Using Shadow Puppets to Teach ESL to Kindergarten Kids

Teaching ESL to Kindergarten Using Shadow Puppets
Teaching English to kindergarten children is now the fastest growing job type in China. What's more, for me, it's also the age where I personally get the most job satisfaction. If you are a creative person, who enjoys making things, painting things, inventing songs and getting your hands mucky; basically, the child who never grew up yourself, then teaching ESL to kindergarten children in China is a line of TEFL teaching which you should seriously consider.
As a kindergarten teacher, you should always be on the hunt for new ways to engage with your kindergarten kids. One problem with teaching kindergarten kids in China is that you will find that the kids will have had very little access to the type of education that western kids get in kindergarten, where the emphasis is learning and interacting about the world around them through play, craft, songs, touching things and using their full range of senses in their learning journey. This is where you, as a kindergarten teacher in China, can have the most impact on young lives and child education by bringing western teaching methods into the Chinese kindergarten classroom. One fantastic way of bringing a story to life is through making shadow puppets to tell the story you are using through shadow puppetry.
Using Shadow Puppets to Teach ESL to Kindergarten
Using Shadow Puppets to Teach ESL to Kindergarten

This idea was recommended to me by David Parkin, who is a British teacher living and working in Beijing. He works at a kindergarten in Beijing and used shadow puppets to teach his kindergarten class recently.
David used a book called Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell. The book is about different animals going to the zoo but not being suitable for one reason or another, too heavy, too tall, too fierce, too small, etc. So the book has some fantastic language for the kindergarten kids to learn, but actually any English book suitable for kindergarten work work well. David made the shadow puppets to teach ESL to his kindergarten class using card, chopsticks and sticky tape. A simple large piece of cloth was used to cast shadows from the shadow puppets onto for the kindergarten class.

Using Shadow Puppets to Teach ESL to Kindergarten kids
You can make shadow puppets to teach ESL to kindergarten kids using any good simple story really, whether the target language is animals, family, food, shapes, whatever. Just cut out your card, stick the shape onto a chopstick and you've got your shadow puppet!

Pre-teach the kindergarten class using your shadow puppets
Making your shadow puppets to teach English to your class is very easy. Simply find some good images online, print them onto card, cut them out and stick them onto've now got some awesome shadow puppets to teach with!

Using shadow puppets to teach kindergarten

Before you start, be sure to pre-teach the main language from the story with your kindergarten students. You can use your shadow puppets to do this.

Making Shadow Puppet props for teaching
Also remember to make shadow puppet props to help tell the story to your kindergarten children. This will help them to understand what is happening and remember more of the target language from the story.

Using Shadow Puppets to Teach ESL to Kindergarten
Plod..plod..plod..went the elephant. Bring English stories to life using shadow puppets with your kindergarten classes.

Use animal sounds when reading stories to kindergarten
And don't forget to make all those wonderful sounds and animal noises when recreating the story for your kindergarten kids.

Using Shadow Puppets to Tell Stories to kindergarten kids
Give your kindergarten kids a massive treat by telling English stories to them using shadow puppets.

Getting Prepared to Tell Stories to Kindergarten Kids Using Shadow Puppets

As any good teacher will know, you just can't hang up a sheet of cloth and start reading your story using your shadow puppets - your kids will have no idea what is going on. You need to prep them and pre-teach the key language for the story.

There are many ways to pre-teach the vocab you need before using your shadow puppets to teach ESL to your kindergarten kids, but here are the steps which David used in his classes in Beijing:

First introduced the animals in the book by making hand gestures / noises and had the kids guess what the animal was. The vocabulary was then reinforced through a speed guessing and performing the animals game.

The puppets were held up behind the cloth to make the silhouette and the kids were asked 'what's this?' for each of the puppets.
The kids then come up one by one and are given a puppet and have to ask the others 'what's this?'
The kindergarten kids are then taught the key adjectives using hand gestures and a song.
We played a game where the animals were sorted into different containers and this was turned into a race.
Students, with the teacher, made full sentences such as 'the giraffe is too tall', 'the elephant is too heavy', the 'tiger is too fierce'.
We sat in a circle and the teacher read the book to the kids showing the pictures in the book. Everyone could now understand the story.
The teacher did the full story again, this time using the shadow puppets on sticks behind the cloth to tell the story using shadows.

by Stuart Allen

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