Here at Tea Time Monkeys we believe games are one of the best ways of teaching English to young kids! Language games add the important element of fun to learning. This is crucial in developing a positive association with a new language; one which will hopefully stay with a child for life!
Games encourage many different skills; speaking and listening, problem-solving, as well as motor skills. Playing games together is also a great time for connecting with children.
In this post we look at four different kinds of games that work well for teaching languages to kids!
1. Flashcard games
Flashcards can be so much more than passive, one-way teaching aids – they’re a great resource that you can use to play countless fun games with young kids!
Qualities and characteristics:
- Versatility: Many games with flashcards can be adapted for playing in large classrooms, one to one classes, or any size group in between, making them a great tool for any teaching environment. Many simple but fun games such as Kim’s game, Pass the Parcel, Simon Says and Chinese Whispers (Telephone) can all be adapted for playing with flashcards.
- Portability: Flashcards are easy to carry around, which is especially useful if you don’t have your own fixed classroom or a lot of space to store materials, or you just want a simple activity to play with your child when you go out. Many teachers prefer to use real objects in their lessons instead, but if you have to move from class to class flashcards are a more practical alternative to carrying a huge bag of materials around with you!
2. Board Games
Board games are great for teaching a second language in a fun and dynamic way, while also encouraging other key skills:
Social skills: Board games help teach young children important social skills such as sharing, team-work, patience, and taking turns.
Cognitive skills: Playing board games can help develop focus, concentration and memory skills. They are also a chance to reinforce number, letter, colour or shape recognition, as well as hand eye coordination and fine motor skills.
Use board games designed for native speakers
- Many of the board games designed for preschoolers will work for teaching any second language, as they use pictures rather than words to play. However, there are also games that require children to match the first letter of a word which are perfect for children learning to read, and in this case you do need to buy the game in the language you are teaching.
Using board games in the classroom
- The biggest drawback to using board games in the classroom is obviously the fact that most games are designed for 2 – 4 players. With groups of 6 – 8 kids we usually pair the children up to play, which works well. In larger classes you can form smaller groups and give each a game to play, rotating the groups if the games are different. It is important, however, to bear in mind the playability and playing time of the game.
- Board games with simple rules and colourful pieces are perfect for pre-school to kindergarten age kids. For language teaching, games that focus on specific areas of vocabulary, such as food or farm animals, are ideal.
- Pre-school age children are old enough to sit down to play but they are still quite wiggly, so games with shorter playing times work better; 15 to 20 minutes is good.
3. Song and Action Games
Songs and games that encourage action and movement are great, not only because they get kids moving around, but also because they help them clearly associate words with their meanings.
There is a methodology based on the coordination of language and physical movement called TPR, which we’ll briefly outline here:
TPR (“Total Physical Response”)
TPR, or Total Physical Response is a language teaching method that is perfect for young children. TPR activities focus on learning though physical movement, and centre around instructions with action verbs and the vocabulary you want to teach. As young children are naturally quite restless, TPR activities are a great way to get them burning off some energy while they learn!
Action songs like “Head, shoulders, knees and toes“, “I’m a Little Teapot” and “Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear turn around“, and games such as “Simon Says” are excellent TPR activities that can be played even in a small classroom.
4. Role-play or Dramatic Play
Children learn by copying what they see in their environment. They naturally mimic the adults in their life, using games and play to represent roles, attitudes and scenarios that they see around them. This is called role play, or dramatic play.
It has been shown that this type of play builds skills in many key areas of a child’s development, including language skills, social and emotional skills, thinking skills and problem solving, and of course, imagination.
You can take advantage of this natural tendency to role play in order to teach a second language. By providing a structured framework and materials, you can encourage children to simulate jobs, roles and real life situations, while practicing key vocabulary and phrases.
In our experience, these kinds of language games win hands down! The kids absolutely love dramatic play time, and will choose it over other kinds of games. In fact, we’ll be dedicating an entire article to the topic in the near future!