Most studies show that children have a greater capacity to learn a second language than adults do, which makes teaching children English as a second language an excellent idea. Although teaching children English is not significantly different than teaching adults, there are factors that should be taken into account before beginning. Children are generally able to retain information more rapidly than adults, but they naturally have a much shorter attention span which is important to remember. Additional tips for lessons plans when teaching children English include age appropriateness, repetition, interaction, and the use of visual aids and games.
When teaching a child a second language, it is important to structure the lessons around the age of the child. A child of two or three, for example, is still learning his or her primary language, which may make structured lessons inappropriate. Simply talking to a toddler in English as often as possible is the best way to immerse him or her in the language. Games where English is used can also help a toddler to understand how the language is used and get him or her accustomed to hearing the language in a more natural, stress-free manner.
For a child who is a little older, actual lessons may be more appropriate. Having said that, the lesson should be geared toward the child's age by making them more like playtime. For example, using flashcards, puzzles, or picture books are excellent visual tools for teaching children English for preschool-age children. Lessons at the preschool age should be scheduled as often as possible for as long as the child enjoys the lessons. Repetition is always important when learning a foreign language and can be even more crucial at the preschool age, as a child is very open to absorbing the information.
For older, school-age children, lessons can be more structured in nature. School-age children are usually more accustomed to the concept of a structured learning environment and, therefore, are more likely to adapt to an actual lesson in English. Workbooks and beginning readers can take the place of puzzles and picture books.
Interaction and immersion are the most effective ways to teach children English. While books, flashcards, and worksheets are useful tools, a child will absorb the language more rapidly, and retain what he or she has learned, if he or she actually uses the language on a regular basis. This is most possible in an immersion environment, where the target language is spoken exclusively. There are many bilingual school programs now where one language is spoken for half of the day and another language is spoken for the remainder of the time. Immersion programs are also available as after-school programs in many places.