If you teach English to kindergarten kids, you don’t need me to tell you that it can a little bit challenging. Seriously, I’ve been there and it was tough, really tough. However, I discovered that with some solid activities in my lesson plan, things went far more smoothly.
Top 21 Kindergarten ESL Activities
Here are some of my top picks for ESL activities and games for Kindergarten Kids. The good news is that Hangman isn’t on the list. And the better news is that all of these activities have some sort of educational value! Happy students, happy teachers, and perhaps most importantly, happy parents.
#1: ESL Flashcard Games for Kindergarten
Most ESL textbooks for kids have an optional set of flashcards with all the vocabulary words that you can buy. Whatever you do, try to get your hands on them. They’ll be some ESL teaching gold and you can do a million and one things with them.
To see what I do with flashcards and kindy kids, check out this article:
ESL flashcard games all the way! Trust me on this one. They’ll definitely make your life easier and if there’s one thing I don’t walk into a kindy class without, it’s a set of these things.
#2 ESL Games for Kindergarten: Concentration Matching Game
This is a challenging, but fun game that kindergarten kids love playing. You make cards that are in pairs. What can be on each card depends on the level of the student. However, with kindy kids, it may be quite simple pictures and words. For example, cat, dog, blue, red, etc.
Then, you place the cards facedown and the first student has to pick two cards. Turn them over, and if they’re a match, they get to keep them. If not, turn them over in the same spot and the next student goes.
This memory game is an excellent way to review vocabulary. Learn more about it here:
#3 Warmup Activities for Kids: Videos in the ESL Classroom
There a ton of reasons why you might want to use videos in your ESL kindy classroom. Taking a break (for the teacher) isn’t really one of them. There are so many educational things you can do that it’d be crazy not to use them! Here are some ways that you can get the best value out of them:
#4 ESL Activities for Kindergarten: Picture Prompt
Kids love fun pictures (and adults too!). Kindy kids, of course are no exception. A single interesting picture put up on the PowerPoint can elicit a ton of language. It’s the ideal warmer activity so try it out with your kids today:
Playing Games and Learning English with Kindergarten Students
Do you want to see some more English classroom games for younger learners? Then you’ll need to check out this video below for all the details you need to know:
#5: ESL Speaking Bingo
What kid doesn’t love bingo, right? Adults seem to like it as well and it’s kind of a staple in most English classrooms. However, you can make it a bit more educational by including a speaking aspect with it. Instead of just saying the word, you describe it to your students.
It also turns it from strictly a vocabulary recognition activity into a bit more of listening one.
Find out more here about one of the most fun games for kindergarten class:
#6: Discussion Starters for Kindergarten Kids
If you teach more advanced, or slightly older kindy kids, you may want to try some of these discussion starters. They cover things like food, family (more ideas here: ESL Family Activities), school, etc.
Check them out here:
#7: Total Physical Response (TPR)
TPR, when done with kids usually involves things like:
- Touch your left leg!
- Touch something blue
- Life two hands into the air
This can be a fun warm-up activity and can bring some energy back into the classroom if you have sleepy students. Kids also never seem to get tired of this thing. It’s actually one of the best kindergarten listening activities out there so give it a try for yourself. And of course, let us know how it goes!
More details here:
#8: Mystery Box, a Fun ESL Kindy Game
If you want to have some serious fun with your ESL kindergarten students, then you’re going to need to make yourself a mystery box. It’s ideal for student who know some adjectives.
Find out more here:
#9 Kindergarten Icebreaker: Ball Toss
Like mystery box, ball toss is a super fun one that you can try out with your kindy kids. However, be warned that you should really only attempt it with smaller classes, and a beach ball with this age group. The way it works is that you write questions on the ball. Toss the ball to a student who has to answer a question that’s under their right thumb.
Want to check out one of my favourite ESL kindergarten games? Learn more here:
It’s also one of the best kindergarten get to know you games if you write the student’s names on the ball. Then, the name they touch, they have to throw the ball to.
#10: Odd One Out ESL Warm-Up
If your kindergarten kids know a decent amount of vocabulary, you can try odd one out. You can do this by speaking (and then it becomes a listening activity) or by writing, if they know how to read.
Say or write 4 things. For example: apple, banana, orange, chair.
Which one doesn’t belong? A chair. More advanced level students can say why (it’s not a fruit).
Learn more about this activity here:
#11: ESL Yes and No Question Activities
The be verb in the present simple is often the first grammar that students learn when they’re learning English. It’s easy enough, but question forms can be a little bit tricky. If you want to have some fun with this, while helping your students perfect them, then you’ll need to check this out:
#12: ESL Whiteboard Games
Students of any age LOVE to write on the whiteboard and kindy kids go crazy for it. There are a ton of fun whiteboard games and activities for ESL students that you can try out. Seriously, just try it out and your students will keep coming back for more!
Find out some of our top picks right here: ESL Whiteboard Games.
#13: A to Z Review Game
Do you have kindergarten students that know how to read and write basics things in English? Then you’ll definitely want to try out the A-Z game or activity. For kids this young, I’d probably do it together as a class on the whiteboard. Or, if your students are a bit older, you can put them in groups of 2-3 and turn this into a game.
The way it works is that you choose a certain topic. Animals or jobs for example. Then, students have to come up with one of them that starts with each letter. For example:
Etc. They try to get as many as possible in the allotted time, but I only allow one per letter. Do you want to try out one of the best ESL activities for kindergarten? Learn more here: A-Z ESL Game.
#14: Number Games for Kindergarten Class
Teaching kindergarten kids number is always a win! It’s simple, easy to understand vocabulary and you can do a ton of stuff with it.
There are lots of fun games and activities you can do with numbers, math and counting. Check out some of my top picks here: ESL Number Games.
#14: Kindergarten ESL Activities for Food
Who doesn’t like food, right? It’s one of the most common topics in ESL/EFL textbooks, including ones for kindergarten kids. The best part about this unit is that there are so many things you can do with it. Here are some of my top picks: ESL Food Activities.
#15: Preposition of Place Games for Kindergarten Class
Prepositions are another one of those fun topics that lend themselves well to teaching young children. You can have lots of fun with things like in/on/between/next to, etc. Flashcards, whiteboard games, secret games, etc. all work well with this unit.
Do you want some ideas to get started? You’ll need to check this out then: ESL Preposition of Place Activities.
#16: Songs and Chants for Kindergarten ESL
I love to use songs and chants when teaching young children. One of my favourite things is when I catch my students singing some of these songs outside of the class! Even if you’re not musical (like me), it’s still possible to do this with the help of YouTube!
#17: Chain Spelling Activity
If you’re teaching your students how to read then you may want to consider playing this spelling game. The way it works is that all the students stand up. Then, you say a word and students take turns spelling it out letter by letter. If someone doesn’t get the correct letter, they are “out.”
#18: ESL Halloween Games and Activities
What kid doesn’t love Halloween, right? I love to have some party days for major holidays in my home country of Canada. The good news is that there are a ton of fun and exciting things you can do in TEFL classes for this popular holiday. Here are some of the best ideas:
#19: ESL Clothing Activities
Clothing is one of the first things that young children learn when beginning with English. The vocabulary is something very familiar to young kids and the concept is also concrete enough for their developing brains. Check out some of my recommendations for this popular unit in ESL textbooks:
#20: Word Challenge
If your students know how to read and write basic words, then consider this whiteboard listening and spelling game. The way it works is that you say a word out loud and two (or three) students race to write the correct word on the board.
Want to give it a try with your students? You can check it out here: ESL Word Challenge.
#21: Me Too!
Try out this simple ESL activity that requires nothing in the way of preparation or materials. The way it works is that students take turns saying a fact about themselves that they think they’ll have in common with some, but not all of the other students.
Then the students that can agree say, “Me too!” Want to try it out with your young learners? Find out all the information here: Me Too!
ESL Kindergarten Class in China
For even more ideas about how to teach kindy to ESL students, check out this video of a teacher in China:
ESL Kindergarten Class FAQs
There are a number of common questions that people have about teaching ESL to kindy kids. Here are the answers to some of the most popular ones.
How do I Teach Kindergarten ESL?
Here are some of the top tips for teaching ESL to kindergarten students:
- Use hands-on activities that get students moving around the classroom
- Avoid talking and lecturing for long periods
- Use lots of interaction
- Review always
- Give gentle correction of errors
- Explore many different topics
- Use lots of praise
- Reinforce positive behaviour
How Do I Teach my 3-Year-Old English?
To teach a three year old English, here are a few tips:
- Short and simple is best (only 5-10 minutes)
- Introduce only a few new words at a time
- Use visuals
- Mix things up
- Repeat and review frequently
- Have realistic goals
- Use games
What Age is Best to Learn a Second Language?
Opinions vary but the general consensus is that the best age to learn a second language is before puberty. Some experts say the peak language acquisition stage happens around the age of 6 or 7, while others say that the window goes until puberty.
ESL Kindergarten Lessons
If you want a ready-made ESL kindergarten lesson plan, then you should check out some of our favourite resources right here:
Or, just use some of the basic ESL textbooks for kids (New Parade for example) that usually have ready-made lessons that make it very easy to teach from. This will usually be your best option if you teach very young learners.
Have your say about ESL Kindergarten Activities
Do you have any tips of tricks for teaching ESL to kindy kids? Any games or activities that you love to use with your students, or have you tried one of them from this list? Please leave a comment below and let us know what you think. We’d love to hear from you.
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