This year may stretch your child in all sorts of ways. Between math, reading, and lots of new routines and rules, kindergarten is a lot for any child to handle. But if your child is also learning English, it’s extra challenging.

One of the big obstacles for children learning English in a classroom where a lot of students are already fluent is that English learners become more quiet and less likely to speak in class. Often times teachers, thinking that they’re being kind, let English learners remain silent. However, helping English language learners establish a positive pattern of participation is better. Why? Because one of the best ways to learn a language is to dive in, dare to make mistakes, and just start communicating.

4 ways parents can help kids feel confident enough to speak in class

  1. Prepare to participate

    When you ask your child about his school day, don’t just ask how the day went. Instead, ask “What question did you ask today?” This will send the message that learning is about asking questions. If you suspect your child is too scared to raise their hand in class, plan together a question that your child might ask the teacher the next day. Even if your child practices a question at home and then doesn’t say it in class, it will get your child one step closer to talking in class.

  2. Be a role model

    Next time you find yourself in a situation where you could ask a question and your child is with you, do it. Allow your child to see you step out of your comfort zone as you communicate in English. This will teach your child that it’s OK not to know things and that learning is a normal part of everyone’s day.

  3. Communicate with your child’s teacher

    By email or in person (with or without a translator), tell your teacher that you want your child to participate actively in class discussions as much as possible. Ask your child’s teacher to ask your child something very easy and clear so that your child can experience a little success. Expert tip: Explain to the teacher you’ve heard that if the teacher pairs students in groups of two or three to discuss what the class is learning, English language learners are more likely to take chances and talk than if the discussion is in front of the whole class.

  4. Talk about the value of speaking English (not just listening to it)

    Explain to your child that the more he speaks, the faster he will learn English. Not just because he will be practicing more, but because he will make lots of mistakes. New research has found that mistakes help grow the brain (crazy but true!) and help solidify learning. So encourage your child to open his mouth, try, and make mistakes every day.