My name is Scott Waring and I am an American teacher in Taiwan with a BA in Elementary Education and a MS in Counseling Education. I have learned a lot about teaching, but it wasn't until I met my Taiwanese wife at Idaho State University and we moved to Taiwan where we opened a school, that I learned teaching to children from three to six was not just possible, but beyond anything I ever expected. I have also published two novels for kids, "George's Pond" and "West's Time Machine" being sold at all on-line stores. My wife and I currently own a school that has 150 students, fifty of which are ages 3-6 years' old.
Psychology and Education magazines often site that in every person's life, there is a time when the brain is more susceptible to learning, making learning easier and faster. The time that they are speaking of is between ages three and six years of age. A human will never learn as easily or as fast ever again past that age. This applies for everyone, and although I have not benefited from such early education myself, in six more months my son will, when he starts in our three year old class that teaches four solid hours of teaching a day, five days a week. In our school we have a motto; "Work Now, Play Later." But really they play in-between the classes. In this way we teach the students so much by age seven that when they start Elementary school, they find that everything is easy, while other students who have never benefited from learning before elementary, end up struggling along through the class, working much harder and not getting as far as the students that benefited from early learning. Now let me show you some easy steps that we use in our classes when they are age three to six.
1. Don't listen to other adults when they say students can only learn for ten to fifteen minutes! That's wrong in so many ways, and yet right in one way. You should teach them a full 45-60 minutes without stop, but every 15 minutes you should change the style of your teaching and change what words, math games, or items that you want you child to learn. For example: 15 min teaching English Vocabulary, 15 minutes teaching numbers, 15 minutes teaching letters, 15 minutes teaching writing letters (harder and takes patience at age 3).
2. Be creative in your teaching! This means if you are teaching at home, then sit next to the toy box and begin teaching the child the name of each toy, but remember to repeat it, so that the child hears you say it two times. This is especially good at teaching words like (Bulldozer, Ambulance, Police car, fire engine, race car, motorcycle, animals, Colors (very fun), and much more. There is a world of learning within the toy box and those are things the child sees everyday and relates to a lot, so those words you teach will be very useful and constantly used. Keep this repetition up everyday until the child knows it in a few weeks, then move on to something more challenging, but don't forget to review a little everyday of the old lessons!
3. Teach With Enthusiasm. Start with using your voice and then work up to cute mannerisms (acting). If you sound excited about teaching it, then the child will be excited to learn. The child is the reflection of the teacher, they reflect back what they see before them, so be cautious of what you say, you could be teaching things that you never intended or wanted too. It was Dr. Norman Peale that said "Enthusiasm sharpens a students mind and improves their problem solving abilities."
4. Make Sure The Child Follows Along: Teaching reading without teaching sounding words out is possible and I've been teaching that way to students for over ten years. Age three to four will have to start leaning words written on flash cards, hand made is fine. Find an easy story book you like and take 50-100 words starting out. You don't need a picture on the back, it wastes your time and doesn't make them learn faster, but like earlier you have to hold the card up and repeat the word two times, but will all you repetition, the child must always repeat two times (you say "Them", student says "Them". You say "Them" again, students says "Them" again.). Use this repetition for all teaching starting out for first year or more. New words you may teach might be (this, that, those, to, a, an, apple, banana, run, Jack, Jane, grass, house, tree, kite, toys and so on). When teaching vocabulary, find a good picture dictionary for small kids, use it and use the repetition while you teach it, also have the child follow with one finger on the picture at all times. Don't teach phonics for the first 6-12 months, this way they feel less scared of it and it comes much easier.
5. Make Sure They Speak: If you are teaching vocabulary words on cards, then hold one up (the word "Flowers") and ask, "Okay, what color are the flowers?" or "Where are the flowers?" and see where the child goes with it, it reinforces the memory of the word flowers in their thoughts, but keep them focused on the task at hand, no wandering.
6. Teach numbers, addition, and subtraction: This is the easiest thing of all to teach. Go to the crayon box and take it to use in this lesson. Sit down on the floor; (all my students learn best there) face the student and take ten crayons out of any color. Then hold them in your hand, placing three on the floor. Say, "Let's count them! Ready? One…Two…Three!" sound excited and do it slowly! Then see if the student wants to try, if not, you do a different number. Keep doing math this way using crayons, toys, balls, candy (yum-yum) or other items, until it's too easy and they want more. You can teach them up to 100, really it's true! But only if you believe in them as a teacher and believe in yourself. Move off to putting five crayons down and counting them, then take two away and count them again. Let the student try. Also, if your child likes drawing, instead of items, use paper and draw the number 4, then make four circles (or apples and so on). Do this for all numbers and let the child use a finger to point at them one by one as the student counts them. Great for teaching addition and subtraction.
7. Make Teaching A Routine: Kids fall into a routine much easier than adults and so you need to use the same time every day to teach them. Here is our class schedule for teaching three to six year olds.
9-10:00 AM: English speaking
10-10:30: Break and play
11:30-12:30: Lunch and play
2:00-3:00: Writing/letters for 3 year olds, words for 4, but one page diaries for 6 year olds.
Making a routine is detrimental to learning! Without this key element, you will not succeed in teaching the student for long. If at home, you must discipline yourself to teaching at certain hour everyday. This allows you and your child to fall into a comfortable routine, without chaos.
What have my students learned you ask? Well by the time they reach the age of 6-7 years old, they have been taking classes in my school for about 3 years. That means they have gained a vocabulary of over 3000+ English words (Remember they are Taiwanese so they start with not knowing any English at all), using a 1000 word picture dictionary series. Also they can add and subtract without using their fingers, but instead look at the board and answer quickly. They also start at six years old at learning writing and vocabulary in Chinese. By six, the students must write a one page diary everyday, with beautiful writing (about 50-70 words). Also they are capable of reading at a second graders level and use phonics to sound out words that they don't know.
By taking the time to teach you child early on, it will create a positive study habit for the student and make future learning easier by already having experienced learning in a structured environment. We teach and we learn along the way, both student and teacher. It's a wonderful process of personal growth for all involved!