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English is not easy! As fluent English speakers it’s easy to forget, that for some English is full of foreign sounds that are hard to remember. Just because the teacher says a word doesn’t mean the students will remember it five minutes later. Nope, your students aren’t stupid, it’s actually really hard to take on board totally new things and retain them.
To remind yourself of the learning process try watching a video in another language that is not related to yours such as Russian, Chinese or Arabic and listen to a sentence a couple of times. As a test try to repeat it and see if you can remember it five minutes later! You will begin to get the idea of the challenge in hand for your young learners.
Read on for two steps to help your students learn successfully…
The first step in teaching new words is for pupils to hear and understand them. Individual vocabulary words is a good place to start when faced with ESL beginners from the ages of 6 or 7, think of these words as the building blocks of your lesson and once six new words have been learned straight away teach them the words again in a short phrase or question to help the students put the words into context. For example if you teach the colours red, blue, yellow, green, orange, purple and brown, follow up in the next lesson with the sentence “I like red.” If you teach body parts use them in a sentence such as: “My arm hurts.” By teaching phrases, sentences and questions you are teaching the English language, not just isolated English words and that is the key to success.
Repetition is the mother of skill, and your young learners will need to hear it over, and over again. However if you go around the class one by one having each child repeat the word you say very soon everyone will be bored and each child will have said the word only once, which is not enough for it to be integrated. You need to use drills for repetition and the way to do this and make it fun is to use English language games such as those in 176 English Language Games for Children (ISBN 1475255586) in paperback, Kindle and PDF.
If you would like to receive free samples of my games to get your class to talk to you in English go to www.teachingenglishgames.com/esl-classroom-games and fill in the two boxes to receive the games directly into your inbox. All you need to give is your name and email, that’s it. This is a private mailing list and the emails are NEVER shared, in any shape or form, with others. It is free to be on this free games mailing list and no other details are asked of you.
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I received this particular question last week, and in the past I have spoken with many teachers and educators who talk to me about similar problems. When is it appropriate to speak to our pupils in their common tongue?
When I was in Nepal I was forced to find a way to communicate with the kids using just a few words and demonstration since I spoke no Nepalese whatsoever. Download ‘Teach your child English: 101’ here.
I recommend that you use a minimum of their mother language and stick to English exclusively if you can.
The secret to success with that is to demonstrate rather than explain things. Show the children how a game is played rather than explaining it to them. It is worth playing the games first before you try using them with pupils. They are simile to understand so this will be very easy to do and will only take a few minutes to get used to it.
In addition start by teaching useful commands and instructions such as: pass, touch, go to, start, stop, freeze, come to the board, sit down, stand up, write, listen, draw and spell.
Teach those commands with a listening game like Jump the Line (it’s in 176 English Language Games for Children) and follow up with Simon Says. Use the more complicated variants of Simon Says as pupils become more familiar with the words. Add in more words and enrich the game with varied commands to keep their attention.
Try it out and you will be surprised. Many teachers have multi-national classes where there is no common native language so it is a simple way to get everyone to interact with each other too. It is absolutely possible to teach English exclusively in English, even with total beginners.
If you have the luxury of speaking the students mother language, you can use it occasionally to save time explaining rules of a game. Assure parents that the whole class is in English unless it’s a quick instruction to save time or if you have to tell a student off for misbehaving. For discipline you might want to switch to the native language to say something like: “Would you like me to tell your father you are misbehaving or do you prefer to behave nicely?”
It’s easier than you think! So plunge in and go for it.
I hope to hear from you soon!