Teaching younger children presents a lot of unique challenges but it can also be extremely fun and rewarding (there can’t be too many jobs where you get paid to play games)! It’s important to understand the way younger children learn, and this is mainly through visual displays. It can sometimes be hard to keep younger children motivated in class, but the below tips are a great way to ensure that the children are learning and having fun.
- Children love visual learning. Using facial gestures keeps younger children interested and the more you overdo it, the more they get out of it. Be loud, slightly boisterous and exaggerate your facial expressions and you will have the complete attention of the class. Don’t be afraid to act the fool and just have fun. Don’t be solemn or reserved as nothing is more likely to lose the students attention.
- Songs are a great way to warm up for the class. Find songs which include many gestures and movements the children can do themselves (“head, shoulders, knees and toes” is a good one). Singing puts the children at ease and gets them using English without really having to think about it. Even if you are no good at singing, it doesn’t matter (and in fact the worse you are, the funnier the children will find it, so again, don’t be afraid to over-exaggerate).
- Plan fun games for the class to keep the children active. It’s no use standing in front of a blackboard for an entire class as the children will be bored and restless. I incorporate activities such as races and relays (hopping or jumping while chanting vocabulary or phrases). Balloons are an excellent teaching aid for younger children and you can create many interesting and fun activities with them. A favourite of mine is balloon volleyball. The children simply say the word as they hit the balloon to each other. If the children are active and enjoying themselves then they will take in more without it feeling overwhelming for them.
- Demonstrate everything first. Younger children will have very limited English so you can’t explain the rules of a particular activity to them. Demonstrate (together with your local co-teacher if you have one) and show the students what you expect them to do. They will soon understand and be able to mimic what you are doing. It’s good to also let the students be the teacher and direct their classmates. This will guarantee to get everyone’s attention (especially if you switch roles to a student).
- Keep each activity between 5 and 10 minutes. Any longer than this and you risk the children losing attention and motivation. As the activities will be shorter than those for a slightly older class, ensure you have plenty of games planned. I would have at least 10 games and activities prepared for a 1 hour class. Keep the activities varied (songs, sticky ball, races etc) to ensure the children get the most out of the class.
And there you have it! Try these tips and you will be amazed at how easy it is to keep younger children motivated.
Previously: 10 things teaching English abroad taught me