As a teacher community, among each other, we can exchange the greatest tips in order to provide the best classes for our students of various ages and levels, and also exchange them through our articles with the public interested in modern ways how to effectively study a foreign language. Today I want to share my challenging yet rewarding experience with our youngest learners – children.
I agree with a wonderful insight my colleague once expressed – if a 4 to 6 years old learner starts yawning during the class, can't just ignore or hide from it! Teachers have to do their best to notice it as fast as they can and adapt! Have plan B, C, D, E, F, G of many other short activities prepared just in case. No more coloring? Fine, then we can sing some songs! Let’s move a little bit? How about dancing? Let them move a little bit in the class, go search for objects or their colors. The goal here is to be ready to propose, interact, get them engaged. To get the results, at that age classes MUST be gamified and interesting, therefore fun, most importantly, to them.
If teachers are skilled in EI already it’s very good, if they can notice that extra - the tiniest facial expressions or mood swings children tend to have so often, as it would seem to us adults, because of little unimportant problems, – even better. The faster a teacher realizes that those little unimportant problems mean the entire wide world to a child, the easier it’ll be to gain the trust and willingness of them to continue the class. I had quite some episodes of stopping the class after noticing my little student’s face suddenly getting upset (apparently her secret was revealed between two other friends sitting at nearby desks), or because someone stepped on the foot of the other while dancing. In such cases my motto is: LISTEN, first of all, and always, to that raw honesty of a child. I learnt once and for all that nothing is more effective than stopping for a moment and truly focusing on what a young learner has to say to achieve better compromises. As educators we should try to find a smooth transition back into a class reality by also grabbing the opportunity to practice the language in a variety of situations. For example, if we step on someone’s foot what do we say? I’m sorry!
It’s no secret that conducting daily activities with lots of pictures, flashcards, TPR, a projector on a large screen, toys, games are the very essentials when teaching children, and always successful in getting them engaged! They love singing, making moves or funny sounds (one good way to teach them about animals in English, for example!). Teacher's mission should be to seek a delicate way to control children without supressing their energy. Engaged children want to participate and demonstrate their knowledge with a little competition with each other, or to get a reward as chuche. It’s really important to allow them to move, sip some water, let them bring as many of their toys as they feel like bringing, pause for a few minutes, a teacher should make a pause too need be to listen to any story children have to tell that day about their friend’s or toy’s misbehavior. And again, kids need to feel a sincere interest, a reaction, and teachers could take that opportunity to color their story with some simple English vocabulary. Is this your doll? Is it your favourite toy? Are you sad for the doll? We listen and comfort the child by slowly taking back his or her attention from a bigger, smaller or supposed wrongdoing.
Learning while staying safe at the comfort of home, skipping commuting for parents, not needing to cover the mouth with face masks when we practice a foreign language are some of the greatest advantages to be discovered during the pandemic. And let's be honest, it's here to stay for a little longer than we've might expected. Modern technology and learning platforms of the newest design allow even the smallest children to get the best experience while learning English online. It runs on similar rules: classes are loaded with colorful visual activities, some movement should be permitted (to bring and show their toy when asked to describe it or sneak peak through the window to see what's the weather and report it back), usage of TPR and objects, and everything based 100% on a communicative approach. The greatest fun I experience is when children learn virtually in pairs or small groups of 2-4 and with some guidance interact in English with their fellow online learners! Learning via technology truly becomes a no smaller adventure than in a class.
When children have dynamic routine classes they’ll surprise us all by how much they can learn even being so young:
They can build a small vocabulary and short sentences to communicate with them.
They can present their names, ages, ask short questions, express what they want, like and don’t.
They can identify colors and objects from pictures or their surroundings.
They can listen attentively from activity instructions to short stories.
They understand situations, love to pretend they’re adults, and take turns in games with each other.
This whole experience I gained in teaching children for the past years that I can share now, I think is the very foundation to understand and learn about while teaching them, and it’s also a classic practical knowledge. It’s a true art to become a teacher who’s fun and whom children listen to. It's a marvellous opportunity to step back into a learning child’s world with a perspective of an adult educator, it definitely influences our worlds too. When teaching children be prepared to become someone with eyes shining full of meaning.
And definitely patience.
Oh, and surprises, prepare for those as well. Kids will always find ways to surprise us.
And teach us things too!