- Keywords: Young learners
- Learner English level: Beginner and above
- Learner maturity: Children 3to 5 years
- Preparation time: 20to 30 minutes (an hour if you need to make flashcards)
- Activity time: 30 minutes
- Materials: Flashcards or realia for the chosen theme
There is a growing demand for teaching English to young children in preschools and kindergartens in Japan. Teachers with little or no experience are being asked to fill this need. Needless to say, teaching very young children is quite different from teaching teenagers and adults, and can be an intimidating task for those new to the job. It can be quite challenging to come up with a fun and effective way of introducing young children to the English language. The following is a template for planning simple and fun lessons for young children. The template is divided into six steps: Hello, Warm-up, Present, Play, Cool down, and Goodbye.
Step 1: Choose a theme and establish aims for the lesson. Colors, numbers, animals (domestic and wild), fruits, vegetables and other food items are good places to start.
Step 2: Besides the theme, choose a language focus. Examples might include simple questions and answers such as: What’s your name? How old are you? How many? What is it?
Step 1: Hello. Select a song to signal the beginning of class and focus the children’s attention on English time.
Step 2: Warm-up. Choose a lively song or activity to review previous lessons and burn off a little energy so children are ready to focus on the presentation of new material.
Step 3: Present. Present new vocabulary with flashcards, posters, or realia. Practice vocabulary through repetition drills. Present any language items such as question-answer patterns.
Step 4: Play. Plan an activity, such as a game or song, for playing in and with the language.
Step 5: Cool down. Use a song or story to signal the winding down time.
Step 6: Goodbye. Use a song to say goodbye.
Activities for the template
These activities work well with large groups.
- Command game: Give commands such as sit down, stand up, etc. Children follow commands.
- Flashcard handout drill: While drilling flashcards, hand out the cards to students and then ask for them back individually. For example, say Cat please, or Give me the cat card, please.
- Question/answer circle: Students walk in a circle to music. Periodically stop the music and ask a question to a couple of children standing near you.
- What do you see? Post flashcards around the room. Ask, “Children, children, what do you see?” The older children can answer, “I see a (brown) bear.” This is especially good when reading Eric Carle’s Brown Bear, Brown Bear.
- Touch game: A variation of Simon Says for colors, clothing themes, and body part themes. For example, say “Touch something red,” or “Touch your socks.”
- Slap mat: Duplicate your flashcards in a random pattern on a large sheet of paper (B4 or larger). Make one copy for every group of 4-6 children. Laminate the copy, if you can. The children touch the picture as you call it out.
- Musical numbers: March around the room in a circle to music. Stop the music and call out a number. Students form a group of that number.
- Flashcard hunt: Hide multiples of small copies of your flashcards around the room. Students find them and count the number of each object. (Careful! This can become a bit chaotic with large groups.)
- Stand up game: Make multiple mini-copies of each of your flashcards. Give one card to each child. Call out cards. Children holding that card should stand up and sit down quickly.
Your plan is finished in no time and easy to follow. The Appendix lists some resources for songs, flashcards, and activities. Good luck and, most importantly, have fun. If the kids see you having fun, they’ll have fun too.
- Carle, E., & Martin, B. Jr. (1995).Brown bear, brown bear. London: Puffin Books.
- Apricot’s Let’s Sing Together (music only version of most songs)
- OUP’s Let’s Chant Let’s Sing series (music only version of some songs)
- Wee Sing
- Song Birds
- MPI Best Selection Songs And Chants