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Game Ideas for Teaching a Language to Kindergarteners

written by: Louanne Piccolo • edited by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch • updated: 8/2/2012

Young children can learn a second language almost as easily as their native language if the correct methods are used. Find out more about the methods and theories of second language acquisition in kindergarten and for young children.

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    Second Language Acquisition in Kindergarten

    Playing is part of the developmental process where children explore their physical and social world through games, learn how to take in information and organize it to solve problems, and understand their environment. In this way, a teacher can facilitate second language acquisition in kindergarten through game playing, which creates an environment where a child needs to use the language being learnt if he wants to take part.

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    Games to Teach Second Languages to Children

    A child must possess some basic vocabulary to participate in game playing. All vocabulary can be pre-taught or introduced through flashcard activities. Flashcards are colorful, creative, engaging and one of the best second language resources for memorizing information. Activities with flashcards can be fun. Once children have memorized some words, they are ready to play and learn more vocabulary through the language game.

    Here are 2 examples of language games for teaching children:

    Teaching Colors to Children: Children must be given a reason to use foreign words and this can be done through language games. Once children have memorized some colors, through flashcard activities, they are ready to play the Smartie game.

    • Children must be placed around a table in a small group of no more than 5. This game can also be played one-to-one. The teacher has a supply of Smarties or other colored sweets as long as there is a variety of colors. The teacher will push a Smartie to the center of the table and the child who shouts out the color first will win the Smartie. Children learn colors amazingly quickly through this game as they have to learn and use the vocabulary needed if they want the Smartie. Children who are not sure of themselves or shy may not enjoy this game as they never win. They can play this game one-to-one with the teacher so they are not competing with quicker, louder children and can take their time to remember and learn the colors.

    Teaching Numbers to Children: This may be challenging because children tend to learn the numbers 1-10 as a whole. They can normally recite the numbers 1-10 off by heart but not necessarily know what each number is by itself. Flashcard activities are good in this way because a child will have to recognize the form and know the word for the number that goes with the form.

    • The rocket game lets children recite numbers from 1-10. At the beginning of the lesson, each child can choose a colored balloon by pointing to the balloon and saying the color. Children must blow up their balloons or have them blown up by the teacher if they are too small to do so themselves. The balloons must not be tied, but held at the neck so that the air doesn't escape. The aim of the game is to pretend that the balloons are rockets ready for take-off. The children count from 1-10 and let go of their rockets when they get to 10. This game is popular because of the fun and excitement caused by the balloons rushing around the room.

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    Follow-up Activities for Language Games

    Story-telling is an excellent follow-up activity to language games. Children can understand simple stories with pictures that incorporate colors and numbers after having played these 2 simple games. Story-telling reinforces the use of vocabulary and puts it into an understandable context for young children. An example of a basic storyline for colors and numbers would be:

    Sarah has 10 balls. There are 2 green balls, 1 red ball, 4 blue balls, 1 yellow ball and 2 pink balls. How many red balls can you see?

    Stories can become more complex as children learn more vocabulary and sentence construction through game playing.

    Intrinsic motivation or interest in the learning activity is what counts when teaching children a second language, and children love to play. There is a vast choice of language games to play with children for second language acquisition in kindergarten. Creative teachers can make their own games or use existing games and adapt them to the language classroom.