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Teaching Young Language Learners

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Roos Windels

on 31 March 2016

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Transcript of Teaching Young Language Learners

Teaching Young Language Learners (part 1)
Chapter 1: Learning and development
How do children develop and learn at home and at school?
Criticism of Piaget's stages
The pre-operational stage:
Underestimation of young children: there are signs of logical thinking unless presented with familiar tasks, in familiar circumstances, with familiar adults using the right language
The operational stages: development of formal thinking depends not only on maturation but also on schooling

Important for teachers: to be sensitive and open to the needs and interests of various age groups and to monitor their changing needs!!

The role of interaction

- Learning is an active process
- Jean Piaget (1896 - 1980) famous child psychologist:
* Active learning = CONSTRUCTIVISM: children construct knowledge
for themselves by actively making sense of their environment
* Stages of (biological) development:
0 - 2: Sensori-motor stage: learning by manipulating objects
2 - 7: Pre-operational stage: egocentrism + lack of logical thinking
7 - 11: Concrete operational stage: year 7 = turning point: ability to
apply logical reasoning to immediate context
11 - ?: Formal operational context: ability to think in more abstract
- Lev Vygotsky (1896 - 1934): Russian psychologist:
Social constructivism: the social environment has an important role to play in the
development of children
- ZPD = Zone of Proximal Development: current level - help - potential level

Important for teachers:
Help children to learn by offering systematic support
Incorporate a variety of activities to meet the needs of all the different learners
Mixed ability classes: pairwork/ small groups + ability groups + work independently
Suitable materials and techniques to fit different learners
Fun + meaningful contexts for young learners

Acquiring the first language
- Baby talk = simplified talk: a lot of repetition, a slower
rate of speech, exaggerated intonation, a higher pitch
- Noam Chomsky (linguist): theory of Universal Grammar: inborn capacity
to build on Universal Grammar (e.g. word order)
- 0 - 5: enormous progression, very creative
- Children with a rich linguistic interaction (corrections, feedback,
supportive encouragement) at home start with a big advantage at
- First language is enormously expanded at school (vocabulary, more
complex grammar etc.)
Important for teachers:
- Parallels between children's first and foreign
language development
- To know what children can do and like doing in
their first language
Chapter 5: Teaching listening and speaking
- You are the main source of language input (talking,
singing, chanting, dramatizing dialogues, giving
instructions, telling stories)
- Support with listening: here-and-now context; familiar
games and routines; gestures and visual aids
- For better understanding + recalling:
make use of interactional modifications
Listening activities

For younger learners: TPR with rhymes, songs, (action) stories, chants
- listening and miming the actions
- joining in as they become confident
- pointing to pictures
- joining in with the words
- listening and responding
- chanting together: individual contributions are voluntary and safe!

For older learners: increase of the level of difficulty: more challenging
- longer stories
- audio tapes: faster speech, unfamiliar speakers, different accents
- more difficult tasks
Teaching speaking

Speaking fluently = thinking and speaking at the same time!

Speaking practice starts with practicing and drilling SET PHRASES (chunks!) and repeating models: a lot of repetitive exercises!

Simple but purposeful and meaningful pattern drilling and personalized dialogue building.

Prepare the pupils to talk about themselves, their world and to interact with classmates.

Younger learners:
- the first building blocks to move from listening to speaking are (unanalysed) CHUNKS (e.g. See you tomorrow)
- Fully fixed chunks: complete and ready to use (e.g. See you later, What a surprise)
- Partially fixed chunks: need additional elements (e.g. Have you got ....., I like ...., Are you ....)
Older learners:
- Dialogues and drills
- Phrases to check what they didn't hear / cannot
make sense of (e.g. Sorry, I didn't understand. What
did you say?)
- Useful classroom language for tasks and games
(e.g. It's your turn, Give me the dice, Which one is
mine?, What have you got?)

Need for meaning negotiation

To negotiate meaning = to make sure that you understand each other

Young children tend to use guesswork instead of negotiating the meaning when faced with uncertainty.

Older children negotiate meaning more successfully (clarification checks, confirmation checks, repetition)
Need for more complex tasks

Examples of more complex tasks:
- information gap task (e.g. Spot the differences, Follow the route on
the map)
- discussion task

You need to provide plenty of practice of new task types!
Again: create a positive learning environment: pupils will speak up if they feel happy and secure.
A try (not sure / part of an answer) is also welcome
Plenty of encouragement (Well done! Great job! Fine! Very good!)
Explain the importance of practice in speaking IN DUTCH)
What are interactive modifications?
1. Repetitions
(= to say sth again)
2. Comprehension checks
("Do you understand this", "Can you follow the story", "Do you get
3. Clarification requests
("What does it mean", "What do you mean".
"It was a sunny day: what do we see on a sunny day"?)
4. Confirmation checks
("Did you say you had three?")

* Example of story modification: The Fat Cat
Full transcript