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How can i teach to small children between 1 and 3 years old?

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Joined: 19 Apr 2006
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 30, 2006 10:29 pm    Post subject: How can i teach to small children between 1 and 3 years old? Reply with quote

Hi everybody, I have seen very good ideas on how to teach english to children, ive done some of them, but im also interested in how must i teach to children so small between 1 and 3 years old? just begining and need some help because i dont know how to do.
Thanks for your help
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Joined: 19 Apr 2005
Posts: 276
Location: Nagano, Japan

PostPosted: Mon May 01, 2006 5:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

luisa - where are teaching? how many hours per day? and how many days per week/month?

advice varies depending on these factors.

- Mark
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PostPosted: Fri May 12, 2006 11:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Luisa,

Before this discussion moves into specifics, I think there are a few general ideas that should be addressed with regards to "teaching" babies to toddlers.

1) Understand why you are teaching children that young. Sounds basic, but many teachers now filling the demand to teach young learners don't really have much of an idea of what the benefits of teaching young learners are. That can lead to a lot of frustration, for teachers, for parents, and unfortunately for the kids.

You often hear people say that kids "soak things up like sponges", and there is obviously truth to that. But the primary benefits of learning other languages while young are phonemic and's not really about building a huge vocabulary or collection of conversational gambits.

Very young learners are still very receptive to the disctinctive sounds of foreign languages. As we grow older, that receptiveness progressively fades making it more and more difficult to hear and pronounce the sounds of foreign languages with native-like proficiency. Language classes for young ones can (with enough exposure) help children make and keep neural connections that will allow them to develop advanced listening and speaking proficiency in the foreign language, and many people argue that those neural connections will remain to some degree even if the child stops learning the language, say, at 4 years old but picks it up again as an older child. That phonemic awareness will not just help the child be a better listener with nicer pronunciation, it's going to help them be a better reader, it's going to allow them to increase the amount of exposure they get to the language, it's going to help them in a lot of ways.

As for the affective part, these classes, perhaps the child's first experience in any kind of formal or informal learning-specific environment, can greatly shape their attitudes toward learning in general and specifically towards learning a second language. At my school, where children can begin classes with a parent from the age of 2, we really see that for the children who begin early, English is just kind of no big's something that they've done since they began talking in their native tongue or soon thereafter, whereas for many of the children who begin studying from a later age like 5 or older, English is something kind of intimidating...a school subject...something to be learned...something to be a little nervous about.

So, for me, those are 2 important considerations that kind of serve as the backbone for how I come about planning "lessons" for toddlers.

Make sure there is a lot of exposure to the spoken language through song, stories, and simply talking about what you are doing, using a lot of repetition, and make sure that above all else your classes are fun and stimulating.

You can also make the case that very young learners are able to internalize the foreign grammar naturally in a way that older learners can't, and I believe that to be true, but it doesn't affect my planning really other than to reinforce the obvious that there should be no formal grammar instruction at this age.

2) Relating to the affective role of early language education, plan your lessons around activities that will appeal to those particular age groups (and there is a huge difference of course between one and two and three year olds), and then figure out what "language" you may want to target in those lessons, if anything specific. This is in contrast to how you might approach a course with adults or older children, where the language focus is decided first and activities planned around that. You can't think that way with very young learners. Gather a wide selection of fun, stimulating activities (making sure you have many lined up when class time comes around) and then start thinking about how you can give those activities more of a language focus.

3) Involve the parents as much as possible. If the parents are in class with you like a Mommy and Me class, GREAT. Understand that your role as teacher is as much teaching the parents how to play in English with the kids as it teaching the kids themselves. If the parents are not in class as in a pre-school/daycare setting, make sure you are communicating with them directly (with occasional meetings/workshops) and indirectly (through newsletters/e-mail/updates on a website or even easier...a blog, etc.) to give them ideas for making this a joint venture. If you have parents sending kids to you once or twice a week and then not being involved in their kid's English education beyond that, you simply are not likely to see tremendous progress from that child. You'll see progress, but nothing that couldn't have been gained had the child waited a few years to start English. But when the parents are involved and English is an at home activity as well, you can see amazing progress.

4) If you are talking 1-3 year old students, there should be absolutely no pressure to speak the language. This may or may not seem like common sense, but it's important for you and for the parents especially to understand that. Aside from the obvious, that children under 3 are not speaking much in their native tongue (well, kind of really takes off in the 2s), you really run the risk of creating negative associations with the language when pressure young children to speak before they are ready.

Again, it seems kind of obvious, but when you formalize education like this, there are pressures that we need to acknowledge. The parents are paying for lessons, so teachers can often feel like they need to get the kids speaking ASAP to justify collecting tuition. And parents can often feel pressure to get the kids speaking to look good in front of the other parents and kids, to justify to their husband or wife at home paying for the lessons, or simply because they think that's the best way to learn.

You or your school need to communicate clearly with the parents about your thoughts on this issue. If you are doing Parent/child classes, your going to have some parents nudging their kids to repeat whatever the teacher need to be prepared for that and prepared to talk with the parent to help them understand the importance of a pressure-free environment.

Wow...I've gone on way too long. Anyhow, I look forward to checking in on this thread and sharing ideas. Best of luck.
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Location: osaka, japan

PostPosted: Sun Jun 11, 2006 3:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

devon's said some great things about the theory behind teaching such young children. i've got a few ideas that work for me in the classroom. (i regularly teach 2 year olds, and teach mommy/daddy and me classes to younger kids)

1. for conversation things, use a puppet. i use a pink rabbit called "yippie skippy the bouncy bunny". he speaks in a really high voice and gets *very* excited when the children speak (or even look like they want to speak). the kids love this and it really gets their attention. make sure that you pick a puppet that either goes with your own personality or can have a personality that you can easily create. quite frankly, i have a pink bunny personality. Laughing but we just had a new teach come in...she liked my puppet idea, but she's not a pink bunny and things just weren't working for her. she has a deeper voice than i do and it was really straining her voice to get the high-pitched voice of the bunny. then one day i was in her classroom i saw a really cool plush dinosaur. i picked it up and said "oh my god! this is a puppet!" she was so excited and said "wow! this is the one! this is the one!" it was a perfect match for her.

2. like devon said, you shouldn't have to worry too much about them speaking at this age. my two year olds are actually quite talkitive, but the kids in the mommy/daddy and me classes are not. i'm not sure that they even speak that much in japanese. so i try to do a lot of activites where they can show recognition, but not have to speak. for example, i'll spread all of the color cards out on the floor and ask them to "touch yellow".

3. cheat. if the child doesn't know which color is yellow, for example, point it out to them so that they can feel proud by getting it right the first time. do this non-verbally. it's kind of hard to explain...but in my experience, the children really resent it if they hear you saying "this one is yellow", but if you're kind of quietly tapping it with your toe, the child seems to think that you will think they already knew the answer.

4. be really enthusiastic about anything that they do. i can't tell you how many times a day i'm saying something like "yay! you did it!" "wow! you went peepee in the toilet!" "good job! you ate your salad!"

5. as you go about your day, verbalize the things that you're/they're doing. "oh! you're coloring with red!" "let's put your shoes on" "you are so high! do you want to come down the slide" etc.

6. think carefully about your choice of words and always use the same ones to indicate the action you want performed. for example, at clean up time, you can say "clean up", "tidy up", "clear things away", etc. if you use the phrases interchangeably , the children tend to get confused. but if you always use the phrase "clean up", then they will understand what's expected of them.

ok that's all i can think of for now. hopethis helps!
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 05, 2006 12:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think you shouldn't really worry about trying to 'teach' the students, but interact with them. Also, you need to keep segments very short (5-7 minutes.)

Some ideas are:
    - exercising: they do what you say together. You can run around, jump over things, jump on things, go get things...
    - reading (1-3 very short picture books)
    - singing: there should be some action songs
    - making crafts (even if it's just you the teacher making the item)
    - building something to be destroyed (then build again and repeat)
    - puppets (have the puppets fight from time to time)
    - playing with toys - the teacher just talks about what the kids are doing and explains things as they happen

I also like to keep the room as simple as possible. That way the only things that are intersting in the room are the things I bring with me. Sometimes those little guys wonder off, but as long as the room is boring, they'll be drawn back in. Don't worry if one or two wonder off, they're still listening. You just need to stay focused and try to keep the rest of the group focused.

As it has been stated before, the students will speak when they are ready. You just need to keep providing the input, encouragement and positivity. We all have horsed around with nieces, nephews, your own children, friends children, etc. When you've made them laugh, what's the next thing the child says?

"Do it again."

This is an extremely powerful tool. When children are having fun or if they find something amusing, they will do whatever it is again and again and again. It's amazing. Not only will they want you to do it again then, but the next time you see them, they'll ask you, "Do that thing again." (Problem is you have to remember what it was.) In designing lessons plans this can be a key point for game/activity selection and/or creation, as well as presentation. If the students find something amusing they will want to do it over and over again (just ask SEGA.)

The problem is other than tossing them around, tickling them, physically harming yourself, what do they like?

Funny sounds: If you are presenting new words, try raising your voice 7 octaves at the end, sing the word, whisper the word, shout the word, dance to the word, what ever sells.

Funny words: Don't be afraid to make up words or combine words to make non-sense. Children do this and love it. Or just say something wrong. Call a monkey a rabbit and kids will jump in to tell you that you're wrong and really surprise you sometimes. Many times kids who haven't said anything will speak up at this point.

Physical comedy: unfortunately this could mean physically harming yourself, but the pros just pretend. I do a lot of street side performance type material that really gets kids laughing. For example when I meet a child for the first time I may go to shake their hand, miss and run right into them. Then, do it again. And again. And again, until eventually I just deem that there must be something wrong with the childs hand and make him/her shake hands with another child just to verify that his hand actually works. And, repeat. Juggling is good if you can. Magic goes over well. Simple which hand is it in games and so on.

I think you do need to think about some vocabulary and you should keep it to a small number, 6 or so. Children this young can't play games with rules, but they just enjoy handling cards. Just give them the cards and see what happens. You can ask them for certain cards, ask them to trade with you, whatever as long as you're saying the words over and over. Vocabulary should be daily items they are familiar with: food, colors, shapes, toys, animals, transportation, body parts ...

Have fun and have a purpose, beyond that just have fun.

Mark - ESL Resources for Teachers of Young Learners
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