2 Teach vocabulary and count with your fingers
Fingers are a great teaching tool. They are very visual and extremely versatile. For example, if your target language is mummy, daddy, sister, brother and the name of a pet, by clearly identifying each finger as a family member, you can introduce your pupils to a whole range of extra vocabulary and simple mathematics.
- Who’s this …? (Mummy/Daddy/Brother/Sister, etc)
- How many mummies are there? (indicating a ‘Mummy’ finger)
- How many brothers/sisters/daddies are there? (indicating the corresponding fingers)
- How many pets? (usually indicating your little finger)
And then extend this to include:
- How many children are there? (using your other hand to highlight the two fingers that represent brother and sister)
- How many members of the family? (counting and highlighting all five fingers)
- How many parents? / How many adults?
- How many daughters?
- How many sons, etc?
3 Avoid echoing
Echoing or chorusing what the teacher says comes very naturally to young children and is great in that it gives them lots of productive practice in getting their tongues around new words. However, in order to take this one step further and ensure that the activity becomes more than choral repetition alone, encourage children to act out finger dialogues with you. For example, first model a simple dialogue, rhyme or part of a story using the index finger of each hand.
Finger A: Hello mouse!
Finger B: Hello clock!
Finger A: How are you?
Finger B: Fine thanks! And you?
Finger A: Fine. Let’s play! (Both fingers dance around as if playing)
Then, once the class have copied your movements and echoed the complete dialogue a few times, ask them to act out the dialogue with you, ie you take the role of the clock, 25 fingers take on the role of the mouse and vice versa. This way, you’ll not only encourage them to be more actively involved in the dialogue, but also to listen, think and actively produce the language that you are practising!
4 Hands-on concentration
Another tip for my Infant classroom is to use plasticine. I find that it really helps my pupils to focus and concentrate while they listen and work, as well as refining their fine motor skills and really encouraging them to use their imagination!
For example, with very little effort, five small balls of green plasticine can become five little frogs. Show your pupils how to roll a brown log and use blue plasticine to make a pool and you have all of the props that you need to act out the story of the Five Little Frogs. Using plasticine not only helps the teacher to revise the key language of a story, but it also gives our pupils a real reason to try and reproduce this language in their play. You can also surround your pupils with the language of instructions, eg Roll the plasticine like this, Make two eyes, Push the plasticine flat, etc, and then keep the plasticine models to recycle the language again another day.
5 Make it fun!
This is great fun for the pupils, but also a great way for the teacher to evaluate everyone’s progress at the same time!
Imagine that you have been practising colours and the names of different classroom objects or fruit. Hand out a sheet with the different objects on, but instead of saying Colour the banana yellow, which is something that some children could conceivably predict from life experience or memory alone, ask them not to colour all, but some of the objects crazy colours, eg Colour the banana blue , Colour the apple pink, etc. Not only do they find this activity amusing, but it’s also a great way for me to see at a glance if a) they are listening, b) they can identify the correct object and c) they can match the crazy colour to the correct object. Great fun for them, they love it! And ongoing evaluation for me, which, as a busy Infant teacher, is something we all need isn’t it?
Shah Ellul, British Council/Mec Bilingual Project Teacher, CEIP Pintor Eduardo Morillas, Melilla.