You know that one person who always jiggles their leg under the desk?
That always annoyed me a little because I thought, “There has to be a more enjoyable way to get that energy out, like doodling or playing with a fidget toy.”
Still, as someone who has a bit of hyperkinesia myself, I feel for them on a basic level.
Kindergartners also have a tendency to have the jiggly leg syndrome, only it’s their whole body which is usually jiggly.
They’re still mastering the art of concentration and learning, so they need both physical and emotional engagement. They may also be a little bit shy, requiring non-traditional teaching methods to get them out of their shells.
And today, you’re going to learn about some of those methods. That way, you’ll know how to turn your jiggly little kindergartners into outstanding English students.
5 ESL Resources for Kindergarten That’ll Razzle-dazzle Your Little Ones
It’s not natural for anyone to be sitting down eight hours a day; we all need recess and play, especially kindergarten students.
Some educators think teaching kindergartners is more challenging for this reason, as they can’t use the traditional teaching techniques to holding their kids’ attention.
However, teaching someone who doesn’t just want to sit down and slog through the material can actually be more fun! It gives you a chance to stretch your own creativity and go back to your inner playful person.
Read on and I’ll tell you about some resources you can use to jazz up your class for the little ones while having fun yourself.
Fail-proof Resources for Your Kindergarten Learners
Teaching kindergarten students requires you to strike that perfect balance between education and entertainment. You don’t want to overwhelm them with too much information, otherwise, they’ll become bored and disengage—sometimes even becoming disruptive as a result.
But teaching kindergarten isn’t as hard as it sounds. Grabbing their attention is actually pretty easy. All you need is to be energetic and have some good resources like the ones mentioned below.
1. Educational Music
I still remember the first song I learned in another language. It involved one sardine and two cats.
I was six years old.
Needless to say, music sticks with kids for a long time. And for this reason, I think adding music is important when teaching young students, especially kindergartners.
Why music is great:
- It makes dull activities more fun
- It’s memorable
- It can be incorporated with games, used to review vocabulary, or as an activity by itself
In short, music is versatile and can be worked into almost any type of lesson you teach.
Choose from a variety of songs
There is a wide range of types of educational songs you can teach with, including…
- Call-and-answer songs: For this type of song, you sing one phrase and your students answer back with another. Two of my favorites are “Down by the Bay.” and “A Bear in Tennis Shoes.”
- Songs with hand motions: These songs are great for memory, allowing you to combine music with physical actions. My all-time favorite is “Baby Shark” because it’s fun, catchy and teaches students about family.
- Singalong songs: Sometimes simple is best. Singalong songs are great because you don’t need to spend time teaching choreography or assigning specific verses beforehand. Simply teach the lyrics to your students and sing together. Two of my favorite YouTube channels for singalong songs are Sesame Street and Yo Gabba Gabba. If you’re looking for a song to match your kindergarten lesson, both of these channels will have it—guaranteed!
2. Puppets and Stuffed Animals
Puppets are great because they use children’s natural instinct to play pretend as a way to enhance learning.
When practicing dialogue, the puppets (or stuffed animals) can be the ones talking. One rabbit says to another, “Nice to meet you.” If perceived as non-threatening, puppets can also ease anxiety, as well as illicit curiosity.
Perhaps Mr. Turtle only speaks English and he is shy. The kids can talk to Mr. Turtle and say “Hello Mr. Turtle. You are nice. We like you.”
Or, maybe students will be so curious about your puppets that they’ll want to ask questions about them.
Additionally, puppets are perfect to use in role play exercises. If the kids are already enthusiastic about using puppets or stuffed animals, they can put on a show. This is also a natural way kids play.
Use puppets to practice introductions
When I was little, I always liked to have a whole cast of characters of stuffed animals around me. They were my friends and made me feel safe.
I notice the same behavior in my kindergarten students. They sometimes bring their toys to class and are eager to talk about them or show them. You can channel that natural enthusiasm by asking students to make a puppet or bring a toy from home as their companion.
Set an example by bringing your own animal companion and introducing them:
“This is Mr. Wacky. He’s five years old. He’s a cat. He’s affectionate.”
If you want, you can include a list of description words for the students, to help them introduce their friends. For example: nice, cute, affectionate, grumpy, happy, energetic, etc.
If they are complete beginners, you can include just the basic information, like: “This is Mr. Wacky. He’s a cat.”
Have question and answer sessions
Bring your puppet/teacher assistant to the class.
Your puppet might be shy, and that can help make the students feel better about being shy themselves.
It could even be a turtle scared to come out of his shell, or another non-threatening animal.
Students must say “hi” and ask friendly questions.
Depending on the level of your students, these could be questions like: “What is your name?” and “How old are you?”
Later, when the puppet isn’t in class, you can ask questions about it like: “What color is Mr. Turtle?” and “Is he big or small?”
Tell stories with your puppets
This is straightforward. If you’re telling a simple story, use the puppets to act it out. This will help your young students become more engaged with your story, especially if you’re telling a fairy tale like “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.”
If you’re looking to add more puppets to your classroom, check out The Puppet Store. There, you can find a variety of puppets organized into categories like fairy tales, occupations, family members and more.
3. Clay or Molding Wax
When I was in 2nd grade, they gave us little molding wax squares to play with. It was the best thing ever.
I really liked doing things with my hands, and it made concentrating so much easier. Plus, they smelled great, and I could mold them into shapes, people and animals. My teachers allowed me to play with the wax during class while I was listening to a story or learning how to do math equations.
It also helped me avoid the jiggly leg problem.
Do the same to your students by giving them molding wax or clay to play with. This will help keeps their hands occupied without disrupting the classroom.
Why molding wax is great:
- It helps with concentration when teachers talk for longer periods of time
- Students find it fun and engaging
- It helps children quietly get out their energy
You don’t have to go to the ends of the Earth to find a special kind of molding wax. You can simply use Silly Putty sold at your local supermarket, or you can buy it online from Crayola’s website.
And if you really want to get creative, use Play-Doh instead. That way, students can choose from a number of different colors to play with. You can even buy a 36-pack of assorted Play-Doh colors exclusively on Amazon.
It’s great for calming fidgety students
In general, clay and wax are not for structured activities, but more for helping students relax and concentrate during class. However, if you’d like to incorporate them, one great activity is to mold the vocabulary word. If you give kids wax or clay, you can: Say a vocabulary word they already know, such as cat, and ask kids to build a cat out of the material they have.
4. Computer Games
As a student, I learned several things thanks to computer games—even in the relatively analog ’90s. I learned history with “The Oregon Trail,” geography with “Carmen Sandiego” and typing with “Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing.”
Think your little ones are too young for computers? Guess again! Even kindergartners nowadays are pretty screen-literate, and they probably already play games at home in their spare time.
So, why not incorporate computer games into the classroom? That way, they can learn some English while having fun.
Why computer games are great:
- They take the emphasis off language and on to an objective, so students don’t feel as pressured to do rote learning
- They use a format kids probably already interact with for fun
- They allow students to use their body and mind, alleviating some of the natural fidgets
Using computer games in the classroom
Computer games are activities in and of themselves. However, I suggest that you have them play games that reinforce new vocabulary. A lot of what kindergartners will be learning are singular words to build up their language base. Games designed specifically for English language learners will get students using short phrases like “How are you?” and “How old are you?”
Need some ideas for video games to play with the wee ones? Check out Crocodile Games on the website ESLGames+. There, you can choose from a number of different games teaching basic vocabulary, numbers and other beginner topics your kindergarten students should know.
5. The Great Outdoors
When I was a kid, one of my favorite places was the woods. I still remember nettles and sticky weed, the most odious yet enjoyable of plants.
A field trip into nature can be one of the most memorable experiences for young learners.
Why going outside with your students is great:
- Kids can release their energy simultaneously while learning English
- Vocabulary will be more interesting because it’s in a stimulating, engaging environment
Have a vocabulary hunt
Make a list of simple vocabulary words with pictures next to them. For example, if you’re on the beach, one could be rock. If you’re in the forest, green leaf. Kids must collect each piece of vocabulary listed from the environment. But make sure you are kind to the natural environment, and do a safety check to ensure there’s no poison ivy or other dangerous plants nearby.
Students will want to run, jump and play anyway. Why not take advantage of it? You can use a list of about five action words and have kids perform them. Try yelling out the following commands, for example:
Teach Kindergarten Like a Pro
There are three key ingredients to remember when teaching kindergartners: Patience, repetition and empathy.
Try to think about what made you excited when you were a child and incorporate that into your lessons. Also, make sure your activities are both physical and mental with a side of engaging.
Soon your kindergartners will be dancing, singing and playing their way into speaking English on the daily.