This post was written by Kaye McDaniel
When teaching English to younger children, your lesson planning and teaching methods should be constructed well enough to maintain their attention and make learning fun! Younger children have different abilities and skills that can be utilized to make their English learning more efficient and your job a lot easier. Children tend to learn new skill sets, including language, must easier and faster than adults, so you have this on your side. So how do you go about it? Just “do” it.
For younger learners, learning by “doing” tends to prove the most efficient means of absorbing and maintaining knowledge. Employ activities, games and video-audio resources regularly to keep their attention and to keep them having fun. When your students enjoy the activities you are engaging in, they will enjoy learning English and be eager to move forward with the process. Imagine the difference between lecturing the language to a group of five-year olds versus having the group act out a skit to cover the same material. Using colorful resources, videos, flashcards, etc, can help you keep them focused, learning and enjoying the class.
When you are planning EFL lessons and activities, remember to keep them organized and to make sure you will be able to manage your time effectively. While younger learners tend to comprehend material quite well, it is still a matter of how it is presented and how the teacher transitions through the material. Moving too fast may cause English students to double back and utilize knowledge incorrectly or they may simply become confused or overwhelmed. Moving too slow may bore the students or cause them to rely on already learned material too much when new material is presented. The flow of knowledge should be steady, the transitions should be smooth, and the activities should carefully employ old material with new material in a well-developed manner. Structure and boundaries, as they say, are what children crave – whether they know it or not.
Children are also more open and work well as a community – so use this to your advantage. Let children speak freely – in English of course. Encourage students to discuss and converse amongst each other the topics being covered, utilize activities that allow them to work collaboratively and give them the space to do so. Your students will feel more comfortable and candid about speaking English when doing so with their peers as opposed to one-on-one drills with the teacher, for instance. These are great opportunities for you to quietly monitor your students and note strengths and weaknesses for upcoming lessons or even feedback with the students.
Fun is the word! Fun works for all learners, but especially younger ones. As Dr. Seuss always said, fun things are everywhere. So find them and employ them. Even Dr. Seuss books can be great for EFL use! Using rhymes will help your children with lexis in a fun way and you could even make a game out of having your students pick out the words or objects that are not real (such as barbaloots or a whispermaphone). Speaking of Barbaloots, if you are teaching your students about animals, have them make the animal sounds (teaching onomatopoeias!) or have them imitate the movements of the animal (using CCQs!). If your student is flapping his arms while saying “meow” when you give them the word “alligator”… it may be time to review the material. Just remember to get them “doing” – make it fun and have fun with them!