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How to Teach English to Kindergarteners

How to Teach English to Kindergarteners

How to Teach English to Kindergarteners

As a rule; kindergarten students don’t respond well to teachers who run their classrooms like drill sergeants. Kindergarten students have needs that are completely different from learners just a few years older. Issues that seem minor to elementary students feel like an existential crisis to a kindergarten learner. 

For this reason; it’s important to always listen to kindergarten students when they’re upset in order to earn their trust. You also need to plan your lessons a little differently to keep them following along and having fun. 

Here’s how you can do that. 

Develop an ESL Routine (and Stick to It) 

The best way to control your kindergarten English class isn’t to constantly reprimand them; it’s to create a routine and stick to it. Structure and routines tend to work well with young learners. Many find routines comforting because they always know what to expect; as well as what they should and shouldn’t be doing throughout the day. 

Try to base your routine on manageable blocks of time and make sure to prioritize the application of English concepts throughout the day. 

Here’s part of the routine that I came up with when I taught kindergarten ESL students: 

Beginning of class — Teach the vocabulary word/sentence of the day and have students practice it 

9:00 to 9:40 — Reading practice 

9:40 to 9:50 — Questions and answers about the reading passage 

9:50 to 10:00 — Break 

10:00 to 10:20 — Conversational English practice 

10:20 to 10:50 — Students complete one page in the conversational English workbook; then the class checks answers together 

10:50 to 11:00 — Break 

11:00 to 11:30 — Students practice the key grammar point of the day; usually something simple like the use of articles or verb tenses 

11:40 to 11:50 — Song time (the students learn a new English song every Monday and continue to sing it for the rest of the week) 

11:50 to 12:00 — Prepare for lunch (students line up; and in groups of three they wash their hands and grab their eating utensils) 

Getting your students on a routine like this isn’t hard; but you do need to be consistent and stick to it as much as possible; especially when implementing it for the first time. Once your students get used to it; they’ll know what to do and will participate more in class. 

flashcards
Smiling mid adult Hispanic female teacher using flashcards with two elementary age students. Cheerful African American female student and happy Caucasian male student looking at their Hispanic female teacher use flashcards during class.

Gamify Classroom Management 

One of the biggest challenges that kindergarten teachers face is maintaining order in the classroom without coming across as too harsh. Obviously; you don’t want to be overly strict and make yourself look like the headmaster from “Matilda,” but you also need to have your students listen to you. 

The best way to find the balance between being the fun teacher and the teacher kindergarten students listen to is to come up with fun little games that grab your students’ attention (while also getting them to participate in English). 

Here’s how you can do that. 

Call-and-response 

When students are being noisy; English call-and-response prompts are a fun way to grab their attention and get everyone back on the same page. Some example prompts are below. 

The more you practice them with the class; the more likely your students will stop talking and pay attention. For a truly gamified experience; you can keep classroom points on the board for every successful call-and-response interaction. 

  • “Eyes on me!” Clap your hands and say “eyes on me!” Have your students respond by pointing at you and saying “eyes on you!” 
  • “Who’s ready?” At any point during class, whenever you ask “who’s ready,” your students need to sit upright with their hands on their knees and respond with “I’m ready!” 

The Token Economy 

One of the best ways to motivate kindergarten students to participate and behave is by giving them rewards. Every time your students participate well in class, reward them with a token. At the end of the week or month, let them exchange their tokens for small prizes. 

With the token economy, you’ll want to come up with criteria students have to meet before receiving a token, so that everyone has the same opportunity. For this reason, I made the following requirements before I gave my students tokens at the end of a lesson: 

  • The student has to raise their hand and try to participate in three or more questions. 
  • The student can only be reprimanded one time for not paying attention in class. 
  • Students who fight with each other during the lesson are unable to receive a token. 

And believe me, kindergarteners are the first to know when you’re not being consistent or fair with your rewards! 

Keep Kid-friendly English Activities in Your Back Pocket 

A good kindergarten teacher is one who’s energetic and comes prepared with a lot of activities. Kindergarteners aren’t able to sit quietly at their desks for extended periods of time, so they really need to move around and have fun in order to get the most out of their English learning experience. 

Even if you’re teaching from a kindergarten textbook, it’s a good idea to have supplemental activities waiting on the back burner just in case they move through your lesson quicker than you expected. 

Below are some ideas for activities that you can add to your lessons. 

Nursery Rhymes 

Nursery rhymes are great because they’re already geared towards kindergarten-aged kids. They’re also fun because they help the students practice simple English phrases, including routines, animals, and days of the week, in a way that gets students excited and allows them to move around. 

If you’re looking for various nursery rhymes to include in your lesson, YouTube is loaded with resources. Two channels that are particularly useful for kindergarten lessons are Fun Kids English and Little Treehouse Nursery Rhymes and Kids Songs. 

With the rhymes and other songs on those channels, students can learn about shapes, the alphabet, numbers, and a variety of other topics associated with kindergarten-level English. 

Telephone 

With your students standing in a single-file line, whisper a phrase into the ear of the very last student. That student will then whisper that phrase into the next student’s ear, and they whisper to the next student and so on. 

Once the sentence has reached the last person, they’ll say the sentence aloud, then the class will check to see if the sentence stayed correct the entire time. 

This is a great activity to practice pronunciation and is especially useful if you have a daily expression that your students learn. 

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