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Teaching Young Learners

Posts on the ins and outs of Teaching Young Learners

Showing posts with label How to teach English to kids. Show all posts
Showing posts with label How to teach English to kids. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Teaching Routines Saves Time and Headaches

Sometimes I have noticed in English learning classrooms the lack of classroom management especially in classes where the teacher is there only once or twice a week.  You have so little time that you are in a hurry to get started teaching English.  The problem is that the time you gain by starting right away is wasted by misbehavior and interruptions.  In his post "How to Teach Routines," Michael Linsin states that "Anything you ask your students to do repeatedly should be made into a routine."

I have found the hard way that taking the time to teach students routines is an invaluable time saver in the long run and it saves you lots of headaches in classroom management.  This summer in our Summer Camp we had rotations at the end of the day and I had to teach one lesson to two other classes as well as my own class.  My class was not a problem because we had spent time setting rules, modeling routines, getting to know each other, but the first day a new class of students came in for rotations I decided to skip any of that since we only had about 20 minutes for each rotation.  Well, needless to say, I had problems with misbehavior within the first five minutes of class.  I had to spend the rest of the class calling students attention over and over again.

The next time we had rotations I was a bit nervous these students were 13 and 14 and there was a group of them that loved to show off in front of each other.  But this time I was prepared to go over the rules and establish some basic routines.  When they came in I received them at the door and directed them to sit on the carpet, instead of allowing them to sit in any desk.  I then went over the rules and modeled some routines. I asked students to then model what they thought I was asking them to do.  When they seemed to be clear I told them they were allowed to pick their own seat, but that if they were not following the rules they would be promptly moved.  It took me about 10 minutes to do all this and the rest of the class went so smooth that when their teacher came to pick them up she couldn't believe it was her class.  The following weeks went just as smooth.

Obviously in a school year class you have to spend more time establishing routines.  If you are using Cooperative Learning the time required to teach routines is more extensive.  At my primary school we used to take about two to three weeks to establish routines and model the expected behaviors.  This doesn't mean we were not teaching the regular lessons while we did this, but all lessons taught were targeted to establish classroom routines. If you only have the students once or twice a week take the first two to three weeks to establish classroom routines and create a good classroom atmosphere it will pay back ten-fold in time saved and class productivity.

If you are teaching Infantil where the students are not reading yet take some pictures of students modeling the correct behavior and some not doing the correct behavior and post these so they are visible to students.  If you are moving from room to room you can make posters that you can take to each class. If you can use tacks to post the posters get sticky tape.  It sticks to the board and comes off clean.

Teaching adults will take less time to establish routines, but it is also necessary.  Sometimes adults students can be very chatty or they ask you a question and start chatting among themselves without giving you a chance to answer. Given that most adults taking classes also have jobs, sometimes tardiness can become a problem.  Establish routines of how they should come in so that you minimize class disruptions.

What strategies do you use to establish routines in your English classes.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Using Eric Carle books to Teach English

One great way to teach Young Learner's English and make it both enriching and more effective is to teach with Children's Literature.  Of course you have to adapt the Literature you use to your ELL students level.  If your students are in 4th of primary or lower, one great author to use is Eric Carle.  His books have highly predictable text which helps develop vocabulary and at the same time help comprehension.

His most well known books "The Hungry Caterpillar" and "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See" have been helping children in the United States learn since the 60's.

In the book "Slowly, slowly, slowly,' said the Sloth" the adverb slowly is repeated throughout the book giving the teacher a chance to have the ELL students, after a first reading, join in choraling the repeating text.  Although the text is predictable it is not by any means uninteresting, the students can learn a wide English vocabulary that is beautifully illustrated.  Plus like in all of Eric's books it gives ELL children a message in a way that they can understand.

Check Eric's Official Website for more information on his great books. There is also a Caterpillar Exchange where with ideas for using Carle's books in your classroom. And if you become a Carle fan here is a link to his Blog.

One activity I often do with my students after reading his books is to make a drawing of their favorite part of the book. Depending the age of the students I can simply ask them to copy a title for their illustration. If they are older and able to write more I ask them to write a sentence or two about their favorite part.  Depending on their English level I sometimes give them a writing prompt such as "My favorite part of "Title" was_______________.  If their English level is higher I ask them to tell me why.  I've used this effectively with children from 3 to 6th grade.

Please share some fun ways you use Carle's or other children's books to teach Young Learner's English.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Creating a Safe and Fun Classroom Environment

Teaching English to Adults was new to me, so when I first started I was a bit nervous. I knew that many Spanish Adults although they might have a high level in reading and grammar did not feel as confident in speaking and listening. Therefore I relied on what I knew about teaching children and decided to use some of those same concepts to create a safe and fun classroom environment where they would be comfortable taking risks to speak.

Establish an atmosphere of Mutual Respect
Being prepared for my classes was essential to showing my students that I respected the time they took from their busy schedules to come to class. Respecting their time to answer questions.  Sometimes we are in such a hurry to cover the material we have prepared that we don't give our students enough wait time for them to formulate their answers. Correcting them respectfully and knowing my students enough to know who I could correct publicly and who I couldn't.  I also let my students know that they have a say in what we cover in class. I have them turn in questions on a sheet of paper the size of a post-it note and then go over the answer with them at the beginning of the next class or if it is something the whole class can benefit from I do a short lesson at the beginning of the next class.

Establish Goals from the Beginning
At the beginning of the term I have them establish goals for themselves and celebrate with them when they have reached them.  One of my students goals was to be able to go on a trip and rely on her English speaking abilities to get around.  This past week she went on a trip, she told me that it was the first time that she had gone on a trip where she had to be in charge of the communication and that she was able to do it because her friend did not speak English.  She shared it with the class and we all congratulated her.

Modify Your Lessons
They also know that I am willing to modify lessons if the lesson is not working for them.  I was teaching ed endings for regular verbs one time and they were just not getting it I told them we would go on to something else and I would go back to the drawing board and we would try another time.  When we tried again with some manipulatives where they had to figure out what patterns determine what sound to use the lesson went a lot smoother and I have seen some definite improvement.

Laugh
Laught at yourself when you make mistakes.  Make it OK to make mistakes. I was teaching the prepositions "in, at and on" and I misread a sentence and thought it said "The roses are in the field", it turns out it was Horses and not Roses, so the proposition should be on the field and we all laughed.  One of my students the other day said "my girlfriends" and I asked "Does your girlfriend know you have more than one. He started laughing and said "Oh, I am glad she wasn't here to hear me," and then we all laughed with him. We have fun together and it makes it easier for them to let go and make mistakes because they are practicing more.

Go the Extra Mile
Finally go the extra mile.  Since the class started I have been emailing them different links for them to improve their listening and comprehension.  Directing them to resources that are available to them, so that they continue to make progress.  I also push them to do their best to improve their level and constantly make comments on their improvements. My greatest reward is to see them make progress and they know that.

The other day when my boss came to observe, she said that they were speaking a lot more than she expected for an Lower Intermediate class, I thought about it and realized how far they have come.


Improving Response to Literature for YL

When I taught 4th graders they had to prepare for the California State writing test. Since the genre of the test changed every year we had to make sure students where prepared for Narrative and Response to Literature.  The test was in January and I knew that the students wouldn't be ready if I just did a unit on Response to Literature.  So what I did was to teach each them part of a good response to literature and then created a form that covered all the areas of a good response and distributed each part for each weekday.  Students had to read 30 minutes per night, so I had them do a short response every night.  We first practiced with the form in class for a week and then I sent it home with them.  This really helped them be prepared when we finally did the Response to Literature unit and they were ready for the test.

Later when I moved to 1st grade I adapted it so that it could still target the same RL parts but at their level.  This was really successful it not only helped with their comprehension, but as time went by, their responses got longer and their writing improved.  Their confidence when we did read-alouds also improved because they new what character traits were, setting, connections, what they like or not about the reading and were able to do a retell of the story.

On Monday I had them work on Character Traits. I simplified it by having them draw what the character looked like, then I taught them different adjectives they could use to describe a character and each time we read a book they chose one character trait and made a sentence explaining why they thought the character had that trait.  I taught them setting, so on Tuesdays the form asked them to draw the setting with as much details as they could draw and write about the connections they could make to the book they were reading. Wednesday was the day to draw a picture of their favorite part of the book and write what they liked or not about the book and explain why or why not.

Then on Thursdays they wrote a Summary about what had happened in the story.  At the beginning of the year I would have a space for Beginning, Middle and End of the story.  Then as they got better at it I took that out and had them just write a Summary.  For more advanced students who were reading longer books I had them adapted to the part they had read so far that week.

Now I am using it with my bilingual/binational students who are 2nd and 3rd graders, but since they do not attend an all English school and we only meet once a week I am using the simpler form, but they have been making great strides although they had not worked with any of the RL parts in the past.

I have the students keep them in a binder so that we can go back and see the progress they have made in their writing, drawing and responses.  If you are interested in getting a PDF of the file please email me.

Read Write Think-Excellent Young English Learner Site


I am always looking for ways to use online resources to teach English to kids. I discovered the Read Write Think website when I was teaching my 3rd grade English learners.  The first section I started using was their Letter generator because learning the parts of a friendly letter was a 3rd grade standard in California.

Read Write Think has many such online activities that are easy for kids learning english to practice their English language skills. One that I have also used effectively with my ELL's is the Comic Generator to practice Dialogue.  My students also used it to practice different grammar exercises.  For example we used it to practice have to, must and have got to.  When they finish kids can print their comic strips to share with the class or save them as a PDF’s and email them to you.  These are just two of the many interactives that are available in this site.

For teachers teaching English the site also has Lesson Plans and a wonderful section for Professional Development with Guides for Persuasive Writing, Choral Reading, Making Connections and many more.  Additionally the site has webinars and E-workshops for many strategies.

Check it out it is a wonderful resource for teaching English to kids and come back and share some of the ways that you or Young Learners have used it.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Raz Kids Online Reading


I've been using Raz Kids with my students for a few years now with nothing but positive results.  I have now started using it with my adult ESL students with great results also.  At first I was not sure if the adults would like the stories because they are targeted to children, but up to now none of them seem to mind.  They love the fact that they can read at their level.  The other feature of Raz Kids that my ELL students love is being able to listen to the stories while they read them.  Since listening skills are what most of my students have difficulty with Raz Kids gives them excellent practice on this.  It is also an excellent way of practicing the correct pronunciation of words.
Words are highlighted in red as they are read out loud.
COMPREHENSION
The comprehension part of Raz Kids is also a great feature, because it makes students responsible for what they are reading.  It tests vocabulary, recall, inference, details and more.  Students have to get 100% on the quizzes in order to move up to the next reading level.  The non-fiction comprehension tests are pretty challenging.

LEVELED BOOKS
The differentiated reading instruction of Raz Kids animated leveled books is invaluable.  The levels available start from AA through Z level.  AA level is for beginning readers and the Z level is for fluent readers with higher comprehension skills (5th grade native English speakers)  Each level has about ten books both fiction and non-fiction.  Students can: Listen to books for modeled fluency.  Read books with pronunciation and vocabulary support.  Words that may be higher than the students level are clickable and Raz Kids can either read the word out loud or in higher levels give them a definition of the word.

RECORD STUDENTS
Students can also record their reading and the teacher can listen to the recordings to evaluate the reading.  You can also use this as a measurement of their reading or pronunciation improvement.

Try it out and let me know how it goes with your students.

Starfall.com




Starfall is a great online free software that allows kids to learn to read in English with phonics in a fun way.  It has great graphics and activities. The animations and sounds are wonderful.  One of the features is the English alphabet where students can learn both the name of the letter and it's sound as well as pictures of words that have that sound in them and even simple games to test what they have learned.


As children learn the different letters they can progress through learning English words with other phonics sounds. For children that are emergent English readers Starfall has simple stories that children can read on their own and for words they can't read or pronounce it gives them the opportunity to click and have the words read to them. Starfall has different sections which children can progress through or can start on depending on their English level. The more advanced section has plays, nonfiction reading, comics and more.  The best thing about Starfall is that children enjoy it and if they are having fun they are learning.


My daughter began to use Starfall when she was two when the only language she knew was Spanish.  Starfall helped her develop her English vocabulary.  By the time she was 6 years old she was reading at 4th grade level (in part thanks to Starfall.)  She loved listening to the phonics songs and listening to the phonics books.  She still enjoys going to Starfall for its poems and activities. 

I used Starfall with my 1st grader English Learners who where having a difficulty with reading and they love it.  It gave them a chance to learn new English words and practice reading the words they new how to read while supporting them with those they didn't know.  They also loved the animations and the games.