Teach English in Anding Zhen - Yueyang Shi

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For nearly a year, I have taught four to six-year-olds residing in the outskirts of Beijing. My students do not sit at desks. They instead sit side-by-side on a line of chairs, all of which face an interactive white board complete with pre-designed flipcharts. As my students are still learning basic words for standard English use, drills and flashcards are essential within our lessons. However, drilling can quickly lose a young learner’s interest. To remedy the monotony, I have used the following five activities with my classes: One-Step, Monster, Bomb; Hopscotch; Fly Swat Race; Tic-Tac-Toe; and Rock, Paper, Scissors Tournament. Each game proved to be an effective way to have young learners drill while keeping them engaged in the lesson. I observed a local teacher at my center play One-Step, Monster, Bomb with her students, and I have since then used it with many of my classes. The premise is that the entire class stands at their chairs while the teacher stands at the other end of the room. The teacher holds flashcards containing the keywords along with a flashcard of a bomb and a flashcard of a monster. The goal for the students is to reach the teacher. To do so, the students must say the correct keywords shown on the teacher’s chosen flashcard. If correct, they may take one step. If the teacher shows the bomb flashcard, the students must say “Bomb!” and duck. Then they may stand again and resume their progress. However, if the teacher shows the monster flashcard, the students must rush back to their seats. This can be effective, as reaching the teacher does not become the students’ main goal. The students anticipate the bomb and monster surprises. The suspense makes drilling more exciting, and I purposefully stall the next flashcard until everyone has said the keyword. As the following activities will show, an effective flashcard game is one that has the students move and be competitive. Though the hopscotch activity is based off the classic hopscotch game (a game that my Chinese students are also familiar with), I first learned of its adaptation for the Study phase through one of my company’s lesson plans. After learning key words from the flipchart, split the class into two teams. Draw two numbered hopscotches on the floor. In between them, lay down the flashcards containing either the keyword or picture. After picking a representative from each team, let a student roll a large die. The students then “race” each other to the correct number on their respective hopscotch and say the keyword. An alternative way to play is to have the students say each passing word as they hop along their hopscotch. The teacher then gives the appropriate reward to each individual and team. The teacher must be sure to divide the teams fairly, where strong and weak students may work together, as is important for the next activity, Fly Swat Race. To play Fly Swat Race, the teacher first breaks the class into two teams. According to the class’s overall behavior, either have the students line up against the adjacent walls or have the students remain in their chairs. Use blue-tac to stick the flashcards sporadically on the white board. (Personally, I like to draw fly wings and mouths around the cards.) Either show the picture of the keyword, or the word itself, depending on which receptive skill needs improvement. One student from each team joins the teacher opposite to the flashcards. Give the two students fly swatters. Then, say the keyword or use a sentence or description that points to the flashcard. The students then race each other to the correct word. The first student who swats the “fly” and says the word wins a point for their team. Each participant receives their own reward after each attempt. The activities mentioned thus far are best used for the Study phase. However, the next activity may be used for Engage phase. Unlike the other activities, I observed the tic-tac-toe flashcard game to be used more within my school as an Engage activity. First, the teacher quickly reviews the keywords and their pictures with the whole class. Then, a large tic-tac-toe is drawn on the board. Each space showcases a number and a flashcard of a keyword’s picture. The class is divided into two teams, are designated X’s and O’s, and then the teams work together to pick a number. To make sure each student has a chance to play, pick one student from the team to tell me the keyword. Their teammates may help if the child is struggling. The child is then allowed to go up to the board, remove the flashcard, and draw an X or an O. The teacher rewards everyone appropriately. Tic-tac-toe can be time-consuming depending on the students, which is why it may be designated to take up the entire Engage phase. However, the next activity moves fast, and may be used as the final activity of the Study phase. Finally, a personal favorite flashcard activity: Rock, Paper, Scissors Tournament. Everyone competes as individuals. I recommend having a helper teacher (if one is available) to help check if the participants are saying the keywords. First, group together two sets of three different flashcards. Stick one set on the left side the board and the other set on the right side. To further guide the students, draw three squares underneath each flashcard and then draw two large circles in the center. The goal is to have two students say each keyword and then have them meet in the middle to play a single rock-paper-scissors game. The winner may switch sides to the other set of flashcards while a new student goes up. The cycle repeats until everyone has tried. The last student standing may even play against the teacher! Drilling is still important. However, continual drilling may bore a class of young learners. Flashcard activities like these may make learning more engaging and maybe even more memorable.