The “Dos and Don’ts” for children -Teaching Young Learners – Part 2 The final thoughts

I’d like to start this new post about YLE by giving you some food for thought:
                                                                     photo by ELT pics

Remember the days when you were kid. What did you most like doing when:

You were at school?
You were not at school?
What the best memories have you got from your childhood?
Is childhood a magical time? Why? Why not?

Watch the video.  Do you think children from those times were different from today´s children? Why?  Why not?

Who are  young learners?  
They are our students and they’re children.  

                                                                            slide by Roseli Serra

Teaching YLE is different from teaching adults. Young learners tend to change their mood every other minute and they find extremely difficult to sit still.  On the other hand, they are usually the most motivated learners who are easily engaged to do things that appeal to them. 

And what do we  really know about children? What do they like? What do they need? How do they learn? 

Characteristics of YLE:
  • Body control – moving from uncoordinated movements to precise movements – gross motor activity to fine motor skills – gaining control of body – developing ability to synchronize hands, feet and body – better spatial organization – STILL we have pencil cases falling on the floor during our lessons
  • Kinaesthetic – accompanying actions help SS memorise words / anchor meaning. They need both physical and mental stimuli to develop learning. Children bring into the classroom motor skills which can be applied to the process of learning a foreign language. The ability to t mime, sing and get engaged in activities which involve music and movement. Asking a child to repeat words is not as profitable as asking them to GO and TOUCH and repeat.
  • Distractible /concentration span – the ability to keep on task and to ignore distraction is a symptom of the child’s intellect, and changes in concentration span are related to intellectual development. For children to pay attention and concentrate on tasks, we have to provide concrete, perceptual support ( e.g: flash cards). We have to embody the material to be learned and remembered in a task that makes sense to a child. 
  • Imperatives to concentrate, memorise or learn are almost bound to fail. According to Vygotsky, mature mental activity involves self-regulation and these self-regulations are developed through social interaction. In this view, instruction and schooling play a central role in helping children to discover how to pay attention, concentrate and learn effectively. 
  • INTERNET/ GAMES/ Apps/ Web tools -affecting concentration span? No if they are used with a purpose and monitored by wise adults. 
  • Holistic – YLEs will probably pay attention to the main words in a message and not notice every single word. It means SS do not learn a language analysing its parts, but are interested in it as a whole, in what they can do with it. They don’t see language as an intellectual game involving an abstract system.
  • Logical thinking / Problem solving skills / Language ability to analyse, plan, categorise, etc. And develop concepts. The younger the children are the more they will behave in a trial and error way to solve problems. They are not likely to plan a strategy to tackle the problem and consider each part of the problem.  Piaget has certainly contributed to the understanding of how logical thinking develops (adaptation + assimilation processes – soft ball v hard ball / pre-operational and concrete operational). Vygostky claims that language and the social relationships have a major role in the development of logical thinking. (ZPD - Zone of Proximal Development – the role of adults + peers in one’s development) à Language – learners are developing concepts and the meaning of words.
  • Social skills – co-operative behaviour in play starts developing when children are about 5. Gradually, the peer group becomes more and more important as a source of motivation. Gradually they become more able to accept the rules of a game and to work collaboratively towards a shared goal. Greater interaction seems to take place within same –sex groups- it seems to be a feature of children’s social and emotional development à learning about oneself  as a social being through identification with the same-sex peer group. They understand what is good and bad, acceptable or not.
Having said all the above, I  reinforce the idea that children learn through
play – They need to play because this is how they interact with the world
and learn it. For this they need motor -sensory activities which involve the
use of imagination, language, and the interaction with others.

slide by Roseli Serra

So, our big challenge as EFL teachers is to bring the element of fun and play into the classroom. And how do we do that?

The younger the learners the more physical they tend to be and the more they need to make use  of all their senses. ( Brewster , Ellis and Girard, 2003)
According to Berman (1998),  if children can draw or visualise an image, hum it , or move through it first, they may be able to more easily talk or write about it. On the basis theory of multiple intelligences, in this regard, children can also draw a picture while listening to a description, act out  a nursery rhyme, follow instructions or make a shape or simple model while they listen to a description of it. This draws on learning by the ear and is good for those with bodily-kinaesthetic intelligence. Motor -sensory activities involve the use of imagination, language or interaction with others.  

" Learning does not occur in a vacuum. Learners discover and construct meaning from information they experience on their unique perceptions, thoughts and feelings."   
                                                      (Brewester, Ellis and Girard, 2003)

                                                                   photo by ELT pics

What about classroom activities? They should...
  • be short, enjoyable & stimulating.
  • allow learners to experiment with the language.
  • require various responses from learners (linguistic, physical, musical etc).
  • provide opportunities for individual & group work.
  • provide opportunities for imitation & repetition.
  • be conducted in   an anxiety-free environment.
  • allow room for personalisation.
  • be fun and offer challenging opportunities for learners to accomplish something through interaction using the target language.
  • have clear purposes and aims in order to enhance learner’s sense of achievement. 
slide by Roseli Serra
  • Appropriacy - to the target age
  • Language pay-off  - how much the activity encourages the use of the language, either productively or receptively / communication
  • Level of challenge -  how much the activity will engage SS and involve them in the task
  • The element of fun - it brings to class à no anxiety / stress free environment
                                                                                     Picture (word cloud) by Roseli Serra
Final thoughts:

Although teaching kids demands from us a lot more effort, creativity and energy, it brings us a lot more fun and positive feedback.  Let’s never forget that:

Learning takes many intelligences - Learning becomes more effective when learners get involved in tasks which stimulate a multiplicity of intelligences. The activities and tasks proposed in Fun Factory encourage students to speculate on the language, to solve problems, and to be creative, among other things.

L1 as an ally -  As we are aware of our learner’s language system features, we find ourselves in a position which allows us to anticipate difficulties. Although teachers and learners are encouraged to use English as much as possible, using L1 in the young learners classroom may prove to be an effective tool to offer learners affective support and enhance their self-confidence.

The learning process is cyclical -Learning does not take place in a linear way . Learners need time and lots of exposure to the target language to be able to internalize it. Instead of massive repetition in one go. Consistent recycling through dynamic and lively activities is crucial.

Grammatical & lexical - achieve communicative competence - it’s important to develop accuracy in order to enable learners to communicate

The digital generation: YLEs are used to multi-tasking (they have the ability to do many things at one go) – they zap the world  , so, they do not have much patience or tolerance and they seem to read the world in a complete different way - hypertexts

Language is a means of communication - Classroom activities  should aim at promoting interaction among learners. Bear in mind the focus on essential language for immediate communication.

Vocabulary is the major tool to carry meaning - the use of language in meaningful chunks most of the time. This provides learners with useful tools which meet their immediate need to communicate from the very beginning.

Learners need to have motivation and to develop a sense of achievement from the very beginning- In order to nurture students’ motivation and a positive feeling towards the process of learning, learners need to be exposed to challenging but comprehensible input in a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere in which they feel at ease, confident and ready to learn. 

The teacher should build an anxiety-free environment and present activities that are useful to the learners, relevant to their needs and within their capability, which should ensure motivation and foster a sense of achievement.

Last but not least...
                                photo by ELT pics                                                    

Enjoy your teaching! 


Anonymous said...

Very useful tips, Roseli. I'm certainly going to share them with teachers of YL here at CTJ! Thanks for sharing.

Roseli Serra said...

Thank you so much for reading , Isabela! I am happy you like it. Please feel free to share. I'll make a slide share available with suggested activities soon.

Ayat Tawel said...

Thank you so much, Roseli for such a useful post which adds a lot to the first one . It's very important to know a lot about young learners and how they learn before teaching them.
You could shed light on many sides that are very useful and inspiring.
After reading your post, I believe the "Teach/input" part in a lesson is the most challenging part as it's not easy to make it as motivating and engaging as it should be for young learners !!

Roseli Serra said...

Hi, Ayat Tawel,
Thank you so much for your encouraging and kind words!I fell so happy you got the idea of my posts. Please feel free to make any suggestions, questions or ask for further information.
All the best :)

Kátia Falcomer said...

Very simple, clear, and meaningful tips! Thanks, Roseli.

Roseli Serra said...

This is the idea, Kátia Falcomer: To be simple and clear . Sometimes we complicate our teaching so much and forget that simplicity, affection, knowledge , caring and sharing are really good tips for effective teaching and learning. Thank you for your comment!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your appealing and informative contributions, Roseli. Going through your tips, I saw a lot of suggestions that refer to adult learners as well.
Thanks for your input.
Valeria Koppelhuber

Anonymous said...

Your blog is appealing and informative. Going through your Information, I found quite a few ideas that refer to adult learners as well.
Keep on letting your ideas flow.
Valeria Koppelhuber

Roseli Serra said...

Dear Valeria,

Thank you so much for reading. I am happy you've enjoyed the content and found it useful. Hope to hear some ideas from you soon.

All the best,

Roseli Serra said...

Dear Katia,

Thank you for you comment. this is the idea: To be simple and clear for everybody to understand.
Thanks for reading and finding it useful.

Best wishes,

Marcia Lima @bamarcia said...

Loved it, Roseli. Really useful tips indeed!
Thanks a lot for sharing! :))))

Roseli Serra said...

Dear Márcia,

Thank you so much for your lovely comment!

Warm hugs from Recife! :)


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Roseli Serra said...

Thank you for your comment , Kids Cds!

learning while having fun said...

What a great way to have children learn while joining pleasure and duty ! I just love your great work, thanks for sharing it !

Roseli Serra said...

Thank you for your comment , learning while having fun! Hope you get in touch and share activities :)


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