I need ideas for a class of 1st & 2nd graders who literally don't speak my language.
March 31, 2010 7:13 AM   Subscribe

I need ideas to keep a class of 10-15 1st & 2nd graders occupied. The catch? We don't speak the same language and there isn't a translator. More inside.

I recently got stuck with a class of 25 1st & 2nd grade Korean students. These kids don't even know the alphabet yet. My Korean is good enough to order food and get day-to-day business done, but not nearly good enough to explain the rules of a game to a bunch of rowdy kids.

The classes are split 15 & 10, I see the 15 1st graders 3 times a week and the 10 2nd graders twice a week. In any given class maybe 60% of the kids are attentive and follow along as best they can. The other 40% are hellish trouble makers- Part of the afterschool program is that it's supposed to be extra help for troubled kids.

I can't discipline these kids, they have no idea what I'm saying to them. I've worked really hard to try and be clear about why it's not okay to run out the door or leave your seat or cut the mouse cord to the teacher's computer, but they can just feign ignorance. But that's neither here nor there. For a variety of political reasons I am stuck with these kids. No one is around to help me with them, their usual teacher is AWOL once she drops them off and no one wants to take it higher up the ladder because it's one of the admin's pet projects.

I think part of my problem is that we have a stale routine. I genuinely think that if I can get them a little more engaged, I might have a shot at a real class. Here's what we've been up to:

1- Sing the Alphabet song twice. 2- View a PPT of new vocabulary words while working on a vocab tracing worksheet. 3- Watch a few short videos/songs about the day's letter (Sesame Street, Yo Gabba Gabba etc etc.). 4- I created a workbook that has 4 pages of puzzles and coloring for each letter. We work on that now. 5- I usually pursue some kind of "cut and paste" craft based on the day's vocab.

For the first week or so this went pretty well. We're now in week 4. The kids who are good and interested stay that way. The kids who are trouble tear their worksheets to shreds, bolt for the door and beat the hell out of each other. I think the problem is that they're all "Dude, we did this yesterday".

So, my question: I need ideas for new activities I can do with 5-6 year old kids that can explained primarily (or entirely) visually, i.e. RISK is out. Bingo exploded on the launchpad. Wordsearches were a little too tough for them. Education folks: Ideas outside of coloring page, cut 'n paste projects and workbooks?

Any thoughts are appreciated. I really don't wanna give up and just turn on Spongebob for 60 minutes everyday. I'd like them to learn but this is really ruining my life.

Please no: "Well, you need to get someone to help you out!". Trust me, I know. Everyone knows. It's not happening and it's been made clear to me that it's a good idea to not pull the plug.
posted by GilloD to Education (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
- most children love to dance. Put on some music and teach them a dance routine. No spoken language is necessary. Just move and have them repeat your movement. You can be as ungraceful as I am (trust me, I'm a hippo). "Dance" just means some sort of planned set of movements.

- treasure huts. Use picture clues that lead to various areas of the classroom. A clue leads to another clue, etc.

- drawing. This doesn't appeal to all kids, but a sub-section will really like it. Just put a bunch of art supplies and paper on a table. If you can sit and draw with them (talent doesn't matter), that will help motivate them.

- mime. Make some cards that have pictures of objects on them. Ducks, buses, clocks, etc. Kids pick a card and act out the object. You can demonstrate to show them how it works. Pick a card -- say you pick shark -- and act like a shark. Then hand the deck to the kid next to you and have him pick.

- games. Start simple. tic-tac-toe. You can teach it without words. You can work up to checkers, slowly.

- map-making. Get them to draw maps of the classroom, school or playground. If you demonstrate, the will get it.

- duck duck goose. This game can be played with any words or even with sounds.
posted by grumblebee at 7:30 AM on March 31, 2010

What's your art supply situation? Watercolors, play-doh, crayons usually can captivate that age group. Plus, you can try and incorporate some language lessons into it: do an 'animals' day and have them draw and identify various animals. You start by drawing dogs and cats on the board, passing out the crayons, and hoping they will draw other animals as well.
posted by 8dot3 at 7:43 AM on March 31, 2010

oof! I feel your pain; I teach English over in Austria (and I have a lot of 5-10 year old Korean students, oddly) Here's a list of what I do with my private korean students, some of which will work or be adaptable in a class setting. One of the gems of my meager 2 days of teacher training seminars was to break as much as you can into pairwork activities. That leaves you the ability to go around the room and check their work. This is a useful skill, although it can be difficult to apply to that age group.

-Read a book


-Do worksheets from the Brainquest series

-Simon says

-Activities from The Florida Center for Reading Research (FCRR) ** Many of these I can't do with my students because I need more than 1-2 students; this might be a good source of material for you.

-This alphabet game (MAY be too advanced, but you'd be surprised): Get 26 cards with the letters on them. Pull one out of a hat and show it to the class. Whoever(or whichever team, might be better in teams) comes up with a word that has that letter in it gets a point.

-The FCRR curriculum has a sentence segmentation game in there, where students draw small sentences out of a hat and advance on a board based on the number of words in that sentence (teaches the ability to recognize what a space between words is; a surprisingly useful ability that is usually of medium difficulty at this age). This game is a goldmine. If I have multiple students, I write down a few common words (THE, AND, IS) and tell them that if they find the Bonus Words of the Day in sentences, they will get 2 bonus points. Poof; suddenly my 6 year olds can read, because they're trying to compete with each other. For a larger group I think you need to turn it into a team game; maybe break the class into 3 teams. Once you get 4+ players it gets boring for the first 3 players while they wait for the 4th kid to figure out if he sees any words.

-ESL Go Fish. Amazing.

Other things that come to mind that might be helpful
-Teach like a pro just got released; there was a great NYTimes article on this guy's research. It's available as an eBook (albeit without the videos)

-Competition in general is an amazing thing and pulls great (and a few not-so-great) things from students. You can make even worksheets competitive if you go around and give students checkmarks for doing a good job and show the other students what's so good about the way they drew their letter A or what-not.

-This thread was useful

That's what comes to mind so far; if I remember more I'll drop by in later posts. Good luck!
posted by sdis at 7:52 AM on March 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

Copy-cat games like "Simon Says", even wıthout the "...but I dıdn't say Sımon Says!" part. Just get them to do silly things like stand up, sit down, shake their bum, puff out their tummy... using simple commands. It doesn't matter if they don't understand the commands at first.. they can see what you're doıng and copy. Eventually they'll pıck up the vocab.

As far as worksheets go, this is an example of something I did with my 1st and 2nd graders today (beginners, in Turkey). It worked well!

pictionary and charades are also quite fun, as long as they know some basic vocab, or you can post it on the board/walls.
posted by hasna at 7:54 AM on March 31, 2010

If you want something active to help them use up their energy, show them how to make a paper airplane or a paper helicopter, then spend the time to toss them around and have contests.
posted by CathyG at 8:39 AM on March 31, 2010

Science projects seem to get the attention of that age group. The grosser or more explosive (ie: baking soda and vinegar) the better.
posted by MsKim at 9:12 AM on March 31, 2010

Are you supposed to (or have the option to) teach them English. Try the "head, shoulder, knees and toes" song. Build a basic vocabulary - stand, sit, table chair - then do give instructions like "book on table" "book on head" "sit on book".

I remember that finger weaving was popular at that age with boys as well as girl (US). If you google it, there are a number videos showing how to do it - a little complicated but something different.
posted by metahawk at 2:03 PM on March 31, 2010

Go outside, pick up leaves etc. and then use paper and crayon to make rubbings.
posted by metahawk at 2:04 PM on March 31, 2010

Songs with actions. Hokey Pokey and the "head, shoulder, knees and toes" song metahawk suggests would be good. You can probably find them on Youtube if you want to show them an example.
posted by kjs4 at 9:34 PM on March 31, 2010

I used Genki English's fantastic & good value curriculum when teaching English to this age group in Kosova. It has flashcards, games and very effective action songs for each lesson. The kids had a great time, discipline was pretty simple because they weren't bored and they learnt the stuff. It includes little writing, but kids were getting improved marks in their main school English classes because they gained the confidence to speak and learnt to actually use the English they were studying instead of just learning lists of words but not being able to say anything.
posted by alicegoldie at 8:00 AM on April 2, 2010

Okay! So I've been at it for 2 semesters now and here's what I do:

I got a series of Phonics books. Starting with single letter sounds, we review about 5-10 vocab words for the day. I have about 20 kids, so I distribute 5-6 laminated sheets of flash cards to each group.

Following the vocab review, we hit up some tunes. Same songs everyday, a Phonetic ABC song (A! Ah-ah-Apple!), a slower ABC song and then a fast, fun ABC song. After this, a quick game or activity. Then 2 worksheets abut the day's sound/letters. Then some kind of craft, coloring page etc.

It's all about routine. They're still kind of trouble, but we now have a plan and expectations and that's made all the difference.

As far as websites go, Barryfunenglish.com has great games and worksheets, but you can only use words that are in his dictionary. Pumkin.com has great material ad presentation, but it's designed to work for like one kid at a time.
posted by GilloD at 3:40 PM on September 12, 2010

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