Anyone who has taught children knows that it can be both a joy and a burden at the same time. Young learners are at an important stage of mental development where learning tends to come naturally and easily. However, they can also be rowdy and uninterested in learning anything. When adults sign up for English lessons, it’s usually because they have a strong incentive to do so, either for personal or professional reasons. Children, though, might have no interest in being in your classroom at all. Try as you might, there’s simply nothing even the best teacher can do to get children to learn if they steadfastly refuse to.
Learn how to talk on their level
Rare exceptions aside, you can’t always talk to children like you would your own peers and elders. Don’t get me wrong. There are some amazingly mature young men and women out there, but they are still limited by their short few years of experience in life and the emotional fluctuations of youth. Whenever a teacher explains something, they necessarily assume that their students already know a lot of fundamental truths upon which the new ideas are based. You don’t always have that luxury with children. You have to be able to assume they know almost nothing and be able to build up your subject from the ground floor. Fortunately, harnessing this ability will make you an unparalleled master of your subject in no time at all.
Keeping Kids Enthused is Everything
No one can be expected to learn when they are not feeling emotionally prepared. Children are especially prone to big changes in their momentary emotional states. They can go from loving you to hating you and back again in just minutes. If you want them to learn English effectively, you’ve got to become a master in the art of understanding and promoting childhood curiosity and enthusiasm. This means you can’t take things personally if they lash out at you or other students. You’ve got to nip outbreaks in the bud and bring everyone back to calmness as quickly as possible without further aggravation. If you’re good, you’ll learn to keep your own emotions in check around them and become a shining example of maturity.
Promote Both Autonomy and Interaction
Since working with kids requires so much care and attention, it’s important to get them to be as self-directed as possible early on in their education. A lot of the time, they will eat up as much of your attention as they think they can get away with. Once you’ve given them a task, encourage them to carry it to completion on their own and only interrupt you if it’s really necessary. At the same time, you want to teach them the value and necessity of working well in groups. Effectively putting groups together for certain activities can create a smooth classroom environment and keep you as free as possible. Be forewarned though: the wrong children in the wrong groups can create big personality mismatches and only lead to trouble.
About the author: Tom Fitton is currently working for LAL Schools, providing advice for ESL learners and helping other language students to pick up techniques to improve their learning.