Teaching EFL in a KindergartenWhether through english
immersion or separate language lessons, english
as a Foreign Language (EFL) is a growing field in kindergartens around the world, with native speakers increasingly being employed in such roles. While some people believe that teaching kindergarten students a foreign language puts too much pressure on them and may interfere with their native language skills, many researchers have highlighted the benefits of children learning foreign languages at a young age. Teaching kindergarten may at first seem like it would be all fun and games, however young learners
do pose particular challenges that need to be overcome by an EFL teacher who understands how to use constant animation and stimulation combined with age-appropriate classroom management.
EFL in a Kindergarten can be controversial, especially if the methods are immersion or intensive language classes, or if the teacher is a native english
speaker. Some people believe that teaching kindergarten students a foreign language puts undue stress and academic emphasis on the children at a time when they should be free to play and be children. Some feel that learning english
at such a young age interferes with a child's native language and culture, and can even be seen as too much of a Western influence (Peng, 2004). In fact, there are legal implications in Taiwan for Kindergartens that place too much emphasis on english
in their curriculum (Peng, 2004). Nonetheless, the worldwide demand for english
in Kindergartens and native english
speaking teachers is increasing (Vocis, 2009). In fact scientific studies have demonstrated that young children act like a language sponge because their brain is more adaptable, and that early exposure to multiple languages helps general intellectual development (Lamendella, 1997). english
immersion Kindergarten draws on these ideas, presuming children gain their native language skills from their family and community and by running Kindergartens solely in english
children will absorb the language and develop essential receptive skills that will form the building blocks for later english
fluency (Haver, 2009). Additionally, a native english
speaking teacher provides the unique opportunity for children to be exposed to natural english
pronunciation from an early age.
Young learners are often enthusiastic, uninhibited in speaking and can be easily motivated by rewards (Cameron, 2001). However, they pose particular challenges that EFL teachers
need to overcome in be effective in a Kindergarten. Dealing with a large group of young children can be tiring, and a lot of time is consumed by ‘taking care’ of them rather than running lessons (Corbin, 2006). This is where the benefits of english
immersion and using a native english
speaker can be seen, as there are always opportunities for children to learn english
beyond the rigid parameters of language class. However, a native english
speaker can be challenged when teaching young children without knowing the children's native language. Unlike adults, young children have difficulty seeing things from another’s viewpoint. They often don't understand that a foreign teacher does not comprehend their native language, and don’t know how to compensate with gestures and expressions, so they become easily frustrated (Vocis, 2009). Jesness (2004) highlights the importance of patience and of creating a warm and positive environment that builds young children’s self-esteem.
Any EFL teacher should always know the skills and limitations of their students, and Waring (2008) suggests using word games to determine these when beginning work with a Kindergarten class. With young children it is important to focus on concrete, not abstract terms. Bring in props and pictures for students to see what is being talked about and act out words using exaggerated motions and facial expressions (Haver, 2009). Since young children have short attention spans teachers should avoid talking for long periods of time, change activities every 5 – 10 minutes (Jesness, 2004), and keep lessons cheery and interactive with lots of hands on activities (Stocker). Prins (2008) highlights the useful place art, drama and song can have in teaching EFL in the kindergarten and helping children to feel comfortable communicating in english
. Cobin (2006) recommends activities that capitalize on children's enjoyment of rhythm and pattern and their innate mimicking skills. Children can be forgetful so repetition is vital for young learners to retain information (Stocker; Jesness, 2004).
Kindergarten EFL teachers
need to be flexible and able to recognise when an activity is not working, or when the class may be getting out of control, so they can introduce a better suited new activity. In terms of class management, Corbin (2006) says it is crucial to maintain enthusiasm and confidence at all times, since children react quickly to an overwhelmed, intimidated or tired teacher. Positive reinforcement and rewards are key in guiding young children’s behaviour (Stocker), as is a consistent routine (Read, 2005). Lessons or days should be ordered so children know what is expected of them. For example begin with a rhyme, then review what was learned previously, then an interactive lesson and finish with a game or another rhyme (Waring, 2008). Resources for kindergarten EFL teachers
are plentiful since there are countless websites and blogs by experienced Kindergarten teachers outlining tips, tricks and lesson ideas.
Despite the challenges a native english
speaking EFL teacher faces when working in a Kindergarten, teaching english
in this situation is very dynamic and rewarding as you watch children’s language skills develop (Corbin, 2006). If we move away from thinking of them as ‘small adults’ and address their specific needs for stimulation, positive reinforcement, repetition and consistency we can effectively impart the language skills that enable them to become proficient in english
Cameron, L. (2001) Teaching Languages to Young Learners. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.
Corbin, Mario (2006) Teaching Kindergarten ESL: A Language of its Own. http://suite101.com/article/teaching-kindergarten-a5145
Haver, Linda (2009) Teaching ESL to Under 5 Year Olds. Helium: http://www.helium.com/items/1445627-preschool-esl
Jesness, J. (2004). Teaching english
Language Learners K-12: A Quick-Start Guide for the New Teacher. california
Lamendella, J.T. (1997). General principles of Neuro functional organization and their Manifestation in primary and non-primary language acquisition. Language Learning: 27, 155-96.
Peng, Mark (2004) ‘MOE english
-teaching policy sparks storm of controversy’, Taiwan Today: 02/27/2004, http://taiwantoday.tw/ct.asp?xItem=20539&CtNode=122
Prins, Helena Aletta Sophia (2008) Benefits of the Arts in Kindergarten: An ESL Perspective. The Internet TESL Journal: http://iteslj.org/Articles/Prins-ArtsInKindergarten.html
Read, C (2005) ‘Managing Children Positively', english
Teaching Professional: 38, Modern english
Stocker, George. Teaching esl to children: http://www.eslbase.com/articles/esl-children
Vocis, Vox (2009) ESL Kids: Teaching english
To Children: http://vox-vocis.hubpages.com/hub/Teaching-pre-school-english
Waring, Ben (2008) Teaching ESL to Under 5 Year Olds. Helium: http://www.helium.com/items/1148413-esl-esl-to-young-learners-teaching-young-learners-english