EFL Teaching in The Kindergarten Environment
There is a world tendency to start learning English at a very young age. This may be a result of globalization and developing countries putting more attention on education. Apart from that, many studies and real-life experience show that young children have a great ability to grasp a foreign language, therefore kindergarten is a perfect time to begin.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Tetiana A. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
Children as They Are
When teaching in a kindergarten, it is very important to understand the features of children as learners. First of all, children are naturally curious and like exploring new things, which is very useful for a teacher. On the other hand, their curiosity may be directed elsewhere such as a classmate's new T-shirt or anything else in the classroom.
Moreover, young children's attention span is rather short and they are not able to concentrate on something as long as schoolchildren or adults. Considering these two facts, the teacher should build lessons in a way they are engaging and interesting, avoid very long activities and always have a back-up activity if the main work is finished or the students are getting out of control. It is a great idea to use songs, especially with some movements or elements of dance. Many children enjoy singing rather than just speaking and it is a wonderful way to have them say English words and have fun at the same time. Games are very useful for young learners, as they will not view a lesson as a boring routine. Both songs and games can ensure that each student participates in the lesson.
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Another thing a teacher should keep in mind is that the children are in the process of forming skills. For many children kindergarten is a place where they learn to deal with peers, maintain self-control, take basic care of themselves. At first, they may feel uncomfortable and act unfriendly as they find themselves outside the home with a group of strangers. This is likely to cause discipline and engagement problems in the English lesson. The teacher should always be patient and consistent when dealing with behavior. The kindergarten teacher who is responsible for this particular class can give valuable advice on dealing with the particular class and help understand the strengths and weaknesses of the children as well as the kindergarten system of discipline management. However, if the lesson is interesting and informative, it will minimize behaviour issues.
When planning a kindergarten course the teacher must make sure it is relevant to the young children. Many teachers prefer to teach rather simple and useful words to young beginners, also, the specifics of the particular region should be considered. For example, it might be not a good idea to teach about winter sports and clothes in a tropical country (as many children probably have never seen or used them) or about food and drinks which are forbidden or not acceptable in that particular culture. Vocabulary should be based on the students' lives and needs, their own experience. Common topics include family, body parts, food, clothes, colours, toys, animals, weather. As the students grow up and gain confidence, more difficult topics and words can be introduced. Depending on the kindergarten requirements, alphabet, phonics and writing can be taught at this stage as well.
In kindergarten, the teacher usually faces a class with no or little English knowledge. He or she can use various visual aids such as picture cards, toys, videos, white or chalkboards as well as gestures and miming. Pronunciation should be very clear and correct as it is the main source of English for these students, all instructions must be simple and easy to do. Be ready to repeat some words and phrases many times and always keep patient because it will take time for the children to get used to the language.
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Probably, the most important thing is to establish a friendly and trustworthy relationship with the students. This will not only help during this course but also establish a good base for their learning English in the future.
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