Teaching Speaking in an ESL Kindergarten
In teaching kindergarten level students, I find that three important aspects must be included in every lesson. Each lesson must contain parts that allow the students to “warm-up” their English skills, they must also have a chance to drill the vocabulary and target language, and lastly, the classes must have activities that give the students a chance to practice using their vocabulary and target language in a relatable activity.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Rebecca S. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
Beginning of the class
The kindergarten lesson warm-up allows the students the chance to move from their native language in an easy transition that isn’t too jarring for them. For example, “How are you?” and the students can review their emotions like “happy,” “sad,” and “sleepy.” These are words that they should already know, but if they don’t it can be demonstrated easily through gestures and fun pictures that they can relate with, like a smiley-face emoji or a favorite cartoon character falling asleep. This is a good warm-up because they don’t have to talk with the teacher, this is a chance for them to talk with each other; one student can ask another student how they are doing and that student can respond and then move on to the other students.
Following the ESA (Engage/Study/Activate) lesson style, after the Engage phase, we move on to the study phase where we introduce the vocabulary and target language that we will be practicing. In the phase, drilling should be included. I find that just drilling can be too much for kindergarten level students so I would include a fun small activity or movement to get them moving. So, say we practiced ‘apples’, ‘bananas’, ‘peaches’, ‘melons’, and ‘like along with the target language “I like apples.” We have our students practice our vocabulary, then we could have them stand, say the word three times, and do a bunny hop. This follows the Total Physical Response technique by James Asher, where it is believed that language learning involves the left hemisphere of the brain and movement is in the right hemisphere, so using the whole brain for young learners it can be not only fun but good for long-term retention. This can also be practiced with the target language as well.
Involving activities can bring the lesson around full circle, and it also gives the teacher the chance to see how much their students have learned throughout the entire lesson. Again, reflecting on the ESA lesson style, we include activities at the end of each phase. Looking back on the Engage phase, we practiced our emotions. So, we could have copies of emotion cards spread out across the room. For the activity we could ask the students the target language when they respond, we tell them “Please show me” and after demonstrating how to do the activity the student finds the matching card and tells their friend how they are doing. For the Study phase, we practiced “I like apples” so I would have a grocery store set up and the students can have a bag or a basket and go shopping while they practice the target language. This will be exciting for them, as they know what it is like to go to the store with their parents and to see it reflected in their class, truly excites them.
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The most important aspect of developing the speaking abilities of students at this level is staying consistent. So, every lesson should follow this setup, and students should also have the opportunity to review what they learned in past lessons, so the teacher can know they have retained it.
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