In this article we’re going to go over some basic methods that you can use in your children English classes. Kids classes are generally defined as classes with students from the ages of 0 to 16. We will go over some basic ideas but if you want to know more about a specific age group then click on the link to see individual articles on the individual age groups.
Most schools will try to separate their children classes into age groups. Occasionally you will see some younger students who have exceptional English skills grouped in with an older age group but generally this is not the case. The reason for this is simply that children have very different levels of maturity. A curriculum that you could use with 13-year-olds would be very difficult to use with eight or nine-year-olds. Here are some common age groupings:
0-2 years old-
Believe it or not there are many schools that will teach babies and infants. There are even more mothers who want their babies or infants to start studying English. Usually, I don’t recommend parents to force their students to study English at such a young age but you might not have the ability to simply say no. Your school might have these classes already.
These classes take a lot of energy. They take even more patience. Most of these “students” can’t even speak in their parent’s native language much less English. Hopefully, your classes will be shorter, anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes. The mothers will be in the classroom with you. At such a young age the mothers will have to hold onto their children while you are trying to teach your lesson.
Most of the classes will include songs, very simple games, picture books and basic vocabulary cards. In all honesty there is not too much that you can do as a teacher, you just want to expose the students to as much English as possible. You will be using the same vocabulary, the same picture books and the same songs again and again. While this might be extremely monotonous for you the children will slowly start to recognize certain words and certain sentences.
After six months to a year you can expect your students to understand some simple English commands, recognize various vocabulary words and if you’re very lucky they will be able to say some various simple words.
There can be some very light alphabet exercises in this class. These usually are printouts of a letter. The child has to try and color in the letter. Again, we’re just trying to expose them to the alphabet. Don’t expect them to be able to write the alphabet anytime soon.
3 to 6 years old-
In my experience this is usually the best age at which to start studying English. For most of you this will more than likely be the youngest class you will have. The above mentioned baby/infant class is still a little rare. At this age children can make very good and rapid progress if you have good lesson plans and a well thought out curriculum.
Your class lessons will still include songs, games and various simple vocabulary words. You can also slowly start to introduce questions and the various replies to those questions. To keep some semblance of control in your classes you are going to want to have a class structure that the students easily recognize. In other words you should go in the class and every day you do a warm-up, after that you do a Simon Says type activity, then you go to the picture books, then you introduce new vocabulary words then you do a vocabulary related game. You follow this structure as much as possible in the classes. Of course what game, vocabulary or actions you use will change but the structure stays the same. This will allow you to have control over the class. Without control you class can easily turn into chaos and trying to teach kids in that situation can be like herding cats. Next to impossible.
Unfortunately many parents have little experience studying or teaching languages. Some parents, certainly not all, have this misconception that their children should be able to converse in any conversation with a native speaker within six months. Children are generally shy; it is very difficult to get children to reproduce certain English that they have learned outside the classroom setting. This is why it is very important for you as a teacher or school owner to manage the parent’s expectations from the beginning. If you do not do this the parents don’t know if your teaching is helping or not.
7-9 years old-
In this age group you’re going to continue teaching using games and activities but we can also start to use more textbook base activities in our lessons. Your teaching objectives will broaden significantly. You will continue to teach vocabulary, listening skills, basic question and responses as with the previous age group but now you have to include short conversations, basic grammar, basic writing skills, basic reading skills and phonics as well. With all of these objectives it is essential to have a well thought out curriculum. Without it you can easily get lost.
Generally around this age many children start to dislike songs or picture books as they believe them to be “baby” stuff. Unlike the previous age group, 3-6, the students in this age group tend to want to do new things more often. As most children will start going to elementary school around 6 to 7 years old this age group tends to have a lot more maturity and a longer attention span than the previous age group. To take advantage of this the use of textbooks and workbooks can be greatly increased.
It is around this age that you can use standardized English tests to help motivate your students and to show the parents how much progress their children are making. There are many standardized English tests available to take. Most of them have different levels that can match your students age and experience. These types of tests can be extremely useful in showing parents progress and keeping students motivated. While it shouldn’t be your only focus I would recommend children taking this type of test at least once a year.
10-12 years old-
This age group is usually a bit of a transition from a mostly “kid” approach to learning into a sort of hybrid “adult” type class. You can still use games and activities and generally anything that allows the students to move about will be very popular but at this age but we can have long stretches of where we’re sitting down and doing work in a textbook or workbook. For the most part we will still be focusing on the same things, vocabulary, listening, grammar, speaking skills, reading and writing but at a more advanced level. Conversations will be longer and more complex, reading exercises will be sentences and passages instead of basic words, speaking will focus more on having “conversations” as opposed to a simple question and response set.
13-16 years old-
Now were getting into the “teenager” years. With the teenage years come certain challenges for teachers. Although generally rare you will have some students that have mood swings, low motivation and a bad attitude. This is the age where we need to use a hybrid textbook that is generally written for junior high school or high school students. You can’t use the same textbooks that you use with the previous children’s classes. On the other hand it could prove to be difficult to use a normal adult conversational English textbook. Many of your students will already be studying grammar, writing and reading in their junior high schools and high schools. You will want to continue teaching all areas of English but because they are focusing on grammar, writing and reading at school you can put a little more focus on speaking skills than before. Of course this is dependent on your class and your student’s goals.
Managing parent’s expectations-
During your time teaching you will meet a variety of different types of parents. Some parents want their children to be the next Prime Minister, some other parents simply want them to have an enjoyable hobby, some others want them to make friends but almost all of the parents that you meet will have little experience in terms of teaching another language. Some of them might have experience studying a language but not teaching. It’s because of this lack of experience that many parents have unrealistic expectations for their children’s English ability. It is extremely important for you to manage your children students’ parent’s expectations.
We can manage the parent’s expectations by a number of ways. First off, we need to establish various goals for the student to achieve. Usually it’s a good idea to date these goals to a couple weeks before they have to re-sign a contract. This way you can show the parents the improvement that their children have made and hopefully the parents will let their children to continue studying English at your school.
Also from time to time it is a good idea to talk with the parent for a few minutes about what their child is doing well and where they might need a little improvement. This may be obvious for some but you have to be sensitive about what you say to these parents. If you have to bring up a difficult subject, perhaps the student is behaving badly, it’s always a good idea to mix that with a good comment. So you could start off the conversation with a compliment on the boy’s listening skills and mention how he got 10 out of 11 questions right on the last listening test. Then towards the end you can sensitively as possible mention that at times the boy is a little hyper and that is something that you, the parent and the boy need to work on.
There are quite a variety of children’s English textbooks available to most teachers. Unfortunately there are a lot of bad textbooks out there as well. In all honesty a textbook is more for the teacher than it is for the students. Most of the kids that you teach will be too young to sit in front of a textbook for 50 minutes doing different drills and activities. What you need is a textbook that will give you a certain structure to your curriculum, help you decide what to teach next and give you some various vocabulary cards, quizzes and review ideas. So to be clear, I don’t recommend using textbooks for the majority of your classes. You can use them occasionally to calm the class down, to introduce the Key Point, you can use workbooks as homework for the students but most of your class should be done using various activities and games. Once your students reach around 12 or 13 years old you can slowly transition into more textbook based classes.
In my opinion you will need to have three different textbooks to use in your children’s classes. The first textbook that you should find should actually be a series of textbooks. This should be a collection of four or five textbooks. The first textbook should be very simple and easy, written for young students. The next textbook should be progressively more difficult and for older students. Very often these textbooks will have workbooks also. Usually you have to buy the workbook separate. The workbooks generally are for homework purposes. Some parents want their children to do homework other parents will complain that they already have enough homework. You have to decide as a teacher what would best suit your classes.
Another invaluable textbook is phonics textbook. Teaching children how to read can be one of the most challenging aspects of an English class. It takes a lot of time, a lot of patience and a lot of review. A phonics dedicated textbook can come in handy when attempting to do this. Often normal children’s English textbooks will have some phonetic activities in it but usually these are inadequate and not very well thought out. That’s why it’s a good idea to get a phonetic textbook solely for the purpose of teaching the children how to read.
The last textbook is optional but I have found it to be of a lot of use. There are various standardized English tests around the world. Some countries have specific standardized tests for children and some countries have specific standardized tests for adults. It’s always a good idea to occasionally use parts of these tests in some of your classes. One reason is that parents love to see their children take and pass these tests as it’s one of the only ways that the parents can be assured that their children are truly making progress. Also by occasionally having the students take these quizzes you can slowly teach the children test taking skills and improve their concentration as well. It’s also a great way to slowly build up their confidence. If your students have not yet started studying English in their elementary or junior high schools then this can be great preparation for when they do.
You will find that games and activities are probably one of the most important things that you will do in the class with your students. You should take 5 to 6 minutes to introduce a lesson’s main topic. Explain the Key Pint in the simplest terms you can. Have each student verbalize the Key Point. Then to practice the Key Point you will want to have a game or activity. Obviously the game/activity is related to the lesson’s Key Point. Let’s take a look at an example:
Lesson Key Point-Colors
3 to 6 years old
In front of the children you will have large cards (A3 to A4 size paper) with each color on it. Say the color on each card and have the students repeat. Once you’ve gone through all the colors go through them again having the students repeat after you.
Choose a card and ask each student what color it is.
Find the color
The teacher will say one color, for example “green”, and all of the students have to find that color. The color could be on a wall, the color could be on an object in the classroom, the color could be on some clothes worn by another student. Once the student finds the color they must touch it and stay there until the next color is called. Then the teacher calls another color and the process is repeated.
Most of the materials that you need are easy to make or very cheap to buy. Things like balloons, a rubber ball, and a deck of playing cards are all readily available. But some things will cost a little bit more money.
This is probably the most important thing that you can get for your children’s classes. Very often they will come in sets of 100 to 200 cards. The cards will generally be slightly bigger than a business card. Each card will have a different vocabulary word or occasionally different phrases written on them and will also have an accompanying picture. The cards are usually grouped together by topic. So 1 through 10 might be animals, 11 through 20 might be food and so on. Very often the textbook that you choose will have an associated set of cards. This way you can use the cards and the textbook together. You should never use the actual cards in class as they are expensive and the children will end up tearing them up. You want to make copies of the cards. Preferably color copies. You will want to make two or three copies of each card that are sized at A4 paper size. And you will want to make 5 to 6 postcard sized or business card sized copies. Then if you can you should laminate all of them. This way you can use the cards again and again. If you only use paper cards they will quickly become unusable.
You will soon find that there is no “perfect” way to teach children’s English classes. Each student and class may require a different approach and different methods. The information found on this website is simply meant to make finding that approach a little easier for you. For more information use the links below to find more articles about teaching children’s English classes.