Out of all the jobs I've had, I've got to say that teaching EFL (English as a foreign language) is my favorite. And out of all the EFL stuff that I do, my number one favorite classes are EFL Kids classes at elementary schools.
When I first made the decision to teach English to children, a lot of people advised me to not bother. "They're monsters!" they said, "They'll wear you out." We'll several years later, I'm still here and today, I share some of the benefits as well as some tips to teaching EFL Kids. And just to be sure, I'm writing this about Japan.
Benefit Number 1: It's fun.
OK, so that's a no-brainer. But during all the times I've been teaching EFL to adults, there's never been an appropriate moment to make a silly face at my students but in an elementary school environment it actually increases your job security – if the kids like you, admin likes you.
Benefit Number 2: A bit better job security
If you can get hired on by a local school board, the number of students will be constant and so more secure and that's versus the commercial schools. Need proof? Google Nova ESL
Benefit Number 3: More culture
Teachers are important to elementary school children. Because of that, you'll be included in school events like undokai (sports festivals), music festivals and nomikai (drinking parties). You might have drinking parties at a private school but it's probably also with a bunch of other foreign people. At an elementary school drinking party, it's likely you'll be the only foreign person around. Go to the nijikai and sanjikai (second and third drinking parties) to see the real Japan.
Now that I've given you some of the benefits of EFL for Kids at an elementary school, here are some tips for working with children.
Tip 1: It's noisy!
Yeah yeah, another no-brainer but it's true. Just accept it, do not stress about it, and do not try to overpower the kids. This is actually part of Japanese-style discipline. The quitter students will tell the noisier ones to be quiet. Of course if your class is fun and lively, the students will be more motivated to self-regulate. Finally, use lots of gestures with all of your bedroom English and be very consistent. Many times the class will be too noisy to be heard, but if they can see your gesture, they'll be able to comply with what you want them to do. As psychologist Dr. John Breeding suggests, see the children through eyes of delight.
Tip 2: Learn lots of Games .
If you've ever taken any linguistics courses during college, you're going to be a bit shocked by the "EFL" methods used in Japan. Now wherever you agree or disagree with the idea of "edutainment," is irrelevant; that's what they teach here. So learn lots of games that focus on repetition and you'll do just fine. Practice = games.
Tip 3: Do the Unexpected
Wanna keep the kids on their toes? Do things they'd never expect. Say good monkey instead of good morning, or good afro-hair instead of good afternoon. Insist that a red ball is actually green. You'll definitely find out if they're listening instead of on autopilot. Now I do not recommend that you introduce vocabulary this way but, if you've introduced and practiced the voluntary go ahead and make intentional mistakes. Children love correcting and you'll find out if they're awake.
Teaching EFL to children is extremely rewarding not just in terms of financial benefits but also in feel-good benefits. For many students, you'll be their first foreign friend and so you'll have a hand in shaping how they feel about foreign people.