Young learners, those attending preschool and kindergarten, will not have any personal reason for studying English.
It is simply another subject that they have to study at school or that their parents have told them they need to learn. At this point in their lives, they may not know or comprehend how important these classes can be. They might view your classes as simply another fun daily activity and that is just fine. Even at this early age, you can encourage them to develop an interest in learning English which will stay with them long after they have finished your classes.
How To Understand And Teach Young Learners Better
What Young Learners Want
Students at this level are just starting their academic careers. School may be intimidating for some of the students in your class so, in order to encourage everyone to participate, it is important to make your lessons relaxed and fun. YL Students will be learning very basic material but you can design creative lessons that get students moving around and speaking with one another. Young learners are generally very enthusiastic about songs, especially if they can sing along, and active games. Be sure to provide lots of encouragement and positive feedback. You want to create a safe, stress-free environment that everyone can enjoy learning in.
How Young Learners Behave
Keep exercises fun and short because these students have short attention spans and are easily distracted. Overacting and projection will help keep the focus on you. Teach students how to behave in a classroom by asking them to be quiet while you are talking and raise their hands if they have questions or want to answer a question. This may not be directly related to ESL but it is important that students learn good behavior early on; it will make their transition to primary school easier. Teach them to respond to basic classroom English phrases such as “Please sit down.” because these are expressions that they will hear repeatedly throughout their study of English. For students at this age, you are responsible not only for starting to teach them English, but also for preparing them for their next level of education. Students will perform better in their classes if they behave well and have a good understanding of basic principles.
What To Focus On
The primary focus of these lessons will be on communication and laying a solid foundation for further English coursework. Students should practice the different sounds of the English language and learn material such as the alphabet, numbers, colors and shapes. You will introduce vocabulary words gradually and may choose to study some simple structures that relate to everyday life too. It could be that reading and writing never enter into your classes but a focus on speaking and listening will help students become more comfortable and confident with English.
More YL Tips
There are many other things you can do to ensure that students succeed in class. There is no need to assign homework at this stage but be sure to track individual and class progress so that students can visually see what they have learned and how they are doing. Encourage students to try their best and create a constructive learning environment where students do not need to worry about making mistakes. Create activities and exercises that are entertaining. Help students learn how to interact with one another as well as how to speak English. Students will also feel more comfortable if you stick to a regular schedule so if you decide to make changes, implement them over a period of time rather than all at once. Constantly review and avoid introducing too much new vocabulary at a time. Students may not remember material from one day to the next so repetition is important. The more students are exposed to certain material, the faster they will learn it. This is how native speakers learn English, by listening to people around them and expanding their range of vocabulary gradually.
These learners can be a real pleasure to teach because they do not feel stressed by their studies and approach everything with youthful innocence.
You play an important role in helping them develop into lifelong learners. Foster a love of learning by creating lesson plans that appeal to them, suit their maturity level, and focus on what will help them excel in future English courses.
Tara Arntsen has worked with English Language Learners of all ages for many years and has taught in Japan, Cambodia, and China as well as online. When she is not teaching, she enjoys cooking, traveling around the world, and scuba diving. She is a member of the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi and is currently pursuing an M.A. in Teaching-TESOL at the University of Southern California.
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