ESL Teaching To Young Learners - What are the Advantages?
2019-04-25 Linda Dunsmore Alumni Experiences
Description: Teaching English as a foreign language in a kindergarten can be a dynamically different experience than teaching students in older age groups. Teaching in a kindergarten has advantages such as motivation, smiles, and the ability to learn the material in short bursts. It also has disadvantages, such as; short attention spans, diapers, and tantrums. Teaching young children can be extremely rewarding and extremely demanding.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate William K.
Learning is fun for small children.
Teaching Children between the ages of two and five has some advantages that can be very rewarding. My first class ever was teaching children between the ages of two and a half and three and a half. I was quick to learn some of the obvious advantages of teaching children this young.
First, learning is fun for small children. They have yet to reach that age where they become bored and dislike the process. Children love learning about anything they can get their hands on. Lessons aren’t painful, they are merely fun with friends. They don’t have to recite the alphabet, they get to sing their favorite song and see who can sing the loudest among their friends. The process isn’t painful, its fun. Second, Children bring smiles and laughter to class every day, they beam with happiness and giggle at everything conceivable. They can learn and retain material at a staggering rate. Children's endless curiosity leads them to absorb any material they can get their hands on. Children don’t have to rewire there brain to absorb the new material, adults often have to break old habits and retrain their brain to hear the new sounds of a language, children don’t have this disadvantage.
Children have a low attention span.
There are also major disadvantages to teaching small children. Small Children have attention spans that are measured in minutes. Children tend to have attention spans similar to their age, so a three-year-old would have an attention span of around three minutes. This can make it difficult to teach a lot of material or have lessons in a traditional sense. Teachers will not only need to break up their lessons into bite-size chunks that allow the student to disengage and then reengage, but also disguise their lessons in the form of games, activities, or songs.
Children can’t sit and listen to a vocabulary or grammar lesson for more than a minute or two before getting bored and changing their focus to anything else, but you can teach simple vocabulary such as body parts by having children mime the teacher touching different parts of the body, the activity quickly becomes a game as the teacher picks up speed and changes the order and frequency of selections. They also so have other difficulties such as tantrums, crying, and dirty diapers that come with children of this age. You can quickly find yourself becoming more of a caretaker than a teacher.
Misconceptions about teaching young learners
The common stereotype is that it is easier for children to learn a foreign language than adults, but that's not completely true. It would be more accurate to say its less painful for children to learn a second language than it is for an adult. It takes an adult native English speaker two to three years in most instances to become fluent in the super difficult language of Chinese, a child generally takes well over a decade.
Most Chinese children begin to learn English between two and five years old and do not achieve fluency until their university studies if they ever achieve full fluency. If an adult was told it would take them more than ten years to learn a language potentially fifteen or twenty you would likely have very few attempts it. Learning a language isn't easier for children its just less painful. It takes the form of games, twenty-minute lessons, or cartoons, and rarely constituents hours or rigorous study until they are much older. Most importantly they don’t have to break old habits, they get to start with a clean slate.
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