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Teaching ESL in a KindergartenThis article will outline the benefits of children
learning a second language at the kindergarten level (in this case english) and review some of the recommended methods of teaching english to this age group: 2-6 years.
There is an increasing trend for kindergartens to offer a second language. english is the primary choice. The benefits of having ESL at an early age is supported by quantitative and qualitative research and linguistic experts. Children have an innate curiosity; their brains are naturally geared to learn. “Children are sponges” - they are experts at absorbing everything.
Researchers are confirming their hypotheses that learning a second language is a positive experience and does not affect the perfect attainment of the mother tongue. A strong mother tongue will help with learning a second language. Previously it was believed that learning more than one language would delay children’s speech. This is not the case. Children also have the ability to learn english with perfect pronunciation.
Learning english can not only affect a child’s linguistic ability but their overall problem solving. Simultaneously language acquisition forces the brain to use more neurons. Children with a second language have been seen to be more creative, do better on maths tests and maintained better attention despite outside stimuli.
All this being said, language acquisition is strongly influenced by a natural ability in this area. But a positive feeling always helps. This should be from the teacher and the parents. Parents can support the english by providing another source of english input eg. a TV show or other items/activities suggested by the teacher.
Children may initially mix up languages. This is perfectly normal. Parents and teachers should not be concerned but use techniques such as repeating the child’s sentence using the correct word(s). An example could be as follows.
Child: ”I came to kindergarten in my auto”.
Parent/teacher: “Oh, so you came to kindergarten in your car”.
There is no need to constantly correct children. Talking about every and everything and repeatedly will ensure that the right way eventually sticks. Parents will know with any young child this is the way they naturally learn their mother tongue.
The role of an ESL teacher in a kindergarten will not just be language based. It will extend to being a comfort for children away from their parents, kissing better a bump or scratch, a supervisor of games, snacks, toilet time etc. All these things can be done in clear, slowly spoken english. The children will pick up on tone of voice and actions before understanding the words.
For Kindergarten children, playing is learning. As with any kind of learning…it must be fun. Activities should be short in duration. Singing with actions is hugely popular amongst kids
. Children mimic, so after a few times often children will sing along and perform the actions.
Children are naturally active, so all types of movement: dancing, acting out animals or emotions can also keep their attention. Storytelling and reading books are wonderful activities. Childrens books often have lots of rhyme, rhythm and onomatopoeia that can be over exaggerated. In fact over exaggerating things makes it more fun. Poems can create a good beat (clap along) with lots of rhyming words. Short rhymes or sayings before doing an activity can be incorporated during the day. Singing a song about cleaning up before starting the english part of the day can get the kids in the mood as the put away the toys from the last activity.
Hands-on activities such as colouring-in, cutting out, sticking, painting or other craft activity can be part of a lesson. The results can proudly be displayed in the classroom or pick up area, so the parents can view the artistic efforts.
For each english “lesson” it is suggested to stick with one or two themes. Language should be used in a purposeful way as it is not learned as an isolated subject but in context. It may not be that there is 30mins for english but the teacher may be in the kindergarten all day and working alongside teachers speaking the children’s mother tongue.
What ever the set up patience is a kindergarten teacher’s best asset! A positive attitude and being able to make fun of ones self will be appreciated by the children. The personal reward for some first words and a glimpse of understanding in their eyes will make it worthwhile.