Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Cuteness is Good for the Soul

My friend Amanda, who teaches at the Guangdong Ocean University here described teaching English to preschoolers this way:  "Sit down.  Sit down.  Sit down!  Cat.  Sit down.  Sit down." She sort of has a point.  Preschoolers  have a different learning process from older people.  Their priorities are different.  Biological needs and shiny things can pretty much sum it up.  Food, drink, potty,fun, Mommy, fun, discovery, and fun I think are the categories behaviorists use.
They are also wired to learn language.  They learn it differently from the rest of us, but since they are put into my classroom for an hour once or twice a week, and their parents expect them to learn something, I'm presented with a unique challenge.  Their attention spans vary, but attention is a fledgling item in a little kid's psyche and has a tendency to wander, often at extreme speeds, never stopping anywhere too long.  I try to slow these numerous little attentions down enough to pause and absorb what I have to offer.
Six words.  That's kind of a rule of thumb as far as how much a little one can absorb in an hour.  I'm happy if they get six words, the fun part is getting it in there.  Fun.  It has to be fun.  If it's not fun, then they aren't interested.  Fuggitaboutit.  My experience has shown me that I have about 15 minutes near the beginning of the class time to get those words into their little heads.  I generally have their attention and they know the drill.  I use songs, power points, bribes, slapstick, drawings, stuffed animals, old phones, props, video, and whatever else is available to keep their attentions.
Most of them are adorably cute.  I like that.  It connects with me. I've seen enough ugliness in my life, and I'm more than happy to interact with the cute.  That connection goes both ways, we have fun, and they manage to learn some stuff.
 The Old Timers that I've been teaching for years.

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