Teaching ESL To Children

- - Teaching ESL to children

To meet the challenge of teaching children, George Stocker suggests the first step is to stop thinking of them as "short adults"!

Teaching ESL to children is challenging but also very rewarding. Before I walk into a class of 10-year olds, I take a deep breath. Children have no attention span AT ALL, and so I tell myself to slow right down before I start. Teaching children requires patience and a sense of fun and playfulness. Even though it seems obvious, a common mistake is to think that children are simply 'short adults!' This is sure to get you off on the wrong foot!

Here are some tips for teaching ESL to children:

1. Involve children in hands-on activities. Children's minds are incredibly open and they learn by absorbing ideas and concepts directly. Children need to be actively involved. Get students up and out of their chairs and moving around. Sing songs, and play games.

2. Avoid talking for long periods of time. I find that the energy level of the classroom drops lower and lower. Explain an activity quickly and then go to it. Keep the energy moving! If your planned activity is a flop, move on. Keep a few extra activities handy for this purpose. Children need lots of stimulation all the time.

3. Children learn by interacting with each other and with the teacher. Try to talk to each child individually each class. Whenever possible, have children working in groups and in pairs.

4. Review, Review, Review. New information is absorbed and has meaning when it is related to information students have already learned. Quickly review new concepts at the beginning of each class.

5. Encourage students to correct themselves and other students. Self correction or self-regulation is an important part of learning. Students should be encouraged to ask, "How am I doing?" and "Am I doing this right?" in an open and non-judgmental environment. Children raised in authoritative cultures may need additional re-inforcement.

6. Use what is learned in different contexts. The more contexts used the better, and the more concrete and 'real life' the contexts the better. Make it real for students by talking about them and their lives.

7. Praise, Praise, Praise. Encourage and build students up in a natural way. Learning occurs when students are motivated and feel good about themselves.

Looking back on my years of teaching, the children's classes took a bit of getting used to, but were the most memorable and fun!

George and Daisy Stocker have traveled the world teaching ESL to children and adults. Their website, www.esl-storybooks.com offers ESL curriculum, including textbooks and Storybooks for children age 7 - 12. Their adult ESL site, www.efl-esl.com offers ESL activites and curriculum for adults.


What do you think of this article? Add a comment »

Hania Ghazi Yassine on 16 July 2006

What has been mentioned here is very interesting. Actually after reading, I found that children acquire language faster than adults although they might not have the proficiency in using the levels of the language. The reason for that is because they want to be part of the whole group. They want to play, communicate and express themselves easily. In addition to this, they don't feel shame if they make mistakes in using the language. Although it might seem easy to teach children, I can say that teaching children needs a very proficient teacher that has the effective skills and the sense of humour that makes children devoted to learning and happy while they are in class.

Kurt on 16 July 2006

The article is certainly going to be helpful. For trained teachers, it's not going to be any new information. I do see it as a refresher, reminder; something to get you back on course just in case you were just going through the teaching motions and not really thinking about the psychology of teaching ESL.

Margaret on 16 July 2006

Yes, positive, positive stimulation, energy definitely. But any ideas for me? I teach EFL to European teenagers at a Riding School in the UK. It's the parents idea for them to work on their English when they'd rather be out on the back of a horse. I have a complete age and ability range every 2 weeks, e.g. last week I had 13 students ranging from 8 to 17 in a basic hut in a field. Luckily the 8 year old was motivated to try to keep up with the others but sometimes that's not the case... Any suggestions would be welcome!

Dana on 17 July 2006

Good ideas to remember. I also think that there are different levels children respond. Your school expects you to get a certain distance in the book. Students have different attention spans even with games. My school has some three hour classes for nine-ten year olds to learn English. All can handle and enjoy one hour. 90% are still positive after two hours. But less than a third go to the wire. Few want to learn English for 3 hours with thirty other students in a room that is about 82 degrees and humid. -- Hainan Island, China

Paulo on 17 July 2006

I think this article is great. I'm from Chile and I'm going to be a teacher of English in a few years. This is very interesting for me, because I don't have experience with children or even doing classes. It's a challenge for me to try to teach children and to obtain meaningful learning. I'm still not able to speak English 100%, but I'm trying. I have a question... How can I use English didactic in order to obtain meaningful learning in children learning English as a second language?

Carlos E. López M, English Instructor / Coordinator on 17 July 2006

Very useful ideas to take into account when having children as students, and even more when their age-range is around 10 or 11. I've got almost 7 years experience teaching them, and I can say, as a fact, my secret is, acting as another child, otherwise children will see you as the adult, and the adult at that age is seen as the enemy, of course, in the sense of not having the same interests, or perhaps not relating to their way of perceiving things. I can say that teaching children has been the most gratifying professional experience I have come across.

Muge Gur on 18 July 2006

Thank you for sharing your views. I believe that some of the things you mentioned are true for even the elder students, like reviewing, self-correction and praising. I have only been teaching for almost a year, therefore these tips will be help me a lot. Thanks again.

Rasamee on 20 July 2006

I agree. Children can't concentrate on long speech. They tend to stop listening and start talking with their peers. Short to the point is needed when giving the instruction. And children love being praised. I also use this strategy with my beginner adult class and it really works. They seem to be so proud of themselves when they are praised after completing the activities. It appears that the positive feedback they obtain can encourage them to speak more in class, which means that they have also built their self-confidence.

Aysenur on 20 July 2006

These tips are things which I believe in and which I try to apply for my students. I think that is the reason they like me more than the other teachers :)) I mean they enjoy my lessons very much. They don't realise they are learning English but they are. One more thing that I want to add... we must love the job we do, we must be creative as an English teacher and we must love children. Thanks for reminding me of my duties.

Saleh on 22 July 2006

Thanks a lot for these suggestions, I tried some of the ideas and they worked.

Sneh Kaul on 24 July 2006

I agree with Kurt that the article is certainly going to be helpful even to trained teachers. I do see it as a refresher, a reminder, something to get you back on course just in case you were just going through the teaching motions and not really thinking about the psychology of teaching ESL.

Carlos on 26 July 2006

Great tips but how can the learning be evaluated? School directors always want to see tangible results.

DD on 28 July 2006

Hello, everyone. I have taken a job working at a new English school teaching intensive classes to children and teens. I don´t think it's very common to have an intensive esl English class for children. I think 3 hours is a long time to keep children in a class. Is this normal in some schools? If not shall I mention it to the director who is the owner of the school? To make a suggestion? I have read the advice given for teaching children because as I mentioned before 3 hours is a long time and I need all the ideas I can get.

Best wishes to you all

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