Teach English in Shenzhai Zhen - Zhumadian Shi

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Early childhood English learners often have little to no prior English language experience, which can pose a challenge for English teachers. Early childhood students need their teachers to not only be supportive and patient, but also be full of short, fun activities geared to utilize their short attention span and seemingly boundless supply of energy. Stories, especially story-telling and story-making, all offer a multitude of options for familiarizing early learners with English sounds, words, and basic sentence structures. Stories also give young children an outlet for creativity and cross-cultural learning in addition to building their English language listening skills. Young children lack the attention span older children have for busy desk work. In my experience, young children need lots of visuals and physical movement which, when incorporated by the teacher into a lesson plan, can be used to one’s advantage in teaching young children basic English. For instance, when telling a story, I may use a picture book, flashcards, pictures on a PowerPoint, or even a short silent video clip as I read a story to them. While reading, I act out roles and exaggerate, changing my intonation and voice for different characters and have students repeat certain words with me or back to me. One example of this is using the story, “The Three Little Pigs.” With early childhood learners, many students at that level are just starting to read and may not be familiar with the English alphabet, yet. Rather than having text, for “The Three Little Pigs,” I bring in visuals (pictures of the pigs’ houses and masks for the wolf and pig). As an engage activity for the beginning of class, I might ask students to name various animals they know and make the sounds of the animals I draw pictures of on the board. We would march or crawl around the room acting as various animals. I would then introduce the characters of “The Three Little Pigs” and a few verbs as vocabulary, such as the words “pig, wolf, count to three, huff and puff, and blow” etc, for the Study stage of the lesson. I would next tell the students the story, with clear, slow emphasis on the animals and the actions of the wolf huffing and puffing houses down. As an activate portion of the lesson, I would then have students act out the story with me wearing the animal masks or using other props in the classroom. Another choice could be to have students make up their own stories or tell what happened after to the three pigs. With my above example, stories can appeal to early childhood listeners beginning language abilities in many different ways. Stories encourage young learners to listen to the words being used (vocabulary, syllables, intonation) and become familiar with the way new words sound and sentence structures being used. It also can promote creativity and cooperation when the teacher asks for volunteers to help tell a story or have students reenact or make their own stories. Stories can aid a teacher in inspiring and encouraging students to not only learn new words, but to put what they’re learning into practice within a safe environment. Mistakes in grammar and speaking are expected, but that is crucial to early learners. They have to feel comfortable enough to speak out loud, while having fun doing so. Re-telling and story-making by students can therefore help by pushing them to communicate out loud with each other and the teacher in English, which in turn may help build their self-esteem and confidence in using new language skills. Another benefit of using stories in the classroom with young English learners is the added exposure to other cultures. Cross-cultural learning may open children’s eyes to new ways of thinking, leading them to be more understanding of cultures different from their own. For instance, young English learners, by using classic nursery rhymes and fairy tales, are taught stories that their counterparts in native English countries might already be familiar with. Young learners, in the future, may come across references in English to these classic stories, like Goldilocks and Cinderella, and would thus be more able to grasp the meaning behind the references right away. Ultimately, using stories in lesson plans for early childhood learners is a great resource in the classroom. Story-telling and story-making are good ways to introduce and incorporate new English words, practice vocabulary, and have students hone their listening skills. Furthermore, stories are a wonderful way for teachers to encourage student creativity, cooperation, and even expose students to other cultures. Therefore, teaching stories in early childhood classrooms is a highly important and versatile EFL learning-tool that can be customized in a wide variety of ways to suit the needs of both students and teachers.