8.1 Children: 4-6-Year-Olds
This age group is curious and energetic; anyone who has taught or been around this group knows how much energy the students have. As adorable as the kids are, if the lessons are not innovative and jam-packed with high-energy games and activities, teachers will have a hard time keeping the students entertained and keeping their attention to get the target language across.
If the teacher is happy adapting to this age group’s behaviour, the students will feel more confident in the classroom and with other students. This age group reacts very well to colourful images, songs, and movements. Teachers need to make sure exercises involve at least one of these three ingredients to keep them engaged. The teacher and the activity will need to have/use actions. These students respond well to notable movements, loud sounds, and exaggerated facial expressions. For example, learning about animals in the jungle is most productive when making the noises of the animals and roleplay to the students.
Teaching students in this age group is not for the quick quitter as it will take time to get into its rhythm. There is a strong possibility that teachers will deal with screaming, crying, toilet issues and learners with a short attention span. Depending on their method, these cute kids can either be the most delightful young people they will have the joy of teaching or a nightmarish group of rebellious children that bring grown men to tears.
Let us look at a few tips on how to handle 4-6-year-olds:
- Teachers should use simple 1 or 2-word commands and be prepared to use a firmer tone when needed.
- Teachers will need to be clear and straightforward in how they speak.
- Teachers will need to be animated and lively. Not everyone will be comfortable with singing, jumping around, and dancing for the whole lesson, but it will surely make the teacher more likeable if they can act silly in class.
- When teaching a lesson about animals, the teacher will have the students perform the noises and actions.
- When teaching them about feelings, teachers can act out the emotion, etc., and use TPR activities whenever possible: This age group tends to respond particularly well to TPR (Total Physical Response) based exercises. They present the language through physical actions.
Short, sharp games and exercises:
- The best way to keep kids’ attention: keep things moving all the time. When planning lessons, start by introducing the grammar point or vocabulary, then go through 5-10-minute games, and have backup ideas. When students lose focus, move on to the next activity.
- Change the environment: Get them on their feet, swap the seating plan, and set them in a circle on the floor. Mix up the classroom setting often to steer them away from boredom.
- Do not be afraid to use the teaching assistant: younger learners will struggle more than anyone to grasp the meaning in English. Have the assistant explain the commands and tasks before the class starts playing to save time and tears.
- Use gimmicks: Surprise them by bringing in a simple gimmick to use in activities such as dice, a ball, some pictures or, a puppet. Any slight change or a new object brought into the class will feel like a completely new experience for young students.
- Reward them: A high-five or pat on the back after a victorious exercise and after class will allow them to feel like they have accomplished something and the chance to do some colouring or drawing exercises during the lesson. Sweets/candy inspires children to learn, but teachers can easily keep them eager by giving them other rewards without this kind of indulgence.
Characteristics of 4-6-year-olds
Below are a few characteristics of 4-6-year-olds and what they can do at their level:
- This age group sometimes has difficulty seeing the difference between the real and the imaginary worlds. For example, If the teacher reads a story about a lost bird and afterward takes out a toy bird from their pocket, the students have no problem believing that the bird came out of the book and went into the teacher’s pocket.
- When young children are around others, they can be very unwilling to share. It is said that children are very selfish up to the age of six or seven and cannot see things from someone else’s eyes. This may be true, but sometimes students do not want to work together because they see no point. They do not always realise what we expect from them.
- Children do not always ask, and it is rare for them to admit that they do not know anything either; they will pretend to understand or know on their terms and do what they think the teacher wants them to do. They do not always understand what adults are talking about, and vice versa. The distinction is that adults typically find out by asking questions; a child’s world is very different from an adult.
- Younger children love to play and learn best when they are enjoying themselves. They also like to think that what they are doing is ‘real’ work. However, they cannot choose for themselves what to learn.
- Younger children are enthusiastic and optimistic about education. We all prosper in doing well and being celebrated for what we do, which is exceptionally true for younger children. It is important to praise them to keep their enthusiasm and feel successful from the beginning because If we label children as failures, they believe us, which can negatively affect them.
Other characteristics of young children age 4-6 can include:
- Their interpretation comes through eyes, hands, and ears. The physical world is ruling at all times.
- They have life-like thoughts.
- They can use a broad array of intonation patterns in their native language.
- They may not always grasp the rules, but they know that they are there to be carried out, and the rules help encourage feelings of safety.
- They have language abilities long before they are conscious of them.
- They have a very short concentration and attention span.