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More Kindergarten Games - Minimum Teaching Time 
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Post More Kindergarten Games - Minimum Teaching Time
Hi from Japan,

I am looking for some games that can be played with Kindergarten students that require very little to no preparation time. (One the part of the students, not the teacher) A little about my situation:

The only direction I have been given by the manager of the kindergarten is "Don't teach the children, have fun with them". So the way I have interpreted this is that she would like me to basically only play with the children, which in practice is pretty difficult over an entire school year. This year I have 4 classes a week, two 30 minute classes with 3-4 year olds and two 20 minute classes with 5-6 year olds. Each class has approximately 22 students. I am able to conduct classes in the classroom or outside. The classrooms do not have white boards. Generally I have the assistance of the children’s regular Japanese speaking teacher, but they often like to use the English class time to work on other things they need to get done. (And my Japanese is just as bad as their English so communication is an issue) And I think they generally would prefer activities that we can do together, although separating the children into small groups is an option.

So I am looking for some “instant gratification” games; games that can be played with little to no preparation on the children’s part. Some games that I have had success with so far:

Who took the cookie? (from the cookie jar) – Message me if you don’t know how this game is played. I used it last year and this year with the 4-5 and 5-6 year olds. I think it would be too difficult for the 3-4 year olds to understand.

Some MES Bingo – Again only with the 4-5 and 5-6 year olds, I think it would be too difficult for any younger. Because of the instructions from the manager I spend a minimum amount of time teaching the vocabulary and dialog before playing, and while playing make sure to show them the card when I am calling it out. I also have them play in pairs so they can help each other and to cut down on the amount of cards I have to make. I bought a bunch of small Tupperware containers to hold 9 bingo place markers, so the setup and clean up can be done quickly. (Some classes I only get 20 minutes!)

Who’s This! – I bring a large bed sheet to class. I spend a little bit of time teaching children “he” and “she” by asking one student to stand up and then asking the rest of the class “who’s he?” or “who’s she?”. I have the students answer “she’s Miho” etc. Or to make it even more simple I just ask “who’s this?” and have the children answer with “It’s name!” Once we have that somewhat understood I put on some silly music and have the children dance around the classroom. (I usually use the chicken dance music) and then stop the music. When the music stops all the children must drop to the floor and turtle. (Curl up in a ball and not look) At this point I drape the sheet over one of the children covering their entire body. Then I tell the rest of the children they can get up, and then ask them “Who’s this\he\she?” They have to guess which one of their classmates is missing. They like this game and works with the 3-4 year olds too. Be careful though because obviously some of the children don’t like having the blanket over them with all the other children looking and screaming.

Hammer Slap - I have bought some 4 plastic hammers at the Japanese dollar store and have the children hit flashcards when they are called out, or when the phrase is called out. The hammers make it a little more exciting than simply touching the flash card. With the younger ones I generally just have them volunteer, but with the older ones I usually put them on teams and make it a little more competitive.

I have played Red Rover outside with limited success. I don’t want to make it into a competition where some kids can’t break through the line and maybe get hurt, so I guess it’s not really that exciting for the kids or they don’t see the point of the game. Let me know if you don’t know how this game is played.

What Time is it Mr. Wolf - With the older kids I have spent a few minutes each week making sure they can count to 12. Then I spent a few minutes each week asking them “what time is it” with a sponge clock from the dollar store and the MES flash cards. Then we played “What time is it Mr. Wolf” outside. This game I needed the Japanese teachers assistance but the kids seemed to generally enjoy it. Although they rarely took the amount of steps they should! Again let me know if you don’t know how to play this game.

And finally, and obviously I think, singing songs that have accompanying actions are easy to teach and well received by the children. As well the can generally be taught quickly. Some of my kids favorites are the Hokey Pokey, Head and shoulders. The Mulberry bush is also a great one with actions.

If anyone has more “instant gratification” games for these age groups I would love to hear them. I still have about six months left in the school year and I am already running out of ideas!


Tue Aug 21, 2012 12:18 pm
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Post Re: More Kindergarten Games - Minimum Teaching Time
You could play hide the parcel. In this game you send one student out of the room while you hide the parcel. You then call the student back and they have to find the parcel. if they go close to the parcel the rest of you say close/closer or near and if they go away from the parcel you say far/further or away. Have Fun :wink:


Tue Aug 21, 2012 1:54 pm
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Post Re: More Kindergarten Games - Minimum Teaching Time
That's perfect Joanne, I will be using that one, thanks!


Wed Aug 22, 2012 11:18 am
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Post Re: More Kindergarten Games - Minimum Teaching Time
mellonhead - Those are some great ideas. Thanks for sharing. I really like the sheet game. I might even adapt it to make a Halloween-type game and have the student stand up and be a ghost. I'm always thinking about new Halloween games for my Halloween party, especially this time of year :)

One game you might be able to use is Spiders and Candy. You place candy and spiders under game cards (face up). Children take turns calling the flashcards using just the vocabulary or with the target language, and they try to get candies. They may get a spider though. When they call a card, you lift it up to show whether it has a candy, a spider or maybe nothing under it. Don't force small children to take the spiders. You might end up with some tears.

The Spiders and Candy game will work well for large groups once they understand the game. It's pretty simple, so you can get kids in small groups and have one act as the teacher, hiding the spiders and candy. So, once the game has been taught, you can use it over and over again with different vocabulary and target language. There are also a few other 'treasures', like ice cream and treasure chests. There are some other undesirable items as well - caterpillars and frogs. Changing the items they have to search for sometimes makes it fresh. Also different cultures find different things undesirable.

Bingo with 3-4 year olds - I have played a bingo-like game. All I do is place 3 cards in front of the students. Then I have the same cards placed face down in front of the group. We take turns drawing a card. If the student has the card in front of them, they can turn the card over. When all of the cards are turned over, they shout out 'Bingo!'. I give them a high five and we continue until everyone has bingo. At this age, they don't really care about getting bingo first. They just want to win. So, this is a simple way to go through all of the cards and maybe keep their attention. With a large class, it won't work as is, but maybe you can adapt the idea a little.

flashcard passing races
- kids get in a few lines (for your group of 20, maybe 4 lines of 5 or 2 lines of 10)
- each line has a pile of flashcards in front of them
- the teacher says 'Go!'
- the first student takes one card and performs some language task
- then the student passes the card to the next student to do the same
- the card is passed back to the end
- when all cards reach the end of the line, that line is finished

For the language task, you can have the students just say the word that corresponds to the card, they can make a sentence, or you can have them ask a question to the student behind them, "What's this?" or "Do you like ...?" and so on.

You can make it a competition between the lines, but I like to make it a race against the clock. That way everyone has the chance to be a winner. I will give them 1 minute or 1 minute and 15 seconds to get all of the cards to the back.

I think it's best to start with a small number of cards, but once they understand the game, you can use more cards. You can also use this game for any card set.

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Fri Aug 24, 2012 10:29 pm
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Post Re: More Kindergarten Games - Minimum Teaching Time
Another idea is Concentration for 3 year olds:
- Instead of having 2 cards out for children to flip over, you have one set of cards face down in front of them. This is the pile of cards they'll use to make the match. Then you have another set to draw cards from. You take one card from the draw pile and students take turns trying to find just the one card. When they do, they would get that card or both the card they flipped and the card the teacher drew (which makes the pair.)

Taking turns is hard for this group. Also, they tend to get frustrated and start turning over more cards if they can't find the match. It doesn't really matter to them at this age. You could just let one student keep turning over cards until he finds the match. The important part is that they are using the language with each card flip.

With your group, I'd break it up into 4 smaller groups and have the other teacher watch two groups and monitor their use of the target language. It may be rough at first but once they get used to it, it's a game you can use over and over again.

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Sat Aug 25, 2012 7:40 am
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Post Re: More Kindergarten Games - Minimum Teaching Time
Some more great ideas, thanks Mark.


Mon Aug 27, 2012 11:13 am
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Post Re: More Kindergarten Games - Minimum Teaching Time
Hi Mellonhead,

I also teach largish preschool groups (about 20 kids per group) in half hour sessions once a week. With kids' ages ranging from 3 - 6, I feel I really have no choice but to make it fun and and not require too much "teaching" or prep time before we can get going.

I love the sheet game and will certainly give that a try at some point.

As you mentioned, songs with motions are always great for this age group. Here are my favorite/most fun/most successful perhaps-not-so-obvious songs and chants with motions:

1. Slippery Fish aka Octopus, sung by Charlotte Diamond with motions and illustrations I found on Youtube. I just copied the illustrations in colored pencil onto large drawing paper to help with the first times singing – now we dispense with that and just do the motions along with the recorded song. I also found the motions on Youtube. This is my preschoolers’ favorite song, hands down.
2. Open them/close them (the wild version where the fingers creep up to your mouth and you then whip them behind your back and end with “But do not let them in!”)
3. Little Cabin in the Woods. Remember that one ? I also first did simple illustrations on paper so that they got the point and now just do the motions. You can also find some examples of this on Youtube.
4. I like Apples (from DreamEnglish) : We mime eating the various fruits – make sure to say “Oh it squirts!” when you eat the oranges and wipe your mouth ; during the guitar music we all play air guitars with beatific smiles on our faces. For “It’s yummy yummy yummy” we rub our tummies and “to my tummy tummy tummy” we point at our tummies. It’s so catchy, the kids are always singing along really loud at this part.
5. Five Little Monkeys in a Tree. Got this from RussTV on Youtube. The motions are very active and great fun. I don’t think Russ does motions but they’re pretty obvious. I have a picture of a tree of and five individual monkeys. I put the tree in the middle of our circle, pointing and saying “tree”, then put one monkey on it and say: There is ONE little monkey in the tree! Sing the first verse with the motions and then add the 2nd monkey, etc.
6. I’m Taking Home my Baby Bumble Bee. The kids love this but you have to present it in a preschool-friendly manner. I always start by just making a buzzing noise. When I have their attention I start looking around for the invisible insect. Then I reach out and snatch something from the air. The kids will automatically copy you. I peek into my cupped hands and say: It’s a bee! (You might want a picture of a bumblebee handy so they don’t think it’s a fly). I peek again and say: “It’s a BUMBLE bee!” (What a great, fun word, eh?) And then I peek one more time and use a baby voice – which my kids get a great kick out of – “It’s a BABY bumblebee!!!” Then I sing the song but after it stings me I do not smash it. Instead I mime scolding motions (shaking my finger into my hand) and sing “I’m talking to my baby bumblebee…” And at the end of that verse I say, “What?” and hold my cupped hands up to my ear to listen. I then announce: “Oh, my baby bumble bee wants to be free!” The last verse is then “I’m setting free my baby bumblebee” as we open our hands wide and wave. In conclusion I always wave at the air and say “Bye bye baby bumblebee!” and then wag my finger and singsong: “I will never catch a bumblebee again.”

My kids do love the spiders and candy game. I have not needed to put them in small groups - the suspense of what is under the card is exciting enough to keep all the kids' attention. I usually go around and let each child name a card to look under and I turn it over for them. If it is candy I give them the candy but if it's a spider they just get to go again until they get a candy. After awhile the kids start to prefer the spider cards because we all get scared and the girls love to scream at each spider. The only problem I've had here was that for one boy with sensitive hearing the screaming scared him so much he began to cry and had to be taken from the room. I actually haven't played the game with that class since then which is too bad because everyone else loved it.

Mark’s “Exercise Game” also works well for preschool groups of this size. It’s pretty impressive how quickly they catch on and won’t be tricked. (Well, the younger ones are easy to trick but the older ones are good.) You can always add to it and change it, so in a way it never gets old.

Another easy and fun outdoor game is "red light, green light".

I also read a book at the end. There is a very helpful thread “Books for Elementary School” in the "General" forum that also has great books for preschoolers. Two wonderful ones I got from there are “Go Away, Big Green Monster” and “No, David!”. They are so easy to understand and so fun the kids will immediately catch on and love them. “Old Hat, New Hat” is another one like this and there are more good ones on that thread.


Wed Aug 29, 2012 6:03 pm
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Post Re: More Kindergarten Games - Minimum Teaching Time
Thanks alislaura

The only song from your list that I have done is the 5 monkeys, but the version I found has the monkeys jumping on the bed. Again the actions are obvious, the only thing I added is after the "Monkey bumps their head" I add "ouch", which the kids seem to get a kick out of.


Tue Sep 04, 2012 10:12 am
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Post Re: More Kindergarten Games - Minimum Teaching Time
The Monkeys in the Tree song is different. It is sung to the tune of "She was coming 'round the Mountain."

There was one little monkey in the tree,
There was one little monkey in the tree,
He was hopping all around
And rolling on the ground
Coz there was one little monkey in the tree.

There were two little monkeys in the tree (etc.)
They were making monkey faces,
And running monkey races
Coz.... (etc.)

3 monkeys: They were laughing at the llamas (ha ha ha look at those llamas!)
And eating big bananas.

4 monkeys: They were swinging from the trees
and dancing on their knees.

5 monkeys: They were spinning like a top
And then they'd sit right down and stop!

Try it. It's great fun!


Wed Sep 05, 2012 8:51 pm
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Post Re: More Kindergarten Games - Minimum Teaching Time
I have a few games that are fun. You can do them in small groups as well.

Colored Houses:
First, print off an small outline of a house. Print enough for the basic colors, red, blue, green, yellow, orange, purple. Choose a house and color one house all one color, until all your houses are colored. I laminated them afterwards so that I could use them over and over. Then print off a small picture of a mouse and color it grey.
Place all the houses on a table with colored side facing up.
Have kids hide their eyes OR turn around while you Hide the mouse under one of the houses.
When you are done hiding it, sing the little song about the mouse coming to the house and which color house could it be...
They can either verbal guess the color, point to or pick up the house to see if the mouse is there.

If you want, you can print off a set of un-colored houses (6 houses on one page, with a small mouse) for them to take home and play with their family.


Mon Apr 08, 2013 5:50 am
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Post Re: More Kindergarten Games - Minimum Teaching Time
I like this house game. I'm going to have to try it, but I may have to use more colors, thus, more houses... But what is the song you are speaking of?


Mon Apr 08, 2013 10:06 pm
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Post Re: More Kindergarten Games - Minimum Teaching Time
Colored Houses seems like a great idea and it can be built upon or changed. You could have small paper bags and draw some balloons on the bag. Color the balloons or even draw a pattern on the balloons. Put your object in one of the bags and the students will guess which bag it's in, 'in the star balloon.'

I do a similar game with prepositions.
- I have the preposition flashcards out on the table.
- I have a small box and a toy (small dog.) I place the small box and dog inside a larger box so the students can't see where the dog is.
- I place the dog in a position: in, on, under, or by the box for kindergarten level
- I ask the students "Where's the dog?"
- Students place a marker on the flashcard they guess represents the dog position. They should also say, "in" and better "in the box" but you can build up to that.
- Then all the students in unison ask me "Where's the dog?"
- I turn the big box around to show them where the dog is. Anyone who was right gets one point and the game starts over.

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Tue Apr 09, 2013 7:42 am
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Post Re: More Kindergarten Games - Minimum Teaching Time
That sounds like a very good variation mark. But I think I will have to phase that one in... The teacher I replaced at this school used to play the song "In on under" for the classes, but I don't think he taught them the concepts. I am teaching them these concepts now, and they seem to be getting it, so soon I should be able to incorporate the game.


Tue Apr 09, 2013 9:34 pm
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