How to teach English as a second language in the classroom
- Use lots of visuals
Images are great for supporting learning. For example, a child may not understand that the word ‘pencil’ means pencil, but they recognize what a picture of a pencil is. By combining text with images, children can develop their understanding better. And pictures also add some color to your classroom, making it more interesting and a better learning environment.
- Keep it simple
It is especially important when dealing with beginners. Try to keep sentences simple so learners can develop their knowledge, and then you can build on it. You could, for example, ensure their understanding of simple instructions you’ll be using in class. These could be ‘stop and listen’ or ‘put your pens down. These short but informative requests are much simpler to understand than ‘can everybody please stop what they’re doing and listen’ or ‘stop your writing and put your pens down on the table.
- Keep it fun
We learn more when we’re having fun. The more engaged we are in a task, the more we’re bound to pick up. And finding fun in the classroom can be easy, and it doesn’t mean slacking off from learning.
- Use role-play
Role-play is a fantastic way to develop your learners’ speaking skills and confidence. By giving them various role-play scenarios, learners can create and practice their different vocabulary in fun ways. And role-play can also be useful for those just watching. If certain learners don’t feel confident enough to get up in front of their class and pretend to be a customer in a cafe, they can still pick up speaking tips from watching their classmates do it.
- Mix it up
Learning in just one way quickly leads to children becoming disinterested, disengaged, and disgusted (just kidding, but I couldn’t think of another ‘dis’ to add). By using different formats for learning, whether that be worksheets, games, or PowerPoints, learners will stay stimulated.
- Use technology
Technology has quickly become man’s best friend over recent years, and it should also become a teacher’s best friend! Technology is a great way to get children engaged in a lesson. With so many apps, interactive games, and platforms, there are lots for a teacher to choose from to use in their lessons.
- Debate, debate, debate
Using debates can be a fantastic way for your children to develop their speaking skills, persuasive language skills, and so much more. They can also be really fun activities to get involved in. Choose a topic you know children will be able to give their opinion on- food is always a good one for this. Pasta or pizza? Sweet or savory? Split your class in two, and let them fight to the death! Just kidding- but they can argue as persuasively as they can for their point of view.
- Use stories
Books are a great way for learners to develop their language skills. Stories allow children to use their imagination, picturing impossible places and people, creating a sense of adventure and fun. So using this to help teach language can be brilliantly beneficial for learning.
- Use verbal and written instructions
If you’re setting a task, don’t just explain it verbally to learners or write it down on the board. Use both so learners can get used to seeing something written down and hearing it verbally. It is great for helping them learn pronunciation and spelling.
- Use English holidays
Using English holidays can be a fantastic way to create a fun classroom environment. Whether you look at Christmas, Halloween, or Valentine’s Day, you can find resources to support your teaching on that topic. It can give children a chance also to get creative and explore other cultures.
How to teach a child English at home
Teaching English at home as a parent presents its unique challenges. But encouraging children in their own homes is a great way to develop their language skills further- children tend to mirror their parents’ behavior, so learning English together can be a great way for children to learn language skills.
Many of the above tips are also great to use at home, but if you’re looking for more advice on teaching a child English at home, check out these top tips below.
- Use everyday things
The great thing about learning at home is that you’re not restricted to a classroom and set lessons. That means learning English can happen anywhere in your home, and integrating this into everyday things can be beneficial. As you put your child’s dinner plate in front of them, for example, saying things like ‘here is your dinner’ can help them grasp these everyday phrases.
- Initiating conversation
Just like using everyday things, it can be a good idea to ask simple questions. It could be things like ‘could you set the table?’ or ‘what are you watching?’ It is a good way to engage your child in conversation, helping their language development in a natural setting.
- Include English-speaking time
Setting a certain amount of time aside dedicated to speaking English can be useful. It gives children a chance to focus on their speaking skills and language. You could do this for ten minutes daily, as this motivates children to try and communicate in English.
- Use games
There are so many great educational games that it can be easy to make learning not even seem like learning. There are lots of easy games that help develop language skills that children will also thoroughly enjoy. Just try to keep these games simple- if they’re too complex to understand, children aren’t going to enjoy them, and they aren’t going to learn from them.
- Make use of resources
Teaching English can be a challenging task, and you don’t have to do it entirely on your own. There are many fantastic resources out there to help support educators teaching English, including home educators. These are a great way to support your child’s learning and give you a helping hand.
- Set a routine
It can be harder to have structured learning at home than in a classroom, especially because children expect learning at school but see the home as a place to relax. It doesn’t mean you should set out hours upon hours of sessions at home, drilling down vocabulary and grammar. It could mean setting aside ten minutes before tea to play an English game. Or choosing an English story to read before bed.
- Keep them talking
If children are only at a beginner level, they will find it difficult to initiate conversations in English. That means that it’s on you to keep them talking and developing their speaking skills. Ask them questions while they work or complete tasks to keep them engaged in the language.
- Use songs
Are you pitch-perfect? No? Never mind then! (Just kidding.) Songs can be a great way to engage children in learning, and they’re also excellent for helping memory recall. Remember that song that played on the radio last week that you can’t get out of your head? Well, this should hopefully work in the same way for your children. Songs can be a great way to help children remember vocabulary.
- Make use of your setting
You have a unique setting when teaching your child English at home- so use it! It can be particularly useful when covering topics such as food, clothes, or the house, where you have items readily available to support learning.
If you want to develop your food vocabulary, take the lesson to the fridge! See if your child can name its contents. If you’re going to focus on clothes vocabulary, take a trip to your wardrobe! This kind of interactive learning would be great for children as it’s easier to engage with than out-of-context teaching.
- Use their interests
One way to get children interested in their language development is by using topics they’re interested in. For example, if they like reading, choose an English book together. If they love art, research some English artists and develop their artistic English vocabulary. Then, find something that they love and incorporate it.