Tricks of Teaching EFL in a Kindergarten
Throughout this course, there have been many interesting lessons and tips that I have found useful in different academic settings. For instance, in my tenure teaching middle school students in China, I found that it is better to help the student like a partner as opposed to just giving her or him a worksheet and watching them complete it by themselves. I have also haven’t had a great deal of pair-work that I am trying to implement even now in my Kindergarten classes, though to a lesser degree.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Jonathan A. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
Kindergartens tend to be much more flexible in how teachers can present materials in class, though sometimes we are limited by the student’s cognitive ability or experiences (i.e. we cannot talk about a resume with toddlers who don’t understand what a job is, it’s hard for them to conceptualize). However, what I enjoy the most is teaching kids in their natural environment. This means when the child is playing in the classroom, looking at a book, or playing outside, I constantly use the vocabulary that I taught them in the classroom and also another new vocabulary for things corresponding to their interest. My favorite question coming from my students is, “Teacher, what is this called in English?”
For my Kindergarten, we separate the class learning into two different parts—like an ESA strategy. We first begin with a warm-up (could be songs, games, or dancing) and then go into the Engage portion of our lesson where we communicate with the children in the class (we ask them “what is their name?” or “how is the weather today?”). During this large group time, we have the students sit around us and try to get them to participate (i.e. draw the weather on the smartboard or mime a dog/cat). We then transition into the study portion of our lesson where we drill the students in the new vocabulary for that week (for young students we may use flashcard games or some songs to help reinforce these words). For the following days that week, we start the study phase with storybooks that include that vocabulary (emphasizing them as we go along) and read them the story as actively as possible. Before beginning the activate phase, we found that it was better (after a lot of experimenting) for the young Kindergarten students to take a 10-minute break. This allowed them to get ready to sit down and focus on the craft/game/small group time that followed. For the activate phase, we separate the kids into two small groups where I can actively communicate with each student one-on-one.
One of the biggest mistakes I have made while teaching EFL in a Kindergarten is that I have used the native language of my students (Chinese) outside the classroom time (while I am essentially helping in the classroom). I can say with certainty that the kids rely on the fact that you know their native language and definitely will wait for a translation before volunteering a guess at a word’s meaning. Although it does give the teacher a good rapport with the students (new students will find it easier to warm up to the teacher), I agree that it shouldn’t be used in the classroom or even outside during their playtime.
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