Teaching ESL to Elementary School Children
When a child comes to elementary school without knowing the primary language of the class, the teacher is in an uncomfortable situation. This student doesn't understand everything the teacher says. If the teacher pays more attention to them, they are neglecting the rest of the class. If they don't pay more attention to this individual, the student will lag behind.
The students who are English language learners attend language assistance programs. However, they can't master the language easily and they still can't comprehend it to the level of a native speaker. What do you do?
We'll suggest 10 key points to consider when teaching ESL to elementary school children.
1. Teaching ESL Requires Lots of Creativity and Energy
Teaching children demands a great deal of energy and creativity. Teaching a second language is even more demanding. How do you explain a color? Will you just show it? That won't be good enough. Showing the color and asking them to name different things in that color is better. You'll probably feel exhausted after all attempts to make the simplest things interesting to them. However, you'll also be a better teacher.
2. Good Results Demand Preparation
You can't teach ESL students by following a lesson from a book. You can't always improvise. Preparation is crucial for successful teaching. You don't need just a whiteboard. You also need flashcards, videos, items, and other things, depending on the lesson you're teaching. Make sure you have everything you need to make the lesson fun and engaging for the students.
3. ESL Teaching Needs Cues
The students in your class have different native languages? You can't give instructions in Russian, Spanish, and Portuguese. You have to bring English down to everyone's level, no matter what their native language is. How do you do it? - Through non-linguistic cues. You can explain what a dog is through gestures, physical demonstration, and intonation. You can present visuals and objects. Use various cues to make sure each and every student understands the word you're trying to explain.
4. Keep the Multiple Intelligences Concept in MindEach and every student in your class is a unique individual. They have different goals, interests, and learning capacity. Each of them is intelligent in their own way. When you're teaching an ESL class, the theory of multiple intelligences is even more important to keep in mind. Some of the students possess linguistic intelligence. Others, however, may have logical-mathematical, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, spatial, naturalist, intrapersonal, or existential intelligence. To cater to all these personalities, you'll have to adopt multiple teaching styles that involve games, field trips, intriguing questions, music, teamwork, and more.
5. You Can't Expect High Levels of Focus
If you're lecturing students the traditional way, they won't be able to follow you. When they get bored, they won't pay attention to what you're saying. This doesn't mean you have to be the clown in the classroom. It only means you need to make the lessons engaging. When you notice they are getting bored, throw in a joke. Ask an interesting question. Include an engaging activity. Get the flashcards out. You can't expect them to be focused all the time, but you can always do something to improve the focus levels in the classroom.
6. Hands-On Learning Is the Only Way
Elementary students like fun activities, such as movement or role-playing games, songs, hide and seek, and counting games. If you're trying to teach the names of different profession, each of the students can take a role and you can play the "What are you?" game. Nick Feldman, a language expert with Superior Papers who teaches children to write, shares his experience: "Do you know how my teachers used to teach writing at my time? Dictations. Boring! However, dictations are necessary. They just didn't bother to make them fun. The new generations want games. They expect games. But games make a teacher's job more interesting, too. Even dictations can be amusing. We make shopping lists, we write messages to classmates who are currently not in the classroom, we play chalkboard races or spelling memory game with flashcards. You'd be surprised to see how much fun they are having."
7. You Need a Tool-Box at Hand
Even if you prepare well, you still need to be flexible. What if you wrap up the lesson too soon and there's a lot of time left? What if your students ask for a different approach? Have a tool-box at hand! It should include small objects, toys, flashcards, and whatever else you're usually using in the classroom.
8. The Lessons Still Need a Structure
When you're trying to make the students more active and the lessons more fun, it's easy to start making digressions outside the curriculum. That's fine, but it mustn't happen too often. The system is a good thing. It's flexible, so you can add different activities. However, don't forget to teach the students what they need to learn, in accordance with the curriculum goals.
9. Grading Should Be Flexible
It's time to move away from high expectations. Your students will make mistakes. It's okay. You will correct them, but don't be too strict and don't try to grade everything.
10. An ESL Teacher Has to Be Positive
Positive attitude is the key to better engagement in the classroom. These students shouldn't be afraid of you. They should feel free to ask questions, make suggestions, or even tell a joke from time to time. They will learn much better in a relaxed environment.
You have a noble role. When you're teaching these children to use the English language, you're opening the doors to a brighter future for them. When you invest yourself fully into the role of an ESL teacher, both you and your students will experience the benefits of your efforts.
Rachel Bartee is an ESL teacher and freelance writer who enjoys expressing her thoughts as a blogger. She is constantly looking for the ways to improve her skills and expertise. Her life principle is "Always do more than you can". Get in touch with her on @rachel5bartee.