Teach Your Child English

How to Teach Your Child English and Have Fun!


Teaching your child or tutoring your pupil to learn English is an excellent idea in today's world where English is becoming increasingly THE language through which diverse cultures communicate. If you speak English don't let that precious gift go to waste and be sure to pass it on to your child, but don't blow it before you begin! Do not nitpick and notice too that your child or pupil is not covered in colourful feathers, no, you are not teaching a parrot!


Thank you for coming along with me to learn how to make your private tutoring or English teaching effective and fun. If you go about tutoring in the right way you will find your child or pupil loves learning English and spending time with you. If you teach in a traditional way, with a textbook, then you'll have your work cut out because your pupil will consider these extra English lessons to be like yet more schoolwork and a chore.


Don't blow it before you begin!


Let's look at a couple of big no-nos first, and these apply to parents AND private tutors. The first really big issue with teaching your child is to instil in him or her the belief that he or she can succeed. It does not take much to blow this step! For example I've had a parent tell me how her daughter has no English skills whatsoever and is useless at English because the French primary school are totally incapable of teaching it. That may be true, but you should have seen the little girls face fall when she heard that! Set the right example by showing your child you believe he or she can learn English easily. Your child will flourish if she knows that you love her unconditionally and are proud of her, wherever she is on the learning curve.


Nit picking tutors beware!


When it comes to pronunciation watch out that you are not such a nit picker that the child freezes up and becomes paranoid about opening her mouth! This can happen VERY quickly in the first few lessons so take extra care. Remember that the child is making her best attempt to imitate you on hearing those first few English sounds. Don't penalise her by making her repeat it over and over, and it's never right! Put yourself in the child's shoes and you'll feel a little FRUSTRATION!! "Forget it, English is way too hard, I can't do it so now I don't want to do it, stupid irrelevant subject anyway…" 

You cannot correct everything that the child says; it's just demoralising, so let pronunciation errors through and work on them gradually over time.

Your child is not a parrot

A classic error is to mistake your child for a colourful bird with a small brain that is supposed to mindlessly repeat everything you say. Actually no offence to parrots here intended, they have infinite intelligence on some levels. Here's a typical scenario. Mum bends down towards little Johnny holding a fork and says "fork, Fork! FORK! Say fork Johnny, fo-o-or- k!" Johnny looks at mum and thinks, "why should I say that? Why is she saying that like some kind of loony, if that's English then it's weird and I don't need it!"

Engage your child through English games 

Instead of this bizarre behaviour it's better to give your child a reason to use English words and this can be done through language games, plays and skits, stories and songs. Now with children under three you don't use structured language games but instead play along with the child, chatting away using simple language and repeating the same words often. You are relying on the fact that the subconscious will be picking up the sounds and entering the database, and rest assured they will be! 

However with children aged three and up English tutoring can take on a more structured form. The best way to introduce new vocabulary is through language games. When the new words have been learned follow up with more games where the words are used in sentences. That's how you introduce grammar, by repeating sentences that contain the target grammatical structure you wish your pupil to learn. 

An effective strategy

Repetition IS the mother or skill, but not parrot-fashion, instead create a reason for the required repetition through the game. The best way to understand this is to see it done. Let me give you a link to a demonstration video of a private tutor teaching a six year old English, her first ever English lesson. In the video you will also see the tutor with an eleven year old, also using language games and a role-play. You'll find the video here: how-to-teach-a-child-to-speak-english

All four skills may be taught like this. Initially one uses listening games to introduce new vocabulary OR grammar, not both at once. Continue with more games to practise speaking – this is a drill type of activity, disguised in the packaging of game that encourages accuracy and is a starting point for speaking fluency too. Next play some different games using word cards as opposed to pictures or real objects so that the children see how words are spelled. After that practise writing – again, also through games. 

It's logical that a pupil should hear words several times before being expected to say them. Likewise a child needs to see a word written before you can expect him or her to write it.


If your child is learning English at school then I recommend focusing on listening and speaking in your private lessons because usually those are the elements that are lacking in the school environment. 

Your child or pupil may very well be MILES behind the school curriculum and hopelessly lost. Well my recommendation is not to worry about that, but to build a strong foundation. Firstly make your lessons fun and not tense, because applying pressure during lessons is not likely to work. It's like pulling on a flower to make it grow faster. Instead your flower needs a little sunshine, a little rain and maybe some fertilizer to help it grow faster, i.e. some encouragement, an effective teaching strategy and some enjoyment in learning the subject. 

Build a strong foundation with the BASICS. After all what chance does your pupil have in learning fancy tenses if she has not mastered the present tense? In addition remember that school exams are not only chance in life to succeed. It's more important to nurture a love of the subject and a desire to learn than to try to flog someone through an exam which they have no chance of passing, or rush and pressurise a young beginner. Why? Well life goes on a long time! We can have many chances to take exams and to learn. So keep the joy of learning alive and one day that seed will flourish into an autonomous plant.


LINK To author's site with one to one games: Shelley Vernon has helped 1000s of teachers be an inspiration to their pupils and achieve results 2x as fast. Teaching ESL creatively! Free one to one games and tips here: Teaching Your Child English