Teaching a 5 year old

Hello. I have experience teaching English to Brazilians (grown up) but a friend recently asked me to teach her 5 year old son. He speaks Portuguese and German, but only knows a few words in English. She specifically asked me not to let him know I also speak Portuguese and German, but I don't think he understands me at all when I speak only in English to him. I feel he is not interest in learning. What should I do? Is there a better way for me to get through to him? Should I speak to him in another language?

Heath's picture

Try storytelling. 


You could do straight out storytelling, or storytelling from picture books while pointing at the things as you say them. 

Or you can pre-teach characters using pictures, and actions using mime, then encourage him to mime the actions whenever you say the appropriate word in the story.  (eg.  "And the big bear [child mimes a growling bear] went to sleep [child mimes sleeping]."


Kids love stories, so he'll be engaged from the start... and they don't need to understand the whole thing at first.  It can be very surprising how quickly kids pick stuff up when the focus is on communication and fun rather than teaching.

jenni8_uk's picture

I teach English to children in Chile as a private tutor, and have students as young as 4 years old. I speak in Spanish with them in order to give instructions, as this generally makes things easier for me. However I still have problems with them understanding the vocabulary I am teaching them as they cannot pronounce everything very well, so maybe some of things I do with my students are relevant to your situation.

I play a lot of games using the basic vocabulary that I am teaching them, such as noughts and crosses (tic-tac-toe), simon says, matching pairs, etc.

Physical activities often work well with young children - I put flash cards on the floor and I call out a word, which they then have to find and bring to me before I count to 10 - they like trying to beat me in the race. Some students also like performing actions in a song - they then begin to sing parts of the song once they have heard it several times. I focus on providing lots of input and games, and I don't worry about them producing the language straight away.

I also use colouring in sheets a lot, with colours and numbers and with some other vocabulary - most children have a favourite activity such as colouring, cutting and sticking, or playing a game, so if you can find out what your student likes to do, then you could try to use that activity a lot to teach and practice the vocabulary. That way he should be more interested in learning, even though the results may not be obvious for some time.


rushchellee's picture

I wanna learn more in English but I didnt know how to start..
I can understand English but not that wide...