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SDE International - Shenzhen

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My husband and I teach at a public primary school in Shenzhen, China. While the children are adorable and hilarious, teaching English to little kids can be challenging for several reasons.

First, they have an overwhelming amount of energy. Second, they have short attention spans. The younger they are, the more often we have to change activities to hold their interest. Third, there are 50 to 60 students in our classes, so we need to find activities that engage all of them. Fourth, I teach grades 1 and 2, so my pupils haven’t learned how to write in English yet. As a result, the exercises I can do with them are limited.

If you are a primary school teacher, you may find yourself facing similar obstacles. After teaching for 6 months, my husband and I have found several games our little learners enjoy that are also consistently effective instructional tools. Here are 8 of our favorites.

1. Coloring pages

During the second term, my grade 1 and 2 students learn colors. Every once in a while, I give them coloring pages with images of their vocabulary words. Then I tell them to color each image a certain color. For example, I say, “Color the blouse pink,” and “color the dress red and yellow.” They are able to review their colors and practice their new vocabulary.

After they finish coloring an image, I call on one individual at a time to practice the target words. Grade 1 students just have to say something simple, such as, “It’s green!” For grade 2, I make things a little more difficult. Last week they had to say complete sentences using colors and clothes. For example, “I have a red and yellow dress.”

2. Hide and Seek

Print pictures on sheets of paper. Show the first picture to the entire class and call on one child to identify the image.

“Flower!”

That kid comes to the front of the classroom and closes their eyes while you hide the paper under a book on another student’s desk.

The first student has to find the sheet of paper. They do so with the entire class’s help. They must say, “Flower, flower, flower …” The closer the seeker gets to the hidden paper, the more loudly their classmates chant the vocabulary word. Hide and Seek is a fun way to have the entire class repeat and memorize vocabulary words!

3. The Bomb Game

Divide the students into groups and let them compete! Roger’s ESL PowerPoints offers some free Bomb Game templates, which you can adjust to your class’s vocabulary. Give each team five points at the beginning of the game, and the team with the highest score when the bell rings wins! This also offers students an opportunity to practice their letters.

4. Tic-Tac-Toe

Divide the students into two teams, X and O. A child must answer a question correctly to get an X or O on the board for their team. This website provides a variety of easy-to-use PowerPoint templates, but I especially like Tic-Tac-Toe.

We’ve played this game with grades 1 through 6. It’s always a hit, no matter the age!

5. Songs

Singing is a great way to get children to loosen up and learn new material.

Go onto Youku.com to download songs. Super Simple Learning has numerous great options, such as, “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” “Heads, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes,” and “Baby Shark.” If your kids are learning the seasons, most students adore the song “Four Seasons.” Bounce Patrol, a Youku channel, has a great series for learning letters of the alphabet.

6. Ball game

A fellow primary school teacher recently recommended this game to me as a warm up, and my kids love it!

Bring a ball to the classroom. Students pass around a ball while you play a song on the computer. I usually play Justin Bieber’s “Baby.” They go bananas for The Biebs!

When you stop the song, show the students a picture on a flash card or on the PowerPoint. The person holding the ball when the music stops has to identify the vocabulary word.

7. Board races

Call two students to the front of the classroom. In your PowerPoint presentation, pull up two pictures side by side. You may have a picture of a pie and a picture of a cake. Yell, “Cake!” The first kid to run to the board and touch the cake picture wins a point for his team.

8. Pictionary

Young students are usually eager to participate in Pictionary. They love to get out of their seats, be creative, and show off! I usually have one child draw at a time. The student who correctly guesses the vocabulary word gets to draw next.

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SDE International - Shenzhen

New teaching jobs in China interviewing now, apply today!
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About the Author:

Laura Grace Tarpley
Laura Grace Tarpley is a freelance writer and English teacher in Shenzhen, China. She enjoys tinkering with crossword puzzles, reading Bill Bryson books, and taking naps on her huge couch. Follow her travels on her Instagram and Twitter. Or you can check out her blog, Let’s Go, Tarpley!
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