3 Ideas on Teaching EFL in a Kindergarten
When teaching young learners, one must be prepared to face the challenge with an open heart and respect. Children deserve our respect as much as adults do, and if we manage, as educators, to offer them our respect and moreover, our trust, they will progress beautifully.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Flavia-Ioana S. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
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1. Possible Challenges
To fully explain some of the difficulties and the ways of dealing with them, when teaching kindergarteners, I will start by taking a look at the most challenging part. In my opinion, sparking their interest and keeping them focused for a longer period, is one of the most difficult tasks. A good teacher has to adapt to every situation, and children will require different skills and a higher level of energy. Even though the attention span in kindergarteners is relatively small compared to that of adults, there are a few methods that proved efficient in the classroom. This century has blessed us with the gift of technology, and wisely used, it can become of great help and therefore ease the teacher’s task. A variety of songs, virtual stories, or even cartoons can be incorporated in the lesson.
2. Lesson Duration
From my own experience teaching English to Japanese kindergarteners, I noticed that the time allocated for the lesson has to be limited. A child cannot have a productive 1 hour lesson, or more. So, where possible, it would be wise to speak with the principal or the person in charge to reduce the time allocated for English learning. If this is not possible, try to use the last 20 or 30 minutes to play games and therefore not allow the children to get bored. In my opinion, an ideal lesson for a kindergartener would take around 30 minutes and would be based on the following plan:
- Greetings, “How’s the weather?”, “How are you?”
- Quick review of the previous vocabulary, using big flashcards (choral repetition, as well as individual practice)
- Introduce the new vocabulary, 3-4 words, trying to spark their interest by showing only half of the picture and letting them guess. The choral repetition can be conducted by the teacher, and to make it interesting, low voice, medium and low voice can be used, asking the same from the students. Hand gestures and funny faces will help a lot.
- Song based on the new vocabulary
- Activity (game) that requires them to move around the classroom. A good example would be “Touch the card race” or “Momotaro” (the kids walk in a circle listening to a song. When the song stops they have to go to the card indicating the word said by the teacher. The cards are displayed on the floor and the children have to pay attention to them and memorize them while walking past them.)
- “Thank you”, “Goodbye”
3. Shorter Attention Spans
Another difficulty when teaching young learners is that they might easily start fighting or refuse to cooperate. Having a teacher assistant, who knows their first language would be of great help, and while most of the kindergartens and schools offer this, there might be some situation when the teacher has to deal with the problem by himself. I think that, in this situations, it is necessary for the teacher to try and calm down the child. The other children can be kept busy for a couple of minutes with an activity, coloring a picture representing the new word taught, tracing letters or watching a short cartoon. Another option would be to ask the child to come next to you, while continuing to teach. He will eventually calm down and return to his seat. If this is not the case, asking for help would be the best solution.
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My personal opinion is that working with children is the most rewarding experience. Being able to see them grow and help them acquire a new skill adds meaning to our life as teachers. I think that we learn from them as many things as they learn from us, and being able to help them grow beautifully, to gain confidence in their ability, to keep their curiosity and wonder and not be afraid of making mistakes are things that we, as adults, should learn once again.
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