So the school year has already started and you’ve been placed with the youngest learners: the 3, 4 and 5 year olds! Maybe you’ve had experience teaching this age group – or perhaps it’s your first time and you’re a little nervous. Either way, don’t worry, have faith in yourself, and you’ll do a great job!
When teaching young children, routine is key. Each morning, do an assembly including attendance, greetings, the day of the week, the weather, the season, etc. Pick a helper to assist you with singing the songs and doing attendance. Students love to be the “encargado” or helper of the day. To get the students’ attention during your lesson, establish a chant so that when the students hear it they know it’s time to pay attention and listen. For example, I say, “1, 2, 3 eyes on me” and the students have to respond, “1, 2, eyes on you” and then settle down.
With this infantil age group it’s important to get on the children’s level and not be afraid to get goofy and act silly (but also maintain authority). At this age, children love going to school and love learning. Teach English in a fun and interactive way so that they truly enjoy it, feel comfortable using it and develop a love for it. If the students are happy and having fun while learning another language they will want to continue. The youngest learners (and any age really) love songs and the best way that I have found to teach English is through songs and games. Let’s face it – they’re three! You can’t expect three year olds to sit in their desks and listen to every word you say. They need to get up and move, dance, sing and play.
The attention span of 3, 4, and 5 year olds is very short. They cannot play a game for an entire hour or pay attention or a long period of time. Have two or three activities planned (and have a couple more that you can think of on the spot). Play a game for 20 minutes and then read a book or sing a song. Always come to class over prepared so that if the students get bored you have another activity up your sleeve.
Literally any topic you teach – there’s a song for it! And even better, some songs can be sung with actions! If you don’t have the best singing voice (I know I don’t) and you’re a little shy about singing in front of the kids, don’t give it another thought. Pay no mind. What’s great about these little children is that they don’t judge you. You are their role model and they will look up to you and adore you. Infantil is a judgment free zone – so sing your heart out!
Teaching in Infantil, Youtube will become your best friend.
probably my number one resource. It has a great variety of songs and videos with fun characters that the students enjoy.
- Pinkfong– songs and stories
- Alphablocks– great resource for learning the alphabet and sounds, especially if you’re teaching phonics. I mostly use these videos with five year olds.
Each week or few weeks, teach the students a new song. They are like sponges; singing the same song every day, they pick it up and you will be surprised at how fast they will learn it. By the end of the week you can have a contest with groups coming to the front of the class to sing the song. The group who sings it the best gets a prize. You can also mix up the songs, singing them very quietly, then loud, then slowly and then very fast. This keeps the students on their toes.
Other than songs, any kind of moving around, jumping up and down activities are great for these youngsters. Here are some games I found that the students enjoy:
- Freeze dance – Put on some music and have the students run around and then stop the music and say “Freeze!” The students have to stop and be still. (Or stop and do an action, touch your head, jump, etc). If they continue moving, they are out.
- Musical chairs – Put on music and have the students all stand up and walk in a line, making a circle around their chairs. When the music stops, they have to sit down. Each time you play, take away one chair. The student who doesn’t have a chair is out. (You can also play with hula hoops)
- 5 little monkeys – Act out the song “Five little monkeys”. Choose five students to be the monkeys, one student as the mom and one student as the doctor. Have all the monkeys jump and then tap one on the head. The student who is tapped sits down and is out. Then count the remaining students.
- 2 in a hoop – Spread out 10 hula hoops on the floor and have the students run all around. Shout “Run, run… 2 in a hoop!” The students have to get in pairs and occupy one hoop together. If a student doesn’t have a hoop, or doesn’t have a partner they are out. Then give another instruction, “Run, run… 5 in a hoop!” This time five students have to occupy a hoop. They have to listen to the correct number. Teach them to say “Come here, come here” to their friend to occupy the hoop with them. Play until there is one winner.
- Hot potato – All the students sit in a circle and pass around a ball while singing “Hot potato, hot potato, hot potato, hot. Hot potato, hot potato, hot potato, STOP!” Whoever has the ball when you say “Stop” is out.
- What time is it Mr. Fox? – Pick one student to be “Mr. Fox”. He or she stands at one end of the room, turned around. The rest of the students stand on the opposite end of the room, side by side. They say, “What time is it Mr. Fox?” and Mr. Fox replies with a number. For example, “it’s 5”. The students take five steps closer to Mr. Fox. The game continues until the students are very close to Mr. Fox, and when Mr. Fox says “it’s midnight!” everyone runs to the opposite side again and Mr. Fox has to tag someone (to be the new Mr. Fox)
Other ideas of games you can play:
- Act like an animal
- Wheels on the bus
- London bridge
- Hokey, pokey
- Duck, duck, goose
- Parachute games
Another way to teach infantil is by reading books. Personally, I like the touchy-feely or open the flap, more interactive books. Sit the students all in a circle, in a designated reading corner. This way they’re not sitting in their desks. Read the book to them, slowly, exaggerating the characters’ voices and expressions. Make it a point to repeat certain key vocabulary words (for example: ball). Every time they hear the word “ball” they have to raise their hand. When you finish the story, have the students raise their hand and tell you the key vocabulary words that they heard in the story. Reward them with a stamp or sticker.
A few of my favorites include:
- Clifford the Big Red Dog
- The Very Hungry Caterpillar
- The Rainbow Fish
In order to introduce new vocabulary, use flashcards. Present the flashcard to the students and repeat the word several times. Stick the flashcards on the blackboard or around the classroom and call up the students to go and find the specific flashcard. Then, point to the flashcard and ask the students to say the vocabulary word. You can play games utilizing flashcards. For example, place all the flashcards on the board and then have the students close their eyes. Take away one flashcard and have the students open their eyes and guess which flashcard is missing. Children love contests so split them up into teams and have them guess the flashcards you are holding up. The team with the most points wins a prize.
You may find yourself teaching a 3, 4 or 5 year old class during their breakfast hour. This is a good time to go over food vocabulary, using the snacks that the students have brought. You can teach the phrase “Can you open this please” or “I have…” or “I like, I don’t like”. During this hour, you can have a breakfast contest and see how many students brought in cookies, or how many yogurts, etc. and count how many of each snack. Then see which “snack” is the winner.
At this age, it’s important for the young students to know they are doing a good job. Reward them for positive behavior or when they respond correctly and know the right answer. This encourages them to want to learn more English. On the other hand, keep in mind that they are young children and will not pronounce the words in English correctly on the first try and will not understand every word you say to them. Be patient. They will get there. Don’t scold the students if they get a question wrong or say a word incorrectly. The important thing is that they are trying. Praise them and encourage them with warm words. It’s okay for them to make mistakes.
Have fun J
To be honest, not all days are “rainbows and butterflies”. Some days, you will struggle. Some days, the students will be out of control. Some days, the activities or games you will have planned will not work out the way you want them to. Don’t worry. If you’re struggling, talk to the head teacher for support or maintaining discipline in the class. You’re not alone. All teachers have bad days. The key is to not let the bad days get you down. Stay positive and keep smiling. Teaching infantil transports you and makes you relive your childhood in some ways, it keeps you young at heart. So, make the most of it and have fun!
- Have a set routine every day
- Sing songs
- Play games
- Read books
- Review vocabulary using flashcards
- Do worksheets and coloring pages
- Use positive reinforcement
- Be patient – they’re kids
- Most importantly… have fun!
Olivia Krolik Alumni Instituto Franklin, MA in Learning & Teaching Spanish as a Foreign Language 2013-2014