Saturday, September 09, 2006
Managing young learnersGail Ellis, Teaching Centre Manager, Paris and Janet Leclere , Teacher, Young Learners Centre, Paris
Teaching young learners requires a knowledge of the developmental differences between children and teenagers and of the appropriate management skills. This article concerns the personal observations and experiences of a teacher who moved from teaching teenagers to teaching young learners. It includes ideas for classroom management and teaching strategies.
Inside and outside the young learners classroom
The young learners market continues to grow amidst a decade of changing attitudes towards this sector of teaching. The teacher is now viewed as a highly-skilled professional who has the knowledge, skills, flexibility and sensitivities of a teacher both of children and of language, and one who is able to balance and combine the two successfully.The term 'young learners' in the network covers a wide age range; 4-18 years of age, and most problems encountered by teachers are due to a lack of understanding of the developmental differences between children and teenagers, and of the appropriate classroom management skills to deal with these. Differences include conceptual and cognitive variations, variations in attention spans and motor skills such as drawing and cutting, as well as social and emotional differences. An understanding of these differences can help develop the flexibility that teachers of young learners require.
Janet Leclere joined the Paris Young Learners Centre last September, bringing with her valuable experience of teaching eight to ten-year-olds in French state primary schools. Her classes include a group of five-year-olds using Pebbles 1 (published by Longman); an age she had not taught before. 'Having been used to teaching older children, I found it difficult to accept that some children's attention would drift,' admitted Janet, who quickly realised that her classroom management skills needed to take on a new dimension to control and cater for the needs of these children.As it was not possible to observe classes at the centre, Janet took charge of her own self-development and arranged this at a local nursery school. These are her observations, which we hope will provide the starting point for further reflection and discussion in your own centres.
Classroom management and discipline
When children arrive, they put their coats on pegs, bags on the floor at their table places and then join you round the board. Only books and pencil cases on the tables. Avoid clutter - very young learner classrooms need to be very organised.Use two areas of the classroom.
For presentation of new language, practice activities using individual children, storytelling and opening and closing of lesson, the teacher sits on a stool next to the board and half-faces the children. Children should sit on the floor at their teacher's feet, with a further row of children behind on chairs to form a closed circle. This avoids sitting on the floor and makes you feel more in charge.
For activities, three or four children should sit at each table. Colour-code the tables. When children move from the board to the tables, get them to move group by group, not all at once. Children keep to the same places.Expect children to do what they are told, but be nice to them - even when you are feeling impatient.
Using the board
Present new language at the board. Use lots of flashcards. Involve all pupils - ask individuals to perform a small task: pointing to something, choosing a picture or sticking it on the board.
Children like to be picked, so make it fair. Ask the whole class a question, get them to repeat or drill.
Explain and demonstrate tasks you want children to do at the tables at the board. If using a worksheet, stick it on the board and demonstrate.
Routines and activities
Establish routines: always sit round the board to begin, play a game touching heads when taking the register, sing 'hello' to characters or sing a song they know. Everyone starts the lesson feeling confident and attentive.
Surprise activities can help to settle a class if the children become too excited. Try a series of movements in sequence e.g. touch your head three times, then shoulders, then knees. Vary the count and see if they can follow.
When changing activity, try using a rattle (e.g. rice in a box) rather than raising your voice to attract attention. This becomes a signal that children recognise. Start the activity, even if not all children are attentive. They will eventually join in with the others.
Be aware of what sort of work children are doing at school. The teacher I observed worked on the skills of matching, comparing and classifying. These are all things we can develop and adapt.When children are working at tables let them finish as much as possible. Fast finishers can do another drawing, or colour in. As children finish, write on their worksheets to explain what they have drawn, stuck or classified etc. questioning them at the same time.
Starting primaryGail Ellis, Head of the Young Learners Centre, British Council, Paris and Special Lecturer in the School of Education, University of Nottingham
Teaching at primary level can cause many teachers, particularly those who have trained to teach adults, a variety of problems and generate a range of worries. Unfortunately, it is common for teachers to be asked by their institution to teach young learners even though they don't have specific training. Those first lessons with the class, which are quite probably in a different institution to your regular work, can seem daunting. In this article I provide some advice on how to deal with starting work with primary level students and I give ten top classroom management tips.
Before you begin to teach
Find out who your pupils are
Talk to the class teacher and find out if the children are complete beginners in English or have already learnt a little.
Are there any bilingual children in the class? If so, use them as your helpers.
Do any of the children speak another language?
You will find that the children will be highly motivated and excited about learning a foreign language. Your main aim, is to maintain this initial motivation and sustain their curiosity and interest so that they develop a real desire to learn the language, even if you don't feel they are learning very fast.
You need to be realistic and so do the children about how much they can learn in the relatively short time you will spend with them.It is quite normal for children to take some time before they actually start producing much language as they will need time to familiarise themselves with you - very probably the first native speaker of English they have ever met - and assimilate the language before they feel ready and confident enough to produce any.Be patient and don't be afraid of repeating things again and again - children need and enjoy lots of opportunities to hear the language. Just remember to be natural.
Get to know the class teacher and how they can help you.
How many pupils in your class?
What can you and can you not do in the classroom, for example, move furniture around?
Will the class teacher stay with you during the English lesson.Find out about your school's etiquette?
How long are your lessons? 45 minutes, one hour?
Are you allowed to display children's work on the classroom walls?
Can you create an English corner?
What resources does the school have that you can use?
How many photocopies are you allowed to make?
Can you take the children into the playground?
Can you use a computer?
Top ten classroom management tips for successful teaching
Plan what you are going to do in advance step by step and have clear aims so you and your pupils know exactly where you are going throughout a lesson. This is the only way you will be able to control up to 30 children in one class - and they will be the first to know if you haven't prepared and respond by becoming disruptive.
Start your year by being firm and be consistent in your own actions and behaviour - children expect a disciplined, structured classroom environment and respond well to routines.
Check with the class teacher what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour and make it clear to the pupils that you expect the same behaviour.
Learn your pupils' names and address them directly.
Be mobile and walk round the class.
Have a clear signal for stopping activities or when you want children to be quiet.
Get silence and wait for their full attention before you start speaking and give clear instructions or demonstrations.
Make sure children understand what they have to do.
Never, underestimate children's abilities or intelligence. They may have very limited English but they still have the same interests and aspirations as any other child of their age.
Keep them interested by providing stimulating content and meaningful activities.
Always ensure that children have some English 'to take away' with them at the end of a lesson. Children will feel proud and have a sense of achievement if they leave the classroom being able to ask, for example, a new question in English, say something about themselves, or sing a song. This means (see the first point above) that your aims will be clear to the children.
Avoid activities that over-excite - it is often difficult to return to a calm and controlled learning environment after a noisy game.
Avoid activities that require a lot of movement as you will find that there is often very little space in a classroom for this type of activity.
Also avoid activities that require a lot of cutting and pasting unless there is a clear linguistic outcome, as these can cut into valuable time, apart from creating a great deal of mess.
Make positive comments about the children's work and efforts and let them see that you value their work.Have additional material prepared to cope with faster and slower pupils' needs and don't let activities go on too long.
These articles were taken from:http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/think/methodology.
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