My advice to those of you teaching 4-5 year olds

Discussion about teaching ESL to children

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My advice to those of you teaching 4-5 year olds

Unread post by MaryRose »

I’ve been teaching preschoolers aged 4-5 years for a couple of years now and this experience has helped me to come up with some ideas that work really well with my pupils. And my lessons are about 90 minutes long, so believe me I had to be really creative to develop the activities to keep such young kids’ interest for such a long time. I’ve always wanted to teach this age group (not exclusively, I have other students too, most of them YL though), but I know that some people feel a bit uneasy in the beginning and don’t know what to do with such young kids, so I decided to share some of my ideas and I hope some of you find them helpful. And please let me know how you’re getting on.

Obviously learning has to be based on real things they can see and touch and has to be lots of fun. You can create flashcards on any number of topics, by just GOOGLEing the words and finding the pictures (I know it takes time, but it’s worth it) and you can also create simple games using flashcards. Another great idea is to play Bingo and you can download ready made Bingo cards on many topics from

Action songs are really great too and my favourite ones are:
- If you’re Happy and you know it
- Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes
- Reach for the Sky
- The Finger band (musical instruments)
- Ten Little Fingers
- Where Is Thumbkin?
- Hockey Pockey
- Mulberry Bush (things we do in the morning + many other versions)

My pupils’ favourite games (that I created myself)
1. “Toys and numbers” (vocabulary: numbers + colours + animals or fruit and vegetables or whatever vocabulary item you’re teaching and can find toys for). Print numbers 1 to 10 on A5 or A4 sheets of paper, making each number a different colour. Ask children to arrange the numbers on the floor in the right order. Then ask (one child at a time or all of them at the same time, depending on ability) What colour is number 5? What colour is number 7? etc. Then ask one pupil at a time to come up to you and describe an animal (or just name an animal, again, depending on their level) and once the child guesses the animal, ask him or her to find it in the box with toys and put it on one of the numbers ex. Put the elephant on number 3. Put the horse on number 7, etc. Once each animal has been assigned a number, ask questions: What animal is on number 6? etc. You can also ask: What animal is between a cow and a pig, etc? My pupils love this game and are really good at it. You can obviously make any variations you want.
2. “2 chairs game” (vocabulary: actions + prepositions + animals). Put two chairs in front of the children (the chairs should preferably be of 2 different colours). Ask one child at a time to come up to you and first get him or her guess the animal and bring it to you as in the first game. Then tell the child where to put the animal: Put the penguin under the blue chair, etc. Then give him or her 5-10 commands using different actions and prepositions, be creative! Ex. Jump around the yellow chair! Stand between the chairs! Take the penguin and put it behind the blue chair! (you have to preteach this vocabulary, but this is a great way to practice it and kids love helping each other perform the actions).
3. “Body parts game” Ask two kids to come up to you and say “the nose for you Martina” and “the elbow for you Adelia” and the children are supposed to touch each other with the named body parts, there’re so many possible combinations and they have so much fun
4. “Guess your classmate” Ask a child to come up to you and describe one of the other children’s clothes and he or she has to guess who you’re talking about.

When I work with kindergarten kids who I need to start teaching reading, I use the Phonics method, which works really well and you can find lots of great worksheets on website (there’re many other great worksheets on it too, not just phonics)

My final advice, if anyone is still reading, is to be enthusiastic and creative and try to have good relationship with kids, if they like you, they’ll be happy to do the activities you offer them.

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Unread post by ForumAngel »

Great job Masha!

Here are some tips to include with your own, and there is a free story you can use too.

More Tips:
Preschool children have small attention spans so change your activities every five minutes or so because if they go longer than that, they'll start getting restless and you'll spend more time trying to keep their attention than actually doing the activity.

Teach a small amount of language in any given session. For this age group, try to introduce three words at a time and then add to the list as you see the children understand the meaning of the words you've already introduced.

Engage the children on multiple levels. This includes using fine and large motor movement, singing, talking, listening and looking. For example, you could have a game where the children need to move around the room to stand next to a picture or object of the word they heard you say.

Competition in the preschool classroom causes undo stress on the children. Avoid playing games or doing activities that have winners and losers. Either have the class work together to "win" as a group or do not distinguish between winning and losing. On the same note, be sure to be supportive and encouraging to all of the learners in your class.

Preschool children can get very excitable so vary excitable games with quiet ones to balance out the energy level in the classroom.

Preschoolers are very visual. Bring in real objects whenever possible. When it is not possible, find colourful and vivid pictures.

Preschooler children usually are not yet reading and writing (at least not to large extent) in their own language, so don't expect them to do it in a second language. At this age, you can expect them to listen and understand first. After a while, they will begin speaking individual words and short phrases.

Themes work well in the preschool classroom. Focus your vocabulary learning on groups of similar types of words such as foods, colours, numbers, animals, families and body parts. You can work in short phrases that are relevant to your theme.

Be well prepared, plan more than you think you will use and move seamlessly from one game or activity to another. Use colouring or similar quiet activities when the children need some downtime.

Repeat, review and revise. You need to frequently review the vocabulary that you've previously taught them or they will quickly forget it.

If you have a particularly naughty or rough student in the class, keep him or her close to you. Ask him or her to be your special helper and be sure to give a lot of praise when you see him or her behaving appropriately.

Free story:
You can sign up for this, no charge, with your name and email address for a free mini-series of games and an illustrated story to use in the ESL / EFL classroom.

I hope you enjoy it too!

Kind regards
Shelley Vernon for 6 to 12 year olds
and for more stories: ... tories.htm
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Re: My advice to those of you teaching 4-5 year olds

Unread post by giriffle »

I know it has been a very long time since these very helpful tips were posted...
Shelley provided a link teachingenglishgames but it errors... I am wondering if you could make it available again... if you are alerted to this post
Thank you so much
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