My students love parties. I’m always looking for excuses to have a party, so it’s a good fit. It’s also fortunate if you happen to teach English in Japan, where end-of-year parties are already built into cultural expectations for groups.
What I have a hard time with are class parties that use language entirely beyond students’ English level. I don’t have anything against teaching language that comes up spontaneously during activities–that’s some of the best learning. But, bringing in a game that requires 5 year olds to learn 20 low-frequency words (that they did NOT spontaneously request) in order to play is frustrating for everyone. I only see my students once a week–I have a difficult time justifying to myself or to their parents the value of giving an entire class to games or crafts that don’t build on the language the children have been learning. If you read my earlier post about crafts, you’ll know that I’m big on play with a purpose.
So, how do you plan a holiday-themed party for a class whose grand sum of English knowledge consists of:
“It is ~” and “I have ~”
“Please” and “Thank you”
First, we played a game I made to fit the language they had. It’s called “Fill Your Stocking” (or Christmas socks, as my students prefer to call them).
Students roll the die and move in any direction, trying to collect toys (Counting out loud, of course). When they land on a toy, they say “I have a blue doll” then look for and circle “doll” in their stocking (really little ones can circle matching pictures, rather than words). If they land on a toy they already have, they simply describe the toy: “It’s a red ball.” Once students have collected all the toys in their stockings, they aim for the “Stop” sign.
While students were playing the game (with mothers helping), I finished setting up for the next activity–cookie decorating. The cookie shapes are ones that the children know, as are the colors of the sugar sprinkles.
As students decorated their stars, circles, teddy bears, hearts, boys and girls, we talked about the shapes and their decoration choices.
Mothers offered choices of beverage, providing more practice with please and thank you (always a winner with parents!).
Students enjoyed eating their cookies at least as much as they enjoyed decorating them. Most of them saved a few to take home for their dads. At the end of the party, we were all happy. The children enjoyed getting to play a game and eating cookies. I enjoyed hearing them use their English in a natural way. The mothers were happy to see that their tuition money hadn’t been a waste.
Note: I made the game board using reproducible worksheets for Let’s Begin (published by Oxford University Press). Before I started cutting, pasting, and coloring, it looked like this:
You can download these worksheets (and others) free from OUP’s Kids’ Club. They are offered with permission to use for educational purposes. I have links to various global Kid’s Clubs on my Let’s Go page.
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