Catherine Kneafsey, an expert in teaching English to young learners presented her talk "Not Just Child's Play: Creativity in Young Learner Language Learning" at the E-merging Forum 4 in Moscow.


Catherine Kneafsey qualified and worked as a schoolteacher before joining Oxford University Press educational publishing. She has taken postgraduate studies in the psychology of child development and language learning.
For 20 years she ran the primary English language teaching course publishing, working with teachers and ministries of education in Europe, Latin America, Middle East and Asia. She then ran the publishing list for teacher development. More recently she has lectured on the ELT Master level courses at the University of Reading and written a distance learning module on teaching English to young learners.
Topic: Not Just Child's Play: Creativity in Young Learner Language Learning
Children don’t follow the script of how to learn a new language:
-    they are likely to stray ‘off task’ and find their classmates more interesting than the goal they are supposed to achieve
-    they may prefer the frivolous response to the right answer
-    they play with words and distort their dictionary-defined sounds and meanings
These behaviours ‘off the script’ might actually enable children to master language at a deeper level than the more common pedagogic scripts allow for. This talk will look at the creativity inherent in children’s approaches to language learning and ask how teachers can stimulate this creativity to stretch their communicative capacities.
Video recording of the plenary session
You can watch the full recording of Catherine Kneafsey’s talk on British Council Russia’s YouTube channel by clicking the link below:
Watch an interview with Catherine Kneafsey speaking about music and dance of English language. She explains why young learners are so perceptive to non-verbal communication.
Watch the interview by clicking this link below:
Our audience asked Catherine some questions. Below you can see the questions and read Catherine's answers:
Andrey Grankin: Catherine, why do you like English?
I like being English! So it's about my social identity. I also like learning languages for their sounds and also the interest of communicating with new people.
Ekaterina Shadrova: Do you think communicating online replaces communication face-to-face, especially among children?
No I don't think it replaces face to face at all for young learners. It's a useful additional tool but younger children up to age 9 need to develop the skills of face to face interaction in terms of listening, taking turns, finding ways to reach agreement. They are still doing this in their first language too and developing the more complex language that will be needed to explain themselves at a distance. There are some great games for children to play to practise the sounds and phrases of English. There are also videos and the useful tool of skype for communicating with children in other countries. But communication skills of interaction are still being learnt.
Vera Bobkova: When you use props who brings them - you or the kids?
I like the question. The answer is both. Children's own props have even stronger emotional meanings attached to them so it's great to invite them to bring things into the classroom to show others. Children can make their own props too in the classroom. So both but do try to get children to bring/make their own.
Vera Bobkova: The examples of children making an affective stance and joking about 'You can do so much with Barbie'
You'd have to look into examples found by researchers interested in this type of language use. Patsy Lightbown, Alison MacKey, Bongarts and Schneider focused on this. You can read these articles in a book by Continuum publishers called something about Child's play- edited by Philps, MacKey and Oliver. Sorry I can't remember the exact title.
You can download Catherine Kneafsey’s presentation “Not Just Child's Play: Creativity in Young Learner Language Learning” below

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