eslHQ (
-   ESL Games and Activities (
-   -   Pre-schoolers (

glaesga Feb 12th, 2006 03:31 pm

does anyone know any ESL games for preschoolers? Ta!

mesmark Feb 12th, 2006 06:13 pm

Re: Pre-schoolers
Good games for 4-6 year olds are:




But they enjoy just having fun.

Playing with puppets
Singing songs

Don't try to do anything with too many rules and don't worry if they don't follow the rules. Just have fun!

- Mark

i2i Feb 12th, 2006 07:20 pm

Re: Pre-schoolers
mark's suggestions are right on the money!

the only other thing i can think of is storytelling. and to make it more interactive, i tell a story with a large book with pictures that are easy to see. after i read it once, i'll read it again and on each page have the students point to the things in the picture. they really like this.

but like mark said, having fun is key! and not too many rules.

little sage Feb 12th, 2006 08:38 pm

Re: Pre-schoolers

One thing I learned the hard way was to keep things non-competitive with preschoolers. Games I play for points with other classes, I play with applause for any kids who does it right in preschool. Doesn't matter who is fastest, or how many chances he/she needed to get it right.

That being said here are a couple more games:

1) Fetch.

Divide kids into 2 teams. Have one set of flashcards with you of words or letters they've been studying. Have two more sets of matching cards placed face-up on a table across the room. Call one kid from each team up to you. Show them a card. On the count of 3, have them walk quickly ;) to the table to find the matching card. *** Don't forget to have one card for each kid over there on the table. Oh the tears if you forget!

Applause and points for each team to get and name the matching card, no matter who is first. If one kid gets it wrong, I let them have a chance to head back to the table.

2) Singing

After the kids get familiar enough with a new song, I like to get a small group of volunteers up to sing it in front of the class, or else do the actions for it while the class sings it. It's super cute and builds some confidence in doing group presentations for when they become CEOs. I make sure they go in groups of 3 or 4 so no one gets major anxiety.

3) Play-do!

Give all the kids a small lump of play-do and call out an animal or something for them to make, ie. Make a cat!. Count down from 20 and then have everyone show each other their cats. Repeat with a new animal. Later, have kids call out the intstructions.

4) Group charades.

Preschoolers are sometimes too young for this one, but it's worth a try. Again, instead of putting the pressure on one kid to act in front of the group (it never fails that however enthusiastic was the volunteer, they always freeze up when they look back at they're class) Divide the class into 3-4 groups and have one kid from each group come up and mime the word you show them from a card. Animals work best, or actions. First team with correct answer can choose the next word.

5) Teacher v. Students

Confusing at first, but once they get it, it's fun.

Show kids a vocabulary word. Name the card. If you the teacher name it correctly, all kids should repeat you. If you name it incorrectly, kids should cover they're mouths and say NOTHING (that's the trick).

For example:

Show a picture of an elephant. You say "Elephant". Class repeats "Elephant". One point for the class.

Show a picture of a tiger. Say "Monkey". If anyone says "Monkey", the teacher gets a point. If everyone keeps silent and covers they're mouths, the class gets one point.

They love beating the teacher. Also, it's a good chance to demonstrate how to be a good loser. -Something I do need practice with ;)

Hope this helps.


mesmark Feb 14th, 2006 10:56 pm

Re: Pre-schoolers
I play some run and slap games with the kids, having them go touch what i say and race back, BUT with younger kids I have them crawl so we don't have violent crashes.

That might be something good for fetch above if your walkers get to much velocity built up.

I also agree about the competiton point. Don't worry about winners and losers. The kids just enjoy doing something. Young kids 2-4 don't need to win and are just sad when they lose.

- Mark

little sage Feb 17th, 2006 07:25 pm

Re: Pre-schoolers

Quote mesmark
with younger kids I have them crawl so we don't have violent crashes.

Crawling is a great idea!!!

Oh, and a story to add to the comment "preschoolers don't need to win": Once I was playing concentration with a small group of kids and one boy kept finding matches and giving his points to the kids who didn't have any. That's when I started thinking that competitiveness is one learned behaviour that I didn't really want to teach.


noriko Feb 23rd, 2006 12:13 am

Re: Pre-schoolers
Um, how do you actually avoid being competitive and losers losing joy and interest, doing games that have winners and losers? In spite of my intention and great efforts to encourage them by applause and cheers, they will sulk and turn away, and the winners reign triumphant.

little sage Feb 23rd, 2006 07:54 am

Re: Pre-schoolers

Quote noriko
Um, how do you actually avoid being competitive and losers losing joy and interest, doing games that have winners and losers? In spite of my intention and great efforts to encourage them by applause and cheers, they will sulk and turn away, and the winners reign triumphant.

Good question. I'm certainly no expert in this field, I'll just write about what I've experienced with my classes.

If you're their first teacher and you've never played a competitive game, and you get them when they're young enough, the kids may not know about winners or losers yet (the Big World's dirty little secret). In that case, you're lucky and you can just praise individuals or groups for any task that they accomplish. They may never notice someone was faster than they were .

If the class does already perceive winners and losers when you play team games you can minimize the effect of losing. As much as possible, I try to not count points on the board with young kids. I try not to dwell on the ending of the game, I have everyone clap together at the end and then quickly move on to the next activity. If crying or sulking happens, I try to just acknowledge any disappointment anyone has and again, move on quickly.

In the 7-8 year old range and up, I do count points, but try to have more than 2 teams. Then at least there are 2 "losers". When I can, I also try to give points when kids help each other, or for being the first team to sit still and be quiet, etc. It can get rather complicated, but you can devise winners in different categories. Also, I try to make new teams every class so no one team will dominate all the games ever played over time (can you tell that I learned that the hard way :doh:). mesmark, another member of this site, wrote about how he does reorganizes teams during game time in this thread

But you're right. Sometimes no matter what you do you can't make the kids feel happy after they lose a game. -Um, me neither.

I don't want to get too philosophic -this topic is making me unexpectedly reflective:o -, but that's just how our societies are built. Best just to try to give all kids a fair shot at winning something over the course of time. I guess I'd just add that as teachers we have the power to choose to reward behaviour that isn't always rewarded in society- for example, quietness or helpfulness, rather than the obvious fastest, most questions answered, etc.

Noriko, do you have a special method of dealing with the sulkers in your classes? What works best for you? What kind of games work best in your preschool classes?


mesmark Feb 23rd, 2006 09:39 am

Re: Pre-schoolers
What I might add real quick is take note of who wins at what game. There are strong points to each game and generally kids will be better at some than others. If you can make your lesson plans with that in mind it helps.

I also try to have one team game in every lesson. That means that everyone will lose or win together as a team, at least once in the lesson. The idea is to build up team work and they almost always win together ;) They occasional lose, so it doesn't seem like I'm always giving it away.

If you can play a variety of games that lead to different winners every time then you'll see kid start to understand that "sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, the fun is just playing the game." They may sulk and that's OK. I hate to lose, too. Just let them be and as long as they try again next time, don't worry about it.

It also helps to have some games that are pure luck and are independant from skill, knowledge or English ability, bingo for example. That gives everyone a shot .

I hope that helps.


noriko Feb 28th, 2006 10:47 pm

Re: Pre-schoolers
Karen, Mark,
Thank you so much for your replies and suggestions. They are a great help! I haven't taught pre-schoolers very long yet, 7 months still. So, I have a lot to learn, still. I have this one class of four five-year-olds which is divided into two periods (30 min. each) with two children in each. And there, losing is very painful and dramatic (tears and sulking and even tantrum, sometimes, or a brave withholding of any of them with trembling lips...). After reading your messages I thought maybe it was because they play games one-on-one. So, yesteray, I joined them and played bingo and concentration with them. I won a few times (like bingo, you can't avoid), to which they said, "You shouldn't be winning!" Maybe. But maybe not, because, I was able to neutralize the atmosphere and quickly move on to the next game and show that winning wasn't what I was looking for. But what I noticed most, being one of the competitors was that the little ones show their competitive spirit really straight forward. We, adults try to hide or moderate it, knowing what it can do. But they are too young for that. Having learned this, the hard way, I spoke to the one who was excessively competitive, that being kind and considerate was more important than being number one. Then, to my amazement, the little girl changed immediately, without any trace of how she was a moment ago. I hope she can keep it up. :-)

Thank you. I am learning a lot from you. Do you have any good idea for a class game or any games for two students?


mesmark Mar 1st, 2006 12:27 am

Re: Pre-schoolers
Timed races are really good for small classes.

I like to use a stop watch or timer and see how many flash cards we can get through as a team in 30-40 seconds. Then you can play again to see if you can beat your old record. This will help for your competetive students and is nice because now you're all working as a team.

The timed races work well for all kinds of language:
simple vocabulary (with flash cards)
short simple sentence (with flash cards)
short yes/no questions (with flash cards)

Don't bother keeping records for the next class because it will just make it difficult for the students to win. Start new each class and set a relatively easy target for the first round.

These can be literally races with everyone racing to one side of the room to get the cards. Then coming back and saying or asking something using the card. Then the next person would head off for the next card.

Do all your drilling/review and such before hand and work up to the race at the end. This might be a 10-15 minute exercise (more with teacher time-outs for air.)

little sage Mar 1st, 2006 12:53 am

Re: Pre-schoolers

Thanks for sharing your story. You're students are very lucky to get so much individual attention from you. I'm sure you'll discover which games make them -and you- happiest over time.

How did you explain to your little one about kindess vs. winning? Is her English level very high, or do you speak her first language? I wish I was able to explain everything to my kids directly about the behaviour I prefer in class. Since my Korean skills aren't that good, I either ask a Korean person to help me, or simply try to model good behaviour. Needless to say, there are plenty of times in my classes when everybody feels ambiguous about what is going on.

Drawing dictation and act-it-out activities with storybooks are two other kinds of things I like to do with kindergarten classes that don't involve competition.

Let me know what activities you find work best with your group.

All the best,


noriko Mar 1st, 2006 01:57 am

Re: Pre-schoolers

You're right. I speak my students' first language. I just said "Being kind and helpful is better than being number one (with a smiling face)," in Japanese. But I believe, even without words, if you model good behavior and relate to them in kindness and consideration, the children will taste for themselves what is good and what is badin you. And some will start to imitate you, even the little ones like the pre-schoolers.

The problem with being able to speak their first language is they can act before me like they would before their mother. Or if it is with older ones, they can start treating me as one of their friends and I have to pay extra efforts to ditch out a line to keep my position as a teacher, if I am not careful.

I have another class whose students are first grader boys and they were really unruly at first. One time, I couldn't just be kind and considerate, but had to show a strong displeasure for their particular behavior (it was their contemptuousness). I did it in the way obvious enough to make my point, and it wasn't words, but my attitude, that communicated to them. So, now, they won't act contemptuously at least in my class for anything. Actions speak louder than words, sometimes. Don't worry about what kind of language you use. There are many ways to communicate, right?


You wrote, in your message #11,
"These can be literally races with everyone racing to one side of the room to get the cards. Then coming back and saying or asking something using the card. Then the next person would head off for the next card."

Are there any specific games you are mentioning here besides the timed flash card game? It sounds that way....

Thank you for sharing with me your activities. I hope I can share mine with you, too, soon.


mesmark Mar 3rd, 2006 08:51 am

Re: Pre-schoolers
Noriko - If you think you can work in running, it will be fun for any game. The kids love to get up and move. I have a list of my favorite game to play. There are 14 games and some you can play with one on one and low numbered classes.

I run my own eikaiwa and teach mostly low numbers so most of my ideas and materials reflect that.


noriko Mar 4th, 2006 12:15 am

Re: Pre-schoolers

Thank you for the ideas and materials. I think my students will love them, and they do like running. I'm going to work it in for the next lesson, with all the other ideas in mind, too, like crawling ;-).

Thank you.


moncho Mar 13th, 2006 05:58 pm

Re: Pre-schoolers

mesmark Mar 20th, 2006 04:29 pm

Re: Pre-schoolers
Monco - I'm glad you found something helpful in there.

And welcome to the forums! :yo:

seasun Jun 6th, 2006 06:20 pm

Re: Pre-schoolers
This is in reply to all the above postings. Thanks for all the great ideas!
I'm an American living in Athens, Greece & up to now have only taught my own children. So, I am new to teaching as well as to this site. The material has already proven very helpful with a 6 year old I've started working with.
Have already passed the site info on to other teachers too.
Thanks again!

mesmark Jun 9th, 2006 01:08 am

Re: Pre-schoolers
seasun - Cool! Let us know if anything in particular really hits the mark or if you change something and it works better.

Happy teaching!

seasun Jun 10th, 2006 12:57 pm

Re: Pre-schoolers
Mesmark- You're the one with the MES-English site, right? Great job!! I love the game ideas, cards etc, as well as the flashcards.
Must have been ALOT of work to put it all together. How do you find time for your "day job"? BTW, ran across the old thread about your job offer. What did you decide? Best of luck wherever you end up. Seasun

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 05:43 pm.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.6.8
Copyright ©2000 - 2020, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
Content Relevant URLs by vBSEO 3.6.0 PL2