Let’s Play! 20+ Sites for Young Learners

Part of the Cool Sites series

Sometimes, the teachers of young learners get a bad reputation for playing all day in their classes. Let me tell you a secret. Any great teacher of young learners is definitely playing a lot in and out of the classroom! Play is an important part of development. Children are motivated by learning through play and learn a lot through playing such as:

  • problem solving
  • completing a small task before a larger task
  • pacing
  • following instructions
  • collaborating
  • developing skills to accomplish tasks

Play and Video Games

Many more lessons are learned by today’s digital games which have the social component to them. Try checking out the Playstations, Wii, and other game consoles. Many have ways for children worldwide to communicate and play with/against each other. Children are motivated to accomplish tasks and learn skills. They can continue the challenge until they accomplish it. Some get so obsessive they will spend all night trying to achieve the task so they can advanced to the next level! If it’s too tough the kids will research online forums, ask others experienced in the game, and apply what they learned into accomplishing the task. What I have described should be what learning in schools should look like. Below are some websites to find games for young learners to develop skills and learn English! I add these by theme to my class wiki, English Storytime, and encourage the parents to help the children play the games and monitor them. The children love playing these games and entering these virtual worlds! Some of the websites are games but do offer English adventures for children where they get a chance to have fun learning English! These websites are definitely preferable to children sitting in class completing worksheets.

9 Digital Sites that Make English Fun for YLs

Kindersite- The Kindersite spearheaded by Joel Josephson (@acerview54) has 1000s of educational and fun content specifically designed for preschool, kindergartens, elementary, primary schools and special needs students. Register for free for full featured access, but it’s not required. The age level and themes are listed next to each game! Interactive stories, games, and activities are included. I get many of the games we play in class for my 4 to 10 year-old English language learners from this website!

ELT Digital Play- This blog lists reviews various games, describes their value and how to play them. I love the pictures shown and the kind of games they find which have children complete tasks and advance to different levels! These games are the kind children love to play and aren’t just simple tasks. Once again a great place I find treasures for my class wiki! Graham Stanley (@grahamstanley) and Kyle Mawer (@kylemawer). You can follow their Twitter account to be updated, @eltdigitalplay.

Pumkin English- Love this virtual world for children to learn English through cute characters accomplishing tasks and winning points! In addition, the site has 100 lessons and over 750 learning activities that help children practice pronunciation, listening, reading, and writing skills. Teachers have free accounts and there are free trial periods for parents. Children learn English through videos, games, songs, puzzles and quizzes. Parents are given daily reports of the child’s learning. Children can explore 5 virtual worlds and have over 100 animals join them along the way. There is also a foundation that is going to be set-up for kids who can not afford to play outside of school. You can follow their Twitter account to be updated, @pumkinenglish. Sometimes I play the games myself for fun!

Brainnook- a free online virtual world for kids to develop math and english skills with children worldwide. This site is in Beta so parents and children feel free to explore for free!

English Story Time Wiki- In my class wiki, you’ll find several activities, videos, fingerplays, and chants listed by theme.

Nick Jr- A free website that has several developmental games for children based on popular children’s shows. My 4 to 6 year-olds’ favorite game comes from this site, Wonder Pets Save the Baby Dinosaur!

English Attack- Adolescents and teens learn English through games, videos, news, music, and more. Paul Maglione (@paulmaglione) runs this website. Test the beta for free! I recently saw his presentation at TESOL France and the website looks really fantastic for older children and teenagers.

Webkins- Children buy these characters and get a code to enter the virtual world. It’s not made for English language learners but motivates children to speak English with millions of kids worldwide. Children really enjoy this virtual world.

Learn English Kids- Has several interactive stories, games, and printables for children of all ages!

YL Curriculum Resources

I remember when I first began teaching young learners how difficult it was to find great material. For this reason, I’d like to recommend you check out these 3 great sites for YL resources. Not all are free and nope they didn’t pay me to write this for them. Just appreciate their great materials for YLs.

Potato Pals- Accompanying this cute book series of potato pal adventures are Youtube videos, a Facebook community, drawing contests, a blog of their adventures, and more! All children’s books should have these elements to involve their communities. I really enjoy how the Potato Pals has children worldwide submit drawings and features them on a slideshow. It makes children feel special when the characters they read about communicate with them. The Potato Pals series is unique and forward thinking on how they involve kids through social media. Imagine a child sending their favorite character a drawing then looking on the website to see that drawing published. Children are on Facebook these days. At least my 12 year-old niece is and I can only imagine the joy she feels when befriended by a character she loves! The Potato Pals series is uniquely different than any other children’s series I’ve encountered for English language learners.

English Raven- I have previously written about English Raven’s games, lessons, flash cards and more! You pay what you want to have access to 1000s of materials and ideas! For one YL curriculum I paid megabucks so this is an absolutely bargain in my opinion. You get access to some great videos of Jason Renshaw playing the games with his very cute children :-) Here’s just one of Jason’s great ideas to create a live reader for children starring them!

Cullen’s ABCs- This free video curriculum has so many creative ideas, finger plays, chants, and songs for young learners. I watched so many of Cullen’s videos to figure out how to engage my learners to learn the language. This free program really saved me when I began teaching 2 year-olds English and I share her videos with my parents to help them play the fingerplays at home with their children! Cullen has a free online pre-school for children and an iPhone app of 5 felt-board stories. Below is one great example of her free videos!

Young Learner Blogs

Here are some great blogs that often share YL lessons and ideas. I always find some fun ideas! Check them out and subscribe in one click with this bundle! These include the blogs by Digital ELTplay and English Raven above!

Early EFL
Teaching Village
Reflections of a Teacher and Learner
Sabrina’s Weblog
Esra’s Englishous Blog
Carol Read’s ABC of Teaching Children
For English Teachers – Angoltanároknak
Ozge Karaoglu’s Blog
So This is English
MY INTEGRATING TECHNOLOGY JOURNEY
Picture Books in ELT
MABUHAY CLASSROOM

Challenge:

What is the amount of time you’re playing in your YL classes? By the end of the day you should be exhausted and in great shape from all the movement. Try increasing the amount of play in your YL classes for at least one week. Try having very few worksheet activities that week if possible and reflect on the difference.

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Animating Your Lessons with Some Drama: 20+ Resources

Part of the Cool Sites series

Act up

Every Friday I am presenting free webinars thanks to American TESOL! We have an incredible time. Recently, we shared ideas for integrating drama in the classroom. Teachers do not have to be skilled in acting. Instead, the webinar was away to introduce teachers to different games that get students to tap into their creative juices and get them moving! As Ken Wilson said in a recent interview with me, “Animate your classes!”

Classroom activities that include drama skills include:

  • role plays
  • puppets
  • pretend games
  • mime
  • pantomine
  • total physical response
  • dance
  • music
  • dress-up
  • improvisation games
  • puppetry
  • storytelling
  • digital storytelling

Find more activities by watching this webinar, Using Drama in the Classroom!


Drama Activities & Resources

Check out these resources to help you animate your classes!

Improv Games: Videos

  • Game 1: Yes And (click to watch a video example)
  • Instructions:
    • Put students into pairs
    • One student begins with a sentence and the other student says “Yes and” then adds more information.
    • Use a timer to get students speaking for 1 minute or longer.
  • Game 2: Rumors (click to watch a video example)
  • Instructions:
    • Put students into pairs
    • Student A makes up a rumor to tell student B.
    • Student B adds to the rumor then both students giggle.
    • Student B then makes up the rumor and student A adds to the rumor.
    • Use a timer to get students speaking for 1 minute or longer.
  • Game 3: Pass the Prop (click to watch a video example)
  • Instructions:
    • You will need an everyday object such as an eraser, a chair, a broom, or other object. You can choose to bring in as many as you want. We will use a broom as an example.
    • Place students in a circle.
    • Place 2 students in the center of the circle with the broom.
    • Student A decides what to pretend the broom is either than a broom. For example, student A may decide the broom is a spaceship.
    • Student A then demonstrates the broom is a spaceship through acting and using dialogue until student B figures this out.
    • Student B determines the broom is a spaceship and plays along matching the dialogue.
    • When a student in the circle imagines the object is something else that student taps student A or B and replaces that student in the skit.
  • Game 4: Jibberish to English (click to watch a video example)
  • Instructions:
    • You will need a bell or whistle.
    • Put students into pairs
    • Have the pairs make up a scene or give them one. They are choosing a scene they can easily talk about so they may want something simple like going shopping, playing a sport, etc. Or you could have the scene match your lesson topic.
    • Student A begins by speaking about the topic. Student B rings the bell every 10 seconds or so. When student B rings the bell, student A must speak in Jibberish (a made up language).
    • Use a timer to get students speaking for 1 minute or longer.

Resources for Using Drama With Young Learners

More Drama Resources

Recommended Reading

Challenge:

Try one of these ways to animate your lessons!

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Are You Free This Friday? Free Online Workshops

Professional development is important for educators. I love the sharing spirit of our Passionate/ Personal Learning Network (PLN) who continuously provides free presentations and resources online through webinars, blogs, wikis, and podcasts. The fantastic part is that many of these resources are free and can be enjoyed by educators worldwide in the comfort of their home, while at school, or while traveling on the subway on the way to work.

Thanks to the American TESOL Institute, I will be conducting 6 free 30 minute online workshops on the Adobe Connect platform every Friday at 4pm EST (New York Time), 9pm London Time, 8pm GMT:

Check your time zone here! This is the Adobe Room to join at 4pm EST  http://americantesol.adobeconnect.com/terrell/. I will be updating this page with the wiki and blog resources I prepare for each presentation so bookmark and visit this website every Saturday for the latest updates.

Challenge

Attend one of the free workshops or use one of the resources shared in the wiki or in the blog posts!

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Survival Tips for Teaching Kids English: 30 Tips & Resources

You may not know that I also teach 2 to 10 year-old students English. When I began teaching in Germany, I had a tough time acclimating. I thought I would be able to work with the children since I had taught young learners in the US English and science. I remember teaching a group of 14 seven to eight year-old students. They climbed the walls (oddly there were racks on the walls), fought a lot, and flew paper airplanes everywhere. I went home after a 9 hour day and cried. I wanted to quit. I have a fighting spirit, though, so I went online to research lessons and ideas. Throughout the four years that I have been teaching in Germany I have collected some great research, resources, and tips to make me a much better English teacher of young learners! I recently shared these tips in a Pecha Kucha (PK) presentation at the recent Virtual Round Table Language E-Conference. You can catch the rest of the recordings of all the presentations from this great event here.

What is a Pecha Kucha?

A presentation technique invented in Japan by architects Klein and Dytham. About 14 presenters or less deliver back to back PowerPoint presentations that must total 20 slides auto-advancing every 20 seconds. The PowerPoint presentation is only 6 minutes and 40 seconds so the content is highly visual and meaningful. For this reason, these events are gaining popularity at several conferences and have now entered the education conference scene! Enjoy my PK: Survival Tips for Teaching Kids English!

Glogster or The Tools I Use in My Classroom

My Survival Tips

  1. Channel in your inner child!- Can you identify the 2 members of our personal learning network in this slide?
    • Have the ability to act silly – I often dress-up when reading books, play charades, make silly voices and faces, and sing and dance!
  2. Wear the right gear! Don’t dress to impress! Dress for a mess!
  3. Children love to play pretend games!
  4. Have lively music that is easy for the children to understand and that you will enjoy singing very loudly to!
  5. TPR- Total physical response is a must for every lesson. Find out more by reading this post.
  6. Puppets are great for children, especially when you incorporate the puppet in every lesson.
  7. Play board games, physical games, and online games- We play Twister, bingo, English Raven’s games, and more!
  8. Include stories from great children’s authors and make the reading time fun. Check out my class wiki for various books and the themes they support.
  9. Use colorful flashcards and play games with the flash cards.
  10. Color with a purpose! Give children a task to see if they can follow directions, such as telling a child to draw a circle and color it yellow. Without direction, I’ve had children color on the wall and on me!
  11. Incorporate drama activities such as mime and improvisation games.
  12. Felt boards are great for having children piece together what happened in a story or to learn new vocabulary.
  13. Finger plays like the Itsy Bitsy Spider work wonders. Read this post on how to digitalize your finger plays using Blabberize.
  14. Trust kids with technology! My five year-old students complete online activities each week which I put in a wiki. Kids love technology and will repeat what they learn.
  15. Explore the outdoors with scavenger hunts.
  16. Use realia- My students play Bingo with pennies from the USA. Introduce real world objects to students from an English speaking culture. Play Show-and-Tell!
  17. When all else fails, have fun!

More Resources

These are more resources to help you teach young learners.

EFL Teacher’s Kit for Surviving Kids- In this post, I explore more tips for working with young learners.
Learning Beyond Walls- Games and Wikis!- In this post, I explore how to use wikis with young learners.
Character Development Using Voki Speaking Avatars- In this post, I explore how to use Voki speaking avatars to get young learners to think about character development for digital storytelling.
What Works: Cooperation vs. Competition- In this post, I explore how cooperative learning improved the culture and behavior of my young learners.
Getting Children Involved with Edtech- In this post, I explore using Voicethread for class collaboration projects.
Mobile Motivation: 17 Digital Storytelling & Literacy Apps/ Resources for Kids- These apps will have your young learners speaking English using a mobile device.
Parent Release Form for Publishing Student Work Online
Parent Release Form for Publishing Student Work Online PDF
VoiceThread Tutorials and Tips for Educators
Glogster Tutorials and Tips for Educators
Voki Tutorials and Tips for Educators
Digital Storytelling Tutorials and Tips for Educators

Challenge:

Try any of these resources with your young learners.

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What are your tips for working with young learners?

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