‘Children are like wet cement. Whatever falls on them makes an impression.’
Dr Haim Ginott
photo by ELTpics
For a couple of weeks I have actively participated in several discussion forums upon different topics carried by Professor Willy Renandya. This group of teachers have enriched me with wonderful reflections and teaching practices.
Recent survey made in Korea showed high level of demotivation of YLE to learn English. Having discussed the results upon kids' demotivation to learn English I was inspired to blog upon the subject. According to the survey:
Almost 50% of the children said: “I don’t want to study English.”
They said: “English was interesting at first, but I lost interest because it required too much work.” If we ask those children learning English in Japan, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, etc. Perhaps we hear the same answer too?
Along the discussion forum Professor Wily Renandya claimed: "The children in the survey probably wanted to say the following, but didn't have the language to say it:
1. If English were a lot more fun, we'd want to learn it;
2. If my English teacher were fun to be with, we'd want to learn more from her;
3. If my English teacher gave us more fun exercises, we'd learn English in no time:
4. If the course books contained more fun-filled activities, we'd do a lot more practice on our own at home;
5. If learning English were more like learning how to play the piano (and not like learning Maths or science), we'd be more interested;
6. If ... etc.”
So how could us teachers change this reality? What’s peculiar about YLE?
See below some steps I suggest for successful lessons I have learnt by both observing teachers and by teaching YLE ( and teens , I believe)
1. When kids learn a foreign language :
• They focus more on meaning, rather than form
• They need a variety of activities.
• They benefit from being actively involved.
• They are curious and active.
• They use language creatively.
2. Connecting with children: Rapport is the key to successful communication.
- It may be that the teacher’s relationship with their pupils is more important in the end than the particular teaching method used. So make sure you establish eye-contact with your learners and show you are a good listener.
- Be aware of your posture, the tone of your voice, and where you stand in the classroom.
3. Respect their age and level of maturity : Do not treat your nine-year olds as if they were little babies for they are not, but do not assume they are like teenagers either.
4. Children come in all kinds. Some are quiet and may look quite shy (just do not act as if they are, instead ask yourself what you can do help them build self-confidence. Whatever you do, don’t use labels). Some are naughty and may show disruptive behaviour, but won’t challenge you or strive for confrontation. So beware of the subtle behavioural manifestations. Some others can be showy or simply highly-motivated. Still others will do as asked and show a lot of dependence while others will require room for their independence.
5. All of your students need your individual attention
• Children are very spontaneous and creative, so be open to join them, and ready to step out to control a situation whenever necessary.
• Show your good-humoured nature and laugh together with your learners. Sharing moments build trust.
• Remember children are very sensitive. Be sincere. And be there 100%.
6. Building a supportive atmosphere : To enhance language learning: Build a strong sense of security where the children can strengthen their sense of belonging and self-esteem for better emotional well-being which will provide them scaffolding to back up learning and motivation as well as resilience. So:
- Make your classroom a lively place
- Motivate pupils to want to learn English
- Help pupils to develop personal reasons for learning English.
- Enjoy the lessons and be a real listener
- Praise your students.
- Establish routines. “Children’s self-esteem largely depends on the experiences, positive or negative, that they have in their environment, on how they are viewed by the people they see as worthy: parents, teachers, peers. Their repeated responses are mirrors through which children see and judge their image.”
photo by Cândice Guzmán
7. Making lessons meaningful:
“In the early stages, before the child has developed a full awareness of language, language is embedded for him in the flow of the events which accompany it. So long as this is the case, the child does not interpret words in isolation – he interprets situations. He is more concerned to make sense of what people do when talk and act than to decide what words mean.”
We have our preferences, we have our own very personal style(s) and uniqueness – the way we learn, the way we represent the world is dependent on our preferred style(s). We learn better and more easily when we feel comfortable in an environment that favours our preferred style(s) and facilitates the development and blending of the others. When planning your lessons consider having a balanced amount of activities which cater for the various learning styles. Have a look at “The Spiral Approach”
Slide by Roseli Serra
8. What kind of English should I speak?
Children learning a foreign language often use complete phrases of language they have picked up from someone else. (...) Children may not have been taught these chunks formally, but they help them to communicate ...
Talk to your young learners at normal speed. Speak the English you want them to speak. Be ready to repeat, rephrase, paraphrase, make gestures, draw, give examples, ask if a peer can help,and be ready to translate a word or two if necessary. Encourage your learners to speak English as much as possible. Insist on their doing so, otherwise they never will. Teach your students chunks of classroom language to get them to start communicating in English.
9. Working on discipline:
“Children benefit from knowing the rules and being familiar with the situation.”
Wendy Scott and Lisbeth Ytreberg
The video below show us some of the “dont’s ". Why does the teacher behave like this? What’s the amount of STT versus TTT in this lesson? Why is that so?
- The teacher’s high level of anxiety.
- The teacher asked purposeless questions.
- The teacher did not allow the SS to think before answering – No waiting time The teacher’s poor response and rapport.
So In order to run a smooth classroom, we should establish routines to give the children a good sense of order. To enforce rules consistently and always with our students’ help is a good way to have them closer to you. It’s crucial to allow them to take part in everything we do in the classroom. This will teach them commitment and responsibility.
In the second snippet, we notice a change in the teacher’s behaviour as the teacher finds a way to maximize STT. Why? Do you believe in magic? There's no magic!
- He admitted his mistakes
- He asked meaningful and open questions
- He paid attention to body language
- He tried to bridge the gap
- He gave them a reason to speak
The affective side builds up the students’ confidence:
- Started to trust the student! SS know more, they can do more than people usually expect them to. Do never underestimate them!
- He set the student free by not allowing her to read the score. Autonomy!
Some last tips:
- Establish a comfortable atmosphere free from stress
- Do not ask the obvious
- Make them proud – activate their previous knowledge
- Respect your pupils and their different styles
- Repeat, recycle, rephrase
- Respect the silent moment
- Don't be afraid of noise or silence.
- Take into account pupils’ concentration span
- Be flexible and open
Enjoy your teaching!