How can parents promote their child’s English-learning journey?
Different ways to help your child learn English at home.
Parents often wonder what they can do to support their child’s learning at home. Be it maths, science or English as a second language, a parent’s involvement in their children’s education is essential to the child’s success in school and in their learning process. This is especially true when the child is learning English as a second language because they have very limited opportunities to listen to, practice and use English outside of the 3-4 hours a week that they spend in English class. So, if you’ve been asking yourself what you can do to help your child learn English, we’ll give you some tips that you can do at home (or anywhere really!) that will progress your child’s English skills even faster!
Motivate them through technology.
In the same way, and relevant to older kids and teens as well, make sure your devices and gaming consoles are set to English, and more importantly, that the gameplay is in English. Very little motivates children and teens more than technology. And this is not surprising: as digital natives, our children’s generation was born into a world where technology is not only everywhere but also indispensable in our day to day lives. Where there is motivation, there is interest and thus, improved learning. Buy your child’s next video game in English and create a need for them to learn the words used and understand the language being spoken. For older teens, multiplayer video games are an excellent way for them to practice their English speaking skills with other players around the world who don’t speak their language.
- British Council: https://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/fun-games
- PBS: http://www.pbskids.org/
- FunBrain Jr: http://www.funbrainjr.com/
- Not quite a game but one of my personal favorites: a story starter to get kids’ imagination going and inspire them to write a story in English: http://thestorystarter.com/junior.html
Music is profoundly linked to memory.
Lastly, I want to share one of the most effective yet easiest English-teaching methods that teachers use in their classrooms: songs and rhymes! Music is repetitive and rhythmic, which helps us learn English more easily and in an enjoyable way. When a person listens to a song again and again, they slowly start learning the words, then the structures and during this process they’re learning
pronunciation, intonation, rhythm and pitch. Furthermore, listening to music and singing are fun and motivating for children, as well as a good way for them to build confidence and practice their speaking skills. Cambridge suggests “for 5-11 year olds, choose songs with a lot of rhyming words and rhythms that repeat. This makes it easier for children to learn new words and start singing along.” On the other hand, for older teens, songs provide the perfect opportunity to combine their interests with learning English. They will definitely be motivated to understand and learn a song in English if they enjoy listening to it. Check out lyricstraining.com for a fun, interactive game to listen to music.
And if you want to go the extra mile..
If you’re already doing all of the above or you just want more ideas to help your child improve their English even further, we’ll offer you some out-of-the-box ideas you might not have considered:
- Sometimes, it’s the simple things that are most effective. Simply discussing your child’s English lessons or English-learning helps your child reflect on what they’ve learned and consolidates their memory. Ask them one word they learned that day or one game/activity that made them happy and encourage a conversation.
- Whip out the label maker (or just use post-its) and help your kids learn the words for common objects in English by labeling them. Repetition is key for memory retention, so if every time your child wants to use his favorite toy truck, s/he sees ‘TRUCK’ written on it, s/he will definitely remember it and start using it in the future!
- Feel like spending some time with your child on a nice Sunday morning? Make a delicious recipe or a cool craft with them by following instructions in English. Go to Highlight Kids youtube channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC4p_YSvJlJpEhAh5PMyhkiQ/videos) and find your favorite recipe or craft; help your child learn basic instructions and vocabulary in English, while they’re having fun and learning life skills. Active learning, or learning by doing, is one of the best ways to help your child learn English.
- Learning English yourself is the best way to help your child progress in their English-learning journey. Being able to use the language with them provides a great opportunity for them to practice their speaking and listening skills. Also, learning together can be a very motivating experience for the children.
And of course…Let’s watch it in English.
We’ll end with the easiest one but also the one that will end up influencing your child quite a lot: set your T.V. (or streaming platform) to English. During a child’s early development, the brain acquires and develops all the sounds that belong to their native language, so that the child is then able to use it in vocal speech. The brain does this by analyzing everything the child listens to and then transforming it into mouth movements that the child can then imitate to produce a specific sound. How many times did you repeat ‘momma’ or ‘dada’ to your child before they were able to say it? They have to hear a word said at different times, by different people, before they even attempt it. You can aid your child’s English-learning by exposing them to the sounds and rhythm of the English language so that it can be easier for them to replicate in the future.
If you feel that changing a setting is not enough, you could try more hands-on strategies. Help your child’s sound awareness by playing games with your refrigerator magnets: start with ‘cat’ and then change a letter to make ‘mat’ or ‘bat’. Kids also love silly tongue twisters that unknowingly help them differentiate and practice similar sounds. Another alternative that’ll be very fun for your kids is making letters out of pipe cleaners, play-doh or even food, and practising the sounds with them.
In the end, every little bit counts and anything you can do at home will help your child develop their language skills in English, so try at least one of our tips!
Johns Vaseekaran, D.J. (2018). Educational psychology.