ESL Activities for Children and Young Learners

In an ESL (English as a second language) classroom it’s necessary to be extremely creative to get the material across. Never is that more true than in a classroom full of children. Children often have very short attention spans and they can’t sit through long lecture style teaching or book work the way older students can. They need constant interaction and stimulation.

As such is the case, games are one of the best resources a teacher can have. Better still, games with few pieces that make playing them easier for the students and implementing them easier for the teacher. Board games can be hard to get a hold of, and harder still to clean up after and keep all together. But the following games are easy to work into a lesson and provide young learners with excellent opportunities to practice their English and learn new concepts all while having fun.

Little Bird Little Bird, What Do You See?
I see a�(hold up picture card and children will name the thing/person/animal) looking at me�
REPEATâÂ?¦. This activity helps children learn new words or review old ones. It’s a great way to start off or end a class because it can teach new words for the day, review words from the previous day, or review the words that were taught that day. Review is essential in learning a new language, and this is a fun way to do it and keep children interested and participating.

Treasure Hunts

Provide students with a list of needed items that they can find around the classroom and have them find them and put them in boxes. The team with the most items at the end of the time limit wins.

OrâÂ?¦For more advanced students, provide directions for finding certain hidden items. The team that finds all the hidden items or the most in the allotted time wins. This activity challenges children’s reading skills as well as their identification skills. Even if they can read the word it doesn’t mean they know what it means. So this gives the students an opportunity to practice and test both their reading skills and their implementation of what they’ve learned. It’s also a great way to encourage full participation and give a light informal assessment of the students.

Crossword Puzzles
Make crossword puzzles using the vocabulary for the week. The clues can be definitions or common phrases, even descriptions. For more advanced students, have them make their own crossword puzzle or finish one that you’ve started. They can write clues for some words that are already filled in, and fill in words that you’ve written clues for.This activity allows children to use their knowledge of words and/or learn new words in a fun and creative way. It’s a different approach to looking up words in the dictionary or learning them through flashcards. Offers teacher a chance to check each student’s understanding of the necessesary vocabulary words.

Chain Stories
Pre-write a couple sentences before class. Simple ones like “I was walking down the streetâÂ?¦” Then as a conversation exercise have students finish the sentence. However, the trick is thisâÂ?¦Have one student finish this sentence and the next student add to the first student’s sentence. The next student will add to the second student’s sentence and so on until the whole class participates in forming a story.

You can also have students make up beginning sentences or come up with strange sentences to shake things up a bit.
This is perfect for full participation and creativity. Student’s love this activity as it allows them to have fun with one another while practicing English. It also allows the teacher to hear each student speak and get a good idea of where they stand pronunciation wise, as well as what level their vocabulary and grammar are at.

A Picture is Worth a Million Words
Find interesting pictures in magazines and tear them out. Then, pass out each picture to either individual students or groups. Have them write stories for their picture. Encourage them to really be creative and elaborate in their descriptions of actions and characters. This is also a great activity to use vocabulary words in, especially if there are verbs or adjectives. After the stories are written they can be acted out for the class or simply read. This activity acts as a nice blend of written and oral work.

This particular activity allows students to have some creative fun making up stories, but also apply some of the words they’ve learned. It provides the teacher with a means of seeing how well the student can use descriptive words and action words to make full sentences and tell stories. The oral part of this task also allows the students to have practice speaking in a controlled way so that they don’t feel too nervous.

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