Teaching Very Young Learners - What's hot and What not by Herbert Puchta
Can you imagine what your life would be like without reading and writing?
When we are talking about very young learners, their key characteristic is essentially pre-literacy, not the age. And this is what differentiates them from young learners who can already read and write. For pre-literate children speech is extremely important as it is through speech that they begin to communicate and learn.
What is the best age for learning another language? The earlier the better is true in the second language acquisition context when a family moves to a new language environment. In this case it will take one or two years for children to master the language to the native like level.
Critical period hypothesis claims that the best time for learning a foreign language is between 2 and 12. However, there are exceptions to this theory as well. There are different points of view on the starting age of a child to begin learning a foreign language but H. Puchta believes that it is possible to start teaching a foreign language at very young age provided there is a meaningful and engaging learning environment. We (teachers) need to learn how children learn their own language in a natural environment to inform our approaches in an EFL teaching. For instance, lowering the age for introducing a foreign language learning is what we see more and more often nowadays but the study time should be sufficient i.e. 20 min or 30 min a week is not enough.
It is also very important to pay attention not only to the language but to the other things in the classroom i.e. body language of children, their communication of their wants and needs to the teacher and other learners through their body language since children at a very young age do not yet have enough language to communicate clearly what they have to say. 'Teacher and researchers can not read learners mind, so they must infer what learners know by observing what they do.' (Lightbown and Spada 2013).
Stories are excellent for very young learners. But a story needs to help children make sense of the world. Stories introduce values to children. A story needs: - Beginning-middle-end structure -Magic -Smth unexpected needs to happen that needs to get resolved -Strong emotional contrasts good-bad, happy-sad...
Myths and Facts about Teaching Young Learners by Malgosia Tetiurka
Amazing video from TED talks about a parent who was recording how his child was learning to speak. It took half a year for a baby boy to learn to say the word 'water' starting with calling it 'ga-ga' and then gradually moving to calling it 'water' by the end of 6 months.
To help students develop their speaking and encourage the use of the new language in a dialogue, simple puppets may help. The presenter actually did one during the presentation (watch this in the videorecording) in less than a minute. This creates a feeling of security and the language becomes more natural and authentic.
Another thing a teacher can do is to help children use the language naturally, for example, taking them to the forest to explore trees using English. The learning gets really engaging as children get genuinely interested in exploring the trees and language becomes a tool for it.
Activities should be challenging and not only in terms of language, if they challenge children mentally, they become interesting and engaging.
Fluent Bilingual Children in a Monolingual Community: Is It Possible? by A.Arzumanian
An interesting story from a father of 3 beautiful children who started talking to his children in English. The story is how to get children interested in English.
Some advice when you start teaching your children at home:
- Speak to children in English, so that they take it naturally that English is language of communication.
- It's important to listen to what interest your kids. Try commenting on everyday actions in English. Comment on what your children do.
- When children start early, it becomes part of their identity. No mistake correction. If a kid makes a mistake, it's your mistake. It means that you didn't give enough input.
Blog post by Natalia Tsarikova