Tutor profile: Eirini M.
Subject: Early Childhood Education
What are some difficulties of teaching young children and how can they be overcome?
Very young learners are a demanding age group to teach for two main reasons: 1) they have a very short attention span, and 2) do not really know how to speak their mother tongue, let alone a second/foreign one. These two factors that render the teacher's job difficult can be turned into advantages if you treat them correctly. More specifically, the fact that young children show a very limited attention span can be a benefit for the lesson, since it is going to involve various activities in order to keep them motivated and focused. Regarding the second difficulty, not knowing how to properly speak your first language does not mean that you cannot at the same time learn a second one. As long as the teaching process is as natural as possible (no textbooks, not homework, only real-life tasks and fun games, as it happens in real life with L1), children will pick it up easily. What really helps in this case is easy-to-remember rhymes and games that involve movement and drilling.
How would you render a boring grammar class into an engaging one-hour fun?
Grammar can be really boring for students, especially because it comes completely out of context and at the time of the teaching serves no communicative purpose. However, the enthusiastic and innovative teacher can come up with ways of engaging students and therefore helping them absorb the grammatical phenomenon as best as they can. Some ways of doing this are popular songs in which students can look for grammar patterns, movie extracts or short, interesting texts that serve this purpose. They can also work in teams trying to carry out realistic tasks that require the use of the new language or even be asked to write their own song/poem using the new grammatical phenomenon.
What are the key aspects of a successful foreign language class and what is the role of the first language in it?
In order for an EFL class to achieve its purpose, in other words to engage students in the learning process, it is necessary for the teacher to make sure the following points are taken into account. First of all, the environment created in the classroom needs to be a relaxed one, one in which students feel comfortable and do not mind making mistakes. To achieve this, the teacher should make sure that he/she establishes a distance between teacher and students, but at the same time gives room to the students to express themselves and uses humor or irony to "break the ice" or get over a tricky situation. Apart from that, there needs to be direct or indirect application of the Initiation Response Feedback model, that is the teacher ought to provide feedback when an answer is given by the student either directly or, preferably, indirectly. The latter also gives students the chance to correct themselves or at least try to. Moreover, it is vital that the lesson is carried out not at a one-way lecture, but as an interactive process, in which the teacher acts like a mediator, a monitor and a source of encouragement for the students, who are asked to carry out their tasks independently or as parts of a team. Finally, regarding the use of L1 in the FL classroom, I consider it an advantage of the teacher to speak the students' mother tongue, albeit not a must, because this way he/she can make unexpected jokes to get them together or reprimand them when absolutely necessary. Yet, L1 is not supposed to be used in FL classes in general, since a natural, communicative approach is to be followed.