Feb 8, 2018

Teaching Kids: A Brief Beginner's Guide

Teaching Kids: A Brief Beginner's Guide photo
Here I am World! Teach me some ENGLISH....if you dare!

Those without parenting or child-caring experience may find this idea of teaching children especially challenging, much as I did upon my arrival to Japan, at which point I had taught teenagers, and only teenagers. I had never even baby sat! Yet here I am, almost a decade later, eager to start a new teaching adventure at yet another kindergarten. Here is what I've learned.

The Young Ones

For kids under five, the attention span is pretty limited, so even if there is a text component of the class, make sure to break up the activities with songs or games at regular intervals. Starting with a "Hello" song can be a good way to go and Youtube and iTunes are good resources for these. Pick one and stick with it, including some fun but easy gestures, and before you know it, the kids will be following along and singing it back to you. A good rule of thumb is about five minutes per activity, then changing to something else, alternating calm (sitting, listening) activities with more active ones.

Use the Text and Repeat

If the parents or school have decided on a textbook, it is important to work with them. Keep in mind though that merely getting to the next section of the book does not guarantee the child or children have actually learned anything. Remember to review what you've covered in previous lessons and find ways to pull the grammar or lesson point from the book into simple, repetitive games that force the student(s) to use the topic of the lesson in order to play. Even tic-tac-toe can work for this in small or private classes.


Today's lesson target: using "like" with gerunds (I like watching TV, etc.). We've gone over the sample text and made a few examples of our own. The student has been receptive and is capable of making their own examples. I draw the hash-mark for tic-tac-toe and demonstrate by going first. "I like eating ice cream." I say, drawing an X or O in my chosen space, urging the student to follow suit. Depending on the effectiveness of the examples and interest of the student, I may choose to draw out the game to a tie or let them win and move on to a new topic and/or more challenging game. The more games you have at your disposal, the greater the chances of finding one the kid is interested in and thereby tricking them into using whatever the lesson topic is in a fun and creative way. Game sections at the 100 yen store are a great resource for this.

Teenage Drama

If the child you're starting lessons with is a bit older, things can be a bit more challenging in other ways. The trick with teens is to find out what they are into and get them to talk about whatever that is in English. Being able to share what you love is great incentive to finding a way to communicate and encourages fluency a lot more than textbook memorization.

Getting kids to use, understand and enjoy more of this silly foreign language should be the main goals of the class. However you find to make that happen, good job and good luck!



A working mom/writer/teacher, Jessica explores her surroundings in Miyagi-ken and Tohoku, enjoying the fun, quirky, and family friendly options the area has to offer.