Things I Wished I Knew When Teaching English as a Foreign Language in a Kindergarten
If someone asks me what I think about teaching kindergarten children as a native English teacher (NET), I would say that it is one of the happiest and most rewarding experiences that I have ever received. But, if someone asked me what I thought about teaching kindergarten children when I first started, I would have responded differently. I would say, “I can’t seem to get my students’ attention,” or “Some of my students still have trouble learning new words.” It was after a few weeks into teaching and some wonderful advice from my coworkers I realized that I had overlooked the fact that the students’ age, perception, and interests play an important part in teaching. When I took those factors into mind, I realized the best way to teach my kindergarten students is by making my lessons appealing, interactive, and fun.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Shannel M. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
Natural Curiosity of Kids
Children, especially at the kindergarten age, are extremely curious. They love to observe, explore, and learn about the world around them and are rarely afraid to try something new, which is why most teachers find it rewarding to teach them. Even though kindergarten children have an innate curiosity to learn, they can also become distracted if their teacher’s lessons are not interesting enough. To remedy this issue, teachers will have to make their lessons more appealing. Sometimes it is difficult to make lessons more appealing, especially if the school or classroom the teacher is teaching does not have a lot of resources for the teacher to use. One of the most useful ways for a teacher with a limited amount of resources to make their lessons more appealing is by overacting. Overacting can be as easy as changing one’s voice to a higher pitch, exaggerate his or her intonation, and use exaggerated facial expressions and body movements while they are teaching.
An example of someone overacting is like Robbie Rotten from the kids show LazyTown or even the puppets from Sesame Street. The amount of exaggeration in their voice, face, and body movements are something that is not seen in everyday life, which attracts students’ attention, which is also a reason why those shows are so appealing to young children. Not only does overacting help gain students’ attention, but it also allows teachers to better demonstrate and teach vocabulary that may be difficult to understand or interpret through pictures, such as emotions or actions.
Another aspect children have is energy. They have lots of energy, so it may be difficult for most children to be required to sit in one place for some time, especially if they just came back from playing in the play area. To help gain the attention of children while teaching is by interacting with the students. This could be done through demonstrating an activity by using real objects, toys, books, pictures, or handmade props, and calling children up to help participate in the activity. This helps the children move around and encourages students to learn through volunteering to participate.
For example, if the teacher is trying to teach the names of farm animals, the teacher can prepare some large pictures of farm animals on the wall at the children’s eye level, while having some smaller pictures of baby versions of the animals in their hand. The teacher can explain to the children that the farm animals are looking for their babies, elicit the names of the animals from the children by pointing at an animal picture on the wall and asking them what it is, then asking children to come up to help the “mommy animals” find their babies. This not only allows students to be able to move around and gain confidence in participating but also allows them to build their vocabulary and practice their mathematics skills in matching.
Lesson Structure Considering the Age
Lastly, teachers must remember that their kindergarten students are still young children. So, teachers need to make lessons fun, as if the students are learning through playing. A good way to make lessons fun is by playing learning games. Playing games is engaging and it can help students build their vocabulary by listening and imitating the teacher. For example, I used to play a game with my students called, “Sticky, Sticky Bubble Gum,” when I was teaching students the basic names of the different parts of their body. For this, I would clap my hands in a way that resembles patting off the dirt from my hands and say, “Sticky, sticky bubble gum, bubble gum, bubble gum. Sticky, sticky bubble gum, stick it on my…” and name a body part such as the nose, then ask the students where their noses are located. When the students can identify where their noses are, we would pretend to pull the imaginary bubble gum stuck to our noses before it bounces back like a rubber band to cause the teacher to accidentally “hit” her nose instead of pulling off the imaginary bubble gum. This will continue until all of the basic parts of the body are named and identified by the students. It is okay if the teacher’s action makes the children laugh because those funny and amusing actions help make the game more memorable, which helps students better remember the vocabulary being taught. Of course, teachers need to spend a few minutes drilling the vocabulary that is being taught or reviewed before starting the game.
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For children at a nursery or kindergarten level, all teachers need to teach by making their lessons appealing, interactive, and fun. Teachers can make their lessons appealing by overacting, make it interactive by creating in-class activities that require students to move and happily answer questions, and, finally, make learning fun through playing games. It may be difficult and unordinary in comparison to teaching older students, but teachers must remember that kindergarten children are still very young, so the typical classroom environment may be difficult for them to learn and focus.
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