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I received this question from a teacher today:

“The most mellow of the 3 boys also has a pretty low attention span but the main problem is that he literally won’t say ANYTHING to me, except my name occasionally when he wants my attention.  What can I do?”

Most likely he is afraid of failure.  Keep going in English – teaching single words along the lines of the listening games in Teach Your Child English – at first he has to hear the words over and over to get the hang of how they sound.  Only teach 3 words in one lesson to start out with – if you are only teaching 3 words, over and over through different games he will end up by saying them!  He just needs to feel safe doing so.

Use the listening games in the book so he is hearing the words and don’t move to a speaking game until you have done half an hour on the three words.  Chances are by then you’ll get one of the words out of him when you do a speaking game – but don’t force him, coax him, you could see if he wants to whisper the word into your ear secretly.  Praise him for his efforts and do not correct his pronunciation since you don’t want to put him off and that will come in time.

Also get him making other sounds so he becomes confident making sound in class.

For example show teach SAD and boo hoo, cry and make lots of sad sounds, sighing and so on.  Get the boys to copy you, making crying noises, no need to say the words “I’m sad”.  Do HAPPY sounds and switch from happy to sad, happy to sad, be sad, sad, sad, sad, sad and suddenly jump into being happy with the boys doing the body language and making the sound effects.  They will be shy at first, no worries there, but don’t force them. Do it for a few minutes and put it away until half an hour later, get it out again for a couple of minutes and then leave it till the next lesson when you repeat the idea for a few minutes twice in the lesson.

For one on one listening games use Teach Your Child English in PDF or paperback.

For classroom listening games use 176 English Language Games for Children (PDF or paperback).