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15 fun sit down activities for pre-school classes

Although movement and fun are two important elements you should try to put into every kindergarten English class, sometimes you will need sit down activities like these below to calm students down, regain discipline and/ or let the teacher get his or her energy back. These activities are also useful for kindergartens where the policy […]

Although movement and fun are two important elements you should try to put into every kindergarten English class, sometimes you will need sit down activities like these below to calm students down, regain discipline and/ or let the teacher get his or her energy back. These activities are also useful for kindergartens where the policy is not to allow too much noise or bad behaviour, for classrooms where moving around too much and making too much noise are impractical, and for kids that tend to get overexcited. As you will see, such activities don’t have to be boring:

1. Stories
If possible, get students sitting down on the floor in a corner with the teacher on a low chair, making sure everyone can see. Being in this position will calm them down but make them more relaxed than being sat on chairs. Get students involved in the story and producing language by guessing what is coming up, identifying things on the page and answering questions. You can adapt storybooks for restless students and move into the next more active stage by getting students to mime the actions and other things they see in the book or by doing an action song related to the vocabulary in the book right after the book at the midpoint. Pop up books and opening the pages very slowly to get a feeling of anticipation also add fun.

2. Sit down actions
Most actions are easily adaptable to sitting down, e.g. putting your hands on your head and just bobbing up and down rather than jumping for “rabbit”. These can then later be done standing up when the kids get restless or as a link into the next activity. Another possibility is for kids to do the action pretending that their right hand is a person, e.g. their hand swooping from left to right for “fly”. Doing the actions with a puppet or plastic animal is fun, as is using making something they have made themselves move around.

3. Sit down action songs
Some action songs are already made for sitting down, e.g. when the actions are done with the hands as in “Incy Wincy Spider”. Other songs need a bit of imagination to adapt, e.g. whirling your hands above your head for the chorus of “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush” rather than standing in a big circle.

4. Guess the flashcard/ realia
Students can guess what you are holding as you flash it quickly past them, reveal it slowly, give hints on what it is or show what it is through a semi-transparent bag.

5. Mazes
Photocopies with mazes on can be used to make any kind of joining things up activity more interesting, e.g. finding that the line through the maze joins up “A” and “apple”. Alternatively, they can be designed more carefully so that when the line through the maze is drawn its shape represents something, e.g. is the shape of a number 2.

6. Colouring
This most popular of pen and paper activities can be made more exciting and useful for language practice by chanting instructions (e.g. “Colour the bus green, colour the bus green, colour colour colour colour, colour the bus green”) faster and faster, congratulating each student as they finish, getting them to request each crayon etc that they need, asking them to guess what the colour of each object on the page should be before you give them instructions, using codes such as “one = blue”, and using colouring sheets where the students only find out what it represents after they finish colouring it in.

7. Join the dots
This activity also needs some adaption to make it useful and fun for EFL learners. Possibilities include joining the letters of the alphabet in order rather than numbers, using the numbers written out as words rather than figures, and getting them to guess what the picture will be before they start drawing.

8. Scissor work
If your children are already capable of using scissors or are ready to start learning, this can add a bit of variety when colouring and using a pencil are getting stale. The secret of a good worksheet when you first start cutting out is that it should also include colouring (usually done before cutting), that it can be easily patched back together if they cut off the wrong bits, that it can be cut without them needing to turn any corners (e.g. just cutting off the corners to make the shell of a tortoise), and that the finished product should be able to be used in some way that ties in with the other stages of the lesson, e.g. cutting out a rabbit whose ears flop around as the students make it jump up and down.

9. Folding and sticking
As an alternative to scissor work, e.g. if the kids aren’t ready for it yet or need a change, you can get them to just fold and stick paper to make particular shapes and objects, e.g. a telescope shape to look at the objects the teacher shouts out through.

10. Passing/ catching
Start with just one ball, piece of plastic fruit or puppet being passed round the class practicing “Here you are”, “Thank you”. As the lesson and weeks go by, increase the number of objects being passed or thrown and the difficulty of the questions, e.g. “What’s this?”, “What colour is it?” or “How many (grapes) are there?” Ending the activity by handing out more and more objects until each student is getting two or more at the same time always increases the fun.

11. Personal questions
Making “What’s your name?” fun is always a challenge. Possibilities include passing or throwing things as described above, one person at the front spinning round and pointing at the person who will answer the question, giving students numbers and throwing a dice, picking out magnetic letters and asking students with that name, and answering questions with the role of a puppet or book character.

12. Drilling
This is another one that sounds dull but can be loads of fun. You can get the students to say the word quietly, loudly, quickly, slowly, repeatedly, with exaggerated stress, and with particular emotions such as anger and fear. You can also say each piece of vocabulary in a particular way to make it more fun and memorable, e.g. always saying lion as “liiiiiiiion” with a roaring sound and your mouth opened really wide.

13. Slap
Perhaps the most lively, active thing students can do sitting down is race to slap their palms down on the card that the teacher says. Variations to make it even more interesting include doing it with the cards turned over, turning over the cards and then mixing them up, only allowing them to slap with particular parts of their body (e.g. “left elbow”), and naming cards that are not there to confuse them.

14. Memory games
This can be slap (see above) with cards turned over, remembering what colours things are (or how many, positions of objects etc.) on a flashcard, remembering similar things about the classroom with their eyes closed, remembering the teacher’s age and other personal details, Kim’s game (noticing what objects have been changed or removed), or putting some cards or magnetic letters back into their original order. As kindergarten kids get older they start to love this kind of mental challenge, especially some of the children who don’t stand out in more noisy and boisterous games.

15. Be the teacher
You can add variety to almost any sit down game by letting the students take the teacher’s role, e.g. one student names the card that the others must slap. This can also help with increasing student speaking, working your way towards pairwork, taking a student that always wins out of the game to give everyone else a chance, using an attention seeker in a useful way and giving each child some personal attention. This is particularly good when parents are observing, as long as every student gets the chance to shine at something.

Written by Alex Case for TEFL.net June 2008
Alex Case is the author of TEFLtastic.

One Comment

  • Carella DeVol says:

    I teach four-year olds, 13 of them. At the end of the day we sit, lined up against the outside wall of our classroom waiting for children to be picked up by parents. We are inside of a building, not on the cement outside. Wait time is 15 minutes.
    I have been reading books to the children. However,
    your passing/catching suggestion sparked an idea. I love to do “something different” and I am excited to try it.
    Thanks for your suggestions.

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TEFL.net : ESL Lesson Plans : Classroom Ideas : Young Learners : 15 fun sit down activities for pre-school classes