Teaching very young learners, those considered to be between three and five years old, may be a challenge because of many reasons. To start with, it is usually very hard to keep these learners 100% concentrated. They may easily feel bored and you will have to find a way to keep them focused. In addition, an EFL or ESL teacher will find it daunting teaching a language to very young learners in the same way older learners are taught.
Characteristics of very young learners
- They need to feel safe.
- They have short concentration span.
- They need concrete experiences in order to understand.
- Their first language is still developing.
- Their writing and reading skills are still rudimentary.
- They are readily engaged in play.
Tips to teach very young learners
- Young learners need a lot of recycling and repetition.
- They cannot comprehend abstract ideas, so go for concrete examples, practical instances of language in use to be able to understand them and reproduce them.
- Younger learners need to be taught meaningful English.
- It is useless to teach them grammar since they still struggle with grammar in their mother tongue.
- It is preferable to help very young learners to memorize whole chunks rather than go into detailed descriptions of structures.
- Teaching chunks of language in context may be a great idea.
- Using songs, games, fairy tales, stories, short conversations, dance, play… provide good exposure to language.
- Using a lot of visual aids, colors and music can be fun and enhance retention.
- Focus must be on fluency rather on accuracy.
- Very young learners need to learn by doing. Use of their motor skills to cut out shapes and glue them might be fun and helpful to L2 acquisition.