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Управління освіти м.Обухова
Working with young children is a specialized area. They think and behave very differently, their interests are very different, their understanding of the world and their place in it is still very underdeveloped. Whilst all teachers have a role in the personal development of their pupils as well as their intellectual development, it is particularly important with young age group.
Frequently asked questions
What are these learners like?
I. How do they think?
Children begin to show cognitive preferences. These are of three main types, although of course, in practice, they exist in many different combinations.
Kinaesthetic-Tactile – these are children who need to be active and «doing» in order to help them to learn. They are very concrete in their thinking and they need to learn in very practical ways.
Classroom Application: role play and mime, dice and matching games, TPR and action songs and games, concrete activities such as «building» sentences with word cards, rather than composing «in their heads».
Aural-Oral – these are children who are good listeners and can imitate pronunciation and intonation easily. They can recall words and phrases heard in context without much difficulty and may later like to invent rhymes to help them learn vocabulary or grammar points.
Classroom Application: lots teacher modeling, demonstrations with tapes, use of stories, songs and rhymes.
Visual – these are children who like using pictures and written words which they can «picture in their head» to help them remember language items. When they listen to or read a story they may make a running «video» in their head of what is happening which helps them in comprehension.
Classroom Application: using picture and word flashcards, card matching games, encouraging children to use their imagination to make pictures to help them remember words and stories.
Because of all these differences of style (VAK), teachers need to use multisensory approaches. It is important for teachers to be aware of these preferences but not to restrict children to their preferred mode and thus trap them. Efficient learners become flexible and can use a mixture of all styles according to what is appropriate for the particular task. We all know that different children are good at different things. This has been formalized in a theory of multiple intelligences (Gardner). This recognizes different abilities which relate to different areas of the brain. For example: left-side hemisphere – logic-mathematics, language; right-side hemisphere – musical-aural, artistic-sensory, spatial-movement, practical-tactile, interpersonal and intrapersonal.
Classroom Application: whilst it can helpful for teachers to be alert to pupils’ different interests and abilities, we need to adopt a multi-focus approach in the classroom to allow all children to develop their full potential in each area. This can be achieved through the different topics and through project work.
2. How do they behave?
With young learners we need to be particularly aware of their personalities and classroom behaviour. Again these characteristics are variable and not fixed, and not the same even in the course of a single day. They are also very susceptible to events at home or the playground which can affect their mood in the class. There are three typical dimensions which we can notice in the classroom:
Again, these characteristics not only vary along each dimension but can be mixed in different combinations.
Children are social and can also be seen to behave in characteristics ways within the classroom group. For example:
Classroom Application: to meet these varying personality and behaviour types we need to organise our classroom in a multi-context way.
3. How do they learn language?
We need to think to how children learn their mother tongue. We want to replicate the successful characteristics of the process in our classroom. In a mother tongue context the characteristics include:
Immersion. They are immersed in language; they hear it all around them
Classroom Application: we need to provide as much aural/oral language as possible to give them maximum opportunities to soak up the new language. However, children may find it stressful to be in a foreign language environment for the whole lesson. So it seems reasonable that teachers should revert to mother tongue for specific purposes, e.g. cultural discussion and comparison which helps to sustain motivation.
Imitation. Children are great mimics which is why they like to listen and repeat and where the audio component of a course can provide such a valuable and authentic source.
Classroom Application: We would suggest during taped dialogues that children «shadow» the tape, i.e. speak with the tape rather than repeat after each sentences. Shadowing supports the children’s efforts and gives them confidence rather than exposing them. It is also helps them to imitate the correct intonation, pronunciation and speed of delivery.
Interaction: The best ways to learn to speak is by speaking. Even if the children can only say «yes», «no» or short, simple phrases, encourage them to ask and answer questions, participate in dialogues, and also interact during a story.
Classroom Application: Give children time to stop, think and speak. Encourage them to try out their emergent skills without being afraid of making mistakes. (Fluency is more important than accuracy in building up confidence and self-esteem). While telling known stories ask questions e.g. «Who did Little Red Hood meet in the forest?» so the children can chorus the answer «The big, bad wolf».
Internalization. This is when children are trying out language phrases and forms and gradually refining and becoming more accurate and thus «internalizing» a rule which they are too young to grasp if it were articulated and explained.
Classroom Application: It is important for the teacher to recognize and respond to the child’s meaning whilst remodeling it correctly but without directly identifying the mistake.
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