Teaching EFL in a kinder gardenI am writing both from my own experience as a kindergarten teacher as well as from what I have learned in this TEFL course about teaching young children.
Young children are not aware that they are actually learning a language, but they absorb it naturally, without realizing it- the younger, the easier. They learn a second language similar to their first, by being confronted with it in their daily interactions with others, by trying to communicate, mimicking, listening to others, following instructions, needing or wanting something, playing, doing, singing, and acting. They understand language automatically in context of what is happening around them. They are naturally curious, active and very open to learning anything new, by doing, and exploring. We teachers can take advantage of all this when teaching them english
by including all these above mentioned activities and interactions with the children, and combine them with speaking english
. In fact, knowing this can help us teachers, to find the children’s key, to gear our lessons around their interest.
Because children have a short attention span, any one activity should not last very long. We need to make sure we have plenty of different ideas planned ahead of time, ready to put into action. If we feel, that one activity does not catch their interest, we need to be willing to quickly change and try something else. If children become bored, it is more likely that discipline problems arise.
Skits, games, music, props, gestures, acting silly, stooping to their level helps them to focus and learn.
We have to try to involve them in fun, lively activities that catch their attention and are more interesting than what they feel like doing at the moment.
These are some activities I would do:
Sing simple action songs, like “Head, Shoulder, Knees and Toes” or “If you’re Happy and You Know it Clap Your Hands, (touch your nose, pat your tummy…”). Children love to copy the actions, and will learn their english
meaning simultaneously, like: running, hopping, jogging, marching, jumping, flying, walking, tip-toeing, or dancing.
Point out body parts on big picture of a child, and let each child point to their own body parts. Let children put clothes on a big dress-up doll. Always give clear, short instructions.
Tell simple stories, with flannel graphs, or big pictures/posters.
Children are able to learn picture facts as well as word flash cards. Once they understand the meanings of a few words from pictures or actions, we can even write these words on flashcards and show them, while we say them out loud or act them out. Soon they themselves will start acting them out, when they see the written words. To many of the above mentioned activities, word flash cards can be added.
It’s important not to test young children, unless we know for certain, that they know something well. (Besides discouragement, wrong guesses can quickly lead to wrong impressions.) Flashcards can be shown for a few minutes, with an exciting voice, and repeated later again. If we just give input without testing, soon the output will come. It’s important to speak slowly and clearly, with exaggerated intonation, and a high, excited voice.
Classes for 2-3-year olds need to be mainly teacher-oriented, as if left by themselves children would automatically resort to speaking in their own language. Even if we speak their language, we should never let them know it, but only communicate with them in english
During times of free play or coloring, we can participate in some ways, and give running commentaries in english
about what we are doing or what another child is doing, so they can hear the spoken english
as much as possible.
We need to maintain good discipline. Often problems and confusion can be avoided, by keeping the children busy and challenged and by giving personal attention, encouragement, positive feedback, praise, hugs and appreciation.
Children need boundaries. If we are fair and consistent in their discipline, they feel safe and are able to absorb the lessons in a relaxed atmosphere. They look up to us like to a parent, and they can feel if we love them and enjoy teaching them.