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Natural learning for 6 and under

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Hi. I've been teaching ESL to kids aged 3+ for over 2 years
now, and these are some things I've learned:

-Do NOT speak a word of their native language, unless there's an
emergency. Even if I understand, I always respond in English.
Why? Because: kids are natural learners...give them the challenge
and they will rise to it; they learn problem-solving; if you say
a word in their language they will forever try to get you to say
more; they will begin to think only in English while with you.

-Play in English. Especially with the really young ones -and
especially on the first day- I begin by simply playing with toys
or Legos. There's no threat or pressure, and they can begin to
relax around you. As the number of lessons progress, I talk more
and more in English. At first, I might talk to myself, naming
colors,counting blocks, etc. Then I'll ask them "Can I have the
RED block, please?" while pointing. I'll ask for a certain number
of things, or certain items. Then I'll ask them "Do you want
some Legos?" "How many?" "What color?" Etc. Soon they're asking
me the same questions.

-Converse "naturally" in English. "I like your dress!" "How are
you?" "You cut your hair!" Use complete sentences often. Use
simplified (but correct!) speech and gestures to get your point
across, but say it like you're talking to a friend. This way they
don't feel like they're being tested. And rather than correcting
their speech, repeat their sentences (correctly) for verification:
"You want to go to the toilet?"

Absolute beginners become conversational in a very short time if
they are learning and using English the same as they do their
native language, and if they feel you will listen.

Bonita, bogini@mailcity.com, Thailand

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