Caveat: Kindergarteners

I finally had my first time with the "kindergarteners." Actually, the Korean term that is translated as kindergarten is 유치원 (yu-chi-won) and it really means any schooling below first grade – so the age range is from "barely out of diapers" right up to 6 or so (western counting). Many public elementary schools don't have kindergartens, but this one that I'm working at, because of the same extra funding that allows them to have two amazing and underappreciated native English teachers, also has a kindergarten wing. And on Wednesday mornings, barring other events, I get to teach the little ones.

I spend 30 minutes with each group: oldest, middle, and youngest. They were great fun. Kids that age are easy to teach language to, because they just sit and soak it up, like sponges. Half-an-hour a week won't get them fluent, but at least it gets them exposed to it, a little – kind of like the Spanish that American kids get so often in lower grades.

I showed them one of my famous plastic finger-chomping alligators (actually, it was my co-teacher's new alligator, who had bought a few after seeing how I used them in class and liking the idea). They were very, very focused. And we did the 코코코 game (ko-ko-ko means nose-nose-nose): you touch parts of your face, and name them, and then at some point you make an intentional mistake, like pointing at your ear and saying "nose." The kids think this is hilarious, and it helps them learn the vocabulary. You can apply it to other things too, like piles of toys in the shapes of food, or whatever. It's a pretty informal game, but those work best.

Finally, we read a story (there are some pretty good Korean-developed curricular materials that include custom-written stories, that I was given to use). Reading picture books to kids is great, you can stop and talk about what's going on in the story much more smoothly than when watching a video or listening to a CD. It becomes more INTERACTIVE, and can work at any level: "Where's the dog?" "On roof!" "Why?" "Hide."

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