With the recent popularity of sites such as VIPKID and ALO7, more teachers than ever have started teaching kids English online. While the job might seem easy, teaching kids comes with its own set of challenges. Adult learners might be motivated simply by their desire to learn a language, but kids need extra motivation. They're not as likely to listen to you drone on or watch a slideshow presentation. Kids are looking for high-quality, engaging and interactive lessons with a teacher who really cares about them. If you've recently stepped into the online teaching world or feel as if you're stuck in a rut, use these suggestions to spice up your lessons and make your teaching better for kids.
Even when speaking to kids in their native language, adults have a tendency to speak quickly and rattle off a lot of information at once. Kids, however, take more time to process and, sometimes, even more time just to tune in to the conversation. Now imagine adding a foreign language to the equation. You don't need to talk like you're playing a video in slo-mo, but you should use shorter sentences, pace yourself, and put in regular pauses so kids have a chance to keep up and ask questions. Be careful not to speak louder as you slow down your pace. Kids aren't hard of hearing, they just need some extra time to process.
Break It Down
Have you ever given a child a set of oral directions and realized he/she could only follow one or two steps before forgetting the rest? Keep that in mind when teaching kids online. Break down processes into smaller steps and only offer a few steps at a time. If you're talking about larger concepts or themes, such as "My House," break down your instruction into sections, such as individual rooms in a house. This will help kids follow the information and also improve the way they categorize the information in their memory. Once you get through an entire lesson, you can combine multiple categories for a review.
Use Props and Visual Aids
Many kids are visual learners. They can't just listen to or read something and remember it. Bringing in props and visual aids can helps them see the content in multiple ways and provides more clues to retain the information in their memory. Even having a puppet sing a song or define key vocabulary words can help make the content more memorable for students.
Bring in Audio and Video Components
Even if you have a great voice, it can become monotonous over time. Bringing in different audio and video components allow you to present information in new and interesting ways. Sing a song. Watch a conversation in English. Recite words and phrases to a beat. Use a different accent (although not too much because you don't want to hurt their ability to pick up pronunciation skills). These will cause kids to stop and pay attention.
Learn Their Interests
The best way to reach kids is to bring in material that interests them. Talk about their hobbies, favorite foods, favorite TV or movie characters, and favorite color. Then regularly bring in those elements as examples or as part of lessons. For example, if a child loves green, write words on green construction paper or a green slideshow background. If a child loves Disney Princesses, work the princess names into examples.
The program you use may have rewards, such as digital stars or stickers built in and you can reward kids as you go. If your program does not have that option, think of other ways to reword kids. For example, if they listen closely or get a certain amount of answers correct, maybe you'll teach them a new song or open a special surprise box. Maybe you can connect with their parents to have a special treat available that you can share together. For example, maybe you can virtually share a glass of juice or a cookie at the end of the lesson.
Kids don't want a serious teacher. They want someone who is comfortable talking to them and okay with being silly now and then. Wear silly hats, colorful shirts, and other crazy outfits (you can find a lot of props at a dollar store). Make funny voices and sound effects. Exaggerate information. Throw a mini party when they grasp a difficult concept (you can use the same balloons, confetti, or party blowers every time).
Last, but not least, take some time to smile. A simple smile lets kids know you want to be there and you're happy to work with them. Even if kids don't see your face, they'll be able to hear the smile in your voice.
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