Sunday, 2 May 2010

10 Tips and Ideas for Teaching VYLs.

Very young learners may be small, but they can be really difficult to manage and very noisy. I've picked up a few tricks over the years and I'd like to share a few of them here with you. I'm not re-inventing the wheel here, so you may have heard of some of these ideas and indeed be using them in your classroom practice already.
  • Pace - Remember that you need to change activity every few minutes with this age group. Children of this age find it very difficult to concentrate for more than a few minutes at a time (unless you put them in front of a TV). If you find things getting loud and children's attention straying. Put your hand in your pocket and pull out some 'magic dust'. Tell the children that you are going to count to three and blow your magic dust. When you get to three everyone should be quiet. (you may need to explain this in L1).    
  • Puppets - I've just started using a puppet again. His name is Mickey Monkey. Only children that speak 'monkey' can understand him. He loves sitting with children that are quiet and well-behaved. This is working really well at the moment with a group of difficult 4-5 year olds.
  • Classroom routines - They are really important for children of this age as they are still learning to listen to the teacher. They are also a great source of chunks of language. Hello songs, colour songs, weather songs and days of the week songs and routines all provide children with familiarity and familiarity offers them a sense of security.
  • Panda - In Lleida at the TESOL convention a friend and I invested in a big panda from the Scholastic stall. First we sing the weather song and talk about the weather and then we dress the panda accordingly. 
  • Register - I've got a laminated house and school. At the beginning of the class I take the register and we stick the children in the school or at home. I ask the children Is ....... here today?. This can be followed up by counting the total number of children and the number of boys and girls.
  • Story time - The value of telling stories can't be disputed. Stories are motivating and fun. Every week we sing a song that Sandra taught me recently. It 's story time, It's story time, Let's listen to the story. We sit on a rug and listen to a story. My favourite stories are pattern books such as Brown Bear by Eric Carle. Their repetitive nature is very effective with VYLs.
  • Nursery Rhymes - I like nursery rhymes and children like them too. On Friday one of the teachers I work with was making crocodile pegs for the children. I had seen Jamie Keddie (TEFL Clips) recently singing 'Two little dickey birds' on U-tube so I was inspired to make up a crocodile version.
Two little crocodiles sitting on the bank,
One named Peter, one named Paul,
Swim away Peter, Swim away Paul,
Come back Peter, Come back Paul. 


Now, I've taught this rhyme a few times over the years but never quite so successfully! have look  at Jamie singing on U-tube. I think the magic way the crocodiles disappeared really got their attention. We spent ages practising how to do it and I wish I'd had a photo to capture their little faces when they got it right!
  • Circle time - I always try to start the class with the children sitting in a circle. I like to give them a few minutes to tell me things they feel that they need to tell me. This time is really important to let children express themselves in L1 and I answer in L2. The stories they tell me are often of very little importance to me but to them they are of great importance. Many teachers tell them 'not now' but if not now, when?
  • Stickers - To reward good behaviour or not, is a complicated issue. Some people feel that there is no need to reward good behaviour as it leads to children expecting rewards for simply behaving well, which in theory they should be doing. I like having some stickers with me to give out especially at the beginning of the school year with VYLs.
  • Sleeping Lions - When all else fails and the noise level rises and I feel there is no other alternative. I play Sleeping Lions. We roar like lions and we walk like lions and then I tell them that they are very sleepy. I get them to find a space where they are not touching anybody else and lie down. They close their eyes and go to sleep. I count to ten and then they can't move. If they move they are eliminated. Now to add an element of language to this game. I've got a chart with all the children's name and loads of body cards with Velcro. I stick the part of the body that each child moves on the board. At the end of the game we look at who moved what and practice saying the parts of the body.
Please feel free to add any tips and ideas as comments thanks.


Great Books :

Lynne Cameron : Teaching English to Young Learners, CUP.
Jayne Moon: Children Learning English, Macmillan.

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