Modern methods of teaching a foreign language include a lot of unconventional approaches, especially when teaching English to kids. If you compare teaching kids to teaching pre-schoolers, it certainly seems unorthodox, because the principles and approaches are totally different.
Why should you use a different approach when teaching kids?
First of all, young children’s attention is hard to maintain, and so the usual lessons where students have to sit at their desks and listen to the teacher is not a good fit for them.
Second of all, pre-schoolers memorise information differently. They have involuntary memory that activates during games and creative activities.
Third, perception mechanisms are different for pre-schoolers. Emotional and eye-mindedness is their forte. They are attracted to things that interest them the most, such as bright colours, unusual shapes, secrets and mysteries.
Based on these factors, teachers and educators try to use suitable methods and approaches when teaching pre-schoolers English, in order to make sure they cater to their unique psychological and physiological needs.
The infamous gamification
Gamification is the most common tool to engage kids and facilitate learning. When kids are playing games they are in their element, they take to it like a duck to water. Games are attractive both in terms of organisation and content.
Each game has rules that you need to adhere to, which helps develop organisational skills. All children know that the rules of the game are sacred. Games also allow kids to move around, interact, exchange items etc. And being active is natural for children. In terms of content, games are beneficial because you can use them to study any type of content. It will be easier for kids to learn through games, they will memorise words faster and even start using them spontaneously in their speech. Any game feels like real life to kids! And only the teacher knows how didactic and linguistically demanding it is.
We dare you to a quest in English!
Quests are one of the most popular modern gaming tools. The name speaks for itself, as the word “quest” itself means there will be adventures. It already means that kids will encounter challenges, riddles and mysteries that they have to solve by using English!
Usually, quests are built in a way that makes children follow a certain route divided into a few stages. Each stage gets them closer to their main goal – to get the key. In order to get it, they need to do challenges and tasks in various stages of the quest by using the knowledge and skills they learned during English lessons. This type of lesson motivates kids to keep learning English.
Quests can also be organised to serve as educational lessons, when they don’t require kids to demonstrate what they have already learned but vice versa, to teach them new words, expressions, and grammar. This is an unusual way of teaching, and the surprises kids find along the way help activate their eye-mindedness and emotional memory. Quickly switching between different types of activities helps maintain their attention for as long as the teacher needs.
One more unconventional method to teach kids English is projects and project activities. It was initially used mostly for school kids, especially high school kids, but in the past 10 years, educators started using it with younger kids and pre-schoolers as well with a lot of success.
Have you tried the infamous project?
The project method is a research method, and it is more individual, unlike the quest method that requires teamwork. It is directed at developing language skills and creative thinking. After finishing each topic, kids have to work on a project and “defend” it by talking about its contents in English. For example, “my favourite food” or “my pet” or “my house”. Children have an opportunity to talk about what’s important to them personally, and using pictures and photos is very engaging and fun, which makes it easier to memorise new words and phrases.
Interactive learning is an integral part of teaching children English. You could do various activities together, for example, be creative, create a collage or a poster, do crafts, an application etc. You can organise workshops, for example, making a salad or baking pizza, making soft toys or doing any other activity together. It could be growing flowers, making a flower bed or a mini-garden. Interaction between a teacher and a child has to happen during live communication, it helps kids indirectly learn the language while doing various activities.
Theatricalisation or dramatisation
Theatre in English is many teachers’ favourite teaching method and many children’s favourite activity. Kids get immersed in the world of brave princes and princesses, evil witches and good fairies, magical creatures and talking animals. Kids are quickly engaged into the plot and easily remember the events, favourite characters, and their catchphrases. At first, you can read a fairy tale and discuss it with the kids, look at the pictures or watch a cartoon, learn the key words and then “narrate” the fairy tale later. But what kids love the most is to watch performances of their favourite scenes or tales with puppets, screens and decorations.
Preparing for a play helps immerse the children into the English-speaking environment and natural use of language. That’s why the “immersion method” when kids are being spoken to in English right away helps develop their language skills, comprehension and contextual guessing in English. And this is exactly why it is so popular among educators who teach kids.
The latest trend is online learning and various online technologies: virtual tours, web-quests, multimedia technologies and, of course, many various types of gamification. When teaching kids English online, it’s important to implement a good combination of the aforementioned technologies into the lesson. Otherwise, children’s brain gets overloaded and they won’t get much out of the lessons.
Even if you use modern teaching techniques, it is important to remember that the goal is to teach kids to communicate in English, so the entertainment goal is always secondary. The primary goal is communication.
Educators at Novakid online English school for kids aged 4-12 are using exactly this teaching method. They are native speakers and cannot use another language to help kids understand the lesson. That’s why kids pick up English very quickly and learn to speak freely and confidently. The first lesson is free.