My Top 5 ESL Kindergarten Activities

My first month as a kindergarten ESL teacher was the most terrifying, dread inducing and painful of my teaching career. Having never taught anyone under the age of 12 before, I was thrown into the deep end, teaching 5 and 6 year olds who had never even picked up a pen (in Turkey children will generally not learn to write until at least the First Grade). The tears, the snot, the toilet problems, the over familiarity. I was awash in a sea of screaming children without a paddle.

And then. There was the eureka moment. The moment when I stopped worrying about having total order in the classroom, when I stopped taking it personally when an activity didn’t go to plan. When I stopped stressing out so much and just went with the flow.  Young children cannot concentrate for more than five minutes. It is not natural for them to sit still on a chair all day. They need to be entertained. They learn when they are having fun. I had to learn to stop caring what I looked like and let go. Get in there with the slapstick comedy, poke fun of myself. Pull funny faces, use silly voices.

And what do ya know? I went from dreading getting up in the morning, to loving it. To being happy to go to work. To look forward to seeing their lovely, snotty faces. Teaching kindergarten is one of the most rewarding jobs you could ever do. Not only are you helping to shape those little critters tiny, developing minds. The love, affection and appreciation you get back is something that depreciates the older the students get.

Unfortunately for me I am spending the last months of term teaching the older primary students due to teachers leaving the school. Going from being welcomed to the class with smiles and hugs to being greeted in the morning with yawns, groans and ‘teacher no’ is enough to have made me decide to teach kindergarten full time next year. Something I never thought I would say. EVER.

Anyway enough waffling, as I inferred no two kindergarten lessons are ever the same. Depending on the time of day, what they have had to eat, what lesson preceeded yours…. the list goes on. Sometimes some things work. Sometimes they don’t. This list is a general list of activities I adopted in my classroom as a fallback. That when things started to go awry, I would switch it up to these activities to get the class back in order.

courtesy of Literacy Connections

Courtesy of Literacy Connections

1. Flashcard hide and seek. This game is really simple and always effective. I hide roughly around 10 flashcards around the room either before the children have arrived or send them outside for a few minutes while I hide them around the classroom. When the children come into the room I say where are my…. (dependant on topic it could be family for instance or animals)…. I can’t find them!? They then have loads of fun looking for them. We count down each time one is found from 10 to 1. When the children are looking I reinforce the use of English through constantly saying ‘Where are they?’ ‘Are they under here?’ etc. Acting really over the top flabbergasted along the way. They love it. Everytime!

2. Hot potato/It’s a bomb. We called this game its a bomb when we were younger passing the ball around and counting down until it explodes, knocking us out one by one. For the classroom I just make a tick tock noise and randomly blow the bomb up, I tried counting down and the children cheated.  Instead of making students go out when it explodes I show a flashcard and get them to tell me what it is as a forfeit.

3. Sleepy bear. This game doesnt actually have a name I just call it sleepy bear. Just because. When children are in a circle one child goes in the middle and goes to sleep. We sing sleepy bear, sleepy bear (repetitively) whilst I give one child a tamborine to shake (or anything that makes a noise) I take it back off them and we shout ‘WAKE UP’!!! The child then has to guess who made the noise. Like the flash card game above I reinforce language by saying who was it? When they point at someone I say was it…..? and they reply yes or no. Simple but effective.

4. Stand up, sit down. This game is ridiculously simple but always a winner. It is often the most simple games that work the best. I just call out stand up, sit down and try to get them out. They love playing it over and over again. This is like a super simplified version of Simon Says. I do an over, under variation of this song which helps with prepositions (they put their hands over or under the table). I also do a more typical version of the game with body parts (touch your head, touch your toes etc). The stand up, sit down version is my fall to thing whenever they start to get a bit rowdy and I need to get them back in their chairs and calmed down. In the end everyone is sat down and ready for whatever else I have to throw at them.

5. Musical flashcards. Think musical statues but instead of freezing when the music stops children run to different flashcards either hung up around the room or arranged in a circle that they dance around. A great one for getting rid of all of that energy that the little ones have in abundance.

Writing this makes me miss my kindergarten children. So much fun to be had and smiles to be shared. Eeewww what have I become!?

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