In trying to make games fun and interesting for young learners, teachers and parents often add an element of competition when no competition is needed. You can play the same games without anyone ever being “out.” This is especially true for kindergarten and preschool students who enjoy playing the game regardless of whether anybody wins or loses.
For an example of a non-competitive version of a popular game (musical chairs) and more thoughts on playing games with young children, check out this article: Elimination Games With Young Learners.
Sometimes it is easier, and more fun, to encourage children to speak by intentionally making mistakes so that they can correct them. For example, if you are reviewing the names of different fruits with children, instead of holding up an apple and saying, “What’s this?” you can hold up an apple and say, “Ooh look, a banana. I love bananas!” The children will excitedly say, “Nooo!!! Apple!” or, “No, that’s an apple!” You can then say, “Oh, you’re right! It is an apple. Thank you. I like apples…do you like apples?”
You have started a conversation that the children are engaged in, rather than drilling them with boring questions. For more examples on how to elicit engaging reactions from young learners, check out this blog post on making mistakes in the classroom.
Young learners with developing language skills may have difficulty understanding the meaning of new vocabulary and phrases. Try demonstrating conversations with a puppet first. This exposes young learners to new vocabulary and phrases in context, making it easier for them to understand. Plus, they’re excited to see the puppet!
For more ideas on using puppets with young learners, check out this blog post: Puppets As Communication Aids.
When reading to young learners, don’t be afraid to adapt the story so that your children can understand what is happening. You might have a great book with beautiful pictures and a wonderful story, but the text in the book is too difficult for your kids. It’s okay to change some words, skip some text, and adapt the story to suit the level of the children you are reading to. Use the illustrations to help you tell the story at a level that makes sense for your situation.
Do you have some students acting up in class? Not paying attention? Sleeping? Distracting other children? Always remember that there are many factors that can affect a child’s behavior, and many of them are out of your, and the child’s, control. He may not be getting enough sleep, may not have a proper diet, may be having stressful issues at home, or, he may just be having a bad day.
Being a teacher can be exhausting at times, but we always need to remind ourselves that there is a lot going on within the lives of each and every one of our students, and kids who are “acting up” need our guidance and understanding.
Sometimes students can feel a bit self-conscious when called upon to speak. Some young learners may not even understand that you want them to speak or answer a question. Using a pretend microphone can help. Have a toy microphone on hand, or just pretend to hold a microphone. Demonstrate by speaking into it as you ask a question, than hold it up to the child’s mouth for the answer.
Have a class that is hesitant to sing along? Sing a line yourself into a toy mic, then hold the mic towards the class encouraging them to sing along with you. You can also use them for circle-time activities and interview-style pair activities. Passing the mic back and forth helps young learners understand the collaborative, turn-taking nature of a conversation.
As teachers, we use our voices all day long, and singing class after class can take its toll on your vocal chords. Sore throats almost always seem to end up turning into colds, making things even worse. So, if you’re using music in your classes, lip sync when you can. Your voice will thank you for it! Take a break sometimes and let the music do the work for you. If you have a song playing on the CD player and a room full of students singing along, nobody will know you’re just mouthing the words.
Lip syncing also provides an opportunity for you to better hear your students and gauge their progress, making adjustments as needed.
It’s very easy to go home after a tough day in the classroom focusing on everything that went wrong, blaming yourself, and feeling like you are not a very good teacher. Most teachers experience those feelings at one point or another. While it’s important to take some time to reflect on what went wrong so that you can learn from the experience, it’s also important to remember everything that went right!
Keep a notebook of all the little things that go well in your classes (even when you have a “bad day”). It will help you focus on the positive and can become an invaluable tool when lesson planning for future classes.
You can find more information about teaching, using songs, flashcards, etc. in the web of super simple learning resource center.