Teaching EFL in a KindergartenTeaching EFL in a kindergarten could only be described as rewarding, challenging and exhausting. Kindergarten students are of the approximate ages 5 and 6, depending on their location of schooling. Kindergarten students are egocentric, have a short attention span, energetic and high spirited. With all this in mind, teachers need to be enthusiastic and responsive to their needs and interests.
When students are placed in a classroom to learn English, the students themselves may not even want to be there. At this age, they will not know the benefit of learning English and their parents may have encouraged or even forced them to learn the language. Therefore, the motivation the student has for the lessons may be at a minimal. Your job as the teacher is to provide appealing, suitable lessons to stimulate the child?s mind and interests.
Kindergarten students will usually progress through the following stages as they learn English (Tabors and Snow, 1994).
Firstly, they may only use their first language to converse with the teacher and the other students in the class (Tabors and Snow, 1994).The student may not comprehend that the teacher doesn?t understand what they are saying and they may become confused. At this time, the teacher needs patience and responds using a combination of gestures, words and tone of voice. The teacher will also need to praise the student for attempting to communicate.
Secondly, the student may become completely silent, which is known as the silent period (Tabors and Snow, 1994). In this time, the student is not comfortable to begin any conversation with anybody. This does not mean that he is not learning. He will be observing, listening and quietly mimicking sounds and words that he hears and trying to develop the correct pronunciation. Through the silent period, the teacher needs to observe the student?s physical movements, as they may move near something to show that they want it. The teacher should also have pictures/symbols displayed around the room or at the student?s desk so the student could point to a toilet, for example, if he needs to go.
In the third stage, the students will use headlines and learned phrases (Tabors and Snow, 1994). Headlines are a few content words that the student may use to communicate an entire idea. Learned phrases are words that they student may have heard but has little understanding of the meaning of the phrase. At this stage, the teacher should phrase the student for attempting to speak in English, model the correct word, use gestures, identify the child?s actions and introduce new vocabulary.
Lastly, the student?s will produce more complex structures and vocabulary (Tabors and Snow, 1994).
There are many strategies to incorporate into the daily routine to engage Kindergarten students to effectively produce English.
- students learn kinaesthetically, so allow the students to dance, run, jump, skip and play physical games to teach a range of vocabulary such as verbs, prepositions and parts of the body.
- students have a high awareness of sound. Activities such as singing songs, participating in onomatopoeia activities (such as ?moo? says the cow), and stories involving repetitive sounds that children can copy.
- Take advantage of student?s enjoyment for rhythm and patterns and their mimicking skills through poetry and using your tone of voice.
- Allow students to copy what you say in the form of drills. This will get students used to contorting their mouths, tongues and lips in different ways to make unfamiliar sounds.
- Invite students to participate by pointing to familiar objects in a shared reading text.
- Use flashcards with pictures and words for the students to develop vocabulary.
- Ensure that the students have opportunity to participate in real-life situations. For example, use realia, money and objects for the students to practise at a pretend shop (in the classroom) buying a hamburger to order. Using language in real context gives the learning real meaning and the students are likely to be more interested.
- Allow the students to play many games to stimulate discussion, vocabulary and grammar.
Supporting English Language Learners in Kindergarten - A practical guide for Ontario educators http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/document/kindergarten/kindergartenELL.pdf
Tabors, P.O., & Snow, C. (1994). English as a second language in pre-schools. In F. Genesee
(Ed.), Educating second language children: The whole child, the whole curriculum, the whole community (pp. 103-125). new york
: Cambridge University Press.
Making ESL Learning Fun for Preschool Children http://eltnotebook.blogspot.com.au/search/label/Younger%20Learners