Teaching English to large groups of preschool children
Question: I am using your materials and games and they are helping. I am teaching in China and my classes have more than 20 students in them. What are the best games for that large of a class? How could I modify some of the games so there is less waiting time and it can be more productive for my students?
Answer: Fun Preschool ESL Games for Children contains games with variants and tips for large groups throughout. With games where pupils take turns, have five children take a turn together. That way with 20 kids, you only have four turns. It means you need five sets of whatever materials you need. For example:
Gigantic Gloves Game
Category Step 1 listening or Step 3 speaking
Group 2 to 20
Space Flexible, can be played on tables
Pace Wake up
Materials Some large gloves, a hat, sunglasses, picture flashcards, and a large die (if you do not have an item use an alternative that is simple and quick to put on)
How to play
Lay out a short line of flashcards of whatever vocabulary you are teaching, (not necessarily clothing). Place the clothes nearby. With 20 children, have five lines of flashcards and five lots of clothing, which do not need to consist of identical items.
Sit children sit in five lines. Since it's not very interesting looking at the back of the child in front, use curved lines so all children can watch the action. The first child in each line gets up, puts on the hat, sunglasses and gloves, and tries to pick up one of the flashcards with the giant gloves on. If the child manages to pick it up, he or she names it and takes it back to his or her line. The next child in line puts on the hat, sunglasses and gloves and goes to pick up the next flashcard.
Once you have played this a couple of times, here is a variation to add excitement and involve all children. Children sit in a circle and each one has a die. On ‘Go!’ two or more children get up, dress up and try to pick up the flashcard or object. In the meantime, all the other children furiously roll their dice until they get a six. When a child gets a six, that die is placed in the centre of the circle. Keep going till everyone has rolled a six and at that point, the game stops.
Experiment before the game with flashcards or 3D items so you do not end up playing with something that the children cannot pick up with the gloves on.
Help any children who do not succeed in picking up the flashcard or item, make it easier for them. Any kids who don't succeed will feel disappointed and will probably cry. You don't want anyone feeling sad and disappointed in your English classes! Placing flashcards on books makes them easier to pick up.
Throughout Fun Preschool ESL Games for Children you will find game variants and tips on how to deal with larger groups. That said the book is best for groups of up to 20 kids. The primary school games book can do for bigger classes. To keep control and excitement levels down, part of some vocabulary listening games is to participate in total silence, including not having your chair make any noise as you get up. The whole game is about being as quiet as possible, tip-toeing, the class listen and if they hear any noise, that person has to do a monkey dance (or something silly, but not humiliating).
In other games one or two children may be in the center, performing an action or doing something specifically for the game. But while this is happening the others are also participating, but in a lesser way. They may have to chant something at the start of each round or clap a rhythm. They may have to jump up on a certain word or trigger point. Some may have to switch places. With tricks like that you keep everyone participating, even though only a few kids are in the middle.
So check out the complete game descriptions and variants, see the group size in the game description box - if it says "Any" or it's a group size that's OK for you, then somewhere in the description it will say how to deal with bigger groups.
Classroom management with large groups
You will inevitably have some kids who aren't really interested. If that is just two or three kids, while MOST are participating, that's good enough! As long as the others are not being disruptive, it's fine if they are off in their own world. No probs, they will still be hearing English around them. They may be having a pause in their concentration. Don't aim to have everyone 100% of the time, it's totally unrealistic; Remember when you were in lectures, you didn't listen and concentrate on absolutely everything all of the time.
You'll find these blog posts helpful if you need classroom management tips:
Ask me any questions you may have in the comments box, I'd love to hear from you!
All the best
Shelley Ann Vernon
Teaching English Games