Teaching 2- and 3-Year Olds
We often get questions from teachers and parents looking for advice on teaching 2- and 3-year olds, so we'd like to share some ideas on planning a class for these very young learners. It's important to understand that children from 2-3 years old have very limited vocabularies in their first languages, and from the age of 2 are generally just beginning to string together utterances of more than one word. As such, your main focus with such young learners is not on language production, but language comprehension. You'll want to engage the children in interesting, comprehensible activities while providing them with lots and lots of English input. Don't pressure the children to speak...they will when they are ready. Here is a suggested lesson plan for working with this age group. Knock Knock!
Have the students line up and knock on the classroom door before coming in to join the lesson. This is a small signal to the children that they are transitioning to a new setting with new activities. Signaling transitions really helps young children stay calm while preparing them for something fun and new. If they are speaking, ask a simple question like, "What's your name?" To make sure they understand the question, you can point to yourself first and say "My name is ______. " Next point to the student and ask, "What's your name?" Use gestures whenever possible to help make the language understandable. If the student is not speaking much yet, is relatively new to the school, or is just not in a great mood (maybe they just woke up from a nap), a friendly "hello" and "come in" works just fine. Have music playing in the background to create a warm atmosphere in the classroom. Getting Settled
Have an activity set up in the classroom so that when the students enter, there is something that immediately interests them and takes their minds off of any worries they may have. Ideally, this is a tactile activity that doesn't require speaking, but can be adapted so the children need to listen to the teacher. For example:
Fishing: Cut out a bunch of fish from different colored paper. (You can find cutouts on the Super Simple ABCs Support Pack CD-ROM) If possible, laminate them so they'll last. Put paper clips where the mouths are. Make "fishing poles" from a nice round piece of wood (avoid anything too pointy), some string or yarn, and a magnet. When the children come into class, sit down with them and notice the fish together. Point out the different colors. ("Look, a blue fish! There's a yellow fish!" etc.). Show the children how to fish, saying, "I'm going to catch a yellow fish!" Give each child a fishing pole (make sure to monitor them carefully). Say, "Let's catch a yellow/green/blue fish!" If you are reviewing colors, this should be enough. If you are introducing colors, point out the colors for them. Continue until all the fish are caught. Count the fish. Collect the fish. Ask for each color one by one, "Can I have all the yellow fish, please?" "Can I have all the blue fish, please?" Don't worry if children don't understand you at first. When they bring their fish to you, note the colors, ("Oooh, a blue fish!") and thank the student. Sorting activities: Go to your local discount store and buy a bunch of different colored "pom-poms," those small little puffy balls used for crafts. Buy some multi-colored containers or small baskets, one for each color of pom-pom. Have the pom-poms spread all over the classroom. Let the children come in and play with them and then ask them to help you clean them up. Sort them into colors. Count them. Put the purple pom-poms in the purple basket, yellow in yellow, etc. Two and three year-olds really love sorting and cleaning up, so as long as you mix up the sortables (buttons, straws, bean bags, etc.), you can do this kind of activity over and over. Matching or puzzle activities: Cut pictures into two pieces and scatter them around the room. Have the students help you put them...
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