Trying to apply English in an Indonesian Kindergarten classroom

I’m teaching in a Kindergarten 2 class in a country where English isn’t our first tongue. Since we’re a Montessori school, everything is done in English as the curriculum requires us to do so. But trying to teach a class where all of the students speak bahasa Indonesia in their home isn’t always easy. The fact that to be able to teach a lesson in English means that you have to get them to understand English before anything else. This was and still a challenge to me. For the past 3 years I have been given the privilege to teach a very bright class that embrace the language easily and made my teaching enjoyable. But this year I have a new class that got me to start all over again. Not that they can’t speak English at all, but because they’re not used to me and how I speak.

I have the tendency to speak quite fast which could be a problem for young learners. But this was not a problem to me before with my old class since they have been with me since the 1st time the learnt to speak English, so they are so accustomed with me and my English because I was the first spoken English person to them. This time, my class comes from a background of speaking bahasa at all time to their parents. I even have to write a full bahasa report to 2 of the parents every week just because they said that they can’t (and won’t try -sadly-) to use English at all. This kind of environment made them always try to find a fast way that to them it is easier to speak a whole sentence in bahasa just because they can’t speak one word than trying to speak stutterly in English.

So, I’m trying to find a new way to get the English to be used completely in my class.

According to Karen Nemeth, the best tools for dual language learners support the three Cs: 

  • Communication
  • Conversation
  • Connected concepts in context

Communication: I always try to make the communication in my classroom runs smoothly by using a lot of simplified English. This seem to work, at least they could understand what I’m trying to tell them. I use gestures, voices, drawing and basically everything there is possible to get my points given. I do love the fact that my kids seem to love my way of communicating with them that I refuse to use bahasa in our class and choose to get my message sent in those forms.

Conversation: Every day I always take my time to try and ask them to tell me about their daily life or activities that they have done as a way of encouraging the communication in English. I always have a 10 minutes greeting time that I used to just talk about simple thing like everyday life or their favorite cartoon. I am hoping this will help them to engage on the idea of using English.

Connected concepts: I use English in all of my lesson in the class. I love the idea that Montessori requires us to use the 5 senses when teaching. This means I get to bring stuffs to the classroom to teach. And this method for me is the best way to get them to understand and use English as they could not only see, but also feel the material given. By making sure the lessons are taught around the 5 senses, I could make sure that my students could understand the concept taught because by engaging other senses than just seeing, they may be able to grasp the knowledge more. 

I have to admit starting all over again to get my class to speak a hundred percent English are both fun and challenging. It’s fun because it stimulates my mind for i need to find ways for them. I love the challenge too as for me no matter what, I found children to be a very welcoming bunch of human beings and that they have no fear of the unknown. 

I sure love my class and I love my job!

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