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  #1 (permalink)  
Unread Oct 19th, 2019, 07:25 am
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GeorgeD is on a distinguished road
Question Teaching Beginners Aged 5-8 - suggestions? :)

Hi and thanks for clicking on my post.

So, some background. I've been teaching English since 1995, mostly business and general English, mostly privately. The great majority of my students have been adults. Years ago I did a few uk summer schools, teaching teenagers and adults.

The youngest students I ever taught were 11 years old in a summer school. I always asked my DOS to have older students as the young ones are just not my thing. Some people are great with children, and those people have my respect. Adults or older teenagers, fantastic.

Now I live in a tiny village in central Europe and the locals have talked me into running 11 one-hour sessions on a weekly basis for children aged five to eight or so. Absolute beginners to elementary. Open door, anyone can come.

This is completely different to anything I've ever done before! If anyone on this board has any suggestions or advice they can impart, it will be most gratefully received. Suggestions both in terms of individual activites and the overall development of the course very welcome!

The first 'taster' class will be on Thursday 24th October 2019 in the afternoon.

I used to be a professional musician (but not a singer, they are different), so the guitar will probably make an appearance.

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  #2 (permalink)  
Unread Oct 22nd, 2019, 11:01 am
Join Date: Oct 8th, 2006
Location: Milan
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susan53 is on a distinguished road
Default Re: Teaching Beginners Aged 5-8 - suggestions? :)

First of all, that's a wide age range. Psychological differences between kids of 5 and kids of 8 could mean thatthe 8 yr olds might find that activities thatthe 5 yr olds love are too babyish for them while the 5 yr olds may find that the activities for the 8 yr olds are beyond their capabilities. Just as an example : Are the 5 yr olds currently in school? have they started to learn to read and write in their own languages? For the 8 yr olds the answer will obviously be yes. But if the 5 yr olds can't yet read in their own language - can you introduce the written form of words which might completely contrast with all they're learning about reading in their L1.? But on the other hand, if you hold the written form back back, you're hindering the learning of the 8 yr olds who are ready for it.
I've written various books for primary level learners, but always year by year - taking into account their intellectual and emotional development and what they were learning at school.
Secondly, but just as importantly - do they learn English at school? If so there will be a huge difference in what the 5 yr olds know - probably nothing - and what the 8 yr olds know.

So this is a real problem - not just because you've never taught kids before but also because you've been asked to combine age groups with vastly differnt characteristics.

I can't help much with the second problem - I would try and convince the parents to separate them by age. and create at least two groups - 5/6 and 7/8 - but preferably 4. If it is a numbers problem I'd suggest that each child would learn more from fewer lesson aimed specifically at his/her level than in a longer course with kids who have incompatible needs.

For the first problem - you need a good coursebook. Preferably for the kids but at least for you. Never try and teach a course of a type you know nothing about without consulting books written by people who are experts in the field. In the coursebook you'll find games, songs, stories and all sorts of activities that are eight for kids of these age groups and levels.

I won't push mine but any reputable publisher will have various series of materials for kids of this age group. See the young learners catalogues for eg Pearson CUP, OUP Longman or any other publisher you have faith in.
All these sites also have sections with advice for teaching young learners - lots of nice activities that you can use. But they do need to be inserted into a coherent course - so find out what the kids no already and choose a coursebook that's right for them.
An ELT Notebook
The DELTA Course
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Unread Oct 22nd, 2019, 05:56 pm
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Default Re: Teaching Beginners Aged 5-8 - suggestions? :)

Hi Susan! Many thanks for your reply and suggestions. I would have to say that the prospect of doing this starting in just over 36 is hours is moderately terrifying!

You've hit upon my primary concerns there: the children's development at different ages.

Here in Bavaria children start school at seven (some sooner) and many go to kindergarten.

One who is defintely coming is a hyperactive 6-y-o boy of elementary level. Of the others, there are two girls - sisters - aged five and seven who know a handful of words each. There is another boy aged seven or eight who is a low elementary. Any others that may turn up on the day are as yet unknown.

The children here learn no English in school, and have widely varied L1 reading/writing abilities.

I may have enough ideas to do at least the first two sessions, after which I'll have a much clearer idea of the nature of the group. My plan is quite loose in that I have a number of activities and will choose which ones to use as the first session develops.

However, it's still the biggest challenge I've faced as a teacher for over 20 years with so many variables and uncertainties to contend with.
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Unread Oct 23rd, 2019, 01:22 pm
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Default Re: Teaching Beginners Aged 5-8 - suggestions? :)

Hi George,

Although it's been a number of years since I've been teaching and I don't have Susanís level of expertise or your number of years experience, I feel your panic as you describe your upcoming new class so I thought I'd share my experience.

When I was teaching ESL in South Korea I spent a couple of years teaching mostly kindergarten. One class in particular was mixed with 3 to 6 year olds. There was even a child who showed up one day pantless (no diapers and no pants, that is) but I turned him right around back to his mom. Pants not optional!

In my first year of teaching I did not know enough to require a textbook from my school. With that mixed age class I learned that the parentsí main goals were simply to give the children exposure to English (and to "foreigners") and to have the kids associate learning English with fun.

Later I worked at schools with more structure and yes, having a course book was such a relief. One series that I particularly liked was the Let's Go series (Oxford) because of its supporting materials-- engaging activities and useful photocopiables in the teacher's manual and, especially, additional audio materials with a book of songs and chants which was a godsend for teaching young ones. The chants were as catchy as TV commercials. A decade later and I still can't erase a few of them

I think this series may be American English and possibly focused on ESL in Asia, so perhaps not suitable for you. But remember to evaluate the accompanying audio materials when you pick a course book, they were so so useful (and some series have atrocious voices). I cannot sing worth beans or read music, so without the audio I'd have been terrified. Music in the classroom was always a hit with kids, at least in South Korea where people love to sing. I'm sure your students will love your guitar!

In my classes with young students, what worked best for me was to divide the lesson into blocks of time and keep the structure (mostly, flexibly) the same throughout the course. For example, I chopped a 60-minute lesson into roughly 15 minute blocks each of:

1 - songs/chants
2 - new language presentation & activities
3 - out-of-your seat type activities
4 - sit down activities (writing, drawing, making booklets, etc.)

Within the song segment, once we had a repetoire built up, we'd do songs they were familiar with as warm up before introducing the one new song/chant that matched the target language of the day. Singing included actions, gestures, sometimes "solos", half the class singing while the other half acted out, different voices (quiet/loud, happy/sad etc.), and other variations.

In the "writing" segment, yes with 3 to 6 year olds some kids could only scribble and some could spell their names in English, but they could all take home something tangible to show their parents that would cue the words and letters they'd learned that day.

The author Penny Ur has tips for teaching mixed-ability classes. I'm not sure if she discusses the primary age group specifically, however. This is an excerpt from '100 Teaching Tips':

I guess for me, the keys to enjoying the lessons with very young kids were variety, movement, interactivity, singing, and flexibility. And being silly.

I hope your class goes well and you have fun. I'd love to hear how it goes!

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