Accomplished teachers of English should know who children are
Curtain and Dahlberg (2000) claims that effective language instruction builds on topics and contexts that are relevant to the learners. Consistent with this thinking, Luke as cited in Barratt-Pugh & Rohl (2000) suggests that unless the learners’ experiences are taken into account, teaching methods, texts and assessment practices are inappropriate. It is therefore critical that teachers know who their target learners are before they can design a good English instruction. For example, works by Corsaro (1985), children have their own culture—ways of doing things—which are different from that of adults. Given this thinking, children should be treated and appreciated in their own right. If we want English teaching to work as expected, it should first of all be ensured that teachers hold an appropriate perspective about which children are because almost all pedagogical decisions the teachers would make stem from this perspective.
Accomplished teachers of English should know how children learn
Bruner (1996) proposes a hierarchy of children’s learning modes: enactive (which means relying on physical activities), iconic (which represents residual mental images resulting from the contacts with material entities), and symbolic (which comes later by way of symbolic means such as language). Three kinds of knowledge children create from their engagement with physical objects and social intercourse. More specifically, according to Piaget, there are three kinds of knowledge: physical knowledge (which children construct out of their “interaction” with physical objects), logico- mathematical knowledge (i.e., basic concepts children acquire – as a mental residue-- from their actions on physical objects), and social knowledge (the kind of knowledge children “receive” from social interaction with other members of the culture).
Based on other theoretical constructs and research-based propositions as well—socio-cultural perspectives propose learning principles, including the following: children learn from direct experiences; children learn from hands-on physical activities; children’s thinking is embedded in here-and-now context of situation; children learn holistically from whole to parts using scripts; and children have a short attention span.
(1) Children learn from direct experiences.
Abstractions—children learn and create knowledge base from direct experiences: from what they can capture using their senses, and from what they experience directly. This learning principle has a great implication for topic choice and materials development by the teachers. the learning of English makes a better sense to learners because this foreign language can serve a real purpose: talking about things they think important in their lives.
(2) Children learn from hands-on physical activities.
Young children’s learning is greatly enhanced when the learners are engaged in hands-on physical activities such as playing with physical objects or making physical movements. This learning tendency has a great implication for instructional design. Teacher of English would help her students learn better if she has the learners do things in English. In this way, English instructional activities become more varied and engaging to young learners.
(3) Children’s thinking is embedded in here-and-now context of situation
The teaching and learning of English can serve a real purpose, and this will, in turn, increase children’s learning motivation because they can see for themselves that English is useful.
(4) Children learn from whole to parts – holistically-- using scripts
Children create knowledge by accumulating what has already been experienced case by case. From this kind of experience, children develop scripts which serve as a kind or “organizer” for digesting their ensuing experiences. Children would get facilitated if the English instruction builds on what children know rather than on what is likely new to them. In this way, thinking in the foreign language would be limited only in terms of vocabulary items—not in the concept they do not have.
(5) Children have short attention span
Unlike adult learners who can concentrate hours and hours on the topic they are working on, children can hold their attention for about 15 to 20 minutes only. This relatively short attention span has a great implication for teaching procedures. Divide the time block into several smaller chunks of activities where children are engaged in different, smaller chunks of learning activities. This means that teachers of English should use various teaching techniques for shorter periods of time to avoid boredom on the part of students, while at the same time pay close attention to teaching items being targeted for each fraction of the sessions.
Accomplished teachers of English should know how children learn a language.
Language skills are acquired naturally in the context of meaningful oral interaction and literacy events (Wagner, 1989). In addition, children learn a language by doing things in and with the language (e.g., participating in social activities involving the use of the language; being engaged in social interaction using the language being learned).Frank Smith, Ken Goodman, and Gordon Wells, Musthafa (2001) proposes three dimensions of learning a language: exposure to the language (where learners get exposed to language in use which can serve as examples to learn from), engagement (where learners get opportunities to use the language for communicative purposes), and consistent support (where the learners see for themselves that learning the language is useful; and the language they learn is socially recognized as prestigious). These three dimensions should be there are if the learning of a language is to be effective as expected.