Tiny-talking; Micro-conversations in Kindergarten

By Yolande Deane
DELTA qualified EFL teacher with 5 years’ teaching experience

Micro-conversations in Kindergarten

I have been teaching kindergarten for about six months in China so I have had some time to reflect on teaching young learners. I try to use moments in the classroom to create some moments of authentic interaction even though they are quite young.

A quick word

I often like to have what I call micro-conversations with the children, for what might take less than a minute, before the actual class starts. I often view these “micro-conversations” as an important part of the lesson. It is in that tiny amount of space that I really communicate with the children in English. I often use language that is not in the set book, or, adheres to any chants, but the children are listening and often repeating, and even confirming with me in their native tongue the meaning of the words or sentences I have used.

Grab the authentic moments

The children often want to communicate with you outside the boundaries of the book, even if it is in their language. These are the opportunities for you as the foreign teacher to grab. For example, recently in one of my classes, the children were desperately trying to communicate to me that it was somebody’s birthday, and they had brought in a cake, they would not let me start the lesson until I had understood!  I eventually caught on with the help of the teaching assistant, and said, “Oh, its Sophie’s birthday, happy birthday Sophie!” This was a chance for me to teach them the words “Happy Birthday” and we sang the song. It was also a chance to review the question ‘How old are you?”  This was a moment in the class “outside” of the book and a chance for me to have a tiny amount of authentic communication with them, and I think the children enjoyed the moment of being “outside” the set lesson.

Teacher talk

I often find myself having these micro-conversations surreptitiously before the teaching assistant arrives, because I know we will have to plunge right into the book and stick to the plan. I only have twenty five or twenty minutes with each class, so we do not have a great deal of time.  I am not suggesting that routine and repetition are not important for young learners, but, I think that micro- conversations are a useful way to have a little authentic interaction with the children.  A micro-conversation could be as simple as “It’s very cold today isn’t it?” and use body language to show you are cold. I do not expect them to take over the conversation, but as the teacher I may be helping them to realise that just like the language their parents use with them, English is for communicating too.

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