Tips for proactive parents easing kids back into English
For many children the summer break has given them a chance to use English outside the classroom and reap the benefits of their hard work to learn this language from such an early age. Other children have been able to switch off their English brain altogether and concentrate on relaxing for a few fun-filled weeks. Whichever category your children fall into, the fact is, school has started again and this includes a healthy dose of English.
As parents it is important that we keep in mind that language learning is a process and that we must not focus too much on the grades but rather on the skills that the children are learning. English is a tool by which many of the students learn subjects such as science and art. English is acquired along the way, in the process of studying new and exciting concepts.
In previous articles I have spoken about the advantages of taking an active role in supporting our children learning English. two friends
One point to be aware of, as parents, is our expectations of our children’s level of English. Whilst some parents find English such a difficult subject that they are in awe of their children’s slow but steady improvement, other parents have such high expectations that their children begin to feel that their best isn’t good enough. This year I hope we all find a happy medium where we don’t let the guard down and continue to take an active role in language learning, whilst also remembering that confidence is the key to cracking English.
There are several practical steps that parents can take to help their children focus on English once more, to make the return to school less of a language shock.
3-6 year olds
Have fun! Take out a picture book and look at the illustrations, pointing to a tree and calling it a flower, or pointing to a dog and calling it a cat. Your children will naturally jump at the chance to correct you and will also then want to do the same to you. Before you know it, the kids are pointing to apples and calling them pears or pointing at a girl and saying “boy”… and having a laugh at the same time.
7-10 year olds
For children aged 7 to 10 parental support should include actively using English at home and in leisure time. Television and video games should be in English. We should encourage our children to read to us out loud in English. When asking questions, make sure they require a full response. Whilst looking at a book or an app on the tablet, ask simple questions that cannot be answered with a straight “yes” or “no”, such as: What can you see? What is this?
Children aged 11+
By the time our children become “tweens” they will be consuming most media in English as well as spending leisure time in English. Now it is important to encourage them to express themselves in English. Ask questions that will make them feel more confident about their oral expression in English. Sample questions include “What was the best thing you did today?” rather than “How was your day?”, or “Can you describe what you can see?” or “Why do you like…?”. Parents may begin to consider looking for interaction with other English-speaking children such as those suggested here
Most importantly, no matter how old they are, it is important we help them feel good about themselves. One interesting discovery the Kids Fun Ideas summer camp team made this year was that confidence is the key to communicating. Spanish children of different ages joined the camp which was 100% in English to have fun and spend some time among English speaking peers. The children with higher confidence were the ones who spoke most English … and it didn’t matter one bit that they made a couple of mistakes along the way! The greater the exposure, the easier it is to correct and learn.