This is a fundamental part of young learner classes in both EFL and mainstream early childhood education. With my groups, it is the part of the lesson where we come together to discuss, introduce, explore or revisit a theme or key concept. To do this, I use a range of procedures and materials such as images, real objects or movement games. The activities we do here will provide language support for the following lesson stages. It’s a moment to see, hear, touch, think, get interested and speak about the topic of the day. Essentially, this moment involves something which is central to children learning of a foreign language and that is…vocabulary development! By this I mean much more than the learning of words. As children are still building up their first language vocabulary, this development is tied up with conceptual development. What is the number seven in the mind of a small child? Or a fruit, or a family? Some of the language I teach will already have meaning in their first language, others may have only a partial meaning and some may be altogether new. This is why you need to carefully consider the age and stage of the children you are teaching and this will influence the way you introduce them to the new language.
One of my favourite ways to introduce new language is with a vocabulary bag full of objects that they can manipulate and explore. I have a great song we use when doing this. It is sung to the tune of “Farmer In The Dell” and we clap or slap our knees as we sing…
“What’s in the bag? Oh, What’s in the bag?
Oh, What’s in the bag?”
The kids then take turns guessing what might be in the bag. These will usually be in L1 lot of the guesses will be way off (pizza!) or just something they really like (dinosaur!). This is part of the fun and becomes a great opportunity to teach new words in English. To help them use their different senses you can shake the bag to see what it sounds like or let them touch the objects through the bag