Factors to include/ think about when planning your first pre-school English class
- The lesson plan should be flexible. For example, it should be possible to miss out stages (and perhaps come back and try them again later in the lesson) or mix them up. In other words, starting one activity shouldn’t rely on finishing the last one.
- There should be at least two songs, both with actions and at least one done standing up.
- Transitions between stages should be very clear, e.g. standing up, turning on the CD or moving to another part of the room at the beginning of a new stage.
- There should be at least one use of a storybook, if only as an alternative way of teaching vocabulary.
- There should be at least one flashcard stage, preferably made more interesting by revealing the cards slowly, getting students to guess what they are, etc.
- If possible, also have one vocabulary stage where you use realia (= objects) such as plastic fruit.
- Try to cover some personal questions such as “What’s your name?”, but think carefully about how you are going to keep the students’ attention during this stage (e.g. by making it into a game and getting everyone to shout out the question each time). Also think about how you can explain what the question means if you can’t use L1 (e.g. by pointing at their name badges for “What’s your name?” or photos of kids of various ages with birthday cakes for “How old are you?”). As with all language points and activities but especially so with this tricky point, don’t be ashamed to give up if they just don’t get it or lose concentration – you can still try again in the next class.
- Cover lots of vocabulary, including several different groups such as colours, fruit and animals. Try to make the first few of each group something the students will already know, such as things that are their same in their language. Teach each group in a different way, e.g. using realia with one, flashcards with the next and a storybook with the third. Do one or two activities for each language point and then completely switch to something different.
- Don’t worry about clever links between different stages. They won’t appreciate it and might even prefer a sudden and surprising change of topic and/ or activity.
- Use mime at almost every stage. If you are particularly nervous, planning what mime you will use for each piece of vocabulary and part of the story or song might help.
- Don’t just plan the language you will teach them to produce, but also the instructions language you will use that you will want them to eventually understand, e.g. “Come here”.
- Include about 15 separate activities for a 30 minute lesson, but don’t rely on finishing more than 6 or 7 of them.
- Put in lots of stuff that is the same in their language or they are likely to know, such as the ABC song or Old MacDonald Had a Farm.
- Mainly stick to games the students already know and/ or you can explain without using words (it’s best to still give all instructions orally as well, but without them necessarily needing to understand the words to know what to do).
- Write down the track numbers of the songs that you are planning on using.
- Make sure you have all the lyrics of any song you are going to use with you, including ones that you will be using recordings for, so that you can sing along and anticipate the next accompanying action.
- Clearly mark all materials you will need for the class on your lesson plan. This is even more important than for your other classes as there tends to be a lot of stuff and it is much more difficult to improvise your way out of not having it. You can circle all the things you need on the lesson plan, or have a separate list of materials written at the top.
An example first lesson plan with 3 year old complete beginners, 30 minutes
- Shout “Hello” and/ or other greetings they can just repeat in return like “Nice to meet you” and “Good morning”
- Start with a sit down activity to do for as long as they can concentrate (maybe ten seconds or maybe a minute or two!), e.g. spinning round and round to point at one student to ask them personal questions. Let students take the teacher role if they are willing and get the whole class repeating the question each time to keep them involved.
- Make a sudden change to standing up, sitting down, jumping etc for action words, leading onto an action song with the same vocabulary.
- Play a guessing game with animal flashcards, giving hints with sentences starting with the actions you just did (“It can jump”), colours (“It’s white”- pointing to something white to help them understand), body parts (“It’s got long ears”- miming your own ears extended), etc. If students are unmotivated, you could try giving the flashcard to the student who says the animal name first, loudest or most often, but make sure everyone gets at least one card by the end. Vary the way you reveal the cards to them (e.g. flashing them quickly across their line of sight) and the speed and volume of how you drill the words.
- Do mimes for each animal, as you go through the animal vocabulary and/ or after you finish. Move to doing those actions while moving round and round the room if they are getting restless.
- Do a storybook or picture book connecting animals, colours and/or fruit, for example “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”.
- Half hide plastic fruit in your hands, and get students to guess what each one is.
- Give out one piece of plastic fruit (practising “Here you are”, “Thank you”) to each student.
- Get them to balance their piece of plastic fruit on different parts of their body, e.g. “Put your fruit on your head!”
- Lead onto the song “Head Shoulders Knees and Toes” or another song that includes body vocabulary.
- Get students to slam dunk the plastic fruit into a basket (therefore making clearing up fun). This can be done before the song or before doing the song a second time if things are getting out of hand or they get confused by having the fruit and singing at the same time.
- Do another action song to finish, preferably one that has a positive vibe and makes them finish on a high, e.g. “If You’re Happy and You Know It (Clap Your Hands)”
- Shout “Goodbye”, “See you” etc with lots of waving and maybe shaking hands/ slapping palms
- Leave the room still waving and shouting, or get the students to file out while saying goodbye.
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