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Teaching English as a second language to 3 - 5 year olds can be a very challenging, daunting and exhausting experience, yet highly rewarding if done correctly.
A Kindergarten should be a place equivalent to a well marked out road with a clear destination. This can be achieved by structuring a classroom environment with clear organised plans, lots of materials, fun activities and a lively, enthusiastic teacher.
The first day the children walk into the classroom is often the first time they have been away from their primary carer for any length of time and been subjected to a completely new language. Therefore the initial role of the teacher is to make the children feel secure in their new surroundings. Children love to be praised and given positive feedback. As in parenthood children will feed off the mood of the teacher, so a motivated and enthusiastic teacher will encourage the children to be a part of the class.
At this point it is important to set boundaries so the children understand the do's and dont's of the classroom which initially is difficult for the teacher but will ultimately make life easier and will help to make them feel more secure. Good discipline is essential to effective learning. It is much harder to undo wrong behaviour in the classroom if it has been allowed for a certain length of time.
It is possible that there will be various levels of competence of English in the classroom. Through observation and communication, the teacher should establish each child?s ability and understanding. The more a teacher knows the easier it will be to focus on their requirements. A teacher should always remember that the same theme can be taught in many different ways - so if you are met with blank faces, try a different approach.
Initial communication will occur through gesture and mood. This stage is then followed by single words such as ?Yes?, ?Me?, ?No? and ?Come?. The children will gradually begin to put two and three words together in order to express themselves in more complex ways for example, ?Me too?, ?Me go to? and ?Come see?.
It may take up to two years for children to achieve fluency in a face to face contextually supportive situation and much longer to use oral language accurately in abstract situations (Cummins 1984).
Children?s understanding of what is being said is enhanced if visual and contextual support is used to accompany instructions or explanations with a practical demonstration and lively gestures, intonations, eye contact and frequent repetitions.
It is important to note that children can always do more than we think they can, they have a huge learning potential and a teacher should exploit that when teaching them a foreign language. They are always very keen to please their teacher so they tend to be more enthusiastic and willing to experiment with a new language without the fear of making mistakes and feeling embarrassed.
Although children can absorb a new language much quicker than adults, they have much shorter attention spans, therefore the teacher would have to change activities every 10 minutes or so. If the child is to absorb the subject being taught it is essential that the activities are interesting and interactive. Achievement through guided play and carefully selected materials is a key aspect of the kindergarten programme.
There are many ways to engage children in the classroom: emphasis should be placed on practical activity-based learning, such as cooking and arts and crafts. Jolly Phonics is a fun way of teaching letter sounds which will also give them a good starting ground for when they come to read and write. Use of storyboards, songs, drama and finger puppets make the spoken language more visual and memorable.
Teaching a second language to young children and exposing them to different cultures can be key for success in their future, giving them confidence and more opportunities within their friendship and business networks.