Teaching Language to Children Effectively (Part 1)

Teaching English as a Second Language is not a matter of letting them loose on a plethora of authentic language tasks in the classroom. To successfully teach children a second language requires specific skills and intuitions that differ from those appropriate for adult teaching. There are five categories that may help give some practical approaches in teaching children.

1. Intellectual Development
Since children are still in an intellectual stage called concrete operations (Piaget), their limitations should be considered. For example, a pupil approached her teacher and said, “I gotta pee.” Irritated with the improper grammar usage, the teacher corrected the mistake by giving the child a series of corrective patterns such as, “You have to pee.” and “She has to pee.” “They have to pee.” Normally, the child will be confused and bewildered so she will respond, “Aren’t we all gotta pee?”
Rules, explanations, and other abstract talk about language must be approached with extreme caution. Children are centered on the here and now, on the functional purposes of the language. Here are some rules of thumb for the classroom and allow me to try explaining each item based on my actual teaching experience:

Don’t explain the terminologies in grammar such as “past progressive or future progressive.”
The children will only give you a blank stare if you do so. Always talk to them in a language or terminologies that they understand.

Avoid using abstract terms.
Example: To make a statement into a question, you add do or does.
Instead of saying that, it would be more effective when you give examples instead and let the children explore for themselves the rules of grammar. I also do this to my kindergarten/preschool pupils and after giving out examples, I ask the kids what they have observed with my sentences. When finally a pupil gives the correct answer, that’s when you explain the terminologies. But of course, you have to praise the kid first for being so brilliant in coming up with a correct answer.

Give the children patterns and examples of grammatical concepts.

Like for me, whenever I point to an object, I always speak in a complete sentence like this:
“This is a chair.” “This is a ball.”
“This is a chalk.” “This is a book.”
“This is a bag.” “This is a table.”
I make sure that the kids imitate what I say so the next time I point to an object (say, a pencil) I ask them what it is and make sure that they answer in a complete sentence as well. Giving out examples will motivate the kids to think critically.

Repetition will always be the KEY.
Kids learn through repetition and that’s a fact. It may be necessary to repeat difficult concepts or patterns so that children will learn. Instead of giving them abstract explanations of profound concepts, the children must understand the meaning and relevance of repetitions.

So this is the first part of my brief lecture on how to teach language to children effectively. The second category will have something to do with children’s attention span. See you on my next lecture.

These concepts are based on H. Douglas Brown’s book entitled Teaching by Principles.


FickleMinded said...

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