Teaching Absolute Beginners

 Teaching Absolute Beginners

see, it's easy~

Hello fellow teachers and TGIF! Today’s Top 5 Feature provides tips on how to work with “Absolute Beginners”. Absolute beginners are new learners of a language with limited to no background in the target language. This means that listening and speaking practice needs to be supported careful teacher talk and a mix of instructional strategies.

Within Qkids, Phonics and L1-L3 are the levels where students will most likely face the struggles of absolute beginners. (Yes, even L2s and L3s may have limited abilities if they have only been exposed to the targets and structures within the Qkids curriculum and without practice in other settings.)

1) With new words, show and tell before asking “What’s this?” Then practice.

It is a common instructional practice to “prime” students for 2-3 seconds, or get them to notice and think, before using the new language. Before using the magnify tool, consider using the spotlight tool and highlight wand to give a teacher model of the new words.

Note: Some students might seem to know the words (because they may have done Qkids pre-lesson activities). Nevertheless teachers should always go over every word and offer a clear reference to the pictures on the screen. Add physical demonstrations if possible and assist with repeated practice of all words.  

 2) Engage Ss’ different learning styles

Throughout a lesson, we can try many different ways to give demonstrations and help Ss connect with the learning. We can: mime the meaning of words; use exaggerated body language for students to copy; stand up and act out demonstrations;  incorporate chants, sing-song voices, and melodies.

 3) Support small efforts and recycle words.

With absolute beginners, a sense of comfort, confidence and/or enjoyment may not come easily-- especially if they struggle with new vocabulary.  We can support their efforts regularly by monitoring which words are a struggle. At the moment we hear struggling, we can try to give clear models or examples right away. Yet, because language development happens gradually, we can also make sure to recycle the challenging words a bit more throughout the lesson to give Ss lots of opportunities to hear and practice a word.

4) Avoid assumptions

Perhaps the Ss are keeping a steady pace with us, having fun and following some of our spontaneous gestures and words. We should be careful not to assume that this means they can follow lots of spontaneous talk or extensions. We can be mindful of the fact that some target language will become easier to follow at a normal speaking speed,  but many absolute beginners need us to regularly use slowed-down speech.

Also, if Ss can repeat sentences, this does not mean we should assume they understand questions related to the target sentences. We can be careful to notice what Ss do understand so that we can offer suitable supports and challenges.

5) Repeat visual cues

Ss watch teacher hand signals, body language and other methods of guidance to gauge what their roles are in a lesson. It can be helpful for us to decide early on in a lesson which cues we want to keep using. Then those cues can be quickly understood and support students to follow our instructions and engage with the learning. 

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