Teaching EFL in a KindergartenFor a teacher, teaching English to small children requires a very different approach than the teaching of adult learners. One difference lies in their ability to acquire new language. During their early years of life, children go through sensitive periods in which they can pick up certain abilities and skills very well. While they grow up, children go through a critical period in which they can pick up new language relatively quickly and easily. For this reason, it is very valuable for the child to receive solid language education at a young age.
But how do children learn new words, and what is the best way for the teacher to introduce new vocabulary to these young learners
Developing a child?s vocabulary means extending the network of linked concepts in his or her memory. Not only does the amount of concepts increase, but there are also more and more links created between the concepts that are already present. A word like ?water? will initially be linked to associations such as ?drink?, but later also to words like ?fountain? or ?iceberg?.
Clearly, the teacher should focus on teaching English vocabulary that matches well with the children?s stages of development. The new vocabulary he introduces should be related to the development of the children?s understanding of the world and emotional life. Only if the words match with the mental and emotional capacities of a child, the child will start using the word to express him- or herself. Still, children will most likely not use all the new English words they encounter. There is a big difference between passively understanding new words and actively using them. Their active vocabulary is always smaller than their passive vocabulary, which means the child will recognize and understand more words than it will use.
The process of teaching children new words can take place following several steps. Firstly, the teacher can label the word by connecting it to another item or event. For example, if the children are already familiar with the words ? food? and ?eat?, and the teacher wants to introduce the new word ? apple?, the teacher can connect ?apple? to the familiar words by making sentences such as ?One type of food I like is an apple?, and ?Every day I eat an apple?. Secondly, the teacher can give the word more meaning by categorizing it. Following the example, he can explain that an apple is a type of food, it is an item that is red or green, and is a type of fruit. Thirdly, the teacher can create a network of words. By linking words that are related, it becomes easier for children to remember the words and understand relationships.
There are several methods to introduce new vocabulary to children. Clearly, the teacher can introduce new words in the study phase of the lesson. There are however also more interesting and interactive ways to focus on new vocabulary. The teacher can organize fun group discussions with the children, talking about topics that are interesting to them while introducing new words. He can also search for storybooks that focus on the topic of the lesson and read them to the children. Later the class can have a discussion about the story in which the teacher stimulates the children to use the new words mentioned in the book. Of course there are also many fun games the teacher can use to practice new vocabulary. Which ones are the most useful depends mostly on the age and language level of the students