Teaching a Foreign Language to KG Students Online

Learning a language is a natural skill for little kids. Teachers do not teach them how to pronounce words correctly or translate words and phrases. Students in kindergarten are learning a foreign language how to speak through observing, listening, and repeating. Generally, we group students according to their language proficiency. Sometimes it is challenging to divide students in the kindergarten class by levels, and pretty often, I had five-year-old total beginners and some kids who were exposed to the Russian language. 

It is not that simple to teach successfully many students of different proficiency levels at the same time in class. Teaching a foreign language in a kindergarten requires energy, patience, and imagination. With every single word or phrase I teach come visuals, emotions, and body language.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

And this year was a Bingo. We were teaching KG class 4 times a week for 45 minutes remotely. This situation pushed a new approach to teach Russian as a foreign language. I could not use the same activities.

 The challenges were the following:

At the beginning of the school year, my five years old students could not work on iPads independently. We needed to teach them how to join meetings, how to work in Seesaw (we use this platform as an electronic portfolio), how to take a photo and download it in Seesaw, how to record themselves and upload it in the Seesaw, how to share their screen etc. 

The biggest challenge was to keep students next to the screen learning a foreign language for 45 minutes and keep their motivations. My team came up with the idea to create a slide presentation with a variety of activities for each lesson.

Giuseppe Arcimboldo, The Summer, 1563. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

The results:

The KG students created their own portraits using fruits and vegetables, and they were able to describe their portraits demonstrating their knowledge of two topics “Fruits and Vegetables” and “Parts of the Body”.

The results are the following:

KG students started to use technology “to demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways.” They became Empowered Learners. 

Their knowledge of the names of fruits and vegetables is improved as well.

What is the New Pedagogy of Online Teaching?

At first, I thought to replicate online what I usually do in a classroom. I have faced some challenges (traditional learning engagements to develop and assess interpersonal and presentational speaking did not work; keep the interest of 5 years-old students for 45 minutes, play games or sing songs online is almost impossible, and by the end, poor internet connections, etc.). 

Photo from Austrian National Library on Unsplash

I have been working as a WL teacher for the last seventeen years. At the beginning of my carrier, I was the primary resource in class, and I was leading the learning process. Nowadays, technology is changing the way we teach and leading to the emergence of a new pedagogy. 

The new pedagogy requires educating students with new skills and knowledge (critical thinking, independent learning, and the use of relevant technology).  

In my final project, the students take an active role in developing a learning pathway and creating the final product. 

Kahoot Games  as  a New Approach in a WL classroom 

I have started to use Kahoot two years ago and found that students of different ages love to play Kahoot games. I used Kahoot games for a variety of goals:

  • Introduce new vocabulary
  • Assess prior knowledge
  • Improve reading skills
  • Formative assessments

When I evaluated this platform, I looked at it as an Augmentation in the SAMR model. The technology is used to substitute the traditional way of teaching “with some enhancement to the student experience.” (SAMR Model: A Practical Guide for EdTech Integration)

Kahoot’s format is only multiple-choice questions.

It would be great to have a choice of different answering formats in Kahoot. It can be used to check a simple understanding of vocabulary from a unit. Also, questions and answers choices can be a deeper level of thinking if students have enough vocabulary and knowledge of the subject. For example, when I assess my students’ prior knowledge, the question will be “What is it?” If I want to evaluate their knowledge, the questions will be “What is the main street of Moscow? What does it mean, Red Square?”

The competitive nature of the application makes the students use proper hand-eye coordination and quick problem-solving; improve their reading skills in a foreign language. Students always ask for more games. 

The next step of using Kahoot and reevaluate its meaning was when I asked my grade 5 students to create their own Kahoot games. The task was to watch the video about general geographic knowledge and create a Kahoot game to check the classmates’ understanding. This task takes the Kahoot platform to the higher level of the SAMR model. I believe it is Modification. We are moving from enhancement to transformation, and the task requires critical thinking and problem-solving skills. First, to choose the main concepts, then come up with various answers, select a good image.

We are playing a Kahoot game that was created by one of the students online.

Takeaways

Language-wise – the answers should give a hint, but not repeat the words from the video; it means to use synonyms; write numbers in words not in numbers because you do not assess the understanding in Russian. 

The students’ reflections were the following:

“Next type I will check the spelling of the words if I see the words were underlined with the red lines. It looks like my classmates could not understand some of my answers.” 

“I should type the numbers in words.”

“Next time, I will use a variety of questions, not only questions about facts.”

Conclusion 

I found that this type of activity increases the students’ motivation and allows students to demonstrate their language knowledge and skills and integrate their digital skills to be a Knowledge Constructor and “critically curate a variety of resources using digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts and make meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others.” (ISTE STANDARDS FOR STUDENTS)

MY THINKING

This school year is entirely different from the previous school years. When I decided to take the COETAIL journey, my main goal has been to start implementing technology more often. Since the last March, I have been teaching my lessons remotely and will be teaching till the end of this school year. So, I had to learn fast and start using a different approach to teaching a foreign language to elementary school students. It was a challenge, and still, it is pretty tricky.  “To have a second language is to have a second soul. (Charlemagne, Holy Roman Emperor).”

For my Course 5 project, I have chosen the fifths grade Unit Places I Like to Visit.  The unit focuses on learning about geography, nature, climate, and places of interest in Russia in Russian.

I planned to start a unit with a provocation.

What is a provocation?

It provokes thoughts and ideas; it allows demonstrating prior knowledge and come up with various questions.

Types of provocation in WL classroom:

  • Open-ended questions
  • Real artifacts
  • Interesting photos
  • Phraseological unit, idiom

The purpose of provocation is to hook the students; push questioning and sharing connections; provoke curiosity.

I created a Flipgrid task – What do I know about my plane? Students’ task was to answer the following questions in Russian: What is our planet’s name? How many continents are in the world? What are the names of the continents? How many oceans are in the world? What are the names of the oceans? On what continent/s is Russia? What oceans are around Russia? What cities in Russia do you know? – and record their answers in Flipgrid.

Feedback and students’ reflections:
“I know some names in English, not in Russia.” “I am not sure how many continents and oceans.” “I am living in Russia already 5 years but can name only two cities – Moscow and St. Petersburg.”

The follow-up task was to look at the map and find the information that you did not know and read about different approaches explaining how many continents (6 or 7) in the world. It led to a fruitful discussion. When planning a new activity, my main focus is always authentic and engaging. The practice shows that students are much more inclined to participate, acquiring new knowledge in the process.