Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Young Learners: The Teachers' Challenge

Some of our ITTO graduates chose to teach young learners. If they have never taught younger students before, they find out rather rapidly that the techniques used in class for class management are totally different than when teaching adults. Depending on the age and size of the group, it can be a real challenge.

Here are some tips for handling a young learners' class. First of all, establish the rules for the class. Make sure that students understand the rules. Then, as the teacher, make sure the rules are enforced. Most importantly, be fair with the rules. Everyone should be treated the same. Make sure the students understand the boundaries.

Secondly, children like routines. They like established patters of activity. What seems like rebundant repetition for adults is simply familiar procedure for a child. Remember, when you first started kindergarten, you did not understand the concept of getting in line to do something. Once you did it everyday, such as get in line to go to lunch, then it became familiar and comfortable. The same is true for teaching English to young learners.

Third, and very important, make sure the students understand their responsibilities; for example, listening when another student speaks or helping give out materials. This is teaching the student responsibility, awareness, and actually learning to listen in English. Be explicit and clear in what you expect from the students as you establish the routines for class.

While you are doing all this, there are other aspects to remember. Treat the students as individuals. They need to know that you care, not just be a group of kids you need to control for an hour or so.

Make then feel valuable. Listen. Respond. Put some of their work on the walls to enhance their self-esteem. It works miracles.

Use praise. Try to catch them being good and say so. At the same time, keep your expectations high. Don't let them slack off with various excuses.

Use co-operative activities. These create win-win situations where the students come away feeling good about themselves. Always be fair.

Other points to keep in mind are social factors, emotional and cognitive development, and, most importantly, your attitude toward the children. Children have a sixth sense when it comes to relating to authority figures. They will know if you really care and act accordingly. Moreover, when they are studying English, try to link the vocabulary and grammar point they learn in class to reality, such as their family, home, or school. This helps the students internalize what they learn in class and apply it to their world.

Realizing these tips on handling young learners and implementing them in the classroom should make both the students' lives and yours much more pleasurable. Plus, you can concentrate on teaching, not just trying to discipline class.