Four Steps – Teaching Young Learners
Anna Przybylo – an active teacher of English and History in Open Future International School, manager of “WISHES” school of English, teacher trainer at KIRE, Kraków. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Being a young teacher is not an easy task. I remember clearly my beginnings. I imagined myself surrounded with happy and interested kids who would follow my instructions. However, as always, the reality turned out to be quite different. That is why I had to find out my own method to surrvive.
My very first meeting with kindergarten was terrible – me just after the studies, with no experience, no help, no guidence. The plan seemed to be very easy and clear, I had three groups of about 18 children, the lesson was supposed to last 30 minutes – easy peasy! I remember my first lesson, which keeps me smiling till today – after ten minutes I have used all my prepared materials and games. I was shocked with the speed the children moved and were bored. Somehow I survived that day but came back home totally exhausted. Preparation of lessons took long hours and children were not merciful. I remember myself crying of frustration and the feeling of helplessness. Fortunately, I managed to accomplish my first year of teaching, got a job in a primary school and finally finished my work with those little monsters in kindergarten. I said that I would never go back there again!
My lessons are fun so why don’t they listen to me?
I thought that after that kindergarten experience the work in school will be much better. School children are easier, they can write and read and there are grades that will keep them more motivated than pre-schoolers. How very much mistaken I was... I just couldn't understand the mechanism – my lessons, really well prepared, with a written down lesson plan, with different games, many creative tasks, and a failure because students would not treat me seriously. My classroom management was not working at all, I suffered from many discipline problems and again cried a lot. On the other hand, I was visiting lessons of my older colleagues and for me that was so unjust, their lessons, without any games, any interaction, just a simple lecture, and they were perfect. The same students acting like angels, nice, well mannered, fulfilling all the tasks. I was completely frustrated with that. Then I heard the words of my teacher guide - “It will come with age and experience – don't worry and just find your way!”
Eye of the tiger
Although I have suffered from many disappointments I still wanted to teach. I had good contact with students and I knew that it were not only children but me who did something wrong. So I decided to tighten my belt and find the answers for the problems. I read some books, graduated from another studies, found courses that could help me. I made experiments and observed which exercises were great and which did not work. Slowly, slowly I was getting better and better. Before I could notice it turned out that eight years have passed. I had two Masters Degrees and three sons. I was a happy mother on a Maternity Leave when the kindergarten headmaster asked me that terrible question: „Mrs. Ania, you have got some time being on a maternity leave, maybe you could have some English lessons in my kindergarten, only three groups, just one hour and a half?”
I am a fighter. I took up a challenge. This time it was a war and I wanted to win it! I knew it was possible this time, I gained some experience before, had a lot of materials, a lot of books and my own kids. Through the years I have been observing children. So, I entered the kindergarten for the second time, this time armed.
Four steps idea
The thing that was bothering me was the fact that materials available on the market were not suitable for children. I don't know why the first authors of kindergarten student's book assumed that the only thing the children can do was colouring or sticking the stickers. Books tended to be very expensive with little ideas for the lesson. So, with a book or without it I still had a lot of work at home. I have noticed one more thing – children were very happy if they could use the words and phrases during interactions with peers after the lesson. This was the impulse, to prepare something more than just the lessons about colours and body parts. I have devided the unit into four lessons, e.g.:
Unit XX – Weather
Lesson 1 – Sunny or rainy? - weather vocabulary
Lesson 2 – Sun is shining. - verbs and phrases
Lesson 3 – Rain, rain go away – reading a book.
Lesson 4 – Where does rain come from? - a project.
What was useful in this kind of lesson organising was the fact that children found it practical. At first, we were learning the vocabulary suitable for the unit. Next, we were revising vocabulary but adding the verbs. We keep forgetting that in communication verbs are even more important so for me it was crucial to give my little students the whole phrases to communicate with. The third lesson was their passive listening – I was usually telling them the story, or reading a book, or acting a puppet theatre and during all those actions children were listening to the things that we had learned in the context. The fourth lesson was the production. It was a kind of a repetition of the third lesson but this time the children were telling the story, describing the pictures or acting. Very often the fourth or fifth lesson was also connected with completing the project eg. : some craft or experiment.
Dividing the lesson this way made me very responsible for the teaching. The planning process had to start with the idea for the final lesson – I needed to know which book I was going to use or which story I was going to read. Then, I was to choose the right vocabulary from the story and the phrases to teach the children so during me reading they would be familiar with the words. In that way they felt very comfortable with the stories, not being discouraged with not understanding. The only thing left were the right games and songs that would help me in implementing new material.
I spent three years only teaching in different kindergartens, some with very rich parents, some with very poor, some bilingual. Everywhere the idea was working perfectly, showing the kids that they can really use a new language. Parents were very happy as the children would tell them about experiments or projects. I knew that kids were enjoying the lessons and therefore all the troubles with discipline were gone. My little monsters taught me the most important thing in teaching – planning. If I know the aim of the lessons, my kids can see it also. I have started with arms, legs and noses and now I finish with electrostatics, magnetism, optical illusion, solids and liquids. The best thing about that is that kids love it!!!
Please check the Methodology and Language for Primary course at Pilgrims website.
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