Motivating Young Children to Learn English: Keeping Their Attention without Giving Them Gifts
By Shelley Vernon
Young children are often eager, almost too eager. The problem arises when they are eager to do things other than what you're trying to teach them. Here are five tips to keep them interested in class and motivated to do what you want them to do:
Tip #1: Keep Yourself Motivated.
Think back to when you were a child. If your teacher was not enthusiastic about what he or she had scheduled for class that day, how did you feel about it? It's the same with young children today. If you, the teacher and often a role model for younger children, think this is a neat activity, then they will too!
Tip #2: Encourage.
Young kids thrive on praise and positive attention from the adults in their lives. If you want them to like you and be motivated in your class, you often just need to give them a lot of positive attention.
Tip #3: Play Games
Children learn through play. Oftentimes they don't even realize they are learning if they are enjoying the game. Just think, children could sit there and fill out worksheet after worksheet or they could play an English game and learn the same concepts. Which would you rather do?
When I say English games I'm talking about games that are specifically designed to teach language and vocabulary. For example, you could turn using vehicle vocabulary into a relay game where children need to pick a card with a word and then run to a box of vehicles (or a stack of pictures of vehicles) and bring the correct one his or her classmates.
Here is another example: If you might normally give them a worksheet to write the correct verb next to the picture illustrating the action, have them instead practice their verbs by doing the action for the word you say or the word on a card that you hold up. Likewise, you could do the action and have them write down the word. You may access free samples of fun classroom games in the resource box below.
When you play games, you can use points and competition as a motivator, but not for kids under six who may find the competition too stressful. For them, just playing the game is motivating enough. You can also sometimes award extra credit, but use it sparingly so that it remains "extra" and a special reward. Also if you use it too much, children can have so much extra credit that it sways the actual grades too much.
Tip #4: Get Their Hands Dirty
Literally and figuratively. Children like to work with their hands and whatever you can do to get the items they are learning about in their hands is useful and fun for them. This can be anything from having a sensory table filled with sand and beach items when you want to teach them summer words to having them each bring in a piece of fruit when you are teaching fruit words. Anytime you can get young children up and doing instead of listening (often passively) you are getting their hands dirty in the learning process.
Tip #5: Get Them Moving.
Movement is a vital component to motivating children. The best way to prevent children from zoning out is to get them up out of their seats at least once each class period. Even if you just require them to come up to you instead of you going to them for help, the movement can help get them out of the trance that they sometimes get from sitting in one spot too long. Grouping the children for study projects and activities helps as well. If you can, let them move the desks around or sit on the floor to change things up as well. Many games involve movement without the children needing to leave their seats, such as miming, moving certain body parts and passing things around as part of a game or race. Therefore even teachers with large classes and no space to move can use this technique, albeit to a more limited degree.
Tip #6: Vary the Pace
Alternate calm games with lively ones to keep the children alert and motivated, but without letting the class get out of hand. Good discipline is essential to effective learning.
To read the full article on how to motivate children to want to learn English, please see the articles and tips section on the teachingenglishgames.com website in the resource box below.
About the Author
Shelley Vernon has inspired thousands of esl teachers with her games. Get her free games now to make your teaching fun and improve the effectiveness of your lessons by up to 80%. Receive the free games now! Teaching English Games website
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