Teaching ESL to Children
Teaching ESL to children is
challenging but also very rewarding. Before I walk into a
class of 10-year olds, I take a deep breath. Children have
no attention span AT ALL, and so I tell myself to slow right
down before I start. Teaching children requires patience and
a sense of fun and playfulness. Even though it seems
obvious, a common mistake is to think that children are
simply 'short adults!' This is sure to get you off on the
Here are some tips for teaching ESL to children:
1. Involve Children in an hands-on Activities. Children's
minds are incredibly open and they learn by absorbing ideas
and concepts directly. Children need to be actively
involved. Get students up and out of their chairs and moving
around. Sing songs, and play games.
2. Avoid talking for long periods of time. I find that the
energy level of the classroom drops lower and lower. Explain
an activity quickly and then go to it. Keep the energy
moving! If your planned activity is a flop, move on. Keep a
few extra activities handy for this purpose. Children need
lots of stimulation all the time.
3. Children learn by interacting with each other and with
the teacher. Try to talk to each child individually each
class. Whenever possible, have children working in groups
and in pairs.
4. Review, Review, Review. New information is absorbed and
has meaning when it is related to information students have
already learned. Quickly review new concepts at the beginning
of each class.
5. Encourage students to correct themselves and other
students. Self correction or self-regulation is an important
part of learning. Students should be encouraged to ask, "How
am I doing?" and "Am I doing this right?" in an open and
non-judgmental environment. Children raised in
authoritative cultures may need additional re-inforcement.
6. Use what is learned in different contexts. The more
contexts used the better, and the more concrete and 'real
life' the contexts the better. Make it real for students by
talking about them and their lives.
7. Praise, Praise, Praise. Encourage and build students up
in a natural way. Learning occurs when students are
motivated and feel good about themselves.
Looking back on my years of teaching, the children's classes
took a bit of getting used to, but were the most memorable
About the Author: George and Daisy Stocker have traveled the world teaching
ESL to children and adults. Their website, http://www.esl-storybooks.com
offers ESL curriculum, including textbooks and Storybooks for children
age 7 - 12. Their adult ESL site, http://www.efl-esl.com offers ESL
activites and curriculum for adults.