My latest project is to create my own EFL VYL Kindergarten curriculum. I’m under no illusions that it will be an easy task!
My inspiration has been working with the shortcomings of some of the existing products and knowing there is a better way.
For example, the big school I had been working at uses one of the leading course book for very young learners. Whilst it is an excellent book in many respects, the opening unit is body parts. New students, as young as three years old, are immediately confronted with singular and plural, the unit grammar structure, numbers and counting, and an array of the challenging ending sounds. At my school, the unit is also paced the same as any other unit. All of which makes for a challenging start for any very young learner, and places enormous pressure on the teacher in the often difficult first weeks of a new class.
What I’d love to do, is start a course slowly, and with language some students will be familiar with (colors, numbers, shapes and maybe animals), lexis that will be used many times in the future lessons. Given, some students may be familiar with the vocabulary, you can instead focus on other learning aspects like the many fun ways of introducing topics like numbers (that is ‘front-load’ your first lessons with super-fun activities and games), focus on developing class room routines and structures like ‘making a line’, and introducing upfront powerful pair work structures (to be used in many upcoming lessons) whilst the cognitive load is minimal.
With this approach, the children are much more likely to enjoy their first lessons (and associate learning and languages as something fun), develop their confidence with some easy quick wins, begin settling into a classroom environment with new friends, be less stressed or anxious, and ease their way into language learning.
Also, over time, I’ve developed ways of teaching certain themes that I know most students love. One example, would be shapes. I’ve have a sequence of songs, activities and games that introduces shape recognition, realising that shapes are everywhere, singing a fun song about them, and then going on a ‘shapes hunt’ around the language centre. There is also an abundance of engaging shapes craft activities to choose from, including the shapes pizza or Mr Shapes Head.
However, I realise its possible to bring this level of detail to almost every theme. For example, when I taught the party theme from a course book as a cover lesson, I entered the class wearing party clothes, and carrying a cake. I then unveiled a table full of party food and we sung Happy Birthday. All of the games and activities for that class were all adapted from popular children’s party games for the EFL class. It was one of my favourite classes to teach and was a lot of fun for everyone involved, including the teaching assistants, because they had no idea of how it would unfold. Part of that is because many EFL VYL teachers use the essentially the same games and structures every lesson. While most students at that age enjoy some repetition, classes delivered that way can lose a lot of the richness that is possible.
Also, what I’ve learned over my teaching career, is that there are types of activities, crafts, songs, and games that the majority of children just love.
The problem is, the ideas, techniques, tools, and so on that go into to creating a great lesson rarely exist in one place, be that a teacher, or a course, or text book.
I realise that with (a lot of) work, many lessons can be as much fun as my party or shapes lessons. And they can be equally as powerful for the children in terms of a learning experience.
And that’s what I’m inspired to do… bring those ideas together to create an amazing learning experience for the child.
Also, I want to ensure lots of other learning components are deliberately incorporated into the program like a structured literacy program (rather than just teaching phonics from a course book), gross and fine motor skills development, collaborative (rather than competitive) structures, differentiated learning, diversity, brain breaks, using real storybooks along with relevant extension activities, and much more. So, for example, their break time is used meaningfully, rather than them just watching a random and unrelated video.
There are other tools I want to incorporate, too. For example, there are many ways of teaching pre-writing skills and letter formation that are highly engaging and also minimise the probability of children picking up bad habits.
However, in most language schools, their approach to teaching VYLs is just to teach or slightly adapt the textbook, with many teachers preparing their lessons shortly before teaching them. That means its rare that these type of elements are incorporated into their programs.
And this is what I want to do.
My plan at this stage is to work thematically, since most VYL EFL course books use similar themes. In this way, I can easily wrap and adapt my content and structures around those that would be found in the majority of textbooks.
That is my plan at this stage, anyway!
Because there aren’t many resources around creating an EFL VYL Kindergarten English curriculum and syllabus, I’ll share some of what I’m doing on the website. If exploring the ideas around a kindergarten english curriculum is something that interests you, I’d love to dialogue with you, so please use the contact page to connect with me.