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Age is Just a Number: Reimagining Kindergarten Play-Based Curriculum for older ESL Learners

Hi there, fellow teachers! Do you struggle to find the perfect curriculum or program to teach your students? I know the feeling! I've been there myself. But I think I've found a solution. I have a groundbreaking approach that will surely pique your interest. In this article, I will debunk the common misconception that age is a determining factor for language proficiency among ESL learners. I'm excited to share my insights on how to create the right educational framework for each and every one of your students. Let's get started!

I'm a kindergarten teacher at an international school in Thailand where most of our students are non-native English speakers; in other words, most of our students are English language learners. English is their second or third language. Many of our students are bilingual, using two languages other than English at home. In the past, I also taught English to older students (from 10 years old to adults) at different language schools and both in-person and online private sessions. My mission has always been to empower students of all ages to master the English language. However, finding an approach that is systematic and explicit but also engaging, fun, and motivating (for both students and teachers!) can be difficult.

Using a play-based approach to teaching English and other subjects allows me to keep my Kindergarteners busy in a meaningful way. The children often learn new skills without noticing it. Recently, I've started to share my resources with my friend who has just started to learn English. Vlasta is in her 70s! and plans to visit her daughter and grandchildren, who recently relocated to the States. You're right, Vlasta is an incredible woman. It takes a lot of courage to change our own habits completely. It is definitely a step out of her comfort zone to leave a small village in the Czech Republic to take a plane and travel to the USA. Vlasta had never been taught English at school when she was young. When she reached out for advice, my Kindergarteners came to mind. Our role-play area is very popular. The children love to recreate everyday situations in their imaginative play! That's exactly what Vlasta needs! She needs to be able to communicate in real-life situations. She needs to hold a small talk with people she will meet on her journey, buy some food, and talk to a doctor in case she gets sick - exactly what my little learners pretend to do while playing with their friends.

Kindergarten role-play

Creating resources that facilitate communication in my classroom is my passion. Children interact with each other naturally; that's what kids do! However, they have little or no common language at the beginning of their journey in a multilingual environment like our school. That's why I started to create our audio-visual walls for our children to use independently during their free play. Motivation to learn new words and phrases to be used immediately in their play scenarios has been crucial for their language acquisition. I want my students to master English in a natural way, and my resources are designed with this vision in mind. Through innovative teaching strategies and tailored resources, I aim to create an inclusive and supportive learning environment that encourages linguistic growth and fosters confidence. You can achieve the same goals with your English language learners, regardless of their age. Role-play is a great way to prepare your students for real-life situations!

English Conversation

Understanding the challenges faced by English Second Language Learners (ESL)

English Second Language learners (ESL) face numerous challenges when acquiring a new language, regardless of their age. These challenges can range from limited vocabulary and grammar knowledge to cultural differences and self-confidence issues. However, one common misconception is that age plays a significant role in language proficiency. Many people believe that children have a natural advantage in language learning, while adults struggle to reach the same level of fluency.

While it is true that children have a remarkable ability to absorb new information, it does not mean that adults cannot achieve the same level of language proficiency. In fact, adult learners bring unique advantages to the language learning process. They possess life experiences, problem-solving skills, and critical thinking abilities that can enhance their language acquisition journey. By understanding and addressing the challenges faced by ESL learners, we can create a more effective and inclusive ELA curriculum that caters to learners of all ages.

One of the key challenges faced by ESL learners is limited exposure to the English language. Unlike native English speakers, ESL learners may not have the opportunity to immerse themselves in an English-speaking environment on a daily basis. This lack of exposure can hinder their language development and result in slower progress. Additionally, cultural differences and unfamiliarity with English language norms can further complicate the learning process. To overcome these challenges, it is essential to design a curriculum that provides ample opportunities for language practice and cultural integration.

Teaching vocabulary

Incorporating multi-modal and interactive activities in the ESL curriculum

To engage ESL learners of all ages and promote active language acquisition, it is crucial to incorporate multi-modal and interactive activities into the ESL curriculum. Traditional teaching methods that rely solely on lectures and worksheets may not be effective in engaging and motivating ESL learners. Instead, educators should embrace a variety of teaching strategies that cater to different learning styles and preferences.

One effective way to incorporate multi-modal activities is through the use of technology. Digital tools and resources can provide interactive and immersive learning experiences that engage learners on a deeper level. For example, interactive language learning resources, online discussion forums, and virtual reality simulations can create a dynamic and engaging learning environment. These technological tools not only enhance language skills but also promote critical thinking, problem-solving, and digital literacy skills.

In addition to technology, hands-on activities, and real-life context can also enhance language acquisition. ESL learners, especially adults, benefit from practical and relevant language practice that they can apply to their daily lives. For example, role-playing scenarios, group discussions, and project-based learning can provide opportunities for learners to use the English language in authentic and meaningful ways. By incorporating these multi-modal and interactive activities into the ESL curriculum, educators can create a more engaging and effective learning experience for learners of all ages.

Teaching English using technology


In conclusion, age should not be a determining factor for language proficiency. ESL learners of all ages have the potential to thrive in the English language acquisition process. By reimagining and adapting the kindergarten approach to teaching while embracing the unique qualities of ESL learners, we can create a more inclusive and effective learning environment.

A tailored curriculum that recognizes the challenges faced by ESL learners and addresses their specific needs is crucial. By incorporating multi-modal and interactive activities, promoting cultural responsiveness, and utilizing technology, educators can engage ESL learners of all ages and promote active language acquisition.

It's time to challenge traditional notions of age and redefine what it means to learn English as a second language. Regardless of your age!

Adults English Language Learners

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