Experience is, of course, a key component in teaching in general and especially so in teaching very young learners, aged 3-5.. Here we have collected the thoughts of a number of experienced ELT professionals who shared their top tips on the TEFL Development Hub
Use pictures so that learners can easily see what they should be doing
One difficulty when we’re working with younger learners is they don’t know what they should be doing and they don’t understand our explanations. We need to visual prompts to show them, they can be pictures to clearly represent rules and activities. We can then simply point to the pictures when necessary.
Other ideas include using a ‘clock’ with little icons of different activities through the lesson so learners knew what is happening. Some teacher like to use laminated visual markers of completed stages that learners could use to show progress through the lesson. You can also arrange them left to right (the reading direction) in a hanging plastic pocket and let the children put the picture of a completed activity in a “finished” box so they can see what’s left in the class. If for some reason you can’t do an activity in the usual routine you can stick a transparent slide with the international symbol for no over the picture.
Plan your transitions
It’s so important to plan how you’re going to move from one activity to the next or one part of the room to another, from circle time to table time. The physical manoeuvering of the group to transition is really important, you can get everyone holding hands to form a circle chant, which leads to us all sitting together in a circle. Alternatively a little chant of “everyone get your blue crayon” (repeat, smiling 74 times until they all have it) before moving to next stage. I think those save a lot of moments where teachers feel they would like to use the students first language but if we plan well there’s no need.Teachers who come from adults/teens ELT are not used to planning “how to sit down” but it’s make or break! Those lesson aims are way above any language for the first while.
Trust the routines
It’s so important to invest time and patience in the routines – in a 40 minute class, know that the beginning of the year will be 20 min hello routine, 5 min “lesson” and 15 min goodbye routine, which will gradually grow to more “lesson” time as the routines work their magic. Routines are so important for very young learners to feel secure and relaxed. We can build up routines during the year as our learners are exposed to more and more language which we can review every lesson in engaging ways using songs, chants, movement, games, etc.
Dynamic, evolving routines can act as the basis for lesson planning, language review and preview as well as a path into student participation and responsibility. Trust the routines.
Parents can be our best friends.
The importance of parents and their roles in their children’s English development and classroom behaviour is often overlooked. Think about messages home about the simple things parents can do to support learning and encourage a positive attitude to English. It’s so obvious that the kids that learn more, are the ones who have a positive attitude towards English – so much of that comes from their families. So often parents really appreciate it when they get the chance to find out how they can help.
We can often nip disruptive classroom behaviour in the bud by speaking to individual learners’ families about the issues. What we think might be awkward conversations, were brilliant – very supportive and insightful. Many teachers struggle unnecessarily with disruptive behaviour teaching younger learners because I was unwilling to talk to the parents of the kids involved. We might feel that poor behaviour reflects badly on us and our ability to control the class. These are so often false beliefs, based as they are on the myths of super-teacher powers and the need to add pressure on ourselves unnecessarily.
Parents can be our best friends.