Young ESL Learners are young children who are just venturing out into the world and learning new things every day. Coming to a language school might be a little frightening for some younger ones, so it is important that you create an environment in the classroom which is fun and relaxed.
Although Younger Learner students are often learning very basic words and sentences, you can (and should) plan some really creative and fun things for the children to do in class to get them using the language and interacting with one another and you.
Young Learners always love movement, music, things to sing along to and active games in class. They will follow your lead, so it is important that you personally break down the barriers as an adult and sing and dance along in class with them! Make sure that you are giving lots of encouragement and reward good behavior at every turn. A little star sticker on the back of the hand can do wonders for a child’s self-confidence and self-belief. Create a safe, fun and stress-free classroom and remember to involve everyone, especially the naturally shy ones.
Young Learner Behavior
Young Learners have short attention spans and are easily distracted in class, so be sure to make your exercises and classroom activities fun and short. Even the best thought-out activities lasting 25 minutes are probably doomed to failure because childrens’ brains just are not designed to stay focused that long. Make sure that you stay active, with energetic expressions to keep the kids focused on you and the activity in hand.
Create a Good Routine for Your Young Learner Classes
Get your students used to how to behave in your classes. Teach them early on to raise their hands before asking questions and not to talk over you. It is worth spending time getting this right in the first few lessons, as a well-organized, happy group of children will learn far more language over the time spent with you than if kids are allowed speak over you and generally be a bit too noisy. Children will naturally look to teachers and adults for guidance on how to behave, so set your stall out early and get a well-behaved atmosphere going quickly.
Organizing the class into three of four teams or ‘houses’ works well, as you can award points for good behavior or take points away for lapses. The young children love this kind of competition and it will be harder for children to misbehave if they feel that the whole team may lose points. In general, your teaching will be far more productive, as will their learning, if you create good class rules and have a good routine.
What Should You Focus On in Young Learner Classes?
The main focus on your ESL lessons should be communication and laying a good foundation for maintaining an interest in English. Students should practice pronunciation of the words, as getting this right early will have huge benefits to their language skills throughout their life. Young Learners should also learn material such as the alphabet, numbers, colours, fruits, animals and so on. There are some great ESL flashcards out there, so make sure you use these in class. Many children are very visual learners, so these flashcards will help, in addition to all the fun games you can play with them.
Introduce new vocabulary slowly and choose simple sentences that the children can practice with each other and where they can replace key vocabulary with new material. This will help the students to retain the vocabulary, as well as getting the sentences right. Make sure that part of your class reviews what was learnt in the class before. This will help the students to retain and recall language. Give out praise often.
Little Tips for Young Learner Classes
There are a couple of extra things you can do to make your little ones really succeed. Chinese parents expect homework to be set and the kids are used to it, even from a very young age. Although you may feel that this is wrong, it is the cultural norm here, so please get used to it and don’t feel bad in any way. Use the homework you set to reinforce what you have taught in that day’s class. It will help each child to retain what you have taught and you’ll get good results and children feeling good about themselves when they remember the words. Make the homework fun and not too hard. Encourage students to do their best and not to worry about making mistakes. Check the homework at the same time in every class. Create a routine and stick to it.
Quality Language Games and Play for Children
Create language games and activities that are fun and interesting. Help students to interact well with each other by doing pair-work, group work and team games; mix things up. Try to review material often and add new material slowly with lots of repetition. You will see marvelous results! The most important thing I can say is to make sure you have fun in each class. Use flashcards and puppets which talk to each other! Put a big smile on your face and keep it there. Make the children feel special and they’ll soon be rushing in for your classes. Make your classes the highlight of their week!