Teaching EFL in a Kindergarten The english
language holds the position of 'language of the world' and is the language most used internationally within business, science and international relations and communication. Thus learning english
is necessary and even vital for many nationalities with various native languages. At which age should studying english
be started then? Many have felt the answer is as early as possible, and as a consequence, there are several countries where language groups for children and even english
kindergartens function for the benefit of young learners
. Early learning can certainly be justified based on the tremendous ability to learn that children possess, and if learning english
is started early it will ease the learning path later in school and life.
While very young children have an intrinsic love for learning there are some differences to the learning style of adults and therefore the teaching itself needs to be directed to meet the special needs of children. For example, the young learners tend to have short attention span and lots of physical energy. They tend to get bored easily and thus need plenty of varying activities and also seek the approval of teacher more eagerly than adult learners. Discipline might become a challenge as well.
There are certain approaches teachers of young learners in kindergartens and elsewhere can apply. In some countries 'serious learning' style is expected while in others fun in learning is emphasized. Definition of fun may somewhat vary, but usually learning is considered fun when children are fully engaged and interested in the subject. Teachers can involve young students by using plenty of visuals, realia and movement. Teaching in themes (family, friends, animals, foods etc) is also a method that can facilitate learning. It is always beneficial to get to know the students and what really interests them and use stories and contexts related to children's home country or culture. Establishing certain classroom routines in english
is useful as children usually enjoy repetition of certain routines (such as beginning/closing songs) as they bring stability and structure. Drawing and coloring are fun and considered good primary practice although these activities involve somewhat limited english
language production. One practical solution to this problem is to encourage children to draw or color a picture and then midway through the activity label the artwork or write a short story about it and complete the drawing/coloring at home.
There are different views on using the native language as well. Some support the view that no native language should be used in lessons, the justification being maximizing exposure to and production of english
language. While this is certainly a relevant point, there is some evidence that using L1 may have some benefits though obviously teacher and students should not become too reliant on it. The mother tongue can serve a number of functions, such as providing an opportunity for the pupils to clarify the meaning of what teacher has said, clarifying requirements of a task and discussion on how a task should be handled. Using the mother tongue has also a social function in terms of reducing pupil anxiety and creating a sense of cohesion. Having stated these, however, I personally feel that the use of L1 should be kept to a minimum but the teacher should allow some use of it if it forwards the learning process, especially at very primary levels.
Teaching in general and especially teaching in kindergarten or young learners elsewhere is a challenging work that requires patience, sensitivity and various skills in teaching methods and techniques that need to be constantly adapted in order to meet the needs of each group and individual. Teaching should aim at benefiting pupils in the best possible way and enhancing learning while keeping the experience positive and encouraging.
David Carless: Implementing task-based learning with young learners (ELT Journal Volume 56/4 October 2002, Oxford University Press)
Joan Kang Shin (University of Maryland
, Baltimore County): Ten Helpful Ideas for Teaching english
to Young Learners (The American University in Cairo, Twelfth EFL Skills Conference, January 24, 2007)
Emma Heyderman: Motivating Young Learners: Ten Teaching Tips (TESL-EJ, Volume 10, Number 3, December 2006)
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