Challenging Activities for 5-Year-Olds

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Challenging Activities for 5-Year-Olds

Post by d. » Wed Sep 13, 2006 5:58 am

I received a private message asking me to elaborate on some of the more challenging activities that I consider appropriate for five-year-olds from a previous post ... php?t=5228. Please feel free to add any activities or make any comments about their suitability. I learned by making mistakes with my classes which is not fair to the students so I hope I can save you and your students from the same ones.

I was teaching the same two classes everyday. There was a four-year-old class and a five-year-old class and I would teach one in the morning and then the other in the afternoon. One of the activities I tried illustrates how five-year-ols` ability can to follow plots exceeds that of four-year-olds.

I read "The Very Greedy Python" by Eric Carle to the class and did the narrated drama-based activity that I described in this post: ... php?t=5834. The next day I quickly reviewed the story and then had each student rewrite the story using different animal protagonists to give the students more practice with the structures introduced in the story. We did the story page by page together as a class. Each child would draw their version and then fill-in the blanks (I filled in the blanks for the kids to trace over, if they so chose). The difference between the stories of the fours and fives was very striking. The animal characters in virtually every five-year-old story were the same throughout the story. The opposite was true in virtually every four-year old story--they would start with a lion protagonist, who would then switch to a rabbit and then to a horse. It is possible that I just wasn`t able to get the students to understand the activity, but I have a lot of experience explaining things to young children who don`t speak English very well and am usually very successful. This activity was done over two days which really made the five-year olds` continuity striking. I have sinced used this at other times--giving the students a template and allowing them to modify it in different ways. The trick is to find the right balance between letting their imaginations run loose and giving them enough structure to accomplish the activity in English on their own which helps with their self-esteem.

I will continue with this post at another time. Please feel free to help out.


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Post by EFLwithlittleones » Fri Sep 15, 2006 12:40 pm

Hi Damon

Very interesting what you say regarding the differences between the responses of the two age groups. I think it is also consistent with the generally marked transition that spans the two ages of the children you are teaching. If you've ever taught a class of 4 year olds for a full school year you'll know the tremendous developmental changes which they go through in this special 40 or so week period of learning. Furthermore I don't see anything at all wrong with treating your classes as laboratories. It is obvious from your approach and design that you are very serious about what you do and providing you take note of what works and what doesn't then making mistakes to find what works is in my opinion, par to the course. Early years EFL is a new field and a lot of new things can only be tested by conscientious teachers in the classroom.

For a strightforward extension to check differences in comprehension between the two age groups using the Eric Carle story, try photocopying the book on seperate A4 sheets and see if your 4 yo's sequence the pictures as quickly as the 5 yo's (remove the page numbers). If you put them in groups it would also be possible to observe differences in the ways in which they communicate/support each other.

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Post by d. » Sat Sep 16, 2006 6:32 am

I am a little bitter that the resources for teaching these ages are so poor. Textbooks that language publishers give us largely miss the boat. From what I understand of the EFL publishing business it is the process, and not the authors, that is to blame.

This is a good month-long lesson plan I have used to good effect. Pay careful attention to how the lessons build because you would have a hard time getting through the more difficult activities without following the order reasonably closely. I wish all my lessons were this good. Also note that I roughly follow the hear, see, say, write language acquisition guidelines but stretch it over several weeks instead of one class.

There is a game called "16 Monsters" from an activity book whose name eludes me. You could re-make this game on your own, but if you teach elementary-age students then I highly recommend it (whatever it is) and there are a few good activities that you could use for kindergarten-age activities. The game is a guessing game where each monster has four pairs of features: fangs/normal teeth, hair/no hair, big nose/small nose, two eyes/three eyes. If you get out your calculator you would find that there are sixteen possible combinations of attributes which gives you sixteen unique monsters. It is helpful to number the monsters as well.

Lesson one: Your target language is "it has a ______." The other goal is to help develop reasoning skills. Get out a large chart of the sixteen monsters and a set of sixteen monster cards. Choose one card in front of the class without showing the card to the students. Tell the students that: "It has a big nose," or whatever. Ask for a volunteer to eliminate the monsters that "doesn`t have a big nose" by putting a magnet, or whatever, over the small-nosed monsters. The student will probably start covering the big-nosed monster the first time so be ready to gently correct the student repeating your target language as often as you can. Keep going until you have eliminated all but the monster that matches your card. Do this once or no more than twice a day for a few days. Make certain you write the target language on the board where you can draw attention to it when it is being used.

Lesson two: Your target language is "does it have a______." Now give each student, or pair of student, their own sheet of the monsters and bingo chips to eliminate monsters as they go. Get a student up to choose the monster and another to point to the target sentences that they read them off. The students eliminate monsters by covering monsters with bingo chips. If you have done lesson one well/often enough they shouldn`t find this too difficult. Continue this once or twice every day or every other day for two weeks or more. Let students choose not to use bingo chips when they feel confident enough to keep track of things themselves.

Lesson three: Prepare a worksheet with a space for a drawing and suitably large tracing letters that describe one monster (It has fangs. It has two eyes etc...). The children are to draw the monster and try to trace the description. Do this once.

Lesson four: Prepare a worksheet similar to the above except leave the attributes only blank. Each child chooses a monster, describes it and draws it. Do this once or twice.

Lesson five: Prepare two worksheets, one with the attributes blank, the other completely blank. Allow each child to choose one or the other.

Lesson six: Prepare a sheet with a few extra blank lines and the following blanks: "it has _____eyes;" "it has _____ legs;" as well as the normal attributes. Also use this chance to ask the students about other attributes--I usually accept L1 answers but reply in English, write the description in English and expect any further reference to this attribute in English. It is really important to give the students both a framework and the opportunity to make this activity their own. If you can`t get the students to come up with their own ideas, at first, add a couple of your own and then hint at other attributest that a monster might have. The students then fill in the blanks and add any complete sentences for extra attributes (you might be surprised at which students get very involved in this and add lots of attributes).

I have gotten this to work with 5/6-year-olds in relatively strict environments. It would also work with older children. The key is to know when to move on. Don`t pressure writing at all--children want to write just like their parents and they will continue love it, if you let them. Present this lesson well and everything should work surprisingly smoothly.


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Post by pollitatica » Sun Sep 17, 2006 12:18 am

These ideas are fantastic! They are helping me a lot. The monster activity is especially interesting. If you think of the name of the activity book, please let me know!

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Post by d. » Fri Nov 10, 2006 9:13 am

Sorry it has taken me so long but I haven`t had the time to finish this post so, until I have time to finish it...

I am not sure if this is the right book, but I think it might be "Esl Teacher's Activities Kit" by Elizabeth Claire (isbn #0130804789). I would need to have a look inside so if any of you find it please look for the "16 Monsters" activity and let me know if this is indeed the correct book.

As a general rule I try to plan very general long-term goals and then work the curriculum backwords from there. I will use my reading curriculum as an example.

My two year goal for my last class, which I met, was to have my students able to read, at a basic level, using both phonics and whole language approachs. Phonics, very simply, is where students are encouraged to focus on the individual letter sounds and whole language is where students are encouraged to focus on meaning. I don`t know enough about the academic debate between these two approaches to really make any informed comment beyone saying that I have seen students receptive to both approaches and make progress with both so I saw no need to limit myself to just one.

Because EFL students do not normally have the opportunity to read in English with their parents everyday, I tried to expose my students to as much written English as possible. I labelled everything, put up signs and, most importantly, whenever we sang I would post the lyrics in front of the class and have a volunteer in front of the class pointing to the lyrics as we sang. At first, of course, no one came even close but, with students pointing to the lyrics, all of a sudden the words became interesting--something worthy of attention. After a month or so, most students would begin to recognise repeating parts and use them as sign-posts in the lyrics to keep them close in the parts they didn`t recognise. At some point in the year, if you copy this activity, you will need to very unequivocally teach the children that it is not alright to comment on others` struggles with this activity to prevent a loss of confidence among the students who are slower at picking this up. I did this in the student`s L1 because the social and emotional development trump L2 learning at this age.

Anytime we had a talk about something or played a game where language was repeated, I would write key words on the board and refer to the written words repeatedly as we spoke or have a student point to repeated phrases in games etc...

The "Alphabet Song" also was introduced right away.

For beginning phonics, I made a set of flash-cards with the students` names on them. I would choose one letter each day, and we would go through the whole classes names and replace the first letter of each child`s name with the letter of the day--of course the teacher doesn`t escape this treatment because you don`t want your students to think that this is something to be ashamed of or embarrassed about. This is not only good for a laugh, but it also introduces the students to the basic sounds of each letter and, with Japanese students, whose native language uses a syllabic alphabet where there are certain consonant-vowel combinations that occur in English that don`t occur in Japanese, helps stop them from hard-programming consonant-vowel relationships.

Before about six months I introduced some of Mikiko Nakamoto`s storybooks (Apricot press) and set up a reading station where students, during free play time, were aloud to listen to the cd`s of each book while they followed along in the book. As their awareness of words increased through the above activities, they became more interested in relating each word on the cd to the words on the text--all without teacher prodding. Some of the less mature students took a whole extra year before reaching this stage, but they all did. The main drawback is that there aren`t enough quality books with cd`s to keep them interested in regular listening.

Also around six months we started brainstorming words that began with a specific letter.

Although writing isn`t exactly a reading skill, letter recognition is an important part of phonics and writing reinforces this skill so around eight months the students began writing their names. Additionally students were able to choose to do alphabet tracing sheets for stamps on a writing progress chart and, after a field trip or other special event, I would write key vocabulary on the board before letting the students draw--many of the students chose to label their drawing with the corresponding vocabulary.

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Post by aprillove20 » Thu Jul 22, 2010 5:58 am

Excellent information. It is also consistent with the generally marked transition that spans the two ages of the children you are teaching.

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