Monday, 28 February 2011

teaching kids EFL

Many teachers I know working in teaching English as a Foreign Language really are more interested and more comfortable, more experienced and trained in teaching adults - I include myself here. Be that as it may, it seems so many of us must serve at some time or other, like it or not - teaching children and teens.

The skills necessary to do well at this we try to grab somehow, and most of us rapidly see we need to structure classes and activities very differently from how we might go about teaching out  adult students. We fluff and flounder a bit, and even when we do somehow manage GOOD classes, we come out WAY more exhausted and bewildered by it all than we might teaching adults.

Last year I was fortunate to attend a small workshop on using storytelling to teach children EFL with Pan Macmillan author Angela Llanas. Angela originally trained in theatre, and her workshop was an absolute treat, most entertaining, and also full of highly useful ideas.

A quick summary of some important points I picked up

  • "Relax and they'll have fun. Make them love you and they'll learn". Think about it as play and fun, not study and work.
  • PARTICIPATION is the key: if they're not engaged with the langugage, they're NOT learning
  • We can't expect kids to TALK ABOUT things as we might expect adults. They need a lot of structure and frameworking. 
  • CHORAL REPTITION, and much REPETITION in general, is GREAT for KIDS
  • Use strongly structured stories, the details of which you and they can embellish. CHORAL STORIES are GREAT. (If you think about it, even first language stories for kids are like this, with variations on the same situations and structures over and over)
  • Use lots of sound effects, visuals and guessing. 
  • First you can have the kids provide sound effects for the story you tell, then YOU make the sound effects and THEY tell the story
  • Use "CLASSROOM friends" to stimulate communication: puppets, dolls and visuals. Children are not very likely to speak to each other or even you in the foreign language when a first language is available, but they respond delightfully to puppets and such if they're told these speak only the Foreign Language.
  • Teach in BLOCKS, employ frequent changes of mood and activity.
Related to this, perhaps the most valuable thing I picked up and have benefited from applying in my classes, both with adults and children:
  • We can concentrate and be fully engaged by an activity roughly for the AGE that we are. eg, a 2 year old concentrates for 2 minutes, an 8 year old for 8 minutes, a 12 year old for 12. after that they need a CHANGE of activity. 
  • Up to around 20 years old, which is roughly the MAXIMUM time of MAXIMUM engagement in any one activity. after that, our attention tends to waver sna needs some kind of pick-up.

IF you have any other tips, I would be delighted if you would share them!

    Friday, 18 February 2011

    more excellent listening resources

    the more INPUT you get, the easier it becomes to create OUTPUT

    here are some more excellent sites for interesting listening

    REAL ENGLISH LISTENING - featuring short, unscripted audio!/

    some easy dialogues which you can listen to and read

    and my all time favourite, the wonderful, very complete and versatile

    Tuesday, 15 February 2011

    excellent ready made resources for ESL/EFL classes!

    very wonderful ideas, flashcards, roleplays...

    a real treasure trove to enrich your classroom and your teaching practice

    I absolutely recommend you explore

    Thursday, 10 February 2011

    how to learn a foreign language. how to teach a foreign language

    how to learn a foreign language

    1 - be exposed to it (a lot)
    2 - use it for real communication (a lot)

    so easy

    but very time consuming.

    frequently frustrating. also frequently rewarding, fun, and SO good for your brain. for humanity. and the general good.


    you want to speed up the process, do more of each, more of the time.


    how to 'teach' a language: - forget teaching - work on facilitating the learning of a new language (this is a little more complicated to do well)

    provide exposure to the target language (lots and lots) - preferably make much of it challenging but not TOO challenging, just above the level the student can produce. provide models of what they might need to express. make it interesting. make it intriguing. make it real.

    provide opportunities for real communication (lots and lots) - make it fun. make it exhilarating. make it useful. make it real.

    facilitate the breaching of any gaps between what is intended and what is produced.
    provide opportunities to reflect on successes and failures of attempts at communication.
    provide your students tools and strategies to go about communicating despite any lacks.
    motivate them to practice outside class, to find ways to increase their exposure to and use of the language.


    there is more, so much more, for good language teaching


    learning can be speeded up in various different ways.

    but basically it comes down to

    maximize exposure to target language, and maximize your use of it.