Fernanda Vicente has been teaching English for 10 years and recently completed her Teaching Young Learners course with us. She works with children, teenagers and adults. She has an extension course by FAFE-USP on English teaching for children and holds a TKT certificate. In this blog post she explains her top five things she wishes she’d known when she started teaching children.
I can still remember the first time I stepped into a classroom as a teacher. I was young and had no experience at all working with children. But there was one thing I had plenty of: a strong desire to learn and to be the best teacher I could for my students. There are so many things I wish I’d known back then, that I am sure would have helped me make my classes more fun and more meaningful for my little ones.
With this in mind, I’ve come up with some tips for new Young Learner Teachers, in order to help them prepare for the challenges and joys of teaching kids.
- Use songs
Songs are such an effective way to teach language to children. They help with the memorization of the words, the assimilation of the structures they’ve learned; and above all… they are fun! It is a good idea to add some movements to go along with the lyrics. You can create these yourself or even ask the students to create them. By doing this, you will make them feel part of the creation process and stimulate their creativity. Many course books have their own songs, which can save us time. However, there are also a wide range of great songs on YouTube®. Alternatively you are a creative person yourself, why not write some chants of your own?
- Don’t underestimate the importance of routine
Children need routine and that is just a fact. They feel safer, more organized and this will even help you with classroom management. Keep in mind, however, that routine doesn’t happen overnight. It is a process and you are the one in charge. The lesson has to follow steps that are clear to the students and with time, they will start to notice these steps and even help you follow them. For example, if you start all your lessons with a game, they will come to class knowing that as soon as you arrive, they have to be prepared for the game. Having a routine doesn’t mean doing the same activity every class, though. This will be boring and students will lose their interest in class. We need to keep them wondering “What game will we play today?” or “What song will we sing today?”.
- Tell stories
Storytelling is one of my favorite things in the world. I am a bookworm myself! Since I was a little girl my mom used to read me books and tell me amazing stories. This is why I put in a lot of effort every time I have a storytelling moment with my students. I like to provide a comfortable place for them to be and before telling the story, I try to get them in the mood of the moment by making them curious about the story they are about to read. Storytelling is almost acting. It becomes a lot more fun and interesting for them if we change voices and act out. They will feel as if they were inside the book.
- Believe in your students
When I started teaching I was always afraid that my students wouldn’t be able to do some things on their own. So, I ended up doing things for them that they could easily have done themselves. Most often, that just made me feel a lot more tired by the end of the class and deprived them of the opportunity of learning how to be more independent. I have since learned that, if we trust our students, they can really go beyond our expectations. That changed my teaching life. Now, whenever we have to do something, I show them what to do, I give them the right tools and I let them know that I will be there the whole time in case they need me. They feel proud of themselves when they manage to do it alone and so do I.
- Be kind and love what you do
All of the things I’ve just said won’t make any difference if you don’t love teaching or if you are not kind to your students. Smile at them, look into their eyes, listen to them, consider what they have to say and show them that they matter. Creating a bond with your students will make everything lighter and easier for you. Besides, once you love what you do you will never want to stop learning and you will just get better every day.