Number one for English language teachers

Children: 4-6 year-olds

Level: Starter/beginner, Elementary Type: Teaching notes

In this section, find out how 4-6 year-old children learn and develop.

CharacteristicsImplicationsNeed
Pre-school or just beginning schoolNot used to classroom conventionsTraining in class routines
e.g listening to teacher
Limited motor skillsClumsy control of pen / scissors etc.to develop motor control
e.g. colouring, copying
Learning holisticallyWhole child needs stimulationopportunities to move, sing, play, explore, touch etc
Cannot distinguish between different parts of languageCannot analyse languageExposure to *chunks of language e.g. chants, stories, classroom language
Limited reading/writing skills in L1Introducing reading/ writing in EnglishLots of listening, speaking activities
Fun introduction to English letters and words
See no need to communicate in EnglishStudents use L1 exclusivelyReasons to speak English
e.g. games, chants
Love stories, fantasyBored with many topicsStories, fantasy, fun

*chunks of language = words that naturally come together e.g. ‘thank you very much’, ‘glass of water’, ‘have a nice day’ –  that are easily learnt, repeated and do not need analysis. 


Chants

Chants are great as children

  • learn to work together
  • pick up chunks
  • get to listen to lots of meaningful language
  • have a reason to use English
  • find them funny
  • move their body
  • enjoy repeating them

Chants are easy to make up. I made this one up for my 5-6 year olds. They had already begun learning animals. We chanted it together and did actions for the different animals. (pretended to splash water etc)  

  • My name’s Fred and I’m a frog – jump, jump, jump
  • My name’s Kate and I’m a cat – miaow, miaow, miaow
  • My name’s Fergie and I’m a fish – splash, splash, splash
  • My name’s Micky and I’m a mouse – squeak, squeak, squeak
  • My name’s Benny and I’m a bird – flap, flap, flap

This is a lovely chant with a rhythm that children enjoy. They can stretch their arms out to show ‘big’ and bring their hands close together to show ‘little’. It also helps to develop:

Motor skills - children will enjoy colouring in the pictures that come with the chant. Colouring demands concentration, eye/hand coordination and hand control – all important pre-writing skills  
Word recognition - when beginning word recognition they can draw a line between the animal words – cat, mouse etc and the and the pictures

 


Songs

Classic songs like Old MacDonald had a farm (see related pages below)are very popular with young children. This is a version of the song that encourages students to produce long vowel sounds. It also practises the numbers one to four.  Farms are pretty universal. Young students enjoy making the animal noises and farm animals are a nice lexical set.

To create a nice wall display, get children to draw their favourite farm animal and the teacher (or a child who draws quickly and finishes their animal) can draw a big farm to paste the animals onto. More animals can be added later as well as a farmer etc. Once they begin writing, students can label the different animals.


Stories

There are many story books based on animals. Children love listening to stories about animals especially If there are colourful, child-friendly visuals to help them follow the story. You can also use cuddly animal toys while story-telling to get and hold the children’s attention.  


Games

Children all love games. 4 – 6 year olds have still to develop cooperative skills, so introducing games that involve turn-taking helps to develop these skills. Do not despair if they get impatient or want to take each other’s turns – they are still learning to be less egocentric and need lots of opportunities to allow these skills to develop (see related pages The animal game below).

The first version of the game is appropriate for 4 – 6 year olds as they simply have to count out the steps of the game according to what their dice lands on and then name the animal on the spot.  


Cutting and colouring

See related pages How things work below. The students get to create a herd of elephants by cutting out an elephant and naming him/her. They can also colour it in. They can practise the ‘What’s your elephant called?’  & ‘He’s / She’s called….’

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