On my first day teaching Kindergarten in Egypt, I was thrown into the deep end of the pool (Er, desert). While I loved working with young ESL learners, I had never taught Kindergarten before. The youngest age I had worked with previously was junior high. So all my class management tricks, games, and attention-grabbing-videos seemed obsolete in the face of a room full of four-year-olds.
Videos are a great resource for teaching ESL learners, for so many reasons. They can help introduce a new topic, review vocabulary, practice phonics, and also to generate classroom discussions. They can also help to redirect focus when the students’ minds are starting to drift.
And one of the best things about using videos in your lessons is that your kids won’t realize how much they are learning, because they are having so much fun doing it.
Sure, we don’t want to be the kind of teachers who use videos for everything, especially when dealing with young learners. While play is still king in a child’s classroom, you shouldn’t underestimate the power of effective, educational videos. (Especially when energy is low or everyone’s having an “off” day!)
Are you new to teaching kids, or are already in a young ESL learners classroom? Try showing them some of these videos to explore new vocabulary topics or drill phonics sounds in a new, fun way!
- Pre-K to 2nd grade
- Vocabulary songs, nursery rhymes, math and counting songs
This Youtube channel has the best songs to get your kids up and active, perfect for a morning session when they are still moving slowly. There are tons of nursery rhymes and songs for learning vocabulary around specific topics. My KG kids loved “Do You Like Broccoli Ice Cream” and loved discussing why broccoli ice cream would not be something they would like to eat!
- 1st grade to 5th grade
- 10 minute shows, topic based, social lessons
Charlie and Lola is a series of short films that follows the relationship of a brother and a sister who learn life lessons together. There are some great topic-based episodes, like the one about conservation and how we can keep our Earth clean. These are great videos to watch when bridging different subjects together.
For instance, reading and science. If they are learning about Earth Day, they can watch this episode to discuss sequence of events, characters, setting, and among other reading strategies.
- Pre-K to 1st grade
- 5 minute episodes that shows one letter, its sound, and vocabulary that begins with that sound.
My kids loved these videos as a wrap-up to our phonics lessons. They are a great way to recap on a sound and all the words that begin with that sound. There are videos for all the letters, so you can mix and match it with other videos out there to add some variety to the lessons. For older students, try giving them a piece of paper so that they can write down all the words that they can see that begin with a specific sound!
- Pre-K to 4th grade
- 5 minute episodes about sounds and how to blend them. Really great for diagrams, or double letter sounds: /ai/, /ie/, /igh/, /sh/, etc.
A first grade teacher showed me these as a fun way to get kids to recap on their sounds and to perfect their blending. There are several levels, starting from very simple sounds and words for Kindergarteners, all the way up to more difficult words that you would find in the higher elementary classes. I liked using these to immediately practice new sounds after introducing one that they weren’t familiar with. This show is super addictive for kids, and parents love it too because it helps recap the same things we are learning in the classroom.
- Kindergarten to 3rd grade
- 11 minute episodes about a young elf and fairy that are best friends in a magical kingdom. Topics include animals, insects, environment, etc.
Ben and Holly is one of those shows that even the teachers tend to find kind of addicting. I know I did! I loved using these videos to discuss things we learned in science, like the growth of a frog, and the habits of insects. The “Little Kingdom” takes place in a forest, so any topics involving plants, bugs, and animals will probably have a special episode. There are tons of episodes too, so no fear of running out!
- Pre-K and Kindergarten
- 3 minute songs, each featuring a letter of the alphabet and vocabulary words to go with it. Super addictive for KG kids!
When I taught Kindergarten in Egypt we would learn one new letter per week. I always made sure that this song popped up sometime every week, and the kids would always go nuts when they heard it. It has a super catchy tune, and is such a great way to learn relevant phonics vocabulary. Great for morning or post-lunch lessons when the energy is dragging and you need to get them up to dance and sing!
- Pre-K to 2nd Grade
- 5 minute episodes about nearly every topic under the sun, told from the point of view of a hilarious pig family.
If one sound could define my time teaching Kindergarten in Egypt, it might be the opening tune to this sound. My kids would go nuts when they would hear it. They always asked for it by name. And would immediately sit down and be quiet when it came on. It was a great reward for good behavior.
Fear not, it’s educational too. During our recycling unit, I used a Peppa Pig episode on composting to help them understand different ways we can get rid of waste. And you know what? I had parents writing to me AMAZED that their four year olds could explain what composting was. Yep. Super stuff.
There are tons of episodes, so you’re bound to find at least one, if not a few for any given topic or unit lessons.
How Can I Used These Videos to teach ESL Learners in The Classroom?
- Put a few different ones that you like on a flash drive so that you can have it with you on the first day.
- Try to limit showing 2-3 short videos a day, especially with younger learners.
- Videos are a great way to begin or wrap up a lesson. Try facilitating a short discussion after each time you show a video.
- If the energy is low in the classroom or the kids seem out of focus, try playing an episode of Peppa Pig or Ben and Holly to facilitate a quick “listening and speaking.” These were favorites in my classroom and the kids always perked up to see them. I’m sure you’ll see what your classroom favorites are pretty quickly!
What videos are favorites in your classroom?
Words by Dara Denney. Videos from YouTube. Images from Flickr Commons.