As an educator or parent of young children, you may have at some point of time or another desired to find the most effective tool or aid to teach your young charges the English language.
A quick search on the Internet reveals several English teaching aids such as applications, books, techniques, traditional and digital tools, videos and websites that all promise to deliver excellent outcomes. To be fair, it must be said that some of these resources are of very high quality.
However, educators must be aware that there is no proverbial magic bullet or quick fix tool to give a child mastery over the English language.
Keep in mind that as much as there are no quick fixes of magic bullet solutions to teaching a child English, you also do not need a bachelor’s degree in English education either nor do you need to be a qualified ESL (English as a Second Language) educator. This typically also means that unless you have the spare cash to spend, you shouldn’t need to hire a preschool teacher with specialised qualifications to teach your child the language. Introducing the English language to young children and building sufficient mastery in it is something that most parents should be able to do comfortably at home.
Some parents may prefer to outsource preschool teaching to qualified experts because they have no idea about what their children are expected to know and what English language related activities and tasks they should be able to do before they enter the formal school system. The requirements (if any) can depend from country to country and even from state to state. Generally speaking, parents can get an rough idea of how much they need to teach their little home students by making references to tasks they may find in Grade 1 or Primary 1 assessment books.
What Is A Teaching Aid/Teaching Tool?
Some of the common English teaching aids you may come across are:
- English flashcards
- Story books
- Activity kits
- Edutainment programs
- Visual teaching aids
- Mobile Applications
In addition to products designed as teaching aids, there are many excellent resources with information related to preschool education freely available online. Some of these sites have so much information that you will need to spend sometime going through everything on the site. Many sites offer excellent tips to parents who find themselves tutoring their children at home in preparation for formal school. Some sites also offer free printable worksheets.
Some keywords that educators or parents could try when searching for material online are:
- ESL resources for elementary school English
- ESL resources for preschool English
- ESL lesson plans
- English Reading Lesson plans
- English Writing Lesson plans
- Teaching Aids for English
Some teachers prefer to draw a line between the definitions of teaching aids and teaching materials. However, these definitions overlap very often, so when searching for resources online, there is no need to get too stuck on whether the site is offering teaching materials or a teaching aids. We would recommend to explore the all products you come across and try them out if you think they will be effective for your children. Since all children learn differently, parents should be wary of trying to force their children to learn in a way that is not natural to them, simply because “it worked for the neighbour’s kids”.
Which printable or digital teaching tool to use depends on what your child is comfortable with and what you are comfortable using to teach.
What Does It Mean To Teach English To Kids?
Teaching any language involves building competency in several aspects concurrently. When it comes to teaching English to kids, we can break everything down into several focus areas:
- Letter recognition
- Sight words
- Grammar rules
- Building vocabulary
- Basic sentence construction
- Intermediate sentence construction
- Advanced sentence construction
- Creative writing
- Hand writing mastery
- Speaking confidence
- Reading competency
Clearly, different teaching pedagogies will break up these focus areas of teaching modules differently, but the main idea will always remain the same. The challenge that English language teachers often face (whether it’s a parent teaching a child casually at home or a teacher conducting a formal lesson in a school), is that several of these areas need to be taught concurrently in order for language acquisition to occur naturally. Aside from the starting with letter recognition and some basic grammar rules, there isn’t really a way to teach the language (any language) in a step by step approach. Attempting to do so will create unnatural speakers who have limited command of the language who will never speak with native fluency.
On this note, educators and parents must be wary of any teaching programs that market themselves as relying heavily on “step by step” approaches that are highly structured and rigid, because the English language simply cannot be taught efficiently in such a manner.
Which Supplemental Teaching Tools Are Best When Teaching English?
Often times, parents fall for the marketing hype that accompanies “educational” or “instructional” products or aids and are led to believe that a specific product will magically improve their child’s mastery of the language in a short span of time.
For example, they may come across an advertisement for children’s encyclopedias. Such a product will promise to give the child access to information about a whole collection of subjects and spur the child’s love for reading, but what the marketing material may fail to mention is that firstly the child will have to be able to read independently (unless the parents intends to read all the encyclopedias to the child), secondly the child will need to know how to reference an index or contents page to find the specific information that he/she is looking for and finally the child will probably need to be able to use a dictionary proficiently even if the child is already able to read simple sentences.
If the parent buys the product expecting its mere presence in the house to cause a drastic improvement in their child’s mastery of the language, they are going to be disappointed.
Educational tools and aids can only make it easier for educators to effectively teach lessons, but cannot replace the role of the educator. So parents and educators have to find teaching aids that they are comfortable with and their children are able to understand. No matter how well designed a tool is, the prerequisite to effective home tutoring is that there still must be intense engagement with child regardless of the tool is being used.
Research very clearly shows that children learn best when an adult is teaching them. If fact, some research also indicates that exceptional teachers have far better success with educating children even when they use rudimentary tools as compared to other teachers using the latest teaching software and/or gadget. In case you were wondering if subscription plans to lessons delivered via streaming videos can replace parental engagement at home – research also shows that the effectiveness of teaching a child via a video link is significantly lower than teaching a child in person.
What does this all mean?
In a nutshell – it means that generally, children will learn best from engaged educators who are teaching them face to face using simple tools, instead of educators simply relying on the latest innovative software, gadget or activity kit to teach – hoping that these tools with do the heavy work.
What Is The Best Tool Or Teaching Aid For English
As with adults, language learning by children is best achieved through language immersion. This term is very closely related with other learning concepts such as total physical response and comprehensible input. You do not need to fully understand what these terms means, but some background information will help:
Total Physical Response (TPR)
The idea behind TPR is to combine verbal or visual learning with physical actions. It is believed that children will learn effectively this way, given most children’s preference for physical activity.
Comprehensible input involves exposing the child to language complexity that the child is not entirely ready for. This means that the child may not know every single word that the adult is saying to the child, but is still able to guess the meaning of sentences by referring the body language of the speaker, the meanings of other words in the sentence and the context of the conversation.
Immersive learning is not so much a tool, as it is a concept – it means that a child needs to be exposed to the target language in different forms and mediums in order for the child to gain a strong intuitive understanding of grammar rules, sentence structure and to build a good vocabulary. This can be achieved through structured lesson plans at home or through informal conversations held frequently at home. The best approach to creating an immersive language learning experience at home would be to create a mix of both formal lessons and informal learning opportunities.
For example, the parent could:
- Create a schedule of 20 mins a day for formal instruction and language learning.
- Read books every evening to the child for 15 minutes.
- Watch edutainment shows in English with the child for 30 mins.
- Speak to the child in complex English as often as possible, only simplifying sentences if the child is really unable to understand what is being said.
The need to create opportunities to use the language is critical if the child is living in a country or social setting where English is not the primary language of communication.
Why Read To Children?
With all the above being said and the benefits of using multiple kinds of teaching tools and approaches aside – usually, the single most effective way to create a language immersive experience for a child at home is to read to the child frequently and to read to the child from a variety of sources.
Reading is a powerful teaching aid if done purposefully.
- Parents start by reading books to children during the day and always before going to sleep.
- As days pass and parents find themselves re-reading old books, they start to ask their children to recognise letters of the alphabet.
- As children start to recognise letters of the alphabet, parents coax them to recognise the common sight words.
- As children start to recognise sight words, parents coax them to read unfamiliar words on their own.
- Eventually parents start to encourage children to read entire sentences on their own, then pages an eventually complete books.
This whole process can take a few months to a year, so we think that parents really should start on this from as early as when the child is 3 years old.
It is easy to find books with fairy tales, short stories, jokes in magazine and short articles in newspapers to read to children and educators should grab a bunch of material and start reading to their children on a regular basis.
By reading to a child, the educator is able to:
- Pace the lesson
- Answer questions immediately and
- Engage in conversation with the child
This two way interaction allows for accelerated learning as compared to the many applications out there that are basically one way automated lectures with some interactive games thrown in (usually for entertainment).
For this reason, reading to a child remains by far the best way to introduce a child to the English language and to build a child’s mastery in the English language. The abundance of applications, books, techniques, tools and videos can of course supplement the learning experience, but can never replace the benefits of the traditional approach of reading to and with the child; it is the surest approach to eventually reach a stage where a child can start to read independently.
English Reading Cards on KidsEnglishCollege™
We do not have any bias against fairy tales or imaginative stories, but we do believe that children need to be sufficiently exposed to real world content in order to gain confidence in using the language in day to day interactions. The English reading cards on KidsEnglishCollege™ are designed on this basis and have been designed to accelerate building of practical vocabulary and to develop an intuitive understanding of grammar rules and sentence construction in young learners.
For example, we do not aim to simply teach your child a new word or two, but to also give the child some real world relevance to that word by referring to different facts about each noun. This allows the child to use these words in day to day conversations with older speakers and to draw links between concepts and facts.
This means a child can look at picture of a young otter and called it a “pup”, instead of calling it a “baby otter”.
As you can imagine, this goes a long way towards building a child’s confidence in using the English language.
Brought to you by the KidsEnglishCollege™ Editorial Team.
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