How to Effectively use Games in the Preschool and Elementary ESL Class
Aug 12, 2008 English Language Teaching (ELT) 5872 Views
Organization. The first thing you should do when start teaching a preschool or elementary school ESL class is to figure out how to organize your class. For the younger students you'll want to change your activities every five to ten minutes because they have shorter attention spans. If you don't change your activities, they'll soon start losing interest. As you get towards the higher elementary grades, you can expand the time you spend per activity. The best way to gauge this is to pay attention to your class for the first few days to see what length of time works the best for them. Additionally, try to have everything ready to go before the students enter the classroom. That way you can go from activity to activity with minimal downtime.
Expectations. If you notice that your class is getting noisy or rambunctious, it's time to change activities. Kids of this age are active and like to be active; in order to balance out the energy levels in the classroom, alternate between active activities and quiet activities. If you have a large class you will need games that do not degenerate into chaos. This will leave you exhausted and the children ignorant! Also important is that the language in the game should be well within the grasp of the children. Start simply and increase the difficulty of the language, or increase the amount of vocabulary in a given game gradually. If you see that the children are hesitating too much in a game switch to an easier game immediately.
Be careful how you use activities that require fine motor skills - or more importantly pay attention to your expectations for activities that require fine motor skills. Children in preschool and early elementary are just learning to write in their own languages. This is not the best time to bog them down with writing in English as well. It is better to spend the bulk of the lesson time on listening and speaking skills for the younger children. As they progress through elementary school, however, you can begin using games and activities that require them to write small amounts.
Variation. You want to make sure your activities appeal to all sorts learning styles, so even when you are using games to teach grammar you'll want to vary the types of things you expect your students to do. For preschool and early elementary grades, stick to games that use talking, listening, looking and moving. For middle and high elementary, you can continue to use games that use talking, listening, looking and moving and add in some games that use writing and reading.
Going along with this same idea, think about what children learn from the easiest. Television commercials are short and catchy and the most memorable are the ones that are repeated often. Keep these characteristics in mind when you are teaching grammar to your students - incorporate these characteristics into your daily activities.
Respect. To make games work for you and your class, be sure to operate your class with the utmost respect - both to and from students. This includes teaching your students from the very start that you expect respect at all times. This includes giving encouragement and following the rules.
That said, you'll need to make sure the rules for all of the games are clear and manageable. When possible, explain the rules in the students' native tongue so that they all know what is expected of them. When there is an environment of respect in the classroom, the students will feel safe enough to participate in the games so that they can get the most educational value out of them.
Towards the end of elementary school, you can start introducing competitive games, but only if the class is respectful and it shouldn't be the main focus of the game.
Routine. Even if you only have your students for a short time every week, establishing a routine will help the class go smoothly. Children of this age (preschool through elementary school) thrive on routine and if they know what to expect next, they will be more able to participate in what's going on now. Set up a schedule for the type of activities you'll be doing at any given time throughout the class whether it is a game, story or song or whatever you want to do. Then, when you are planning your class, plug in the appropriate activities to each section of time. You should also leave a little time at the end of the class period to allow the students to clean up and gather their things as well as time for you to recap the class, praise the students and tell them good-bye.
You can also designate a "sign" to use to signal to the students when it is time to change activities such as clapping or signing a specific song so that they know it's time to return to the circle, table or desks.
Nurture. Perhaps the most important thing you can do with your students is to nurture them everyday. For each child in your class, find something you like about him or her and be sure to tell him or her. Be encouraging, patient and kind while playing games and participating in activities and they'll like you as a teacher and a person which will in turn help them get excited about your class and what you have for them to do everyday.
Just by keeping these tips in mind, you'll be able to teach children grammar with ease. You'll be having fun and they'll be having fun - so much fun, in fact, that they might not even realize they are learning in the process!