjectives/adverbs. Line the students up and tell them the action they have to do during the race and then shout go. Actions include: giant strides, little steps, run backwards, skip, jump, hop, crawl like a crab/baby, hop like a rabbit/frog, fly like a bird, walk quickly/slowly and so on.
Drink Requests. Bring a small bottle of orange juice to class. At some point during the lesson take out the bottle and have a sip. This will almost certainly cause a mini-riot of kids asking for some. Here's an ideal opportunity to teach "Can I have some juice, please?". Say this sentence to the first S and get him/her to repeat it - only give him/her some if the sentence is said correctly. Bring juice along every week, and before long your Ss will be requesting a drink in prefect English! (If you don't want your Ss to be drinking out of the same bottle as you bring along a few plastic cups).
Glitter. Kids just love using glitter with their drawings - it can really liven up a picture. By using a glue stick students can draw shapes and objects, sprinkle glitter over the glue and then lift up the picture so the unwanted glitter falls off. Some glitter usage examples: Weather pictures (yellow glitter sun, blue glitter rain, rainbow glitter!), stars and moon, Christmas pictures, glitter face pictures, glittery Easter eggs, glitter snow scenes (glue figures to the inside of a jar lid, put water and glitter into a jar, close the lid and shake), etc.
Numbers Snap. This is a very simple but effective card game for practicing numbers 1-10. Kids love playing with playing cards. Take a pack of cards to class and teach 'king', 'queen', 'jack' and 'ace'. Deal out the cards and play "Snap". As students lay down their cards they must say the number. The student to lose all his/her cards is the winner!
Paper Plate Faces. Paper plates are great for drawing faces on (to teach nose, eyes, hair, ears, mouth, hair, eyebrow, eyelashes, cheeks, moustache, beard, chin and so on). You can get really creative too - use string for hair, paints, play doh for noses, etc. Click here for an example. Stick popsicle sticks on the bottom of the plates so children can hold the faces up and play out conversations between the plate characters. Emotions can also be draw (happy, sad, angry, sleepy, excited, surprised, etc.) and then used in touch games.
Question Review Activity. Spin the bottle is a great way to review and practice 'wh' and 'yes/no' questions and answers. Sit Ss in a circle with a bottle in the middle. T Spins the bottle. When it stops spinning the S it is pointing to has to answer a question. If the answer is correct then that S can spin the bottle. This is also a good class warm up activity.
Seeing & Doing. "I hear and I forget; I see and I remember; I do and I understand" (Ancient Chinese Proverb). I think this proverb applies so well to teaching children. Here's a simple example. Hearing: if you come across a new word in a text, say 'strawberry', you can explain it or translate it into the children's L1. Chances are they'll have forgotten the word the following week. Seeing: but drawing a picture, showing a flashcard or even better showing an actual strawberry will help reinforce the new word. Doing: By pretending to eat or actually tasting a strawberry Ss can discuss if they like it or not and this really allows for a full understanding of the object. Preparation is a key factor here.
Sock Puppet Dialogs. Learning and acting out dialogs can be dull, embarrassing and sometimes seem pointless in a young learners classroom. However, dialogs can be a lot of fun with simple sock puppets. Students can act out skits with them (for example, based on a story they read in class) and use them to ask other students' sock puppets all kinds of questions. Students can even make the puppets in class - see here for instructions.
Taste teaching. Children learn easiest when using all their senses. Taste is one sense that children love to use. For teaching fruit and vegetables cut the food items into tiny cubes so it is difficult to tell what they are. Then have the children taste the pieces and try and guess what they are.
Teaching the Alphabet. There are many ways to teach the alphabet and all Ts develop their own style over time. Here is a basic outline of steps you can follow when introducing a new letter: 1. Hold up an alphabet letter flashcard so all Ss can see it. 2. Chorus the letter 3 to 5 times. Then ask each S individually to say the letter. 3. Teach the sound of the letter (e.g. "A is for 'ah' ... ah - ah - ah"). Chorus again and check individually. 4. Provide an example of an object that begins with the letter - double-sided flashcards with the letter on one side and a picture on the other are great for this. e.g. "What's this?" (elicit "A"). "And A is for...?" (elicit "ah"). "And 'ah' is for ... (turning the card over) "apple!". Chorus the word and check individually. 5. Do a final check (T: "What's this?", Ss: "A", T: "And 'A' is for...?", Ss: "ah", T: "And 'ah' is for...?" Ss: "Apple!"). These steps can be followed by 'magic finger', 'pass it', 'find it', 'slow motion' or any other alphabet game (see our games section for details). Also, the 'ABC song is a nice way to start and finish the alphabet segment of your lesson.
Teaching Clothes (Pt 1). When teaching clothes vocabulary it's great fun to bring in a big bad of old (but clean!) adult sized clothes as kids just love to play dress up. Put the bag in the middle of the room and shout "Put on a T-shirt!" and your Ss have to race to the bag, pull out a T-shirt each and put it on. Continue with all the other clothing vocabulary you are teaching.
Teaching Clothes (Pt 2). Another fun thing to do for teaching clothes vocabulary is to bring in teddies, dolls or action characters that have their own clothes. You can then play dress up with your Ss whilst eliciting the clothes vocab.
Teaching Clothes (Pt 3). Pick up some clothing catalogs and bring them to class. Have your Ss look through them and cut out and paste clothing pictures onto construction paper.
Teaching Days of the Week. Get a big calendar and use it to elicit/teach the days of the week. Follow up with some games: 1. clapping and chanting the days in order (speeding up each round), 2. march around the classroom chanting the days, 3. speed rounds (who can run through the days of the week the fastest?), 4. pass a ball around - as each S receives the ball s/he must say the next day (if s/he makes a mistake s/he is out of the round), 5. write each day on a large sheets of paper, stick the sheets around the classroom walls and have all Ss stand in the center of the room. T shouts out week days and Ss race to touch the relevant sheet. 6. Then have the Ss put the days of the week in order - give each S one of the sheets and get them to line up Sun through to Sat.
Teaching Likes/Dislikes to 5 year olds. I was hoping to teach yes/no questions: E.g. "Do you like chocolate?" "Yes, I do / No, I don't". However, for the 5 year olds the answers proved a little complicated. I changed the answers to "Yes, yummy!" and "No, yuk!". This went over much better and they now love shouting out "yummy" and "yuk" to food flashcards. The yes/no answers can be taught at a later date.
Teaching Months: Here's an activity I use for teaching the months of the year called 'Months March'. You'll need a fairly long classroom with space for everyone to march up and down. T stands at one end of the room against the left wall. Line the Ss up along side the T and T says "Go!". As you all march together, T starts calling out the months in order ("January", " February", etc.). Ss repeat each month (T:"January" Ss:"January"). March along at a slow pace, but smartly (backs straight, arms swinging). At certain points T suddenly shouts "Stop!". Everyone must stop and be EXACTLY in line with the T. If someone is out of line order them back in line and then continue marching where you left off. Turn around each time you reach the end of the room and continue the march. Once finished start again, but this time walk briskly. You can do it the final time running! This is even more fun when there are tables, etc, in the room that the Ss need to climb over/under. After a few lessons you shouldn't have to chorus the words - just get the students to chant together as they march. My students LOVE this activity and request it every week!
The Stupid Teacher. Discussed by Lutz (Balls, Balloons & Bubbles, 2001) and used by many kids teachers, the 'Stupid Teacher' technique allows children to show off their recently acquired knowledge. Kids love to show you how smart they are and by making mistakes kids will quickly jump in to correct the teacher. Say the wrong word for a flashcard, hold objects upside down, get your colors and adjectives wrong, put your socks on your hands, try to blow up balloons with your ears - all these mistakes will encourage your students to teach you to do it right!
Toy Time. Kids love exploring the world through play and including a toy playing time in your lesson will give your young learners freedom in their English learning experience. Use large tubs or boxes to hold the toys and bring them out for a few minutes each lesson. Tubs filled with animals, plastic fruit, building blocks, kitchen sets, plastic food, cars & vehicles, Mr. Potato Head dolls and so on can be used. Encourage the students to ask you for the toy they want to play with, circulate during the play time and ask students questions about their toys and at the end play the "Give Me" game (T: "Please give me the red car" and the student with the red car returns it to the teacher).