The following are common questions (and our answers) that new kindergarten parents often ask us: Click here for the Japanese translation.
1. Why do you begin lessons from nenchu (from 4 years old)?
When students join our school, we want ALL children to participate fully in our lessons. We have found that MOST 4 year olds can sing well, speak confidently, do homework in My English Book and Me: Kindergarten 1 and 2, work in groups and make significant progress in a short time.
With 3 year olds, some can and some can’t. Some confident students in the trial lesson, can’t do the lessons. And vice versa.
We find it best to begin when we know 99% of kids will be able to fully participate in and benefit from our lessons.
2. My child is TOO YOUNG to join Dave and Amy English School. What should I do instead?
We recommend reading easy English books, watching English cartoons, speaking to your child in English (if you are comfortable doing that) and listening to English songs.
3. Why DON’T most kindergarten children begin writing? And what are the exceptions?
Most children under the age of 5 don’t have the pencil skills to write. It is better to begin writing when children can do so easily and confidently. Writing from a young age, for slow writers, discourages them. And again, we never know who can / can’t. Some of the most vocal / confident children lack the pencil skills to write. Just like beginning lessons from 4 year olds, we prefer to begin writing from the age of 6, when we know most children will have the pencil skills / mental ability to write.
And please remember, there is a A LOT children can learn BEFORE writing in kindergarten lessons: songs, vocabulary, questions and answers, phonics…
The exception? If children have studied with us from 4 years old and have finished My English Book and Me: Kindergarten 1 and 2, then we often begin writing with My English Book and Me: Elementary 1 from the fall or winter of the last year of kindergarten (when children have turned 6)
4. Why DO you teach recognizing phonics in kindergarten but not writing the letters?
Again, pencil skills are not sufficient for writing (for many children under 5). BUT students can easily learn ALL their phonics in preparation for writing. In fact, many kindergarten children can READ full sentences BEFORE any writing.
5. How do lessons differ for beginners and students who have studied for 1 year?
After 1 year, students will do MORE phonics activities. And do more solo or pair work (as opposed to whole group work).
6. Can beginning 4, 5 and 6 year old kindergarteners be in the same class?
Yes. Beginners are beginners. If your child is beginning, it doesn’t matter their age. What matters is being in a class their level. Of course, some 5 and 6 year old kindergartners progress faster than some 4 year olds. In which case (after 6 months), it might be better to change to a higher level kindergarten class. The teacher will advise when this is the case.
7. What is a good kindergarten lesson?
Confident children actively singing, participating, speaking, learning and having fun. Children learning and progressing.
What to avoid:
1 The teacher speaking. Students quiet.
2 The CD and / or teacher singing and students not singing (or not singing correctly).
3 Lots of wasted time coloring, cutting, gluing….without much English being spoken.
4 Japanese translation. (Kids are adaptable. They don’t need Japanese)
5 Purposeless fun like:
• Running and touching: are the kids even speaking English? or are they just running and touching?
• Singing songs super fast: Are students singing correctly? Probably not.
6. LONG lessons. An hour is long enough if taught well. LONG lessons usually means wasted time: snack time, clean up time, craft time: all with limited English.
8. Why don’t you use the My English book and Me: Kindergarten 1 and 2 texts IN CLASS (other than to check the homework?)
We think class time should be speaking time. If we use the text, there will be a lot of wasted time: Taking out text, coloring (kids color at different speeds), matching…..
We would rather make full use of class time.
Also, children learn the vocabulary, questions and answers IN the text through flashcards and games. They don’t need to use the text.
9. My child doesn’t speak any English. How will they understand with no Japanese translation?
How did your child learn Japanese? You didn’t translate. Your child learned naturally.
We keep the vocabulary, question and answers and songs simple. The children CAN understand easily.
Also, if we translate EVERYTHING, then your child will be reliant on translation and not open their ears / brains to understanding.
If you want your child to be comfortable in English, then little or no Japanese is best.
10. Why don’t you sing a long to a CD?
Many reasons, but mainly, ALL of our songs are simple. ALL kids can sing and remember them.
Many schools use CDs because the songs are too difficult for the teacher to remember. If it is too difficult for the teacher, how do you think students can remember? They can’t. There is NO point to songs if children can’t sing them.
Also, with CDs, you will find that the CD and teacher sings, but many times, the children are quiet or just singing some words.
In addition, with a CD, there is wasted time— finding the right track, starting it…. We prefer not to waste anytime in the class.
Finally, with a CD, there are many things you can’t do: change the tempo, change the vocabulary….
We prefer our students sing with no CD.
10. MY child is shy, quiet, scared…. will he / she be OK in your lessons?
Yes. We’ve been teaching since 1996. We have a lot of experience. This is what we’ve learned:
The shy student in the trial lesson is fine in the actual lessons. We’ve had trial lesson students cry, crawl under the table, hide behind Mom and NOT SAY 1 WORD (not all at once). And then join the lessons. Many of these same children went on to be some of our best students. (When I think back to their trial lesson and look at them IN the lesson — you would never guess).
So don’t be afraid. Your child CAN do it too.
I'll be speaking more about what we do in our kindergarten and elementary lessons at the ELL event on Sunday the 14th. Please sign up to listen to me and many other presenters.