My Top 3 Teaching Techniques for Kindergarten Teachers in China
This week’s blog comes from Mahalia Peake, University of Nottingham graduate currently teaching in Foshan as part of the 2018 Teach China Graduate Program. This is her fifth blog installment where Mahalia gives us her top 3 teaching techniques for Kindergarten teachers.
As an ESL teacher, I am constantly learning. There is no end to the trials and tribulations one will face when you work with young ESL learners. Children are constantly developing, which subsequently means that you as a teacher must grow and develop with them. In my last post, I discussed how children are all different and what may work for one may not work for another; similarly, games, songs, and techniques that may have worked with them can suddenly prove to be ineffective 6 months down the line.
However, there are some techniques and strategies I have found that work for a large age range of young children (ages 2-5), and here are my top three:
1. Clap-clap-clap: Distract students from their distraction!
It is inevitable that young children will become distracted during lesson time. When it’s only one or two kids at a time, it’s easy to single them out and get them focused again. However, when the whole class seems to be distracted- maybe they’ve become too excitable because of a game or they’re all laughing hysterically because you’ve dropped a flash card – it’s much harder to get them all focused again in a timely manner.
One technique that I’ve found to combat this is to use an easy game or task of some sort, effectively distracting them from their distraction. What I do is play a clapping game with them, in which I clap a short sequence that they have to follow. It can be even more effective if you turn it into a competition, i.e. the first child to clap the sequence back gets a sticker. I love this because it’s an easy and fast method that doesn’t involve shouting at the children and gets their attention in a positive way. Furthermore, children tend to not grow out of the desire to win any sort of competition, and so I find this method works with both my youngest and oldest children.
2. The Power of Imagination
As adults, we tend to forget about the power of imagination; it wasn’t until I started teaching that I remembered how much children use it in their day to day life. Subsequently, this makes it an effective a tool in teaching. Imagination can be an instant game changer that makes any boring learning task more interesting. Instead of taking flashcards out of a box and asking the children what it is, ask them if they dare to take a flashcard from the magic box that leads to the world of a princess locked in her castle.
Instead of asking them what food is on the board, give them some fake money and have them purchase the food from an imaginary restaurant and watch them eagerly eat a bowl of air. Children’s imagination can also make story-time very effective. I remember reading Jack and The Beanstalk to my class then being surprised at how some of the kids started to cover their eyes as I deepened my voice to emulate the giant as he chases Jack down the stalk. Imagination is a powerful teaching tool that should not be underestimated.
3. Slow down. Less is More
If there’s one piece of advice to take away from this post, it should be this: there’s beauty in simplicity, a concept I struggled with a lot when I first started teaching. When talking to young children, whether it’s to teach them a new concept, or even to give a simple everyday instruction, it’s best to use less, more powerful words, then many insignificant ones. If a child feels like they are being bombarded with a slew of unfamiliar new words, they will not be able to differentiate what is an important word to focus on and what is a filler word that should be disregarded. It will inhibit their ability to ingest new words, and may also make them dislike learning a language that seems like such an impossible task.
By using less, more important wording, the child does not need to engage in the extra chore of differentiating what words denote the core meaning and what is confusing. Similarly, talking at a slower rate than normal is imperative when talking to children. They are not yet at the stage where they can decipher words if they are spoken too fast or warped in some way, which adults often do when speaking. Therefore, talking slowly and clearly is a must.
Mahalia is currently teaching in an International Kindergarten in South China, as part of the 2018 Teach China Graduate Program.