Teaching English (or any subject, really!) to learners between ages 5 to 8 can be quite the challenge, but once you overcome the main obstacles it is quite gratifying as well. Children are like sponges, they absorb new information very easily, but you have to take into account that their personal skills are still developing. Scroll down and keep these tips in mind, and you’ll be sure to make your next class with young learners a blast!
1. Short tasks
For young learners the key is to keep tasks short and varied. Children can have difficulty to keep focused for long periods. Try switching tasks every 10 minutes or your students might lose interest! Also try to keep the type of tasks varied, so make a hearty mix of study tasks, puzzles and role-plays.
Children may have the ability to take in new information quickly, but they will still need a lot of drilling to keep that information. For example, I like to include vocabulary and functional language from previous lessons in new ones so that they always keep their knowledge fresh. It also helps a lot to drill (“Repeat after me” kind of tasks) for a few minutes.
3. Singing and chanting
Have you ever tried teaching the alphabet without its characteristic melody? I can tell you, it’s a lot more difficult! Teach any new vocabulary with a song and see for yourself how quickly it gets drilled into their minds. Also, needless to say, children love to sing and use their voices in class!
This goes along with repetition, routines help young learners to expect what they have to do, even with new information. For example, start every lesson with a greeting and a song, then do a quick review of the previous class and then get to the new lesson. In every new lesson try to include tasks they’re already familiar with (whether it’s fill-in-the-blanks, word-search or crosswords, keep them consistent), so they don’t struggle with what they have to do.
5. Different types of intelligence
Take into account the different types of intelligence and how they affect each child’s learning style. Some children learn more easily by solving puzzles and drawing, others by making things or moving their body, others by singing or following a rhythm, etc. Get acquainted with Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence theory and use it well in the classroom. This is also related with making tasks varied, do not assign tasks which involve only one type of intelligence (e.g. only linguistic), try to introduce activities and material that calls to as many types of intelligences as possible.
6. Channel your inner child!
When dealing with children, what you don’t want is to appear too serious or too adult-like. Be silly, have fun and laugh a lot with them, include painting or crafting activities and silly role-play sessions. It helps to build rapport, and make you more approachable, which will encourage young learners to trust you and learn from you. Channel your inner child, it’s okay to be one of them from time to time, instead of the grown-up. Also, you may find a more creative side of yourself.
7. Patience and love!
My favourite saying is “Soft is the heart of a child — don’t harden it”. Children are genuinely eager to please and seek attention constantly, do shower them with compliments and encouraging words. Say “very good” everytime they do something correctly, even if it seems repetitive to you, it pumps their confidence up greatly. Instead of reprimanding negative behaviour, ignore it and focus on the positives. Also, don’t nitpick excessively with pronunciation or handwriting, it may put them off quickly, they will naturaly improve those aspects with time.