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Teaching Young Learners: Things to Keep in Mind
Admin - Oct 08 2015
Teaching English to young learners is different from teaching adults. Teachers need to understand and apply the theories of language to young learners and be able to design material so they can apply the appropriate methods.
Teachers of young learners quickly learn that children can learn just about anything easily. Very young learners are children under the age of 7. During this period, children’s brains are still flexible so they can easily learn anything, including languages. Children are also open to other cultures at this age. It’s important to keep in mind how children learn at this age in order to apply it to the classroom situation.
Children construct knowledge from interacting with the physical environment. They learn the most from their own individual actions and exploration. They also learn from interacting with other people, in particular through interactions with adults. The adult’s role is very important so teachers of young learners must create interest in the task they are trying to accomplish, control the child’s frustration during the task and keep the young learner focused by reminding him or her of the purpose or the goal.
Very young learners respond the most even when they don’t really understand concepts clearly. Abstract ideas are hard to deal with and teachers should take the time to explain them further. Young learners also learn from everything around them so teachers should be particularly careful about how they act, since young learners can learn indirectly. Teachers should understand that children like talking about themselves and are likely to be more responsive to teaching techniques that have them and their lives as main topics.
Educators should also be aware that age is an important factor in how children learn. A few years can make a huge difference among children and a child of 7 years will learn differently from a 2-year old child. Generally, very young learners are those that are 3 to 6 years old and are in preschool. Children of this age have very low concentration spans and are easily distracted. They love talking but have difficulty in sharing. They have limited motor skills and love stories. They have short memory and may need to have their lessons repeated.
Teachers of this age group should focus on vocabulary items and on listening and speaking. Grammar or reading and writing should come later.
Children at the age of 7 to 9 years old also have low concentration spans and only have short-term memory. However, they ask more questions than preschoolers and have reasonable amount of input. They also still love stories, drawing and coloring. Teachers should concentrate on listening and speaking as well as vocabulary items. Reading and writing should be introduced at this stage and should move from the word to the sentence level.
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