I think two of the biggest mistakes people make when teaching kids in ESL beginners classes is forgetting that kids are kids and not mini-adults or, treating children as one unit rather than individual characters! In other words, many teachers either forget that small kids do not have the longest attention span and try and teach them from a text book. Or, forget that kids have different learning styles in the same ways that adults do and end up choosing a “one size fits all” approach.
Here are a few simple methods to use when teaching ESL children to keep the kids learning and happy!
- First of all patience is key when teaching a new subject to kids. They do not have the longest attention span and its best to recognize this in your planning. Rather than get sidetracked by their short attention span, focus on the fun stuff! Kids are like sponges, they learn so quickly AND they learn directly so, fun games are the best way to go!
- When you are planning your English language games, try and develop them on multiple levels. Kids are like us adults, different learning styles suit different kids. Some kids love reading and writing, others like dance or music and some love to spot patterns. The great thing with English language games is that you can include all of these aspects and make the game fun for everyone. A great example of this is: if you have a kid that loves reading, get them to read out questions to other children, or write out the scores. For a kid that likes patterns, have them match a color and a shape within the game. There are so many options to choose from!
- This may seem obvious, but keep the energy levels of the class up. This is why ‘text book only’ language learning never works for little kids (or anyone if you ask me!). Kids have short attention spans and lose energy unbelievably quickly. Watch what happens to kids in a class room if you don’t use activities and give them a chance to move, all the enthusiasm for learning just gets sucked out of them.
- Remember that you are asking kids to relate to something entirely new. Try putting the lesson in the context of their daily lives. If you are in a country where fishing is a key industry, include fishing elements within your activities.
- Last, but not least, encourage kids to laugh at their mistakes and acknowledge they are not perfect. One of the biggest barriers to anyone learning a language is being afraid of making mistakes. If you remove this problem from the equation learning a language is so much more fun. You need to be even more aware of this if you are teaching in a country where it is not the norm for kids to ask questions of authority figures.