Teaching Young Children: From Miserable to Enjoyable Experience [Archives:1999/26/Culture]

June 28 1999

It is a fact that many teachers of English who start out by teaching young children, find it to be a horrible experience. Then, just a few of these teachers will successfully turn this seeming nightmare into a pleasant dream. However, for those who fail to do so, I present this article trying to help them make teaching young children very rewarding. To make it more practical, I have surveyed the views of some experienced teachers. In this survey, I tried to get what their first impression was when they began to teach kids and how they proved it to be gainful and enriching experience:
Mr. Fuad Al-Aswadi (Teacher of English and principal of a private institute) says, “I have been teaching students of different ages and levels for over six years. However, when I started teaching kids, I really felt inadequate for my job. I become as nervous as they were. Then I realized that the younger they are, the shorter their attention span. To help them and myself as well I turned to using different techniques. I felt that a variety of activities is always the key. Nevertheless, an activity should last not more than ten minutes before they get bored.”Abeer A.M (Teacher of English at a private school) says; “I believe that teaching kids is more complicated than teaching other students of other ages. A teacher here must be creative and able to use various of activities. For instance, I always start my class with a physical warm up to get rid of some of the excess energy the children have. Then I settle them down to a quieter activity like drawing or matching exercises. Labeling pictures on the wall is another interesting activity. In fact there are many useful activities that can be done in the class but this depends on the class size and the school facilities.”Khalid Gabir also declares “It was a nightmare for me to teach young children but then I realized that my impression was completely false. I came to know that children enjoy greater imagination and they are more creative and responsive. The way they pick up on things is very rewarding.”
From what has been said above, we can conclude the fact that it is very vital to maintain the interest of children and that they must find their lessons enjoyable. Actually, keeping the children’s interest is important because it is the first contact most of them will have had with English. However, we must bear in mind that children have their own learning expectations. In other words there must be a balance between keeping their interest and making them feel they are learning.
Another important factor that should be taken in consideration is the parents’ expectations. Some parents may misunderstand the teacher’s use of games, songs, drawings in the class. They might feel that their children are not learning. In such cases, a teacher could write to them justifying their actions.
Finally, I would like to end this article with some helpful hints suggested by some experienced teachers. These hints, some of which can be followed before going for the first time to school and other hints that must be practiced in class:
— Before you start teaching
1. Try to visit some primary schools and observe the activities done in classrooms and the children’s reaction.
2. Read some course books to help you with syllabus, ideas and topics and a few readers.
3. If you are not a musician, take song books with tapes.
— In the classroom.
1. Vary pace and activities, 15-20 minutes is enough for one activity.
2. Include as many physical activities as you can in your program.
3. Start out being much stricter than you will be later on; this gives you something to fall back on when you need it.
4. Always remember that kids are learning more than language. In fact they are learning social and interactive skills and learning about the world as well. So the more you can include this, the more they will respond and become involved and receptive to the language.
By: Abdullah Al-Hashedi
Sana’a University