Teaching English to young learners is a challenging task that needs to be handled properly by professional teachers if it is to be successful. In my fourteen-year experience, I could observe the learning behaviour of about 400 young learners.
As teachers we should take into account the young learners’ characteristics. Their abilities of abstract reasoning and paying attention are limited. Therefore, our teaching methods have to be concrete and varied enough. Activities should be short and attractive because these students have a short attention span and they are easily distracted. They do not comprehend abstract ideas, such as grammar so if we want to introduce a language pattern to them we should present it in context.
We have to deal with topics children find familiar, such as family, friends, school life etc. We should also take into account their learning styles. Children learn in different ways, using their favourite learning styles. Visual learners learn best if they see what is happening and link that to their understanding. On the other hand, auditory learners will need to hear the input, while kinesthetic learners will learn best if the learning involves physical movement. Learners shoul use all their senses as the more stimuli they get the more facts they are able to remember.
Motivation is one of the major factors of second foreign language learning achievement. Young learners motivation is largely derived from a desire to perform well on tasks in order to please the teacher or their parents who want them to learn the language. They do not have a personal reason for studying English so our main goal is to provide them with activities that motivate them intrinsically. They do not comprehend how important these classes can be.
Therefore, we should encourage them to develop an interest in learning English. As teachers, we should use a variety of attractive activities in order to initiate and maintain students’ motivation. We have to use appropriate materials and personalise whether possible. Children need to feel that they are making progress, they need continual encouragement as well as praise for good performance, because any success motivates. They should be confident in their ability to do well in their schoolwork.
Young learners should be exposed to English as much as possible. They learn a language best when they are exposed to the language that is relevant to their needs and interests. As teachers, we should provide examples of the language in use, and any support to the learners.
Learners should be encouraged to practise communicating during all stages of the learning process, including the beginning stages. In my practice as a teacher of English, I have noticed that my students enjoy taking part in communicative activities rather than studying a grammatical pattern.
In general, young learners have positive attitude towards language learning, they are enthusiastic and interested in the subject.