October 2, 2009

Very young learners

Teaching very young learners (between 3 and 5 years old) is a very difficult task that demands a lot of energy from the teacher. Kids at this age are very dynamic and active and their need of movement must be applied to any activity designed for them.

I love teaching very young learners because they have fun using the foreign language and they don't feel embarrassed about it (as older ones do). They can learn many words and useful chunks of language from songs and stories that later, in higher levels, will help them in the deeper study of grammar and composition rules.

I don't use any coursebook at these levels but I get ideas from them to prepare my own materials. I use a magic box (a big box well decorated) where I keep all the things I need in each lesson: the pet, a small ball, the CDs I need, a surprise bag (where I introduce the vocabulary I want them to learn), the things already learnt (they can be flashcards or realia) and worksheets for the lesson. The pet sleeps in the magic box and, from time to time, when we go on holidays it gets lost around the classroom. Children love the magic box and they always want to see what's inside. The magic box whets their curiosity and increases their opportunity to learn.

One of the main points when teaching very young learners is establishing routines. When children know what to expect and what to do they feel more confident and free to participate in the activities proposed. I have posted in this article a list with the routines I use in my English lessons. You can see that they have different levels of movement to improve students' attention. In the future, I will post some videos about my routines. Most of them are related to a chant or a song.

Table time (they usually are working on their tables when I arrive).

• All aboard (they catch the train)

Circle time

• Sitting down in a circle.

• Saying hello.

• Waking up (the pet is sleeping in the magic box )

• Asking how we are.

• Taking the register.

• Revision

• Introduction of vocabulary, songs or stories

• Playing games to practice

• Saying bye bye to our pet.

• All aboard.

Table time

• Sitting down.

• Worksheet

• Tidying up.

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