When new teachers decide to start teaching abroad they usually have preconceived ideas about the students they will be teaching. Some of us prefer a certain age to teach over others. Some of us are okay with any and all ages. But it’s those times when you’re expecting to teach to a certain age group, and have mentally prepared yourself for such, but are then given the opposite ages of what you hoped and expected. It’s
during these times that we have to think on our feet, become familiar with the unknown and break down our comfort barriers to become the best teachers we know we can be. For this article, I’m going to focus on the obstacles of becoming a first time kindergarten English teacher.
Shift Your Focus
Kindergarten students are some of my favorite students to teach, but this idea is not often so popular amongst the new teacher community. While smaller students are fun to play with it’s the older students that can provide the visual and language growth that teachers want to see to help validate their skill and lessons. With older students you can have mini-conversations with them and get to know them on a more personal level. Those kinds of things are hard to do with kinder students without a teaching assistant or knowledge of their native language. But not being able to hold a basic conversation with four and five year olds in English shouldn’t deter teachers away from this amazingly bright age group. Instead of focusing on what the students can say, kinder teachers should focus on what the students can understand. Being able to give directions to a kinder student and having them follow and do without hesitation is one gesture that proves their little minds are working well with the English language. Expecting a child that is still in the beginning works of learning their own language to all of a sudden be able to produce full sentences in a second language is a high standard. So dropping that standard down to making sure students can point to or pick up an item that you say to them is a major accomplishment, and one that can be easily measured given enough time with your students.
Tips for a Successful Kindergarten Teaching
For some teachers, the turn off of teaching Kinders isn’t due to their cognitive development as much as it’s their maturity levels. Little kids are full of energy and emotions, two things that can make some teachers, understandably, uncomfortable. There are tips and tricks to getting kinder students to use their energy in a positive way and to distract them from getting too emotional. Making age appropriate games that last no more than eight minutes is key. The most productive games that Kinders need to learn with are games that involve touching, picking up, moving or doing crafts. These games don’t have to be a ‘new creation’ either! A good activity is to put flashcards around the room, draw or show animals to the children and ask them to pretend to be that animal. Once the students have mimicked each animal, say a flashcard or word that’s around the room with an animal and have the students, and yourself, walk to that flashcard as the animal while saying the word. Simple, fun, and it’s teaching the students the target vocabulary as well as extra words because of the introduction of animals. It’s a win, win situation that takes little to no effort on the teacher’s part. And to see how cute the students are when they get the chance to play and pretend to be an animal will warm even the coldest of hearts.
Interactive Classroom Activities
Getting students up and moving while being silly will help with the excess energy they have but doing crafts will allow students to excel in their own personal ways. This is where curbing the emotional side of them takes place. Allowing students to do something hands on, like coloring or creating an animal masks, you’re getting the children to settle down and show you their creative side. Attaching these projects to a book, vocabulary, or songs that you just learned together as a class will help solidify the target language in their heads. Not only did they just learn colors, they learned how to make a paper plate rainbow!
Crafts are a great tool to help ensure that the students at least attempt to continue their English skills outside of the classroom. When they leave your class with a craft they will more than likely want to tell their parents as soon as they step out the door. The parents, in return, will ask the students to tell them about their craft using the English words that they learned with it. This is giving the student practice outside the classroom that will only develop into a stronger understanding of the language inside the classroom.
Rewards of Teaching Kindergartners
I know most of us, as new teachers, crave the understanding and speaking level of older students but that shouldn’t make us want to shy away from those students that are just learning the basics. With time, patience, and a lot of activities, kinder students can turn out to be some of the best students you’ve ever had the pleasure of teaching. And depending on how long you stick with your school, seeing that development as the months and years go on is a very enriching experience. Plus, how do you think those older students became so confident and knowledgeable of the English language? A good kinder teacher taught them their basics.