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Tips on Teaching 3-Year-Olds ESL

by Shara JJ Cooper

Knowing English is one of the greatest gifts you can give any child. Even if it's not your native language, English will help kids communicate with their peers and give them greater career opportunities. It may be hard to teach ESL, especially since you probably share your child's native tongue, but you can do it at home. You can use these techniques to teach your only 3-year-old or with groups of other ESL students to make it fun and engaging.

Demonstrate

Demonstrate all your lessons to the 3-year-olds. For example, if you're playing "Follow the leader," you should be the leader. You can teach verbs like stop, run, walk and turn. Have the kids say the words back to you as you all perform the action. The louder you can get them to speak, the more they'll love to participate.

Games and Songs

Games are the best way to teach kids -- regardless of what you are teaching. For ESL, you can use almost any game that works for their age group. For example, "Duck, Duck, Goose." This game is easy to teach and teaches them animal names. Show them pictures of ducks and geese. As the child walks around the circle touching their friends, you can point to the appropriate duck or goose. All the children should say the words "duck" and "goose" together.

Repetition

Don't start a new activity each time you want to teach ESL. Instead, build on what you already taught. If you did "Follow the Leader" and "Duck, Duck, Goose" last class, start with those familiar exercises the next day. You can build something new into the lessons each day or every few days, as they seem to grasp the concepts.

Create Themes

Each lesson or week of lessons should have a theme. This allows the children to build on what they have learned. Some themes might be colors, animals or body parts. You can use games and songs to warm up to the idea. As the children get used to the words, you can add onto the lessons. As they become more advanced you can put large cards on the wall that has the word and picture of the object on it. For example, a picture of a frog with F-R-O-G spelled out. Fill a wall with objects in your theme and say "find the frog, find the cat." The kids will run to each object. You can also change the verb as they advance to "pat the cat" or "touch the frog."

Stick to English

Avoid using the child's native language. Granted, this is difficult, particularly because it is probably your native language, as well. But, using only English will help them learn the words faster. It might seem easy to yell out hints in their own language or to get them to associate the words with their native words, but this only slows them down. Kids are sponges at this age and they can learn two languages at once more easily than when they are in grade school, so use this opportunity to reinforce English.

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