Kindergarten:Surfin’ Safari Level 1

2nd March 2019

Last week was my first meeting with this class, so I had to familiarise myself with what they studied so far, what they could and couldn’t do.

The TAs at my centre are amazing, and I am assigned two for each of these KG (Kindergarten) classes. They informed me that the children could speak but not write. In a nutshell, they knew basic colours, numbers and instructions (‘hands up’, ‘sit down’ and the like). Also, the ABC was still being learnt, so last week I began with a great video using characters created by Richard Scary. The ABC starts at 3:20, ending at 4:00: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nog9FBW9cTo&t=284s

I was given a book by Richard Scary back when I was four (I’m NOT saying what year that was !) and still have it. I made the class sing along, then do a ‘Run ‘n’ Write’ game, each student running to the board to write an assigned letter. It is a kinetic activity and involves all the students.

Some characters from Richard Scary.

The pattern for young learners is to do many different games and types of games, to maintain attention and interest. It’s the ‘montage of attraction’ I’ve referred to in previous blogs; basically how the separate parts all fit together as in engineering or film editing.

The advantages are that the students like routine and repetition, so the same games can be played most weeks, allowing for some variation. The objectives are to get the students producing English: speaking, writing, listening and eventually reading. Listening cannot be under-estimated. At this age, the students are like sponges – they absorb everything, so learning occurs at at much faster rate. This dwindles with age, hence I’ve been in Vietnam over three years and can barely form a sentence.

New vocabulary, expressions and pronunciation can be acquired just by listening to the teachers, so I ask my TAs to use key words repeatedly (e.g. ‘excellent’, ‘good work’, ‘well done’) thus expanding their lexical resources (sorry, I just didn’t want to repeat the word, ‘vocabulary’). Music too has a tremendous impact. An inane Europop song can be a wonderful learning opportunity as the lyrics are repeated AND are learnt in a fun way. As such, last week I used this song, which, I have no shame in admitting, I actually LOVE: Eiffel 65 with ‘Move Your Body’

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nog9FBW9cTo&t=284s

Clip from the original video. Repetition of basic sentences is a great learning device.

And so … to tomorrow’s lesson:

It’s a basic class; the students know some vocabulary, colours and numbers, and we’re developing their sentence-forming skills by making them say their names (either ‘My name is …..’ or ‘I’m …… ‘ featuring the contraction of I am).

First, it’s good to do a quick and energetic warm up. We did Musical Statues (Freeze) last week, so today we’ll try Musical chairs. This class is not so large (about 11 or 12) so we’ll have the class in two groups walking around their table. The TA will make sure they understand the rules, but we are also drilling common classroom features such as chairs and tables. This seems a great video, as today we’re introducing the word ‘train’ : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QYhKyqQ3zXg

When the music stops, the students race for the chairs. Thos who are unlucky have to answer a question, then we continue. While the children are standing, we can do a ‘Teacher Says’ game, basically a ‘Simon Says’, but here used to drill simple expressions such as ‘clap your hands’, ‘sit down’, ‘stand up’ etc and then acting out animals (which is always fun).

Leading on from this, another game and a chance to learn new vocabulary. I’ll prepare a slide of new animals. The children form two teams and have to throw a sticky ball at the board, aiming for the names animal. The aim (ah-hem) is to get one team to tell the other at which animal to throw. Ideally they’ll be able to say, “Throw at the chicken,” but it may just be, “Chicken !” It’s a start. My new animals will be:

Water buffalo, common in Viet Nam
Panda to practise the plosive ‘p’ sound.
Shark to practise the ‘sh’ sound.
Chicken for the useful ‘ch’ sound.
A tiger, so they can learn different types of big cat (they already know lions).

Moving on, we come to the lesson and focus on numbers. Around the room, I’ll stick various flash cars depicting numbers. I’ll ask for two students to find me a number from one to four. They will run like little nutcases and grab the card. They then have to bring it to me and say, “Here you are,” and then write the number (just figure) on the board.

I like to make the students speak to each other in English as much as possible, and it’s fun to make one student ‘thay’ or teacher. That student will hold the flash card and ask the class to show him or her 1 or 2 etc and the class will hold up the right number of fingers.

The book work reinforces new vocabulary and numbers. To break the book work, they will colour a train picture I have prepared for them:

I also like to play a short video to show life outside of Vietnam. Here’s the London Tube at rush hour:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S8LRlwCx4yY

There is no underground system in Viet Nam, so this should be an eye-opener. We can also see if the students are able to understand any of the instructions the guard say.

If time allows, we can watch the ABC video again, or just focus on some of the letters, giving the letter, the sound and an example:

B – bbb (sound) – ball.

At this age, we can’t overload them with work, so there could be some colouring, but still looking for any opportunity for the class to speak English.

And then, my weekend is over and I can go home … to prepare lessons for tomorrow, my last IELTS class before their oral test but that, as they say, is for another blog.

Classroom Games.

I’ll be using abbreviations throughout these blogs so for clarity, here’s a short run-down of the most common ones:

Back to Board (B2B). Any activity where a student can’t see what is behind them, but has to guess or deduce from clues by the other students. It could be the name of a famous person, or a small YouTube clip. I often show a funny film and drill students how to describe what they see using the subject – verb – object formula. 

Call My Bluff (CMB). Based on the British TV show, students are put into groups and given a list of higher-level words. Each word has three definitions, two false, one true. The students have to read out the word, maybe varying the pronunciation each time, state the type of word (noun, verb etc) and a definition. The other team has to guess the correct answer. This can be a fun way to introduce new vocabulary.

Family Fortunes (FF). This works well with larger classes. Students are put into small groups and given a board and marker. The teacher then asks for four answers to a general question. The students ‘win’ imaginary money for each answer that matches the teacher’s four. Example: I have been to four places in Viet Nam, not counting HCM City. What are those four places ? Other good questions are my four favourite Vietnamese dishes, four things I like (and dislike) in VN and favourite types of films or music.

Snakes and ladders (SNL). Based on the popular children’s board game, ideally, space permitting, I use the floor of the classroom. With markers (NOT permanent markers, mind you), the students mark out a board, a large square. On some squares there is a red dot meaning go back 2 spaces, or a blue square, go forward 1 or 2 squares. One square is ‘haha’ – the player has to return to their original place. In a big enough room, I use students who begin at opposite corners, and have to complete one circuit to win. I ask questions which any one in the team can answer – or you could ask students individually – and then they roll a die. In a smaller room, I just make the game on the whiteboard. This can be very exciting and it’s a good idea to establish the rules first i.e. is it first past the end square OR exact number to finish. This game can sometimes be too popular and become too boisterous.

Stop the bus (STB).  This is a simple question and answer games, used to warm up or wind down classes. The teacher asks a question, the students shout out the answer, but first have to shout, “Stop the bus !” If they answer without the STB, no points are awarded. The game can be slightly varied, using different nouns e.g. Stop the Taxi, Stop the Grabbike or even, with a lively class, make them get up and sing, “Stop in the name of love.”

Word Battleship (WB). I often use this as a warm-up exercise. On the board draw a 4×4 grid, labeled A – D and 1 – 4. Assign different scores to each square on a separate sheet. Ask sixteen questions (can be general knowledge or a review of recent lessons, grammar, vocabulary). If the student gets the answer right, they can choose a square and you write in the number. I usually have 5 as the lowest, then 10, 20, 50 and one 100-pointer. To engage all students, you could ask them questions individually.

Word cards. I got this from an IELTS website. Make a list of recently – learnt words and expressions. The number and complexity will depend on the level of the class, but at least five or six but no more than ten. Print out and cut into individual word units. Put them in a small container. The students are placed in small groups and given the container with words. Each student has to speak on a basic theme using as many words or cards, as possible, within a set time. They can spread the words in front of them and drop them back into the container once they have been uttered.