How Should Children Learn A New Language In The Nursery And Kindergarten?


Linda Thompson

University of Manchester, England

We know that to be successful it is important for young children to be actively engaged in their learning. Children are all individuals and hence are all very different. They have individual ideas, needs and abilities. Hence the ELT curriculum for young language learners in early learning environments needs to provide a range of different learning opportunities for children to learn.

This means creating an environment where every child can flourish. Each child will then be able to find ways that best suit their own personality and each will learn different possible ways of doing things. ELT tasks should be designed as inclusive, providing engaging activities that every child, irrespective of abilities and aptitudes, background and interests can participate in.

Hence the ELT curriculum for YLL needs to provide engagement for a differentiated abilities and levels of competence, thus providing structured support for children to learn at different rates and pace and importantly, in different ways.

As early years educators we are beginning to understand more about the social context and the importance of the environment for YLLS. The child’s motivation, progress and engagement with the learning activity are highly individuated. Some children flourish in social situations, learning collectively through collaboration with others, while other children prefer some solitude and the opportunity to concentrate in private.

The ELT curriculum for YLLs therefore needs to provide opportunities for different types of engagement; for individualized work when the YLL can concentrate, can practise and can work alone, as well as other types of organization when different types of language fulfilling different functions are required. This may include some opportunity for working in pairs with a selected or elected partner and for working as a member of a small group focused on a structured task that fosters collaboration.

These different types of social groupings will require different types of social talk and provide a meaningful opportunity for the teacher to introduce talk for different social functions, for example, language for co-operating, sharing, negotiating, directing, explaining, questioning, working things out and getting tasks done. All of these organizations require different types of language. Different tasks also provide opportunities for meaningful language use with a focus on interaction and communication rather than on form and structure.

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