10 Tips When Teaching English as a Foreign Language to Children
Most EFL teachers abroad will - at some point in their career - teach children. The English education market catered to young learners is a billion dollar business and many countries hire teachers to fill this need. What you can do to brace yourself besides taking our 50-hour specialized TEFL course in Teaching English to Young Learners is to take the following 10 tips to heart.
Don’t Think it’s a Piece of Cake
Teaching numbers and colors seems like the easiest job in the world, right? Wrong! The truth is, teaching children demands a great deal of energy and creativity. Kids are always on the go and will keep you on your toes. These classes can be exhausting but also extremely rewarding!
Involve Your Students in Hands-On Activities
Kids learn incredibly well by absorbing ideas and concepts actively. This means getting your students out of their chairs, moving around the classroom, singing, dancing or even outside exploring the world around them. Different props and materials will also go a long way so you better stock up on dice, colored paper, crayons, blocks, and all kinds of props you can use in the classroom. Have them actually touch fake fruit and vegetables when teaching those vocabulary words and you’ll be surprised how attentive they will be and how well those words will stick in their heads.
Don’t Talk for Long Periods
The worst thing you can probably do is the complete opposite from the point above. When you spend too much time talking about vocabulary, grammar or even just instructions for a task, the energy level of the classroom quickly drops and your young students will lose interest. Keep your explanations brief and move on to the actual activity quickly. If a planned activity doesn’t work, move on. Always keep a few extra activities up your sleeve just in case.
Children Learn Through Personal Interactions
Communicating and interacting is key in a classroom full of young learners. Talk to each child individually and plan activities that involve group or pair work to make the kids interact with each other.
Cater to Multiple Intelligences
Another great way to keep things fun and interesting is to plan your lessons according to different learning styles and multiple intelligences. These include Visual – Spatial, Logical – Mathematical, Bodily – Kinesthetic, Musical – Rhythmic, Intra-Personal, Inter-Personal, Naturalist, and Spiritual. You can accomplish this, for example, by teaching an ESL element with a song, such as Hickory Dickory Dock when teaching how to tell the time. Another example would be to use the game of Simon Says to teach body parts or to use maps for teaching places around town.
Also read: 11 Fun ESL Activities for Young Learners
Review, Review, Review
While adult students often understand new information after the teachers explain it once, young learners really need constant reviews. It’s a good idea to do a short review session at the beginning of each class to get the material really stuck into your students' heads and store it in the long-term memory.
Self-correction or self-regulation is an integral part of learning and something every teacher should encourage. The questions “How am I doing?” and “Am I doing this right?” should be asked in an open and non-judgmental environment. This not only allows for barrier-free learning but also creates a safe learning environment, where your students can thrive.
Use Learned Information in Different Contexts
Using new grammar or vocabulary in a variety of contexts really helps in making your students understand the correct usage - and the more contexts the better. It also helps to use ‘real life’ context by talking about them and their lives.
Praise, Praise, Praise
It might feel strange at first, but you really need to praise your young students constantly. Whenever they say something correctly or show positive behavior you should praise them and throw a “Good Job!” out there. Rewarding your students for positive behavior is also a big part of successful classroom management. For example, you could create sticker boards and give out stickers as encouragement when your student is doing a good job. When the sticker board is full, they will get a reward.
Be Prepared to Deal with Parents
Last but not least, you will have to deal with parents when teaching young students. Sometimes, language schools abroad have a separate local teacher for this due to possible language barriers but every teacher of children needs to communicate with parents to some degree. This could be informing them about the goals for the next semester, the children’s learning goals, such as the syllabus for the school year and, most important, the child’s individual progress.
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