3 Key Strategies for Teaching Young Learners
2019-04-19 Linda Dunsmore Alumni Experiences
As the world becomes increasingly globalized, EFL programs are nearing ubiquity. A substantial portion of EFL participants are young learners. Although there is a lot of crossover between techniques used for young learners and those used older children or adults, there are certainly strategies that can be employed to get the most out of a classroom of young learners.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Kara C.
Use the first lesson to get to know your students!
A teacher’s initial lesson will help set the tone for the semester and should be warm and fun. Teachers should avoid teaching from the book and instead focus on making connections between teacher and students, as well as peer to peer. Icebreakers and simple games are a good way to engage children and elicit participation. The quest for a fun first class should not overshadow the importance of the class structure and clearly defined expectations. Taking the time to go over a simplified version of class rules is imperative. Teachers should use very simple and clear language, emphasized by gestures. Establishing expectations early on is beneficial to the teacher as it may prevent behavior issues from arising but is also helpful for the children as it helps them settle in and know what’s expected of them.
A first class is about more than just setting expectations and creating routine. It is also an opportunity for the teacher to gauge the levels of the young learners. It’s possible some students may have exposure to English through their primary schooling and may be more comfortable going first in activities or helping demonstrate things. This will also help maintain the engagement of more advanced learners.
Use your students' names wisely!
Managing a room of young learners can take some practice and teachers will need to employ a host of techniques specific to this demographic. A simple but effective way to keep children’s attention is to place children’s names at the end of your questions, rather than at the beginning. This will keep learners listening to see to whom the question is directed. Adaptability is vital to managing a class of any age group, but with young learners, teachers must be fast to adjust. With dealing with short attention spans, change activities often and end games on a high note, instead of letting the kids get worn out and risking behavior outbreaks.
Plan alternative activities in the event that something doesn’t go according to plan, but don’t rush to get through everything. Although young learners may tire of doing the same exercise for more than ten minutes, they may also need more repetition of vocabulary and grammatical structures. For many, the EFL class may be their first exposure to English and it may feel radically unfamiliar to them. Build repetition throughout the lesson by incorporating the same language into new games during the activate portion of lessons.
Never put a student on the spot!
A foreign language classroom can be an intimidating place to a young learner. It is crucial for teachers to avoid putting a child on the spot. Give children a solid understanding of what’s expected of them in an activity by coupling an explanation of instructions in clear and simple language with a demonstration of the activity. This will help eliminate confusion for the children and can instead build their eagerness to participate. Good behavior in the classroom should be rewarded, but praise, like discipline needs to be done consistently.
Young learners lack many of the inhibitions experienced by older children and adults, and their willingness to take risks with their language learning is among their greatest assets. For the teacher, this can be a dynamic and stimulating experience. With a strong investment to the initial lesson and maintaining sound classroom management throughout the year, teachers and students will benefit from this positive EFL environment.
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