I have been teaching private English classes for over a year now, and one of these classes happens to be for two Japanese children, 7 and 9, who have no prior English knowledge. Their father asks them to copy words from a vocabulary book they have, and wants me to help them study for the Eiken (English proficiency test) level 5. I've tried different approaches, but I only have 40 minutes a week with them, so retention is something we're struggling with. Although I send them homework, most of the time, they don't complete it, or only do so a few minutes before the class.
Recently, their father tells me that they have trouble understanding the English alphabetic system, so I thought it'd be useful to focus on phonics. My question is: with such little time together, should I really use it to teach phonics, or try instead to tackle the Eiken study guide for children the father gave to me? I feel like they'd benefit greatly from a stronger foundation in reading and recognizing words, but I often worry whether I'm choosing to focus on the right area.
If anyone has experience teaching EFL to young children, I'd really appreciate it.