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Essence of Teaching English

The essence of teaching English to young children is to help them develop good communication skills alongside academic intellectualism. Young children are far much more interested in learning new things as compared to adults. The English teacher is therefore expected to facilitate the children in developing general knowledge. Learning language will always play a central role in the overall learning process in school. The approach to teaching English will differ depending on whether it is taught as a first, second or foreign language.

The objectives of teaching young learners English are mainly to help them develop listening, speaking, reading and writing skills. These language skills are best passed on to these children through encouraging their participation. Language skills need to be taught in an organised and integrated manner which will assist the children learn the language properly. The teacher needs to have lesson plans that have set goals and ways to monitor if these goals are achieved.

Reading is essential in obtaining information from printed books or other article. Mercer and swan explain that there are basically two ways of teaching children how to read. These are the phonics method and the real book method. (pg 217) The phonic method argues that children can learn to read by learning the sounds that the letters make, joining them together to learn words. However this method has been challenged due to complexity in distinguishing the sounds made by these letters. The real-book method is the most appropriate method because the children are involved in reading carefully selected material. The teacher plays a supporting role by selecting the text to be read and guiding the children throughout the initial stages of learning.

Writing is another essential aspect in English because it helps the learner put his knowledge into text. A teacher should be guided by the teaching plan which will not only enable him develop patience but also assist him evaluate the learning process. This should start by teaching children how to make basic shapes of letters then slowly progressing to writing full words.

The child also needs to develop speaking and listening skills. This can be done by encouraging children to speak during activities conducted in class or during the actual teaching period. Differences exist between oral language and written language. The focus should be oriented towards communication of the message to other learners and not on the fluency or accuracy of the child. The teacher should play a supporting role and encourage the entire class to communicate efficiently.  Communication in terms of listening and speaking is a progressive process hence the teacher should encourage repetition which will assist children build up confidence.  

Involving children in learning is one of the key English teaching methods. Activities are the best method that is used to involve children in learning. The teacher needs to use activities that are best suited for the child. Cameron argues that the child’s knowledge of the world is limited but they relate what they learn to what they already know. Therefore teachers need to evaluate classroom activities from the child’s point of view. (pg 19) Vale and Ann further explain that an activity based curriculum which enables the child to learn in a language rich environment is best suited for the learning process. (pg 28) This enables the child develop his overall knowledge and as well as learn English. Engaging children in learning oriented play activities will also help the children develop the language. The advantage of play activities is that children are able to internalise what they have learned in class through social skills.

An activity based learning process as Vale and Ann explains, consists of three phases. (pg 30)

A) Familiarisation phase.

Here the teacher familiarises the children with words to be used in the exercise

B) The actual implementation phase

Here the children get to participate with the designed exercise

C) Follow-up and consolidation phase

Here, children are encouraged to practise what they have learned in the activity.

Task /activity based learning is very essential in to the young learners. The activity is considered a learning environment which is supposed to help the learner develop various skills. Wray argues that the teacher is expected to play various roles such as facilitation, being the audience, being a role model and a co-participant during the activity. (pg 16)

The teacher should also offer support to the children, however this should be done carefully. Cameron further argues “a task that is going to help the learner learn more language is one that is demanding but not too demanding, that provides support but not too much support.” This is according to the goldilocks principle. (pg 27)

Types of task support

Type of task support

Description

Cognitive

Contextualisation of language by use of concepts already developed.

Language

Re -use of language already mastered, Moving from a more easier domain to a more difficult one

Interactional

Pairing co-participants and use of familiar routines

Metalinguistic

Using familiar technical terms to give clear explanation about new language

Involvement

Engaging learners in easy activities that link to his/her interests and organised movement and sitting activities.

Physical

Using familiar actions; Variation in sitting and moving to help in motor skill development.

Note. Information in this table is based on information presented by Cameron. (pg 27)

The teacher should also use teaching aids to enable him/her pass the message to the children. There are a variety of teaching aids such as projects, pictures and other visual aids. The range of materials available to a teacher may vary from being adequate or inadequate. However, availability of a teaching board can be adequate if used effectively. Keeping the board clean and effective organisation of your work is most important. The material used in a class should be carefully selected to fit the needs of the children and meet the teacher’s objectives.

Conclusion

Teaching English to young children is best done through an integrated approach that accommodates activity based learning. The teacher requires a teaching plan and lesson plan that involves monitoring and evaluation of the lessons learnt. In addition, the teacher need to be a role model, support the children and create a favourable learning environment for the children. Consistent curriculum development and regular training of teachers will lead to better teaching methods that are in touch with developments in the modern world.