Let’s assume you’re teaching rhyming words to your ESL class. Some of the children are interested in your rhyming words lesson but others aren’t participating. Perhaps they are shy, frightened or unfamiliar with some of the sounds. It’s important to understand why many English Second Language children feel frightened and insecure, but it’s more important to find a way to help them. This article discusses why some might be having difficulty participating and suggests some types of activities that could help them.
Why Do ESL Children New to an English Speaking Culture Have Difficulty Participating?
These students often have trouble understanding the language used by other kids on the playground, so they tend to withdraw from group participation. Perhaps they are confused about the behavior of the other children, because they don’t understand the way the others react to different situations.
Why Do Some Children Living in Their First Language Environment Withdraw or Act-out in an English Foreign Language Class?
These children may reject learning a language different from the one spoken in their community. They may say: “I don’t want to talk funny.”
They have no knowledge of what their future needs might be. It is understandable for them to want to cling to the language and culture that they know.
Building confidence in children learning English as a second language can be approached from different angles, emphasizing fun, encouragement, repetition, and the understanding that mistakes are part of the learning process.
Creating a Positive Atmosphere: Make sure children feel comfortable making mistakes, as they are part of the learning process. Let them know that everyone makes mistakes and that it’s a normal part of learning a language.
Stress-Free Practice. Allow your child to speak at their own pace, even if their responses are short. Don’t interrupt and address errors later – it is important not to disrupting their flow of speech. This builds spoken fluency and confidence.
Use Play-Like Activities. Young children learn naturally through play. Incorporating English into their playtime can make the learning process enjoyable and less stressful . Games can make learning a language feel less like a chore and more like a fun activity
Drawing. For shy or frightened children with very little English, give them a small drawing assignment where oral language isn’t required. They should remain sitting with the rest of the group you are teaching. This removes the pressure for them to understand and speak, but they are hearing the lesson, they are still a part of the group and perhaps they understand some of it. They will want to be like the other children and they will participate more and more if their small attempts are recognized and they receive lots of teacher encouragement.
Songs and Verses. At the pre-teen level these can be repeated many times. Songs are easy to remember. Students who have difficulty participating can sing with the rest of the group. Young shy or frightened students will enjoy participating in action songs or verses. It is important, however, that for the ten, eleven and twelve year olds, the choice of songs is what the other students consider to be “cool.”
Use Creative Activities. Use your child’s interests to encourage language learning. If your child loves drawing, for example, use English to talk about what they’re drawing. This can make language learning more appealing to them.
Repetition and Fun. Encourage repetition of words and phrases in a fun and light-hearted way. For example, saying the words in different ways, acting them out, or singing them.
Use English-Speaking Media. English-speaking music, films, cartoons, or books, will motivate them to learn the language and associate it with pleasure.
Praise and Encouragement. Praise your students efforts and progress, no matter how small. This motivates them to continue practicing and improving. Always have a positive attitude towards their learning process.
Every classroom group is different. Try any or all of these suggestions and adapt them to your style of teaching. If they help even one student in your classroom to feel more confident, then any changes you have made have been worthwhile.