As a native-language teacher for more than five years, there is one activity kids just can’t get enough of: fun.
I have realized that no matter what language you teach, it’s most important for your kids to enjoy themselves while they learn. Whether it is English, Tamil, Spanish or Thai, they have to WANT to learn it on their own. Trust me, this is half the battle.
With years of trial and error under my belt, I finally figured out how to get kids to start actually liking, adoring, (dare I say loving?) their native language – in 10 minutes or less.
How not to teach
Everyone falls into traps – I did, too. One of the main ones is teaching kids to memorize words. This makes children want to scream and bolt in the other direction. And frankly, it makes the language seem dull and boring (which it is, if you’re attemping to memorize it).
Here’s how I get children to start liking their native language: to smile when they “practice” it.
Use “action words”
Use words that make kids move, jump, sweat, laugh. This makes sense right? But it’s unconventional; the number one tactic people use to kick start a new language is nouns. Static, lifeless nouns. Perhaps they label items in their home with words, or simply teach them names of animals. It may work, but it’s definitely not engaging or interesting.
The key here is that their first introduction to the language – the groundwork – needs to be big, jump-up-and-down, go-crazy kind of exciting.
We’re talking about kids here! They probably already go to school AND do after school activities AND play a sport. They just want to kick back and have fun. And they should!
So here’s what you should do:
PICK the action words you want to teach
Start with five to six words. Usually I go straight for the most fun words, like “dance” or “sing.” Then mix in some easy actions, like “come,” “go,” “sit,” and “get up.”
SHOW them how to do it
If it’s “jump,” go ahead and jump. If it’s “sit,” then sit. Use whatever your child responds to best. If you know your kid likes to clap or play soccer, do those things.
ACT out the words
Go fast, go slow, and make it fun. This is the best part. It might take a few minutes at first, but as they get good, it takes less and less time…and becomes more fun.
Once they’re experts at the first few words you teach, go on and teach them more action-words. Combine the action words into sequences for a Simon Says sort of game.
If you’re ready for a challenge, take the “action words” one step further and start teaching commonly used adverbs. If your kids have to work a bit harder to understand what you are saying, the more engaged they will be.
For example, teach them “slowly,” “loudly,” and “fast.” Then graduate to harder words like “angrily,” “happily,” and “carefully.”
See how the learning continues? That’s what makes this game so effective for first-time learners.
1 | You’ll help your kids like the language.
2 | You’ll keep adding new words to their vocabulary.
3 | As they get better at the game and have fun doing it, they’ll WANT to learn more words.
All in all, this approach will make your job (teaching your kids your native language) much easier in the long run, and a lot more fun.