Getting Kids Excited about Learning

What’s your hook?  Do you growl like a pirate?  Do you sing like a canary?  Do you change costumes faster than a Broadway showgirl?  Getting children excited about learning can be a challenge, especially if they aren’t able to speak in English.  Here are some savvy tips to help you motivate and encourage your young students:

1. Games, games, and more games – It may seem like an obvious decision, but how can you make games exciting.  For example, if you want students to learn new vocabulary, teach it in a game.  One of my favorites is, Captain, May I? It may seem elementary, but once students learn the how to say the first three words you can always add and take away new language. You can introduce new language one or two phrases at a time.  The first time you play the game only use action verbs. A great starting point is, “Captain, May I hop?, Captain, May I jump?” etc. The children learn the phrase and they also learn how to ask questions.  In the next lesson just change things a little, “Captain, May I jump four times?” I think you can get the idea. By adding one or two words at a time, children can build confidence and learn new vocabulary.

2. Sing, sing a song– Singing is one of the best ways to make words stick!  Keep the songs short and simple.  I made up a short song to teach the parts of a seed.  “I’m a seed, I’m a seed, I’m a seed./ I have a coat. I have a coat. I have a coat./ I have some food. I have some food. I have some food./ So I can grow. So I can grow. So I can grow.” It’s simple and with a few hand gestures children can latch onto the repetitive nature of the song. If you’d like to know the tune send me an email and I’ll see what I can do.

3. Move, move, move– Any type of movement can make things more exciting.  For example, I was teaching my students the difference between vertical and horizontal. A quick TPR method of having the children stand up on vertical and lay on the floor for horizontal made the children laugh, got their juices flowing and added a little zest to the lesson.  Another way to teach vocabulary is through games.  One game I like to play that involves movement is “Fish Gobbler”.  This is a great game and it teaches three new words, ship, shore and gobble. Now, most kids won’t use gobble in everyday language, but it’s a great way to teach kids the word shore. Oftentimes, people rely on pictures and hand gestures to show the difference, but if you tell the children that you are a fish and you have to run to shore, it’s a wonderful way to put movement with vocabulary. 

4. Just Dance – Adding songs and dance allows students to get a chance to put words, lyrics, and movement all together! Just check out these young ladies from Hands-on-English School in Hamamatsu, Japan.

Adding one or two of these strategies, to any lesson, will allow children to remember the phrases and help them see that learning is fun!  What are some of your strategies? Feel free to share!


About Michaela Chatman

Michaela Chatman is the founder of Camp Roadless Summer Visual and Performing Arts Summer Camp based in the Tokyo area. She has taught in Chicago, New York City, Hiroshima, and Tokyo. She has worked with children from ages 5-16. She is a dedicated fan and supporter of the arts. She performs locally in Tokyo with Kaguratei, a blues band. She is an active member in TELL:Exceptional Parents Group, Japan Affiliate of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum (JASCD), Tokyo Investment Group, and Pink Cow Connections Networking Group. For fun she organizes The Tokyo Lovers Pizza Meetup Group.
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