Teaching English to kids is fun and it is always a rewarding experience.
However, let’s face it, doing this is quite challenging. There are several reasons.
First of all, young learners have endless energy.
If you’ve ever worked with 6-7-year-old-kids (let alone 3-4-year-old ones), you know they don’t want to sit still a minute (and that’s where ESL games for teaching English to come handy).
Secondly, Chinese classes are usually big. It’s really difficult to organize a group of 20-30 kids.
One more thing that makes working with children challenging is their short attention spans.
By this, we mean that they can’t concentrate on one activity for long. 20 minutes is the maximum time you can spend on one game on condition kids really like it.
Finally, they don’t know many words. Their vocabulary isn’t rich even in their own language.
So, it’s unlikely you’ll succeed in explaining them something difficult in English.
That’s why playing language games is the best way to work with young learners.
Below, you’ll find some examples of activities to use during your lessons.
Warm Up Activities
These are crucial at every English lesson, especially with young learners.
The thing is that they help you ‘tune’ your students to a lesson.
Whether you want the kids to calm down or revise some vocabulary, the following ESL games will come of great use.
Get to know each other
When you only start teaching English, the first thing you do is make friends with your students.
And if you teach a class of 1-grade students, it’s unlikely they know each other.
Thus, this game is just perfect for the first lessons.
What do you need for the game? – A ball.
Let your students stand in a circle. Join them.
Take a ball and say the first phrase – ‘My name is…’
Pass the ball to a person standing next to you so he/she tells the same about him/herself. Then, ask to pass the ball to the next kid.
Prepare several phrases for the game such as ‘My favorite color is…’, ‘My favorite animal is…’
As you can see, this classroom game not only helps your students get to know each other. It is also a great way to practice some useful phrases as well as learn new words.
It is one of the most creative English games for kindergarteners and young school children teachers could ever think up.
Having a puppet at your lessons – a cartoon hero or a toy your students like a lot – is just a perfect way to start the class.
On the one hand, using it at every lesson might soon become boring for kids.
But they will be happy to talk to an unusual creature from time to time.
On the other hand, you can make this warm-up a tradition so your pupils always know what to expect from the lesson.
With that said, it’s up to you to decide how often to use this ESL game. And of course, you should take into consideration your learners’ preferences.
So, what should you do?
Let the puppet greet the kids. Encourage the whole class to answer the puppet together.
The puppet says hello to each student separately and asks him/her simple questions such as ‘What’s your name?’, ‘How old are you?’, ‘What’s your favorite color?’ etc.
Kids answer the questions and ask the puppet the same.
The puppet says goodbye to every child and wishes them to have a good lesson.
Now again, encourage your pupils to thank the puppet in chorus.
Spin the Bottle
It is one of the top funny games for children as well as for adults.
But speaking about using this activity in a class, it’s a relaxing way to start the lesson.
To play the game you need to do the following:
Sit on the floor in a round.
The teacher spins the bottle. When it stops spinning and points at a kid, the teacher asks him/her a question – ‘How are you?’, ‘Do you like the weather today?’ etc.
Note: you can substitute questions with another activity.
For example, you can revise the words from the previous lesson asking kids to name the word you show them on cards.
If the kid answers the question right, he/she spins the bottle and the teacher asks the next student.
Best ESL Songs to Teach Kids English
Singing songs is perhaps one of the most effective ways to memorize new words. That’s why it is so popular in ESL teaching practice.
Moreover, it’s the easiest thing to do in a big classroom.
Even if not everybody sings, kids will remember the words thanks to simple melodies and numerous repetitions.
And if you sing a song and watch a video with English subtitles at the same time, you’ll develop kids’ visual memory.
This will help them memorize how to write the words.
The beauty of singing songs is that they’re a truly universal tool in an ESL class.
They can be used to warm your students up, make a break in the middle of the lesson or finish it.
Below, we’ve listed several nice songs you can sing with your young learners.
This famous song is great for kids who can count to five.
Of course, those who count to ten will also be able to sing this song, but it will be boring for them.
So, if your young learners have just started to study numbers and animals, this song is a perfect ESL learning activity.
By the way, you can change ‘monkey’ to ‘donkey’ or another word that fits the rhyme.
This is one more simple and effective song to learn new words, to be more precise, some emotions and actions.
Singing it for several times, your students will remember the words ‘happy’, ‘angry’, ‘scared’, ‘sleepy’, ‘clap hands’, ‘stamp feet’, ‘say’, and ‘take a nap’.
It’s a good idea to use this song in the middle of the lesson if children have done some calm activities before.
This song is a real catch if you’re currently learning food vocabulary with kids.
Sing this song several lessons in a row, and your young learners will know what ‘broccoli’, ‘ice cream’, ‘donut’, ‘juice’, ‘banana’, ‘soup’, ‘popcorn’, and ‘pizza’ are.
The word ‘yucky’ will become familiar to them, too.
One more advantage of this song is that it teaches not only vocabulary but also grammar.
Actually, you can guess it from its name.
‘Do You Like Broccoli’ is an ideal song to practice Present Simple questions and short answers.
There are plenty of resources out there with songs, but YouTube is the best to look for. Check out these channels for more fun songs for ESL classroom:
Awesome ESL Games and Activities for the classroom
As it has been already mentioned, it’s important to use ESL activities with preschoolers, kindergarteners, and kids at elementary school.
Be sure to change the games every 10 or 15 minutes so the kids don’t get bored.
Feel free to use the activities listed below to make your lessons captivating so your young students wait for the next class impatiently.
Speaking about creative activities for kids, this game always comes to mind first as it helps children learn new words (or revise the old ones) and develop their creative thinking.
The rules are simple.
Kids come in front of the class one by one. Their task is to show a certain word so the others could guess it.
Depending on the topic you’re currently learning, it can be anything from animals to actions.
The first child who’s going to mime can be the first willing one.
If boys and girls are reluctant to play, you can be the first one to show them a word.
The teacher says the word to the kid so the rest of the class doesn’t hear it.
The kid should show the word without speaking or making other sounds.
The child who guesses the word is the next one to mime.
This is one of the most favorite ESL activities among young English learners.
Due to being fun and active, it is so interesting for kids that they often don’t want to stop playing it.
One obvious benefit of ‘Simon Says’ is that it can be modified in accordance with your teaching goals.
If you study actions, you can use actions. If you study body parts, feel free to use body parts.
The game will also be suitable to revise classroom objects.
Moreover, this English game for kids is aimed at training their attention.
The teacher stands in front of the class and gives kids commands. Commands start with the words ‘Simon says’
For example, the teacher says ‘Simon says jump!’ and kids need to jump. If the command is ‘Simon says run’, children need to run.
However, the teacher should omit the ‘Simon says’ phrase occasionally and simply say ‘Jump’ or ‘Run’.
In this case, kids shouldn’t follow the commands. The ones who do leave the game.
The winner is the most attentive kid who doesn’t fail.
This game isn’t one of kindergarten classroom games since it requires your students to be able to read in English.
So, if you teach at school and girls and boys in your class know English letters and can read the words, this is an excellent game to develop reading and logical skills.
Plus, it is one of the best group games that will teach your students to work in a team.
What do you need for the game? – Several sets of sentences.
You’ll need to print them out and cut into separate words in advance.
Divide the class into several teams.
Give each team a hat/bag/box (any suitable container) with the sentences cut into pieces.
Kids need to put the words into correct order to get a sentence.
The team that gets their sentence right faster than others wins.
Note: you can mix several sentences in one container to make this ESL activity more difficult. Don’t forget to take the level of your students into account before you do it.
There’s no need to mention that the main aim of this classroom game is to learn or revise colors. However, you can prepare absolutely different images to color and use this activity for learning a great number of vocabulary topics.
You can print out the pictures of fruit, vegetables, animals, furniture, people, and anything you can think of.
There are two ways of carrying out this activity.
- Let the kids paint the images on their own and then ask them what colors they used. For example, your aim is to revise two vocabulary topics – colors and animals.
Give the kids 5 minutes to color the printouts. Once they finish, ask them ‘What color is the lion?’, ‘What color is the monkey?’
- Give your students certain tasks. Prepare the same picture for every kid in a class and ask them to follow your instructions. Ask your young learners to color the tiger orange and brown or color the parrot green, blue, and red.
All the ESL games and songs listed above are only a tiny part of fun classroom activities you can use during your lessons.
Don’t hesitate to surf the Internet and find more interesting and educating games to make your teaching both informative and entertaining.