4 EAL speaking games for early years and primary pupils

If you're going to stage an EAL intervention – whether or big or small – why not make it fun too? This teacher offers some ways to do just that
19th October 2020, 2:06pm


4 EAL speaking games for early years and primary pupils

Ways To Make Eal Fun & Engaging

I wrote recently about how and why you may need to carry out an EAL intervention with students to ensure their language skills are at a level that does not hinder learning.

If you do have to engage in this process though, what are some of the ideas and lesson tactics you can use to help ensure that any EAL intervention is fun, engaging and delivers results?

Below are four exercises I have used that offer a variety of learning styles to students and can easily be planned into lessons as quick games or more considered lessons ideas.

Of course in social distancing times these have to be thought about carefully in relation to your setup, but I have found most can still work with careful management.

1. Emotive drilling

What you will need: Cards with a variety of different facial expressions: happy, sad, angry, confused and so forth, and cards with images of the keywords for that lesson (you can prepare these before the lesson or if you are good at drawing, draw them on the board).

How it works: Demonstrate to the students that when you show them an image of one of the keywords, you will point at one of the faces and the students need to say the keyword in that emotion.

For example, if one of your keywords is "train" and you point at the "happy face", the students should say "It's a train" in a happy way. If you point at the "sad face", they should say it in a sad way. Students find this extremely entertaining; it makes them WANT to say the words instead of HAVE to say the words.

Why it works well: This is a fun and easy way to introduce key-language to students in an engaging way, it can be done at the start of a lesson or as a good wrap-up activity.

2. Rotisserie

What you will need: Some flashcards that you can put on the floor, featuring a raft of different keywords that you feel the students would benefit from learning.

How it works: Firstly place your flashcards on the floor facing the class. Then ask the students to come up one by one they must come up, pick a flashcard and ask the class "what is it?"

To add an element of competition you can get the class into teams - as pairs, fives, two sides, whatever works best.

Why it works well: This activity helps the students practice the language a bit more so they can start to move it more from working memory to long term memory.

3. Treasure hunt

What you will need: Images of various items that have a link to a topic you are learning or are useful vocabulary builder words.

How it works: Hide the images around the classroom and instruct students to find as many as they can. You can set a list of what they have to find to ensure they keep going until they have them all.

Once the images have been found, the students can move into groups and ask/tell each other what they have found (you can monitor to check the students are able to say what they have found.)

Why it works well: This activity can be used after the students have been introduced to the language, as a way to practice it more carefully and have to ensure they fully associate and remember a word with the item in question, rather than having a prompt or someone else helping them.

Students can also enjoy the competition of seeing how can find the most.

The group discussion gives students to learn in a peer to peer manner too, students who have forgotten some of the language can be reminded by their friends.

4. Class surveys

What you will need: Premade surveys and pencils for the students.

How it works: First create a survey for the students to ask each other a series of questions related to the topic, e.g. during a food topic you could have questions around the keywords like "Do you like chicken?" or what did you have for dinner last night?

You may want to demonstrate how to do this by walking around the class and asking students the questions - a good way to make the task feel fun and engaging. After the activity, the students can have group discussions on what their findings were.

This activity is particularly easy to replicate either online or in a distanced way as classroom space permits.

Why it works well: You may have noticed these activities are in the order that you would be using them; this one gives students even more freedom to use and explore the language they have been practicing and really builds their fluency and ability to draw upon language with less support.

Overall I have used these activities with students at varying ages and stages of language development and they always work well and are a part of my classroom routines.

The students slowly become able to set up and lead these activities themselves. This kind of independence and autonomy is fantastic to see in a classroom.

Gregory Adam is a primary teacher at Nord Anglia Chinese International School in Shanghai. He released his first book last year: Teaching EFL, ESL & EAL: a practitioner's guide

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