Wednesday, 6 April 2016

My Morning Circle Activities for EFL Learners

I remember that my during my first year of teaching I kept asking teachers what their best piece of advice was. All of them had a very similar answer – establishing a daily routine that works for your kids. And that is absolutely right! Over the years, I’ve changed my morning routine to fit the interests of my kids, their skills, their age. But still I stuck with some of the songs and activities that have worked best. Here are some of them:

Make a Circle or We All Fall Down – these are two songs that I use to get the children gather round and sit down in a circle. They also help get the wiggles out and start the morning activities in a pleasant mood.

First, we sing the song “Here We Have Many Friends” and see who is present. I learned this song from a book I read a while ago “101 Circle Time Ideas” by Gayle Bittinger.

Here We Have Many Friends (Sung to: Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star)
Here we have many friends,
And X (child’s name) is one of them.
He can hop and he can bow.
He can turn around right now.
He can show us marching feet.
Now, please, X (child’s name), take your seat.

When we sing about a child, she comes to the front and places her name tag on the chart. That’s Who Is Here Today Chart (see photo) where the children stick their name.

We go on to talk about what season it is. We just talk briefly about the season and some signs, then place the arrow to point to the right one (see photo).

We sing the “Days of the Week” song (Tune: Addams Family), after which we talk about our daily routine. For example, the children know that if it’s Monday we have P.E. in the morning, and in the afternoon we have activities in small groups.

Days of the Week (Tune: Addams Family)
Days of the week (click tongue) X 2
Days of the week, days of the week, days of the week (click tongue)
There’s Sunday and there’s Monday, there’s Tuesday and there’s Wednesday,
There’s Thursday and there’s Friday,
And then there’s Saturday.
Days of the week, days of the week, days of the week (click tongue)

How’s the Weather?” from Super Simple Songs – kids love this song and going to check the weather at the window. After discussing the weather, one of the children sticks the flash card on the chart.

Calendar time – with older pupils, we have a calendar printed out with numbers from 1 to 31 (printed out and laminated, so it can be used with a dry-erase marker) and one of the children circles the number that indicates the date

After these songs and tasks, we sometimes play vocabulary games. But some days we skip some of the songs, because they might take a lot of time and most of the children already understand those notions. It’s just a matter of getting back to them when they start forgetting. The vocabulary games that we play have very easy rules, already known to children, so they only need to focus on the thematic vocabulary.

The Bug Swatter Game

Jump on It – we just place the flash cards on the floor (close to one another, so that the kids won’t slip and fall), then one of the children calls out a word, and one jumps on the flashcard with that image. The kids take turns.

Over the Bridge – This game is set in the same way as the previous one, but with a rope in the middle of the floor. When jumping from a flash card to the other, the kids have to make sure to jump over the rope.

The Hiding Game – We place the flashcards (max 5, depending on how many units your kids can memorize) on the floor, in the centre of the circle. We name each image, then the kids shut their eyes and I hide one of the flash cards. The one who guesses gets a high five. J

Find the Flashcards – after reviewing the words, the kids shut their eyes, while I (or another kid) hide all the flashcards throughout the room. The children have to find them, but before placing them in the basket, they have to name the images on the flash cards.

Find Your Pair – this is a matching game: half of the kids get a word, and the other half get an image and they just have to go and find their pair.

Some children will need to stop and do something fun or more active, so that’s when Walking, Walking (a song from Super Simple Learning), Simon Says, or The Opposite Game come into play.

Simon Says – also to get their attention, if I feel that they are losing interest

The Opposite Game – I give an instruction, and the children have to do the opposite. For example: stand up – sit down, jump – stand, open your eyes – close your eyes, be loud – be quiet, tap your back – tap your belly, etc.

Touch Your Eyes! – This is an attention game: I will try to fool the children by telling them to touch something and showing them something else. For example, I will say “Touch your tummy” and I will touch my head. This is perfect to see who is paying attention and who understands the instructions.

Question of the Day – we have monthly themes, but also themes related to holidays. That’s why we ask different questions to introduce these themes. I have created a resource with some of the questions that I’ve used over time. They also have flash cards for possible answers, so they are great for EFL/ESL learners. They can associate words with images and can provide an answer.

There are certain activities that are new every day, but most of them fit into this pattern, or are similar to an activity that they have seen before. That way, we don’t waste too much time explaining new rules, but get straight to what we want to practice. Sometimes we also read short stories, or have puppets’ shows, sing songs from “The Song Box”, pick tasks from “The Action Bag”, create music by exploring objects around us, play games for fine motor skills, whatever is suitable for the theme.

There are a lot of other games we play, especially in the first few weeks of the school year. The children need to learn each other’s names and get to know one another, so our focus is on social motional development, rather than vocabulary.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these activities. What are your favorite games for the morning routine?

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