6 Ways to Get Kids to Express Themselves in Another Language

“It is said that children learn languages from their environment. They get into an environment where language can happen, and language learning happens.” —Greg Thompson

Although kids learn English in school, the most powerful language learning takes place outside the classroom with family or peers. Children need a context and time to experiment and play with the vocabulary and grammar they’ve acquired. They need to make plenty of mistakes so they learn from them. Outside the classroom, children can make mistakes safely and don’t feel intimidated by grading or assessment. Below are six ideas for helping children practice English outside of school in fun and engaging ways. This is a great list to share with parents at the beginning of the school year! Feel free to make a copy of this parent email template to send to the parents of your English language learners this year.

Create a Comic

Children can learn grammar by creating dialogues between characters in a comic. They create the setting, place their characters in a situation, and develop the dialogue. They will enjoy using free, safe web tools like Make Beliefs Comix and ToonDoo. With mobile devices, they will enjoy using free apps like Comics Head and Friendstrip. Make Beliefs has a free iPad app and supports writing in different languages, like French and Spanish.

Make Talking Avatars

Children love drawing and animating characters. Tools like Blabberize and Voki allow children to get cartoons or their drawings talking. Children will also enjoy animating characters with their mobile devices using free apps like Tellagami, YakIt Kids, Toontastic, and Chatterpix Kids.

Play Language Games

Research has shown that children will spend hours playing video games. Find many free language learning games on the Digital ELT Play site, which allows you to search by age group, language level, and more. Kindersite and Sheppards Software have hundreds of games to learn any subject in English! In the English storytime wiki, find language games for children ages 6 to 10 with recommended English story books.

Create a Game

Kids love learning with games, but how cool would it be for them to create their own learning games? Students can make games with their vocabulary words or for a younger/older sibling. Many children love learning trivia with Kahoot, which then prompts kids to create their own trivia games. Kids can create games with their own pictures using the free mobile app, TinyTap, or learn to code by using the Hopscotch app.

Create a Digital Book

Children love reading and telling stories. Students can create books with free web tools, such as Storybird, Little Bird Tales, Zooburst, ToonDoo, Bookr, and My Storybook. Students can make incredible multimedia books on their mobile devices with free apps like Book Creator, Storykit, and Storybots.

Sing Songs and Chants

Many children love English songs and chants. Get young learners playing with their fingers and learning English by checking out Cullen’s ABC’s videos with finger chants and games. Play hand clap or jump rope games while children sing popular English songs.

What other ways do you get children to practice English outside the classroom?

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Shelly Terrell

Shelly Sanchez Terrell is the author of Learning To Go and The 30 Goals Challenge for Educators. She is also an adjunct professor, teacher trainer, and international speaker. She has trained teachers in over 25 countries and is a founder of the Bammy Award-winning #Edchat, the ELTON-nominated ELTChat, and The Reform Symposium E-Conference. She is the host of American TESOL’s Free Friday Webinars and shares regularly via TeacherRebootCamp.com, Twitter (@ShellTerrell), Facebook.com/shellyterrell, and Google.com/+ShellySanchezTerrell. She has taught toddlers to adults English in various countries including the US, Germany, Croatia, Slovenia, and Greece.

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