Explain to a 5-year-old
For Teachers

“Explain it to a 5-year-old” – Practicing Tier 3 Vocabulary

Tier 3 words are essentially field-specific terminology. As an example, I’m teaching an ESL breakout course to help students understand Finance lectures, and our Tier-3 words include “dividend” and “gross margin.”

I recently had success with a new idea to help reinforce these Tier-3 words (success with a new idea of mine rarely happens, so when it does I like to blog about it!) Anyway, the activity is called “Explain it to a 5-year-old.”

The activity:

I choose a few of the more difficult, abstract Tier-3 terms, and students record Flipgrid videos to explain each term to a 5-year-old in as clear and simple language as possible. They’re encouraged to use visuals, fun examples, simple language, and even a cheerful tone that a kindergarten teacher might use. In fact, this last requirement has led to my more monotone students livening up their intonation, which is especially important for speakers of Japanese and other L1s that don’t follow the same intonation patterns as English.

Things to keep in mind:

After giving this activity a first try, here are some takeaways:

  • It’s very helpful to record an example video yourself to show students what you mean by “explain it to a 5-year-old”
  • Include requirements for using visuals, examples, and intonation.
  • Add pictures of children or kindergarten classrooms to really give them the idea that they’re explaining things to children!

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