Discover 10 of the best English topics for students learning ESL
Updated: May 20, 2022
When teaching English to kindergarten, it can be difficult for a new teacher to know what ESL activities for kindergarten to teach, and there isn't always a curriculum to follow. Especially when first starting, it's challenging to understand what ESL topics for kids are suitable and how to link these subjects together. So let's take a look and discover 10 of the best English topics for students learning ESL and get your young ESL learners speaking English quickly.
After reading this article, 10 of the Best English Topics for Students Learning ESL, get help planning your English lessons with the free Mooncake English lesson planner here. Watch the Mooncake English guide to English lesson planning to help you to plan fun and engaging ESL lessons.
Working with kids
Working with young children can be lots of fun and incredibly rewarding. As teachers, we make a real impact in the classroom and help shape our young students' lives. Though teaching kindergarten English comes with its challenges, young learners are lots of fun to work with, and if you can capture their interests and keep them motivated, they love to learn new things and can quickly pick up new language points.
But, whether you're teaching English online or teaching English in China, knowing how to teach English for kindergarten students successfully comes from learning how to keep them engaged in the lesson. To do so means to choose the right ESL kindergarten games and use them to teach relevant ESL topics for kids.
I cringe when remembering my first ever English lesson! I started my career teaching kindergarten in China, and at that time, I had no idea what to teach my young ESL students. I had researched a few games and songs but didn't know how to structure anything, and I tried to teach random subjects and sing random songs. But after more experience, I quickly learned how to build on the language taught and link different ESL topics for kids. A few topics are great developmentally for young learners and help develop a good English foundation level. So let's discover 10 of the best English topics for students learning ESL.
Teaching colors is a great place to start teaching beginner English learners. Your students will be able to use color vocabulary to begin describing the things around them, helping to build confidence and laying a foundation for scaffolding language later on.
Colour games for toddlers can be especially beneficial because not only does it help them start communicating in English, but it also helps them sort and classify the world around them. We do this ourselves every day. But although naming colours is a simple task for us grown-ups, it's a pretty cognitively complex task for our young learners!
Discover three brilliant ways to teach colors in English in this article. You can adjust your lesson to suit different English levels. You may start with some simple color vocabulary, red, blue, yellow, green, but then add the conjunction 'and' teaching 'red and blue' as students progress. You could also introduce adjectives such as 'colorful', dark, and light colors or verbs such as 'mix'. Think about your students, their level and the best way to introduce the new language.
"It's not red."
Suggested story book: The Color Monster
Learning shapes is fundamental to a young child's cognitive development. The world around us is full of shapes, and for young learners, learning and naming shapes help to identify and organize visual information around them. Learning about shapes is a form of early math and can help young learners learn letters and numbers. As young learners learn about different shapes, they learn to differentiate between objects, and they do this by distinguishing details that make one shape different from another.
Learning about shapes in English can help students describe the world around them and communicate their thoughts, wants, and needs. You can start by teaching simple shapes such as circles, squares, triangles, stars and hearts. You might want to later expand on this by introducing some new words such as 'corner' and 'round' to describe the different shapes taught.
"It's a circle."
"It's not a circle."
"It has four corners."
But not all your students will be ready to say such sentences. Follow your students' English ability, and remember that very young students may only be prepared to say one or two words.
"It's a red circle."
"It's not a red circle."
You can find FREE Mooncake English ready-to-print shape flashcards for your ESL lesson here.
Suggested story book: Tangled, by Anne Miranda
Kindergarten is an emotional time for young learners. Learning about emotions is essential for children to make friends, become independent, and navigate school life. Many students will be learning to recognize and cope with their feelings for the first time, and by learning more about emotions, students can talk about their feelings more clearly and avoid or navigate conflicts better.
Teaching emotions can help your students express their thoughts and feelings about their surroundings when teaching kindergarten English. By teaching emotional vocabulary, you will find that students will quickly use the new language to express themselves. Even the very young students will be excited to use simple words to express their feelings.
With lower-level students, start by teaching some simple vocabulary such as; happy, sad, angry, and tired. You can encourage students to use these words in a sentence, such as "I am happy." You can also add extra verbs such as 'smile' or 'frown.'
"I'm not happy."
If you have taught colors and shapes before teaching feelings, you can put all the previously taught language together to review and create sentences.
"The circle is happy."
"The square is sad."
If your students are ready, you can add the three topics together to create an even longer sentence.
"The red circle is angry."
"The green circle is tired."
But not all your students will be ready to say such long sentences. Follow your students' English ability, and remember that very young students may only be prepared to say one or two words.
You can find some Mooncake English ESL games for kindergarten to help engage your students here.
Suggested Story Book: Grumpy Bird by Jeremy Tankard
It's essential for young learners to know how to count and to be able to recognize numbers, and counting builds a foundation for mathematical understanding. Counting allows students to quantify and group objects around them, express their wants, and describe the world around them.
You don't need to hold a specific lesson on numbers, as counting should become part of every ESL class. However, you must understand the steps taken to learn how to count to help students grow.
There are three fundamental steps to counting.
1 Rote Counting
Rote counting is the ability to recite numbers in order from memory. Children aren't counting objects at this point but simply counting from memory.
2 Number Recognition
Children need to be able to recognize different numbers and name them.
Children need to understand the quantity that a given number represents.
When teaching numbers, start by rote counting during class. You can count anything and everything. Count flashcards as you show them to students or count the number of students when lining up. You can incorporate numbers when introducing new words and topics by counting different objects. Let's look at an example from the previous topics mentioned.
"How many circles?"
"How many happy circles?"
"How many blue triangles?"
"There are three circles." (or simply "3 circles")
You can find more information about teaching numbers in this video, and also get some ready to print number flashcards from Mooncake English here.
Suggested story book: How Do Dinosaurs Count to Ten? By Mark Teague
5. Body Parts
Teaching students to name and describe body parts is another essential part of their language development. Naming body parts allows students to describe themselves and those around them and express any aches and pains.
There are many new words to teach in this subject, so I suggest teaching the body in different parts. You can start with the face, where you might teach simple vocabulary such as; mouth, nose, eyes, ears.
"This is my mouth."
"These are my eyes."
You can expand on the facial features by teaching the forehead, cheeks, and chin. Or, you might want to teach adjectives such as big and small or verbs such as open and close.
"Open your mouth."
"Close your eyes."
You can then teach other body parts, starting with simple vocabulary such as; arms, legs, shoulders, knees, feet, toes, hands, back, and stomach (tummy). Again, you can expand on this by adding adjectives such as long and short. Or some verbs such as raise or lower and adverbs such as up and down.
"These are long arms."
"Put your hands up."
"Raise your arms."
As mentioned in the numbers section above, we can incorporate numbers into our body parts lesson by counting the different numbers of body parts. That might mean counting individual body parts or counting all the body parts in the class (e.g. how many arms are in the classroom?). You can also draw friendly monsters with different body parts to help put all the language together. I give an example of a fun body parts activity in this video.
Suggested story book: Eyes, Nose, finger, and Toes, by Judy Hindley
The weather is something that influences our lives daily. It affects what we wear, what we eat, and what we do throughout the day and understanding and talking about the weather is an essential skill for language development. It also provides an excellent foundation for other ESL subjects such as clothing and seasons.
Start by teaching simple weather vocabulary such as sunny, windy, rainy, snowy, and cloudy. Later, introduce some weather nouns such as the sun, a cloud, a snowflake, etc. You can also expand into more descriptive language by introducing temperature and adjectives such as strong (wind) and heavy (rain).
"It's sunny today."
"It's not sunny today."
" I can see the sun."
"I can see a cloud."
"I can't see the sun."
"It's hot today."
"The wind is blowing."
Again you can bring all the previously taught language points into your weather lesson, for example, "The sun is yellow." I talk about teaching the weather and give a lesson example in this video.
Suggested story book: Little Cloud, by Eric Carle
7. Farm animals
Teaching children about farms and farm animals is vital to help their understanding of where food comes from. They need to understand that not all food comes from the supermarket and how the food chain works. This understanding can help them become less wasteful and encourage a curiosity for different foods.
When teaching ESL for kindergarten, learning about farm animals is an excellent subject as students love learning about the animals and their noises. By teaching students to recognize and name the farm animal sounds, we are helping them develop their phonological awareness, which forms the basis of later reading.
Start by teaching some vocabulary such as farm, farmer, sheep, horse, cow, goat, etc. Again, you can expand your language by reviewing previously taught language points.
You can find some farm animal flashcards here, and Mooncake English ESL games for kindergarten to help engage your students here.
"What can you hear?"
"I can hear a cow."
"I see a yellow duck."
I see three brown horses."
If you want to expand on this subject further, you might introduce animal features such as hooves, tails, and wings or introduce verbs like run, fly, jump, and swim.
Suggested story book: Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type, by Doreen Gronin
After introducing farming through the farm animal subject, you can teach vegetables to your ESL young learners. We eat vegetables every day (or we should be), and introducing vegetable vocabulary is a great way to start a food topic.
Start by introducing primary vegetable names like carrot, potato, tomato, eggplant, onion, etc. You can then expand by reviewing the previously taught English materials.
"I like carrots."
"I don't like carrots."
"The carrot is big and orange."
"There are five big carrots."
You can expand this topic by introducing new adjectives such as hard, soft, rough, and smooth to describe the various vegetables. You could also teach cooking verbs such as cut, slice, boil, mash, etc. Think about your students, their English level and the best way to expand their vocabulary.
Use vegetable flashcards and ESL games for kindergarten to teach vocabulary and sentences. You can download a FREE Mooncake English vegetables PPT if teaching online.
After introducing vegetables, you can teach fruit to your ESL young learners. We eat fruit every day (or we should be), and introducing fruit vocabulary is a great way to start a food topic.
Start by introducing primary fruit names like apple, banana, pear, grapes, strawberry, etc. You can then expand by reviewing the previously taught English materials.
"I want to eat strawberries."
"I don't want to eat strawberries."
"I like the big, red apple."
"There are five big apples and two small apples."
You can expand this topic by introducing new adjectives such as fresh, rotten, juicy, and crunchy to describe the various fruits. You could also teach cooking verbs such as peel, chop etc. Think about your students, their English level and the best way to expand their vocabulary.
Use fruit flashcards and ESL games for kindergarten to teach vocabulary and sentences. The game 'Fruit Salad' works particularly well for this topic.
Suggested story book: The Very Hungry Caterpillar
10 Ocean Animals
Children are fascinated by and love learning about the ocean and the creatures within them. Because of this, ocean animals are another fantastic choice when thinking about ESL topics for kids.
You can start by teaching basic ocean animal vocabulary such as whale, shark, dolphin, starfish, etc. Then later, once they have mastered the vocabulary, review the previous English language points to expand their sentences and create simple conversations.
"It's a big blue whale."
"The seahorse has two eyes."
Again, you can expand this topic by teaching ocean animal features and other items found in the ocean, such as sandbeds, seaweed, coral, etc. For an easy-to-teach ocean animal lesson plan, check out the Mooncake English Sea Animal blog post here.
Suggested story book: The Rainbow Fish, by Marcus Pfister
I hope that by discovering 10 of the best English topics for students learning ESL your ESL lesson planning will be easier to prepare. For more games and ideas on how to teach these topics and more, follow the Mooncake English YouTube channel where I post ESL teaching tips.
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