Could you introduce yourself and tell us about your job?
My name is Cutenekko, and I am a Children's EFL teacher. I teach children from the age of 1 to elementary school, 6th grade. The students I teach only attend one 50 minute lesson per week.
What are your key points for teaching English to children?
Phonics are very important. I use phonics as a warm-up; this skill practiced weekly, eases students into reading, writing and spelling English better.
Children like to be stimulated in a variety of ways, so I think using pictures, CDs, videos and realia are all very important in the classroom.
The final key point is not to speak "baby talk" nor simplify your English too much. You should treat the child as if they understand you, and also present ways for the child to respond to you. At first, it will be in their native language, but soon, your efforts will shine through. No matter what age or level my students are, I always take the first 5-10 minutes of every lesson just to talk--about school/kindergarten, holidays that passed by, or some small news. Students seem very excited about discussing things they know about and want to share with you.
What are some ideas you have for encouraging Japanese parents to reinforce the English their children learn in class?
This is where I am a bad teacher. I don't ask parents to reinforce English at home. But, if I were a GOOD teacher I would say these things:
-Watch an English language DVD at home with your child.
-Listen to English CDs in your car--perfect when you are driving to other classes or school!
-Talk to your child about what s/he learned in the English class. Ask your child to point out new words for you. One mother became very excited when her 3 year old son taught her "cucumber". The mother did not know this word in English, but was so happy her son did!
-Even if you don't like English, pretend you do. Children watch their parents carefully. If the parent has no interest in learning a language, why would your child be interested too? My mother couldn't figure skate, but she came and sat in a freezing cold rink every time I had a 2-hour practice as a child. She took an interest!
-If your child is older, why not ask your child to TEACH you? Children love to act older, so why not give them the opportunity to do so? This will also provide a perfect chance for your child to review what s/he learned in the class.
-Read a book to your child in English. Or if s/he is older, try to read and discuss it together.
-Learn a few phrases for use in the home: "Do your homework", "wash your hands", "brush your teeth", "pack up your things". Any simple, phrase that both parents and children often hear will do.
-If you are very keen, try to create an "English Time" or "English Zone" in the home. It could be just 30 mins. a week, but family members all do something, together, in English. Watch a movie without the subtitles, play a game, make a cake--try to communicate in English.
In addition to those ideas, what types of supplemental language resources would you recommend to parents?
- In Japan, there are several English shows for children: Eigorian, Eigo de Asobu, Sesame Street and also Shirojiro-kun.
- I like "Wee Sing" Children's Songs and Fingerplays (CD), and anything by the Wiggles.
- For books, I use Dr. Suess, and some graded readers--Let's Go series published by Oxford is great. Flash cards, posters, and spelling games are fun.
- I like Junior Boggle and Scrabble.
- Picture Dictionaries are very useful, and can be used for review or mini-lessons at home.
- My older students all seem to love Harry Potter and comic books....perhaps you could try to read simplified versions?
- I have always wanted to try a field trip in English to the zoo or an aquarium. Children and adults loves these places...why not have fun and learn animal names in English? Scavenger hunts are great fun, and why not try a sporting event in English?
- My kindergarten students loved learning and playing "Hide-and-Seek"!
Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Children have very different needs when it comes to learning. Some enjoy singing songs, others enjoy writing or reading. It's best to find out what style your child enjoys, and incorporate that into his/ her learning. Finally, patience and reinforcement are keys to your child's success.
Thanks, Cutenekko, for taking the time to share your experiences and ideas with us! You have some great ideas for parents, teachers, and kids!