Teaching English to young learners can be a great challenge, especially when English is not their native language. Kids get bored easily, but there are some methods and techniques that may help you turn your English lessons into a fascinating journey.
So, how to teach English to children? First, there are a few important things to understand about how kids learn.
What Types of Learners Are There?
First of all, no matter if you’re working with adults or teaching English to young kids, it’s important to understand what types of learners are present in your classroom. Generally, there are four learner types:
- Auditory. This type of learners perceives information through hearing and will have a better understanding of new material if it’s narrated or recorded for them in an audio format.
- Visual. These learners prefer to read information or view it in the form of images and infographics.
- Kinesthetic. Kinesthetics learn best by doing something, so they need more practice exercises, games, and activities.
- Textual. Textual learners prefer to work with texts. They enjoy reading, writing, and solving quizzes.
Teaching Approaches for Kids Learning English
When you think of how to teach English to kids, some methods work better than others. Some are suitable by themselves, but all of these can be combined if needed. When teaching English to young learners, it’s important to understand their learning style and teach to it. Here are some teaching approaches that work for kids learning English.
- Teacher-centric. This approach is suitable for lectures in higher educational institutions, where the teacher speaks most of the time. Therefore, it cannot be applied when learning English for kids, as it doesn’t involve any active teacher-kids interaction.
- Learner-centric. Within this teaching approach, a teacher acts rather as a coach than an authority. The students work in groups and the teacher is involved only as a moderator or consultant. A remarkable example of learner-centric teaching approach is the Montessori method.
- Content-centric. This teaching approach places the most emphasis on the material that is being taught. It’s arguably the most efficient technique teaching languages. During the lessons, students can focus on learning about any subject, but using the language that they are trying to learn rather than their native language. For example, when learning English, a student whose native language is Spanish can talk about his or her favorite superhero in English.
- Situational approach. This approach can combine all of the abovementioned approaches, depending on the situation.
Best Teaching Styles for Kids Learning English
Of course it’s easier to choose the teaching style when you work with your student individually. When working in a classroom, you need to be more flexible and combine several approaches of how to teach kids English. Here are some more tips that may help you.
- Practice a lot. You should plan an English learning activity for the kids in so that they constantly interact with each other and with you as a teacher. Such a creative, positive, and friendly environment will encourage young students to learn English in the form of an exciting game.
- Consider the learner types when teaching. For example, visual types would learn better if you show them pictures of objects. Auditory types would enjoy singing songs or watching cartoons in English. Kinesthetic types would prefer active games. Experiment a little and see which method fits in the best.
- Address the interests of your students. For example, ask the kids learning English to draw their favorite characters or toys and then describe it in English.
- Keep lessons shorter. Make your English learning lessons for kids shorter than lessons for adults. For kids under 10, make them 30 minutes instead of 1 hour. They will be able to comprehend more fully.
- Bonus tip: There are games for English learners that were designed specially for ESL teachers. If you’re working in a big classroom, kids will have a lot of fun playing these games. You can even scale them down for one-on-one online lessons. Search around and you can find detailed descriptions of games for learning English on the internet.
How to Teach Children Online
If you teach English to kids online, you may experience some limitations, as some of the games can be only be played in-person. However, there are ways around this that can help you make your online lessons as interesting and exciting as they would be in a classroom. Here are some tips:
- Use emoticons. If you’re using Skype or another messenger for your lessons, you can benefit from emoticons that can be used to play different language games – for example, translate a short text by using these smileys.
- Use drawing apps. There are plenty of apps for kids that offer a collaborative drawing feature. You can use these to teach English to a child, especially visual learners.
- Use toys. Ask your young students to show their favorite toys and to describe them in English.