Young children, especially pre-schoolers can’t yet read or write so it’s important to find ways of introducing and practicing new vocabulary in an ESL classroom using methods that don’t involve reading or writing.
So what can a teacher utilize?
Exciting children and capturing their attention is key and I often bring to class real objects and costumes from home for children to touch and smell or play with- stimulating all their senses. But carrying props to and from class can sometimes be impractical – as an alternative flashcards work well.
Flashcards are simple, colourful drawings or photos that help children, of any age or language level, visually understand the meaning of the word it represents. They can be bought or easily printed and laminated and can be used to accompany games, stories and songs.
How to use flashcards to teach English?
Avoid using flashcards mechanically by simply holding them in front of the class and repeating the word over and over in a parrot fashion. This is an out-dated method used years ago and in my opinion makes learning very boring and unproductive.
Do use flashcards creatively and actively. Here is an example of a simple flashcard game, one that I have successfully played even with children as young as 2 years of age.
A flashcard movement game to introduce colours.
Age group: 2+
Time: 7 mins
Aims: To introduce colours: Red, Yellow and Green.
Start by asking the children to pretend driving an imaginary car around the space for a minute or two manoeuvring the steering wheel and honking an imaginary horn “BEEP; BEEP”!
Then explain that they are going to play a game called “Traffic Light”. The teacher holds up a different colour flashcard (red , yellow or green) and the children have to react and drive their “cars” around the space accordingly.
Holding up a green flashcard indicates the children to GO (they pretend to drive fast around the space).
Holding up a yellow flashcard indicates the children to drive SLOWLY ( they pretend to drive slowly or crawl on all fours around the space )
Holding up a red flashcard indicates the children to STOP (the children stop still and freeze)
Repeat and practice a few times chopping and changing different colour flashcards.
As an extra activity choose a child to become the “traffic controller” and holds up and calls out the different colour flashcards.
Flashcard resources – a useful website to select and print your own flashcards.
It’s amazing how songs just stick in our minds even after years and years.
Music is an incredible language tool because it helps children practice and memorize language in such a natural way that they don’t even realize that they’re learning and repeating new vocabulary, grammar or pronunciation, they’re simply carried away having fun in singing a song.
The question is what song do you teach and how do you teach it?
Your first lesson teaching children English using Theatre is an important one because it’s where you present yourself for the first time and depending on that first impression will determine if students decide to enrol in your courses or not. It’s really a make or break situation.
So how do you initially break the ice with young children and prepare them for a fun filled lesson of language learning?
An adapted version of “10 Green Bottles sitting on the Wall” for ESL pre-schoolers. This is a fun and simple song to introduce numbers 1-5 and provides lots of vocabulary practice (frog, green, log, jump, splash).
I bring along to class some frog masks for the children to wear and act out the song themselves. They have great fun jumping and splashing in a pretend pond.
1 DAY TEACHING COURSE FOR NURSERY & PRIMARY TEACHERS
Teatro Puccini Via delle Cascine, 41 50144 Florence, Italy
This course is specially designed for Nursery and Primary School teachers in Italy and offers a unique “English Language Drama Training” experience, which will equip teachers to be more confident, effective and actively engaging in the classroom.
Acting and theatre activities help children of all ages focus and concentrate their energies and improve their language communication skills. This course provides practical examples of how to incorporate animatedly and creatively language games, songs, stories and role-play activities into the classroom. Children (and teachers) learn by doing and HAVING FUN!
Course programme :
Creative Drama and role-play activities for young learners
Chants, rhymes and songs (using music effectively in the classroom)
Storytelling with Puppets, Masks, Costume and authentic materials
How to teach and engage young learners using TPR (Total Physical Response)
Classroom management skills; appropriate language for the classroom
Building confidence teaching in English
The course is presented by Miranda Fynn Legge, a native English speaker, professional actress (graduate from The Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London) and accredited English language teacher – Certificate CELTA (Cambridge University, England). Miranda has been teaching English through Drama to young learners, adults and teachers in Italy for over 25 years. Miranda also is the founder of the Teatro Inglese method. “Children have many years of learning ahead of them and I believe that if their first experience of English is pleasurable, motivating and fun, they will have a positive attitude towards it for the rest of their lives.”
During the one day course Miranda will share her teaching experience and introduce creative and practical ideas for the following key language themes Colours, The Body, Animals, Clothes, My House, Food, Weather, Time, Days of the week. All participants will be encouraged to “actively” take part.
In the afternoon participants will be encouraged to practice their new skills by presenting a simple activity. As a group we will discuss their effectiveness based on their creativity, involvement and enjoyment from a young learners perspective and how each activity can be adapted to different levels. Miranda will also offer individual tips and suggestions for follow up activities and lesson plans.
Certification awarded: Attendance certificate detailing topics covered, course content and the number of training hours.
I had a fantastic time earlier in December “EAL Teacher Training” Nursery and Primary school teachers in Pontedera near Pisa in Italy.
The teachers were all very welcoming and demonstrated such enthusiasm and dedication to their work . It was a thoroughly rewarding experience for me. We danced and sang all afternoon whilst I also tried to share some of my teaching experience in EAL/EFL storytelling and drama technique. A big thank you to all the teachers and organisers of the event and I hope to see you all again soon and carry on where we left off.
Here are a few pics of myself with Italian Nursery and Primary School teachers.
I have been invited to take part in presenting a teacher training workshop for Italian Nursery and Primary School teachers this Friday 14th December in Pontedera (Pisa). I am very excited about meeting everyone and exchanging ideas, methods and experience with other fellow ESL teachers based here in Italy. I will keep you posted on how it goes.
Welcome back! I hope you all had a great summer break. I thought you might be interested in a fun and simple warm up game to start off the new term. I often use this “ice-breaker” with new classes as it not only familiarizes children with the different parts of the body but it also encourages them to jump around to music and overcome any initial embarrassment or shyness they may have in relating to a new group.
Age group: 3+ (ideal also with adults)
Time: 5 min
Aims: To introduce and practice body vocabulary e.g nose, ears, back, knees, hands, shoulders etc:
This game should be played in pairs. You will need some lively music to play. Ask the children to stand back to back and tell them, or better still demonstrate to them that they are “superglued” together and they must dance and move to the music without ever becoming “unstuck” from their partner. Call out different body parts that the children must “stick” to using their partner for example:
– Bottoms/ Backside
Continue suggesting different body parts, the faster the teacher changes words, the more hilarious the children find the game.
Puppetry is an ancient form of theatre originating back thousands of years. It is as popular with children today as it was in the past. Look at the Muppets, for example. Who doesn’t adore Kermit the frog or Miss Piggy?
Puppets are magical and entertaining characters and bring about positive responses from both young and and this makes them invaluable language resources for teachers.
Young children are naturally intrigued by puppets as their eyes immediately light up when they meet one. They believe they are real and connect with them in a unique way that they do not with adults. They also encourage even the shyest of children to participate in playing games or correcting the funny mistakes the puppet makes.
To use puppets to teach English, you do not need to be a ventriloquist or expert in puppetry, I am definitely not! You may even feel silly imitating voices but by following a few simple tips and a little practice in front of a mirror you will discover how to find your “own voice” to help your puppets and stories come to life and interact with children successfully.
Choosing a puppet
I often use a variety of puppets and masks in class to compliment and bring to life stories, songs and games and finger or sock puppets are ideal for tiny hands to play “let’s pretend” or sing with.
But for more specific, guided activities I recommend choosing a special teacher’s puppet that can visit the class on a regular basis and assist in teaching the children. I keep my teacher’s puppet separately in a cupboard and only I have access to it so the children only see the puppet “alive” and identify it as my English teaching assistant/friend and not simply a toy.
Large character/signing puppets make ideal teacher’s puppets. They have a full working mouth and glove hand which is useful to wave, shake hands, point and pick up objects or flashcards. Character puppets are very expressive and naturally energetic puppets and ideal for older children, but be aware that young children often believe they really are alive and can sometimes be little intimidated by them or get upset. In these cases I have an English friend in the form of a puppet who makes regular visits to my classroom. His name is Toby, he is a shy furry turtle who doesn’t speak the children’s native language, only English. The class welcome Toby with hugs and kisses and encourage him to appear from the safety of his shell by communicating with him in English with a simple “Hello Toby”, “Good morning Toby” or, “Wake up Toby!”.
8 Tips on using a “Character Puppet”
Puppet Identity – Give the puppet a name and some personal information that could interest the children and encourage them to get to know the puppet by asking it some simple questions.
What’s your name?
Where are you from?
How old are you?
Do you have any brothers or sisters?
What’s your favourite colour/food/music?
Puppet Photo Album –
Take photos or videos of the puppet to show the children or send them a postcard if the puppet goes on holiday. Examples can be: around town, in the bathroom, in the garden, making dinner. Use the photo album as a lead in exercise to finding out more information about the puppet and it’s environment. For example what the puppet likes to eat. Encourage the children to ask it questions.
Do you like carrots?
Do you like ice-cream?
Do you like tomatoes?
What’s your favourite dessert?
The puppet doesn’t necessarily have to answer by speaking if the teacher doesn’t feel comfortable giving it a voice. It can communicate by whispering in the teacher’s ear and the teacher then communicates to the class what the puppet has said.
Often actions and sounds can speak louder than words so, as an alternative, let the puppet answer positively by jumping up and down excitedly and making funny appreciative noises or negatively by shaking it’s head or pretending to be sick. This makes the children laugh.
Fruit Basket – Children are often very inquisitive about puppets and they especially like opening and putting their fingers in puppet’s mouths or feeding them objects. A good idea is to bring to class some “food props” (either real or plastic) for the children to identify and feed the puppet. Sometimes the puppet could get carried away and pretend to eat a child’s hand or nibble their nose which children love.
A sensitive puppet – Remember to approach young children gently with character puppets as some children can become scared especially if the puppet reacts abruptly or is over excited. In these cases try withdrawing the puppet, make it reflect the child’s shyness or simply take the focus away from the child and onto something or someone else. Don’t ever force the child to interact with the puppet if you see they are unwilling.
Storytelling puppet – Let the puppet assist the teacher in reading a story in class. The puppet can simply turn the pages of the book or help give out props or masks to the children to aid their understanding of the story. For the more adventurous teachers, the puppet can be dressed in a costume and interpret the main character of the story. Eric Carle’s book Brown Bear for example, lends itself very well to using a brown bear glove puppet. I usually give the puppet a gruff voice and a pair of toy binoculars as a prop and my class helps by interpreting the animal characters in the story by wearing paper masks.
An Active Puppet – It is very important that the children always see the puppet animated from start to end. I usually set up my character puppet outside the classroom before the beginning of the lesson so the children don’t see the puppet being taken out of an old box or cupboard. I announce that a very special English guest is coming to class, this secures the children’s’ attention and creates some buzz and curiosity. The puppet can then make a theatrical entrance wearing a costume or carrying a suitcase full of props or photos to show and engage the children. At the end of each activity don’t just discard the puppet without care but let it either say goodbye and leave the room or go back into his house still alive. An alternative is to make a little bed or suitcase for him where he can sleep and the children can tuck him in and say “goodnight”.
Over use – Try not to drag out activities too long or over use the puppet as it can lose it’s novelty and magic. Try and alternate finger puppets, glove puppets and character puppets each week and keep each activity to maximum 10 minutes.
Operating the puppet
Most children are happy to suspend their disbelief and won’t mention the fact that the teacher is operating the puppet but some children do so be prepared for the some children to mention very loudly “It’s not real, I can see your arm moving the puppet!”. I personally don’t try and cover this obvious fact up but rather prefer to simply say: “Yes I am helping Toby to move and speak”. Children are usually satisfied with that answer and happy to carry on interacting with the puppet regardless.
Choose the puppet you feel most comfortable with, play and enjoy!