Teach English in Liuji Zhen - Xuzhou Shi

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Teaching Kindergarten requires a very unique approach. Due to their developmental stage, Kindergarteners have a very limited attention span and teachers need to take this into consideration when making their lesson plans. Each segment of the lesson should be no longer than 10-15 minutes long to give the students a chance to get up, move, and get ready for the next assignment. But these opportunities for students to move should not be limited to the transitional phases. Kindergarten teachers need to be able to combine movement and playing with their teaching objectives to truly reach children at this age. In this regard integrating Total Physical Response (TPR) approaches and kinesthetic, visual, and auditory learning is key to success. The inability of Kindergarteners to sit still for long periods of time and their desire to move and play makes them a prime age group to use Total Physical Response (TPR) as developed by Dr. James Asher. The TPR approach is based on Dr. Asher’s observations of the language development of young children in their L1 or native language. During the first year of their life children watch and listen to their parents and physically respond to their parents’ visual and audio commands long before they actually verbalize language themselves. Dr. Asher’s research has shown that by actively using the right side of the brain (movement) as well as the left side of the brain (language acquisition) we significantly increase our capacity to learn a foreign language. The TPR teaching approach is based on giving verbal and visual commands that the students then have to physically follow. For example the teacher can ask the students in any language, “please go to the door” by walking in place and pointing to the door, and the students will understand what they need to do. While the TPR approach is not appropriate for advanced students, young learners really benefit from being able to move and act out tasks rather than immediately having to stress about trying to verbally respond. It can be turned into many fun games and gently teaches comprehension, which then builds the students’ confidence to actively speak the new language. Neil Fleming’s widely recognized VARK model identifies four main learning styles: Visual, Aural, Read/write, and Kinesthetic (vark-learn.com) and most teachers nowadays will integrate age-appropriate approaches for all four learning styles into their classrooms. For Kindergarteners, who thrive on structure and repetition, this could be a daily welcome song when their language class first starts. This could be the simple ABC song with flash cards to visually support the aural comprehension, or it could be The Itsy Bitsy Spider song, which allows the students to physically use their hands to show the spider climbing up the spout. Singing and movement will involve the right side of the brain and not only make learning easier and more fun, but also increase the long -term memory of what was learned. A large storyboard or poster could be used as well to accommodate the visual learning style. For an EFL Kindergarten lesson plan, one should make sure to integrate a lot of these kinds of routines. Students at this age thrive on structure. It gives them a sense of security to know what comes next. Therefor, the first few weeks of any Kindergarten class should be spent on teacher and students getting to know each other and establishing rules and routines of the classroom in a playful way. While older classes might get bored, Kindergarteners thrive on having their lesson structure being predictable. It reduces stress levels and makes them feel secure in knowing what comes next. Whole group, small group, individualized, and differentiated instructions are all needed in a Kindergarten classroom to successfully teach all children with their different learning styles and skill levels. Whole group teaching occurs during read aloud, demonstrations, and introductions of new concepts. Ideally you have computer cameras in place to show worksheets and other material on smart boards or large computer screens in your classroom. This kind of technology is extremely useful for demonstrating to all students how to complete their craft or worksheet assignments. The whole class can do a few problems together and then the teacher can walk around the classroom to individually help students who might still be struggling with the assignment (individualized instructions). Computer Aided Language Learning (CALL) includes this kind of technology for demonstrations to the whole class, as well as fun language games the Kindergarteners can play on iPads by themselves. These games challenge the individual students according to their skill level and are great teaching tools to accommodate different academic levels in your classroom. The computer games give struggling students extra practice time, and challenge advanced students to higher levels in the game. Another CALL tool that is extremely useful in Kindergarten are videos of educational songs instructing the children to move along with the children in the video. They allow the children to move and teach them words and language concepts in a playful and deeply kinesthetic level. In classrooms that are not equipped with computers or iPads, teachers generally have to rely more on breaking up the class into smaller groups. This allows the teacher to do a more in-depth activity with a small group of same level abilities (often used for reading groups) and keeping the rest of the groups with different activities at centers that were set up beforehand (often listening to stories, completing a simple worksheet, playing an educational game, drawing pictures) This also teaches the children to start working more independently, gain social skills, and build confidence by helping each other learn in their small group of students. Using a variety of different learning tools such as books, tape recordings, computer games, board games, movement & dance, hands-on crafts etc. will allow the teacher to reach students of all different learning styles. Because of the broad range of academic abilities and learning styles in every classroom teachers need to use differentiated instructions to make sure the students absorb the material and build a lifelong joy of learning.