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please help 
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Joined: Mon Feb 05, 2007 8:31 am
Posts: 1
Location: australia
Post please help
Hi I have come here in some desperation. I helping a Russian friend with her 4yr old who was born and lives in australia but will only rarely speak english even at preschool. I visit for 1/2 a week with the aim to "open her up" to speaking - at present she hasnt spoken a word to me! I have been doing some craft activites using colours, shapes numbers etc which she enjoys but the amount of preparation time is insane. I havent worked with young students before and a one to one situation seems to limits me as far as many of the games are concerned. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Mon Feb 05, 2007 8:40 am

Joined: Mon Jan 29, 2007 6:54 pm
Posts: 52
Location: Kanagawa, Japan
Post incidental learning
i think the best approach is to go there and play any game that she likes and dont have any real lesson plan. there is lots of kids games that can be purchased from the shops that are aimed at kids her age (although doing this all the time can become costly). games, such as the wiggles dominoes (colorful), balance games all can help make the environment more relaxing. the key is not to expect her to should just have a conversation with yourself about the game or any other random thing. the more you place pressure on her to speak, the less she will want to, so dont become desperate. perhaps do some silly things which she will find funny....misplace a game piece and ask her where it might just get body actions at first, but at least she is showing signs of understanding you. when she realises that you are not there to pressure her, hopefully she will begin to open up.

perhaps you can invite a playmate over and go to the park or something in a real casual environment and just allow her and her playmate to enjoy themselves...offer to buy them an icecream or something..hopefully she will respond to something like this. bribing her on some occassions may help.

Mon Feb 05, 2007 12:39 pm

Joined: Wed Jan 24, 2007 8:57 pm
Posts: 135
I am assuming that this girl speaks well at home in Russian? I would just keep trying and surrounding her with English. It seems like you are doing a great job with crafts. Here is a link to tons more links that may help:

Also how about books. Go to the library and pick up books with repetitive language (Brown Bear, Brown Bear) or ones that little children would enjoy. My favorite now are books by Robert Munsch. and just have her point on word or respond with nods or head shakes to simple questions. Make them silly to lighten the mood. Once she starts to open up, ask either/or questions or try to get her to say the name of the toy before you give it to her (playing hard of hearing can help here ;-)
I wouldn't worry too much. Kids really do watch and learn by doing so. I'm sure she is soaking up a lot.
Talking to her parents should help here too. Including them in games or just getting feedback.

I hope this helps some. Good luck and keep us informed!

Mon Feb 05, 2007 4:19 pm
Site Admin

Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2006 10:46 am
Posts: 2130
Location: Nagano, Japan
To be honest, it sounds like a counselor may be a better choice than an English teacher. Obviously, if the hurdle is English, you would need a Russian speaking counselor. That may be hard to find.

This is a 4 year old girl born and raised in Australia, right? There must be some reason behind her unwillingness to speak at kindergarten or to you. That may not be healed with simple English competance.

That's just a gloss over opinion, I don't know the details of the situation. However, that doesn't mean you can't help.

Like the other posters, I would say keep at it. You may not be getting a response now but I'm sure your efforts are making progress. Children take a lot in, learn and remember much more than we generally think. I'm sure this girl is learning and understands you are trying to help her.

I would just play with her, or rather, play around her. You can use her toys and just have fun. While you are doing that just constantly talk as you go. Say everything you do. Try to imagine that annoying friend that says everything, everything that's on their mind. Then, be worse.

Crafts are great, but like you said it's a lot of prep to do crafts everytime. Books are great. Songs work. Building things with Legos. Playing house with dolls. Making simple things like paper airplanes, decorating them with crayons, giving them a name and writing it down the side.

I also agree with Azza that making fun of yourself by doing something stupid or childish will help you to bond. It can even be staged/set up. By being silly or zanny, the child might laugh and feel a little more comfortable. An example is throwing those earlier paper airplanes around the room, but rushing (panic) to hide them and pretending like you weren't doing anything when one of her parents walks in. Then when they leave you take them out again, and repeat.

I have written a post about my ideas behind teaching children. Some of that may be helpful to you.

Build up! Be positive! Teach hard!

Mon Feb 05, 2007 10:22 pm
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