The “Dos and Don’ts” for children -Teaching Young Learners – Part 1

 ‘Children are like wet cement. Whatever falls on them makes an impression.’ 
              Dr Haim Ginott 

photo by ELTpics

For a couple of weeks I have actively participated in several discussion forums upon different topics carried by Professor Willy Renandya. This group of teachers have enriched me with wonderful reflections and teaching practices. 

Recent survey made in Korea showed high level of demotivation of YLE to learn English.  Having discussed the results upon kids'  demotivation to learn English I was inspired to blog upon the subject. According to the survey: 
   Almost 50% of the children  said: “I don’t want to study English.” 

They said: “English was interesting at first, but I lost interest because it required too much work.” If we ask those children learning English in Japan, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, etc. Perhaps we hear the same answer too?

Along the discussion forum Professor Wily Renandya  claimed: "The children in the survey probably wanted to say the following, but didn't have the language to say it: 
         1. If English were a lot more fun, we'd want to learn it; 
         2. If my English teacher were fun to be with, we'd want to learn more from her; 
         3. If my English teacher gave us more fun exercises, we'd learn English in no time: 
         4. If the course books contained more fun-filled activities, we'd do a lot more practice on our own at home; 
         5. If learning English were more like learning how to play the piano (and not like learning Maths or science), we'd be more interested; 
         6. If ... etc.” 

So how could us teachers change this reality? What’s peculiar about YLE? 
See below some steps I suggest for successful lessons I have learnt by both observing teachers and by teaching YLE ( and teens , I believe) 

1. When kids learn a foreign language
      • They focus more on meaning, rather than form 
      • They need a variety of activities. 
      • They benefit from being actively involved. 
      • They are curious and active. 
      • They use language creatively. 

 2. Connecting with children: Rapport is the key to successful communication.  

  • It may be that the teacher’s relationship with their pupils is more important in the end than the particular teaching method used. So make sure you establish eye-contact with your learners and show you are a good listener.      
  • Be aware of your posture, the tone of your voice, and where you stand in the classroom.                                                                                  

3. Respect their age and level of maturity : Do not treat your nine-year olds as if they were little babies for they are not, but do not assume they are like teenagers either. 

4. Children come in all kinds. Some are quiet and may look quite shy (just do not act as if they are, instead ask yourself what you can do help them build self-confidence. Whatever you do, don’t use labels). Some are naughty and may show disruptive behaviour, but won’t challenge you or strive for confrontation. So beware of the subtle behavioural manifestations. Some others can be showy or simply highly-motivated. Still others will do as asked and show a lot of dependence while others will require room for their independence. 

 5. All of your students need your individual attention 

 • Children are very spontaneous and creative, so be open to join them, and ready to step out to control a situation whenever necessary. 
 • Show your good-humoured nature and laugh together with your learners. Sharing moments build trust. 
 • Remember children are very sensitive. Be sincere. And be there 100%. 

6. Building a supportive atmosphere : To enhance language learning: Build a strong sense of security where the children can strengthen their sense of belonging and self-esteem for better emotional well-being which will provide them scaffolding to back up learning and motivation as well as resilience. So: 

  • Make your classroom a lively place 
  • Motivate pupils to want to learn English 
  • Help pupils to develop personal reasons for learning English. 
  • Enjoy the lessons and be a real listener 
  • Praise your students.
  • Establish routines. “Children’s self-esteem largely depends on the experiences, positive or negative, that they have in their environment, on how they are viewed by the people they see as worthy: parents, teachers, peers. Their repeated responses are mirrors through which children see and judge their image.” 

photo by Cândice Guzmán

7. Making lessons meaningful

“In the early stages, before the child has developed a full awareness of language, language is embedded for him in the flow of the events which accompany it. So long as this is the case, the child does not interpret words in isolation – he interprets situations. He is more concerned to make sense of what people do when talk and act than to decide what words mean.” 

Margareth Donaldson 

We have our preferences, we have our own very personal style(s) and uniqueness – the way we learn, the way we represent the world is dependent on our preferred style(s). We learn better and more easily when we feel comfortable in an environment that favours our preferred style(s) and facilitates the development and blending of the others. When planning your lessons consider having a balanced amount of activities which cater for the various learning styles. Have a look at  “The Spiral Approach”

Slide by Roseli Serra 

8. What kind of English should I speak? 

Children learning a foreign language often use complete phrases of language they have picked up from someone else. (...) Children may not have been taught these chunks formally, but they help them to communicate ... 

Jayne Moon 

Talk to your young learners at normal speed. Speak the English you want them to speak. Be ready to repeat, rephrase, paraphrase, make gestures, draw, give examples, ask if a peer can help,and be ready to translate a word or two if necessary. Encourage your learners to speak English as much as possible. Insist on their doing so, otherwise they never will. Teach your students chunks of classroom language to get them to start communicating in English. 

9. Working on discipline
“Children benefit from knowing the rules and being familiar with the situation.” 
Wendy Scott and Lisbeth Ytreberg 

The video below show us some of the “dont’s ". Why does the teacher behave like this? What’s the amount of STT versus TTT in this lesson? Why is that so? 

  • The teacher’s high level of anxiety. 
  • The teacher asked purposeless questions. 
  • The teacher did not allow the SS to think before answering – No waiting time The teacher’s poor response and rapport. 

So In order to run a smooth classroom, we should establish routines to give the children a good sense of order. To enforce rules consistently and always with our students’ help is a good way to have them closer to you. It’s crucial to allow them to take part in everything we do in the classroom. This will teach them commitment and responsibility. 

In the second snippet, we notice a change in the teacher’s behaviour as the teacher finds a way to maximize STT. Why? Do you believe in magic? There's no magic!

  • He admitted his mistakes 
  • He asked meaningful and open questions 
  • He paid attention to body language 
  • He tried to bridge the gap 
  • He gave them a reason to speak 

The affective side builds up the students’ confidence: 

The teacher:

  • Started to trust the student! SS know more, they can do more than people usually expect them to. Do never underestimate them! 
  • He set the student free by not allowing her to read the score. Autonomy! 

Some last tips

  • Establish a comfortable atmosphere free from stress 
  • Do not ask the obvious 
  • Make them proud – activate their previous knowledge 
  • Respect your pupils and their different styles
  • Repeat, recycle, rephrase 
  • Respect the silent moment
  • Don't be afraid of noise or silence. 
  • Take into account pupils’ concentration span 
  • Be flexible and open 

 Enjoy your teaching!


Theodora Pap said...

I always believed that teaching has to be fun and not just books! Creating a friendly atmosphere and taking care of what the students actually need (adjusting) is also a must! Great post!

isa said...

This is so informative... Thanks

Roseli Serra said...

Thank you so much Theodora and Isa! I do agree with you, Theodora: The friendly atmosphere and care on SS' need are crucial for good results!

Anonymous said...

Quite an interesting tips. Thank you for sharing

Roseli Serra said...

I am happy you like it lawandalha!

Fabiana Casella said...

Great post, Roseli!. This is so true: I have seen teachers fail because of lack of rapport, feedback, and some other characteristics you mention!. Respect is key. Creativity, fun and humor are essential, too. What I always remember is what I once read: show your students you are there for them, share thoughts and feelings, show them you are also a human being, but REMEMBER they are your students: Not your friends". Shocking! Well, I have so much to say that I do not know what to add first!. I guess this is inspiring me to write something as a follow up activity. Congratulations!

coming out crooked said...

This is a good post, thanks. I have an aversion to flashcards, mainly from working with young learners who know individual words, but have no understanding of how to make a sentence. We need to be teaching kids how to think and express themselves; this requires lots of creativity from teachers. Thanks again.

Ayat Tawel said...

Thank you dear Roseli for such an inspiring post with lots of practical ideas. I also liked the videos alot as they say more than they show.
I can quote two important tips to consider :
"Learning should be fun, not notes on paper" and that "A teacher's job is not only fillling ss minds with knowledge, but also giving them a compass so that this knowledge doesn't go away!"
Great work,
All the best <3

Roseli Serra said...

Hi, Ayat,

Yes, that's the main point I insist: Kids should have fun when learning. After all, children's job is to play. It is by playing when they will learn to reach the "serious side of life" at the right time. So respecting Kid's age, needs and treating them according to their age is one of the key for success, I believe. Thank you for your comment .

Roseli Serra said...

Hi coming out and cook,

Thank you for your comment and for this quote we should bear in mind: "We need to be teaching kids how to think and express themselves; this requires lots of creativity from teachers." Motivated kid will become motivate teenage and adult learners and most of all depend on us teachers.

Roseli Serra said...

Hi Fabiana,

Thank you so much for your reflective and inspiring comment. I am longing to see your follow up writing! Please, let me know and let's get in touch!

caroline leahy said...

This is great!! Thank you so much. I've always believed that the key to unlocking great learning potential is through the engagement that comes when we enjoy ourselves and feel good about ourselves.
I teach a range of ages and it is really disconcerting to see that the older the learners get, the more exam-focused the learning, the more unmotivated they become. I lot of people put this done to adolescence but i disagree. It is because there is no enjoyment in the learning, they switch off because it has no meaning, the exam that they are aiming for is too difficult and so they develop a negative attitude towards their learning. And i have to work really hard to re-engage them.
I think that your article could extend to how we approach learning in general - not just to young learners but to teenagers and adults as well.
Here is a link to my blog, which is about making learning fun

Roseli Serra said...

Hi, Caroline

Thank you so much for such encouraging words! Comments of this type move us keep blogging and educating. Just like you , I have experienced teaching several ages and levels and I do agree with what you said regarding attitude towards learning. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and your blog link , which I'll chek immediately.

OTTP said...

I saw this last week but only had the chance to read it today. What a delightful reading! Thank you for sharing. It made me think again what the "learners" want and not me from them.

Roseli Serra said...

I thank you so much for you comment, OTTP. This is the aim of my blog: Reflective practice. And tat's what I am trying hard to do when teaching, training, writing, and most of all, sharing. Thank you for reading!

Ann said...

Hi Roseli;

Just to let you know that we’ve shortlisted this blog post for this month’s TeachingEnglish blog award and I’ll be making a post about it on today’s TeachingEnglish facebook page, if you’d like to check there for likes and comments.


Roseli Serra said...

Thank you so much for letting me know , Ann! I feel really honoured!

Fabiola Luz said...

Thank you for sharing you knowledge with us! It really helped me!!

Chula Seneviratne said...

It's really interesting and practical too. I normally use games and add humour as much as possible within my lessons . So I was happy to see that it is towards success. Thank you for this whole effort. Good luck !!!

SYKE A.K. said...

yes...exuberant thoughts !!!!!!!!!!

Roseli Serra said...

Hello dear Fabiola , Chula and Syke,

I am happy you all enjoyed reading this post and found my ideas useful and practical. Actually there's nothing really new, here. Just deeper observation, a lot of reading and teaching with the heart.

Thank you for you encouraging comments!

All the best!

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for the post and for the movie! I'm a beginning teacher, just about to start in few days. These are very helpful tips not only for kids but for adults as well

Jackie's English Blog said...

An excellent post! Thank you Roseli. I have worked with young learners for a number of years and have seen many teachers come and go simply because they can´t engage or build up any rapport with their students. It is so important to listen to your students and be aware of their needs from the shy little mouse in the corner to the loud and confident one at the front of the class. I also feel strongly about building up a mutual bond of trust. Our responsibilities as teachers goes much further than just teaching English. Young learners fascinate and surprise me at every turn with their enthusiasm, humour and innocence which given the right environment can be amazingly creative and productive.

Roseli Serra said...

Hi, Nurosake

I am so so happy that my post will help you in some way. I wish you all the best as a novice teacher. It's a hard career but indeed pleasurable!

Break your leg! ;)

Roseli Serra said...

Dear Jackie,

Thank you so much for you lovely comment! I happy you like the post and I do agree what you said about YLE: They are fascinating and surprising!

Warm hugs from Brazil!

Ирина Кривова said...

Roseli, thanks for your post. It's great!
We (teachers) should enjoy teaching and let our ss enjoy studying!
The most difficult thing about teaching is to be able to inspire your ss! "A teacher who is attempting to teach without inspiring the pupil with a desire to learn is hammering on cold iron." (Horace Mann)

Roseli Serra said...

Dear Ирина Кривова

Thank you very much for your encouraging comment and for the inspiring quotation. I am sure your SS will always remember your classes as being as memorable as the their teacher: YOU


Kara Aharon said...

Wonderful advice that doesn't seem to be taught enough in teachers' colleges. Children can't be forced to learn, they will only learn what they enjoy. Use more songs and games instead of drilling and textbooks. English is a language!

Roseli Serra said...

Dear Kara,

I am really happy that this post might be of some help for you. Yes, I do agree that songs, games and some fun in the classroom make learning more effective and enjoyable both for children adolescents. Thank you very much for you comment! Feel free to get in touch!


Julia Robert said...

Thanks for sharing this nice post. The key factor to improve Language Skills in Children’s is through reading. So it is the responsibility of parents to make habit of reading books to their children’s on early stages of age.

English reading tips for kids

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Roseli Serra said...

Hi, Julia

It such a pleasure to know you like this post. I do love and agree with your comment.

Thank you !
All the best,

Roseli Serra said...

Hi, obat Darah Tinggi

I am happy you like. Thank you for reading and commenting on.

All the best

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Kids of today should really be guided accordingly.

Roseli Serra said...

Puja and Australian,

Thank you for reading and for your comments.

All the best

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Thank you so much! This is so informative. I love your article!

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Jackie Oh said...

I have been teaching English to children as young as 4 year old here in Korea for two years. I am fortunate I may say that my bosses allowed me to simply use my own methods of teaching as well as personal principles and philosophies in teaching such as respecting and responsibly molding and developing the innate intelligence and creativity of children. I simply set the lesson and activities to be done in ways children think of doing it as long as they are able to acquire the target language instead of learning it. For example, I introduce weather with a picture and a song. The second time I sing the song without any picture but with a gesture. On the third time/day. I start the song and let the children fill the next lines while I just do the gestures. Until the children are able to sing the song by themselves without me guiding them. The best part of it is that they are able to understand the song and use it in dialogues. But the dilemma in teaching in a school is that teachers must comply to some traditional methods of teaching like authoritarian where school where all the answers must come from teachers and students must memorize. :(

Roseli Serra said...

Hi Jackie,

Thank you for your comment. It is really excellent. I bet you are a great teachers! Keep up the good work, dear. Your students are fortunate t have you as their teacher. congratulations!

All the best

video for kids said...

Thanks for all these nice and useful tips. I love it. I love it so much, that the greedy visual-data gnome in me wants more !

William said...

I work by the five minute rule. I create activities that only last for five minutes because I find that children have a low attention span. By doing this I find that the children stay interested for the entire course of the lesson. If however they like one activity I try to be flexible and continue the activity for as long as they are enjoying it.

Roseli Serra said...

Hi William,

Thank you so much for your comment and tips!


Roseli Serra said...

Video for kids,

Thank you so much for reading and commenting on my post!


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Roseli Serra said...

Hi everyone,

Thank you ever so much for tour comments and compliments. Feel free to use , adapt and share :)

All the best


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