Speaking games for students who can't read

Discussion about teaching ESL to children

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Speaking games for students who can't read

Unread post by pokedmund » 16 Aug 2011, 15:33

Dear all,

How to improve English speaking for 7-10 year olds


Any English speaking games that don't involve reading?

I teach in Hong Kong and I have to play my speaking/oral lessons for students.

2-5 year olds - I have no problems. I sing, I dance, I describe things for them to draw, they play in English, it's fun. I even do arts and craft (although I can't draw to save my life, the kids love it!)

Problem - I have classes for older students (7-10 years old). The girls have very good reading skills and so do 1 or 2 of the boys.

But amongst the class, I have some boys who can't read (or can phonetically sound out words, but don't understand the meaning).

I'm not able to separate the students because their schedules clash with other extracurriculum activities.

I can physically see some of my boy students cower when there is a small amount of text to read (for example, a sentence said "A cat in a hat" and I tried to concept check the meaning of the sentence. Some of my students didn't understand or couldn't read this sentence).

The parents refuse to take up reading classes, so I'm stuck with continuing the speaking lessons for them. I've tried games such as noughts and crosses (although one of my students struggled to understand the concept, even when another student explained the rules to him in their native language), matching pairs, spot the difference, pointing and naming things, simon says (although, they groaned and said it was immature in their native language), I spy...

I've even had one of the boys, week in and week out, not being able to say "Candy". For the past few months, I've always told him before and after class that it's "Candy" before giving it to him. He still always says "Kinder", even now.

I've been reading very short and simple stories to the children (some of which are from their native Hong Kong tales), and asking them simple questions about it "who was the animal?" "What did the animal eat?" etc, etc.

They even get a copy of the short story/poem to take home to read. (it's about 16 sentences long, 20-30 words, using simple words like cat/hat/mat/am/jam/ram etc,etc) ... but whether their parents read it to them is another story...

Does anyone else have any game ideas, where there is lots of speaking? and it requires no reading whatsoever?

OR ... should I just keep plugging away and hope that the children start to pick up the English language.

Sorry for the long rant, I've had mixed success with my lessons and just feel that I need some extra ideas to help my weaker students.

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Re: Speaking games for students who can't read

Unread post by susanxz » 11 Oct 2011, 08:51

Hi there

I'm in China. I can really feel your troubles. That's true.
Schools usually put students of different level into the same class. So when teachers have this mix-leveled class, they often couldn't take care of all the students in the class.
I taught this kind of class many times. Finally, it's so hard to keep an eye on every student. So I focus on the middle levels, try to give more to the higher levels, and seperate a little time to the lower levels. Different level different requirements.

After the class, I would give the lower level a special care.

Don't expect them to improve fast. If only they are improving, that's ok.

For games. I use visual aids, pictures, music, video. Teaching little kids is really exhausting. If I'm not happy, my stuents won't be happy. If I don't dance, they would not move.

Hope this would help a little.


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Re: Speaking games for students who can't read

Unread post by pokedmund » 01 Nov 2011, 15:49

Thanks Susan,

The solution in the end unfortunately was to cut the class. The 6-7 year olds didn't think dancing, singing "five little monkeys" etc was cool (which is understandable). Plus, they don't see any reason to pick up English and would rather speak Cantonese or Mandarin.

And when their parents are telling me to hit their kids if they don't speak English? ... I think it's time to end the class there.

So now I'm left with a nice big class of 4-5 years olds where I sing, dance and play games, and another smaller class of 7-8 year olds, practicing different verbs and how to use them in different scenarios.

It seems harsh on my side that I gave up on that class after 6 months, but I feel a great weight has been lifted off my shoulders.

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Re: Speaking games for students who can't read

Unread post by JustinEng » 27 Mar 2013, 11:42

If I were you, I'd try using some verb + noun groups with Total Physical Response (TPR) playing a kind of 'Simon Says'. And for the first half of the game, you have the collocations written of the board, and then start erasing them one by one.
This helps your readers and non-readers alike with something fun, visual, audio and kinaesthetic. An extension could be for your learners to rewrite the collocations on the board after the game, or perhaps test them and ask them to write down as many as they can remember.
Don't worry. They will link the actions together with the sounds and the written form. It has worked very well for me in the past.
Good luck

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