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How to teach kids English

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When people hear “English for kids” they associate it with something entertaining: playing, singing, dancing. And they don’t expect much progress from children. How can you learn a language by singing and dancing? Of course, if you only sing and dance, you won’t learn much. But if you prepare special English lessons and use singing and dancing as a learning tool, then it’s a whole different story. Singing, dancing and playing are the main pillars of a child’s development. These 3 abstract languages help develop their brain and prepare them for learning other information. It is important to use it systematically. How does it work?

Three main pillars of learning English with kids

Children have involuntary attention, and they can only focus it for short periods of time. That’s why it´s hard to engage them in long dialogues. But the world of sounds and music attracts and mesmerises them. It has its own laws, beat and rhythm, which is easy to memorise. If you enhance the music with some words that rhyme and even add a rhythm to your song, it will help children memorise English words and phrases and lay the groundwork for correct pronunciation and development of phonemic hearing.

What is dancing? It’s a form of body language. By showing what the song is about by using your body language, you help kids understand the meaning of the song without using language as a mediator. Through dance, which is a body language, children memorise new words and phrases, and involuntarily learn grammar. Singing accompanied with dancing is the most efficient way to develop a child’s memory.

Why do they need to play games? First of all, it helps activate all the language that they learned from singing and consolidated through dancing. Second of all, games help kids use the language they learned in their speech and practice it in various contexts. Third, games are the main activity of children of pre-school age, and it’s the main means for their development. You can always be 100% sure that efficient English language learning is reliant on choosing the right games and playing them the right way.

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What kinds of games are there?

Children can learn English by playing various games. It depends on what the goal is and how the child reacts to it. If a child doesn’t mind it when mum starts speaking another language during the game, and mum’s English is good enough to freely use it when playing, then it can become a valuable source of communication in English. If you’re building a fort or a workshop, feeding your dolls or teddy bears or going on a trip in your game, narrate everything you’re doing in English. It will work to your benefit that all the toys are ready at hand, you can show and name them all. Your child will quickly memorise the English words you use and even start using them on their own very soon!

If your child doesn’t really like playing in English, or if parents don’t speak very good English, you can introduce the new language gradually.

For example, start with board games. It’s better to pick the games that you have not yet played. Tell your child that this new game requires speaking English – it’s one of the rules. But then everything has to be in English! Questions, answers, communication and narration. Start with something simple. Young children can benefit from playing such games as dominoes, simple card games like “Go Fish!”, Uno etc. These games will help kids remember how to count and what various items are called. Games from the “memory” series are great as well. The cards in the game are repetitive, so it’s easier to remember them.

There are dominoes with various topics: animals, toys, vehicles, professions etc. Board games will also help children get acquainted with basic grammar constructs and learn simple questions, such as “Who has got…?” and answers, such as “I’ve got!”. And don’t forget about other helpful phrases:

– Whose turn is it?

– Where is… ?

– I know / I remember! It is here / over there…

The didactic value of using simple board games to help kids learn English helps achieve two main goals: first, by passing the psychological barrier, overcoming the fear of English, and increasing their interest; and second, learning to use English phrases and expressions spontaneously in their speech. During the game, kids concentrate their attention on the gaming process, which engages them completely. That’s why playing in English is the best way to get your child interested in learning it.

The third type is didactic games. They are meant for purposeful learning of English and combine well with English songs and dancing, because all these aspects together form what is known as “English lessons for children”. Kids don’t think about it, they just dance, sing and play, and the teacher meanwhile helps them learn the language and start speaking it.

How do didactic English games work?

These games can be based on normal games that we all know. But their content is usually dedicated to a specific topic. For example, if the lesson is about feelings and emotions, then the game cards could contain such actions as “show an emotion”. Then the child pulls out a card and shows an emotion portrayed on the card. The teacher can then pretend to not understand what the right answer is and ask them follow-up questions, such as:

– Are you sad? – No, I’m not. – Are you hungry? – No, I’m not.  – Are you angry? – Yes, I am!

Kids love games like these, and they will gradually memorise all the questions. Third of all, games help them hear all the new words they learned in context.

After the game, you can sing the “How are you today?” song, which you can find on the internet. The song goes through all of these emotions, make sure to follow the lyrics up with gestures and facial expressions. You should also come up with a gesture for questions.

After singing, you can play with the cards again. Now you have to consolidate what you learned and try to practice using it. Cards with emotions are placed face up. Ask your child a question: “How are you today?”, then ask them to pick up a card and say “I’m… (happy)”.

Then it’s their turn to ask you a question. Another option is to try to guess which emotion the child picked. You can start so that you don’t have to explain the rules. Say “Are you … tired?” The answer will depend on what card the kid has. After this, switch roles again.

You can sing the song again after playing, but this time, switch off the sound when it’s time to name an emotion, and ask your child to sing it on their own. You can start every lesson with the ”How are you today?” song as a phonetic warm-up. This will help you repeat what you’ve been learning. Next time, you can get cards with faces expressing various emotions, and ask your child about them. They should already know the right words, but this time they will have to use pronouns – “she is” or “he is”, and the collective “they are”.

To consolidate this knowledge, play a memory game and get them to say the whole sentence, for example, “she is happy” or “he is hungry”. With time, you can replace the “she/he” pronouns with members of your family – “Mummy, Daddy, Granny, Sister, Brother” etc. This will help the child learn how to use these words in various contexts.

In conclusion, singing songs, dancing and playing games in one lesson will help your child involuntarily learn English phonetics, new words and grammar, and it will also make English lessons more interesting and productive, so that kids learn to speak English more quickly and efficiently.

Video lessons at Novakid online English school for kids aged 4-12, will help you raise a bilingual child. The lessons with native teachers include singing, games, using gestures and facial expressions. The first lesson is free!

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