Kindergarten ESL Activities

Instructor: Matthew Hamel

Matt has degrees in Journalism and Business and has taught a variety of courses at high schools and universities around the world.

Teaching young children can be a joy, and a challenge. This lesson gives teachers fun, engaging classroom activities for use with English as a Second Language (ESL) kindergarten students.

Young ESL Learners

Kindergarten is a vital time in children's lives. It's where they learn to socialize and begin their academic journeys. Teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) youngsters is, in many respects, not nearly as difficult as teaching ESL teens or adults. One reason for this is the innate openness and inquisitiveness of kindergarten students. Songs, games, and physical activities all work together to stimulate English language growth and can make your classroom a fun place to be.

This lesson outlines activities that stress both the natural use of English and encourage active participation. Because the students are so young, it's best to use these as group activities instead of singling out individuals. Also, it's important to give instructions in English and only use the child's native tongue if absolutely necessary for comprehension.

Flashcard Draw

In this activity, students will draw pictures of common things including animals, objects, and people. This exercise will help students focus on simple vocabulary and spelling as well as giving them a chance to be creative.

  1. Make sure every student has a few pieces of blank paper and a few drawing implements.
  2. Give students time to draw two or three pictures of some of their favorite things.
  3. When drawing time is up, collect the drawings and redistribute them randomly so that each student ends up with two drawings completed by a classmate.
  4. After each student has received two drawings, show the surplus drawings to the class and ask what the drawings are. Encourage correct pronunciation of new and unfamiliar words.
  5. When you have gone through the extra drawings as a group, tell the children to look carefully at the drawings in front of them.
  6. At this point, students should write the name of the animal, object, or person they believe is being depicted in their classmate's picture. Be sure to help out with spelling questions.
  7. Move around the room and find common drawings such as cat, dog, house, etc. Compare the drawings and ask students what other words they know that are related to the picture.
  8. Post the pictures in the classroom for everyone to enjoy.

Positive/Negative

Sometimes the simplest activities can yield the best learning moments. This exercise will test your kindergarteners' knowledge and use of opposites. Begin by writing the following positive words on the blackboard.

  • Did (didn't)
  • Do (don't)
  • Was (wasn't)
  • Had (hadn't)
  • Is (isn't)
  • Can (can't)
  • Could (couldn't)
  • Will (won't)
  • Should (shouldn't)

Next, ask your students for the opposite, or negative form of each word (shown in parentheses), and write the responses on the board. If these words are too difficult, you can use this simplified list or any other words you have already been teaching.

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