How to Choose English Classes for Your Young Kids
The benefits of studying a language from a very early age are much exaggerated. A three-year-old child is not likely to learn as much as a teenager if they just study for one or two hours a week. Even in the part of pronunciation, which is frequently mentioned as a language learning strength of young children, they are not likely to get a good English accent while they still could not make all of the sounds in their own language.
Having mentioned that, English classes for three to seven-year-olds are usually entertaining. The positive relations with the language do seem to provide some lasting effects. If you could come across a school that would teach your child some language in a way they like while also working on more vital things like motor skills and socialization, there are definitely no disadvantages to starting young. After reading this article, you should know the things to pay attention to in a demonstration lesson or ask the school management or teacher about.
One of the main reasons why people think it is a good idea to start English as early as possible is that they have experienced or heard of five-year-old children who have become totally bilingual a short time after arriving in the US, while their parents are still having trouble filling in a bank application form or ask the way to the post office. While part of that effect is secondary to the five-year-old child not needing as much language such as banking and directions language, pre-teen children do seem to have advantage in this kind of total immersion situation, and that could be partly reproduced by children attending a kindergarten in their own nation that has an English-only policy.
However, many parents could not afford an English-medium kindergarten, and might not have a good one in their area, or have understandable doubts about their children not being able to learn their own language and culture. While very young students would learn little and forget quickly if they would only learn for an hour or two a week, teachers could improve things by partially reproducing immersion methods. Probably the most important thing is that the class should overwhelmingly be in English. There are disputes for doing complex grammar explanations and classroom instructions in people’s first languages in a number of classes. However, a kindergarten class should not anyway have grammar explanations and complex activities. Instead, every classroom instructions should be in English, because students will learn better from real life interactions than they will from more language-focused activities. In such situation, students will naturally begin using English in discussing about classroom objects and activities with the teacher and eventually the other students, usually without the need to have an English-only policy.
Another means in which teachers can try to reproduce the finest immersion conditions is to base the classes more on content and activities than on language. This means that students should spend most of the class doing activities that they would enjoy on their own language, but doing it in English instead. The rest of the class could play some vocabulary learning games. However, there is little requirement for precise grammar points or drilling with very young learners.
An excellent school for very young learners should base their syllabus on stories, games, songs, toys, and crafts. This would mean that you could often look around the school and judge it straightaway from its collection of books, CDs, and craft materials. Furniture that is age appropriate should also be present, as well as colorful walls, lots of flashcards, and plastic toys for vocabulary and games, including a free lending library.
One thing parents frequently judge a school on is the craftwork by children on the walls. While it is good for children to be doing these in English class, it would be difficult for you to judge the quality of the language learning from the prettiness of the wall displays, especially if the children could not write yet. If you get the opportunity to observe the class doing some craftwork, ensure that all the teachers’ instructions are in English, that the children are actually listening rather than just doing the activity, and that the children could do simple things like ask for things in English.
Main aims and policies
The aim of the school should be on natural language learning through interesting stories, games, songs, and crafts. The teacher should mainly speak in English, but the children should be required to use English if it is part of the activity or something they have practiced numerous times before. As important as these policies on the language, it is still the schools’ idea on how to teach the children proper manners, socialization skills, hand-eye coordination, and other lessons that are much more significant than English at this stage in their lives. These things should clearly be mentioned in the school’s policies, even listed in the syllabus.
It is not clear whether the children at this age should be studying on how to read in English or not. Many people believe there is no point doing it before they can read on their own language, because it would be much easier after. It would also take up a lot less time when they are at age six or seven, and spending time on teaching them how to read and write might take some fun out of the lessons. On the other hand, if the children are ever going to get the kind of immersion in the language that they will truly get the most from, most of that will have to be reading outside of the class. However, you should not let the policy on learning the alphabet and such affect your choice of school, one way or another.
The main dispute for having a specialist English teacher with this age of students is that very young children would tend to learn quicker if they could associate a particular language with a particular person, just as most bilingual children tend to learn faster if each parent would stick to a single language. Numerous schools prefer a “native English speaker” for this position, but unless your child is studying lots of hours and so you expect them to develop a perfect British or American accent, other factors might be important. The initial thing is the teacher being able to comprehend the student’s first language. A natural means to teaching languages is to permit some responses from students in their primary language. The teacher should at least be able to comprehend responses from the children. If there are no other teachers nearby, such as an assistant who speaks the students’ language, the teacher should be competent of switching the children’s own language when they are upset or really misbehaving, for example if there is dangerous behavior.
It is equally necessary to have teachers with young learner training and experience. If the teacher is instructing on their own and has the children for many hours each week, they really should have the standard qualifications for teaching pre-school children and at least two years of full time teaching experience with children that age. The next best thing would be to probably employ a trained state school primary school teacher such as PGCE if they come from the UK. Educating non-native speaking children is quite different. Even state school instructors from English speaking countries should also have ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) or EFL (English as Foreign Language) training and experience. The most excellent would be the Cambridge CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) with the two-week extension course regarding young learners (CELTYL Extension), but this is rather uncommon. It is difficult to judge the various qualifications that are available, but a school that would list relevant qualifications and experience of their educators is probably a good indication. Such credentials should be specific to working with young children and/or teaching English to second language students. Details of training that the school gives its instructors could also be pertinent.
Prior to hiring full time teachers, all schools should request for a criminal record check in that person’s country. Look for mention of this on the schools’ website or in its brochure.
There are lots of things that are more relevant than being a native speaker when it comes to teaching the numbers 1 to 10 to children and making it amusing. Schools which spend a lot of tine informing you which countries their instructors come from and not much time telling you about their methodology, credentials and experience, are most likely best to avoid. Studying English at a university or enrolling to a good university is also fairly irrelevant.
Another terrible sign is a school that makes overambitious claims about what your young child could learn and fast they could learn it, especially about how quick they would learn to speak and how good their pronunciation would be. The natural learning techniques mentioned anticipate children’s speaking to lag far behind their comprehension, just as it would be in their primary language.
Lots of language learning jargon and mentioning of language learning specialist names such as Pinker, Krashen, and Chomsky, is usually a bad sign.
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