ESL tips and games for young children
March 16, 2013 12:29 PM   Subscribe

I am teaching English to a 4 and a 7 year old (separately) and I am looking for tips, games, ipad apps, or resources.

I've been working through Azar's Basic English Grammar with the 7 year old but I'd like something more fun to supplement with. Also, what would be a good longer term goal for him to work towards?

I've just been working on the alphabet with the 4 year old. He's got the uppercase down and will hopefully soon be able to do the lowercase on his own. What else is essential for his age?
posted by saul wright to Education (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'm generally not one to recommend anything electronic for young children, but among the other things you do, you might try some cartoons with the four year-old so he/she gets familiar with the sounds of the language. After all, cartoons are very engaging to young children, and a four year-old can quite easily learn through absorption as opposed to being taught. But of course repetition is important - just seeing something once isn't going to have a lot of benefit. The other thing that would seem to be very important is lots of interaction with other children who are native English speakers, again especially for the four year-old.
posted by Dansaman at 2:52 PM on March 16, 2013

Mrs. 1367 teaches English Language Learners, and has this recommendation:

"For the 4 year old: My daughter loves and recognizes many letters and can produce a few (she turned 2 this week). There is a curriculum and a "more starfall" that you pay for -- or the whole 26 letter alphabet and 2-3 activities in many other areas are free. On the ABC page, my daughter doesn't have the muscle control to work the mouse effectively yet, but can recognize the keys on the keyboard and the arrow key. We parents have to be with her to help, but are thinking of ordering the paid starfall program once she can control the mouse herself. On the reading pages, the first book has a read aloud section you click on the ear icon, but you also click on the page to see the action happening. My daughter prefers the Greek Myth of the Trojan horse and the Quotations from Shakespeare. For a free program, there is a ton of stuff, but you can see that there are parts grayed out that you'd be able to get if you pay for it."
posted by 1367 at 4:52 PM on March 16, 2013

What are your aims here?

From my experience, a key skill is for the kid to learn to speak freely, not worrying so much about mistakes that they cease to talk. They can add correct grammar etc later. And these ones are still young enough to be good at learning languages through listening, without much formal grammar instruction. It is very sad to meet teenagers who know the rules of grammar perfectly well but have no confidence to open their mouths and speak. Your teaching seems to be more text-based -- do you have a reason for that?

A key part of teaching is keeping the kids wanting more. I don't know what these kids' motivation is, but I would take care to add in plenty of fun stuff. Presumably this instruction is at the parents' requests. So do include things that will please the parents, like loving things to say to a mother, grandmother etc.

I would read ordinary small kids' books with the four-year-old, and teach them other vocabulary as they play with their toys. If you are not teaching them at their home, encourage them to bring favourite toys for the two of you to talk about. You can fix up toy roads or a toy shop with a minimum of props. Are they into singing nursery rhymes and kids' songs? They may not be tiptop for language learning, but they are a help in creating a shared background with English-speaking kids. They also add to the fun element to keep the kid wanting more.

For the older kid, looking at age-appropriate picture encylopedias together would probably help. Again, get them talking about the things that interest them -- get them to bring something that they like for the two of you to talk about. Becoming very comfortable with numbers is a useful part of foreign language instruction. There are plenty of number-based games you can play. I would keep the workbook work to the minimum that is compatible with the parents thinking they are getting value for money. You don't want the kid to see your lessons as extra schoolwork and a form of unfair treatment compared with others in their school. What is a sensible aim for a 7-year-old? i would have thought lots of child-type vocabulary. As you talk to them, a rudimentary sense of grammar will grow.

You could maybe get the older child to make flashcards for the younger one when they are ready to read. Meaningful practice in English. Can you find them an English-speaking penfriend? As Dansaman says, playing with English-speaking kids would be great if it can be arranged.

If the parents are not confident in their own English, is interpreting going to be a valuable skill for the kids? How urgent is this need? Do you need to act out scenarios, with the older one in particular?

I agree with Dansaman that hearing English in cartoons etc is useful. i wouldn't generally take up lesson-time with them, but encouraging the parents to put on English-language videos every day would help both kids.

Sorry, it is late here, and this is getting more disjointed. What will the kids' future schooling offer them in the way of English instruction? How can you work with that, so they are not bored to tears by the first year of school teaching?

Really, it would help to know more about which country the kids are in, to know more about their likely needs and your likely access to resources.
posted by Idcoytco at 5:14 PM on March 16, 2013

Response by poster: More information:

The country is Chile. The 7 year old has an English class at school as well and sometimes I help him with homework. I talk to them a lot while we are do fun things (play futbol, do origami, etc) but I want at least part of the time to be focused work instead of just talk or play. The parents speak pretty good English although the nannies only speak Spanish and my Spanish isn't great so they are doing some translating. I am teaching at their home. I bring an ipad to class (the grammar book is a pdf on there) and we've practiced some reading on there as well. I am trying to make sure they are making progress while making the classes fun for them as well.

Thanks for the help so far!
posted by saul wright at 6:19 PM on March 16, 2013

I taught summer private lessons to a 7-year-old who was attending an English school during the year. I asked her to read to me, and we were able to work on her reading skills, pronunciation, and vocabulary in an enjoyable way. Depending on the 7-year-old's level, a good goal to work towards might be reading a whole chapter book.
posted by snorkmaiden at 8:57 AM on March 17, 2013

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