Recently a private tutor asked me how best to help a child learn English fast. The situation was urgent because this tutor taught English to children in hospital individually. One of his pupils was 18 and had been fighting a dreadful disease all his life. This child had learned almost perfect English with a beautiful accent. He had achieved this by listening to music, watching movies, and playing video games. Those are indeed excellent language learning tools. However, as their private tutor, I’d be inclined to actively teach the children rather than stick them in front of a website. After all, they can do that without a teacher, don’t you think?
Using movies to help a child learn English fast
As a teacher, it’s a cop-out to play long movies during valuable class time, but you can play trailers (teasers). Show the trailer and make guesses as to what happens in the film. Talk about the characters and how you think they will evolve. The student then watches the whole film for homework and you discuss it in the next lesson. Find out what types of film your student enjoys. Don’t (potentially) bore them with your favorite black and white all-time classics but get their input and follow their interests. On the other hand, don’t stick exclusively to those movies your student likes. Broaden your cultural horizons and choose great films from all around the English-speaking world.
If your student is a beginner and doesn’t understand enough English for discussion, use simpler tasks when working with a movie clip. For example, have the student look for the colour of a car, a specific item of clothing, or type of food in a scene. Tailor your questions to the level of your student.
- It can be most helpful to show subtitles in English in conjunction with the English audio.
- Make sure the content is appropriate.
Using songs to learn English fast
Work on the lyrics of your student’s favorite songs. See how many words the student knows already and fill in the blanks. You’ll find lyrics.com useful. Teach vocabulary through games such as these: How to teach a child English. Make up actions for keywords in the song and perform these while the music plays. Ask your student to suggest actions, this way, you’ll be in the realm of what they find comfortable. Have your student find out about the musicians, their biography and daily lives for homework.
Make quiz questions about your student’s interests, building them up gradually over a series of lessons. Keep all these questions on separate pieces of card that you can later draw out of a hat for a quiz game. As for Trivial Pursuit, use a colour scheme for types of questions. For example, red for a music question, green for a geography question, blue for science, yellow for sport, etc. If your student is not interested in sport, choose a category that does interest them. Personally, the endless questions about which baseball player scored the highest number of runs in Dallas in 1972 is of no interest to me, but to others, it’s fascinating! Questions should mix things they know and teach you and things you know and teach them. Both of you will learn!
Of course, games help a child learn fast, faster than anything! So if your pupils are beginners, use games like Find the Pairs Memory game, Battleships from Teach Your Child English, and how about Snap, Cluedo, Monopoly, and other board games? They all have speaking opportunities. However, if you are teaching online, then ESL Online Games is the book you need.
Find out what your student loves
The key is to work with topics your student loves.
It’ll be a win-win situation if you find out what your pupil loves and work with that. You’ll learn from each other. If they have a hobby, find out all about it. For example, if your student loves pottery, it might not be realistic to make a pot during a lesson, but you can learn about the techniques and the materials needed. You can also learn about pot shapes and uses, porcelain, famous pottery, and archaeology.
Just because the textbook covers family members or clothes doesn’t mean you have to stick to that religiously. For example, if your book teaches adjectives with clothes (a red skirt, a long coat) and your pupil is crazy about cars, teach adjectives with cars instead (a fast Porsche, a blue Mercedes). Remember, the lessons are about your student, not you. So while discussing different types of trains after four sessions may bore you, your student may just be getting started!
Three great books to help your child learn fast
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