TEACHING ENGLISH FOR YOUNG LEARNERS (EYL)
Ali M. Syuryanto and Rika apriani
Graduate students of State University of Malang, Indonesia
There has been a new wave to teach English for young learners (EYL) since 1990s. In Indonesia, the wave of giving English at young ages has been implemented since 1994 curriculum for 4th -6th graders. Even some schools have given it from first grade or since kindergarten as local content (Fahrurrozy, 2010: 35). It has been believed by some linguists, which is supported by both scientific and anecdotal evidence that characterize best age of acquisition of second language at early age or before puberty (Dulay, et.al, 1982:45-95). In addition, Patkowski hypothesized that regardless accent, those who had begun learning their second language before puberty could ever achieve full, native-like mastery of that language (Lighbown and Spada, 1999:61, Cameron, 2001:13).
Below are some characteristics of young learners, teaching principles, and some suggested teaching-learning activities:
A. Characteristics of Young Learners
Superfine (2002:30) exposes that young learners have some characteristics:
(1). Children’ minds are easily shaped, (2). Children are enthusiastic learners, (3). They like physical movements. (4).The teaching learning process is better integrated with the real communication. (5). Children have more time than adult learners.
According to Fahrurrozy (2010: 35-36) children have some characteristics:
1. They can write and read already.2. They like activities/movement.3. They have short time concentration.4. They like asking.5. They have some world knowledge.6. They can work in group.7. They are naturally ready to learn a foreign language.
Cameron (2001:6) characterizes the children characteristics. (1) They are more enthusiastic and lively as learners.(2). They want to please their teacher rather than their peer group.(3). They will ask when they don’t quite understand something.4. They often seem lack of embarrassed.
B. Teaching Principles
Due to the children characteristics, Brown (2001) proposes five categories that might help give some practical approaches to teaching children.
1. Intellectual Development
Children are centered on the here and now, on the functional purposes of language. They have little appreciation for our adult notions of “correctness,” and they certainly cannot grasp the metalanguage we use to describe and explain linguistic concept. Some rules of thumbs for the classroom:
· Don’t explain grammar using terms like ‘present progressive’ or ‘relative clause’
· Rules stated in abstract terms should be avoided.
· Some grammatical concept, especially at the upper levels of childhood, can be called to learners attention by showing them certain patterns (“notice the ing at the end of the word”) and examples (this is the way we say when it’s happening right now: “I’m walking to the door”)
· Certain more difficult concepts or patterns require more repetition than adults need.
2. Attention Span
Since language lessons can at times be difficult for children, your job is to make them interesting, lively, and fun.
· Because children are focused on the immediate here and now, activities should be designed to capture their immediate interest.
· A lesson needs a variety of activities to keep interest and attention alive.
· A teacher needs to be animate, and enthusiastic about the subject matter.
· A sense of humor will go a long way to keep children laughing and learning.
· Children have a lot of natural curiosity. Make sure you tap into that curiosity whenever possible, and you will thereby help to maintain attention and focus.
3. Sensory Input
Children need to have all five senses stimulated. Your activities should strive to go well beyond the visual and auditory modes that we feel are usually sufficient for a classroom.
· Pepper your lessons with physical activity, such as having students act out of things (role-play), play games, or do Total Physical Response activities.
· Projects and other hands-on activities go a long way toward helping children to internalize language. Small-group science projects, for example, are excellent ways to get them learn words and structures and to practice meaningful language.
· Sensory aids here and there help children to internalize concept.
· Remember that your own verbal language is important because children will indeed attend very sensitively to your facial features, gestures, and touching.
4. Affective Factors
Children are in many ways more fragile than adults. Their egos are still being shaped, and therefore the slightest nuance of communication can be negatively interpreted. Teachers need to help them to overcome such potential barriers to learning.
· Help your students to laugh with each other at various mistakes that they all make.
· Be patient and supportive to build self-esteem, yet at the same time be firm in your expectation of students.
· Elicit as much oral presentation as possible from students, especially the quieter ones, to give them plenty of opportunities for trying things out.
5. Authentic, Meaningful Language
Children are focused on what this new language can actually be used for here and now. They are less willingly to put up with language that doesn’t hold immediate rewards for them. Your classes can ill afford to have an overload of language that is neither authentic nor meaningful.
· Children are good at sensing language that is not authentic, therefore, “canned” or stilted language will likely be rejected.
· Language needs to be firmly context embedded.
· A whole language approach is essential.
C. Teaching and Learning Activities
Fahrurazzy (2010: 37-39), Superfine (2002), Cameron (2001) share the same ideas concerning some activities in the classroom based on young learners’ characteristics and the principles of teaching and learning. For instance: teach routine materials, use Try Total Physical Response (TPR) Approach, Sing, create songs, play games, create integrated activities, make question-answer activities, and perform mini drama. In addition, Fahrurazzy (2010) adds some activities such as find name of things, make chain words, use big book, create a language-rich environments, and bring ingredients for teaching procedure texts. Lead students to make recount/descriptive text, by using mind-mapping, apply cooperative/alternative learning model, and display students’ works and give reinforcement/encouragement.
Meanwhile, Superfine (2002) stresses on task based learning focuses on three ‘C’s of Curiosity, Creativity, and Collaboration. According to Piaget, Vygotsky and Bruner cited by Superfine (2002) ”children are instinctively programmed to learn. They are in a continual cycle of discovery, forming hypothesis, testing those hypotheses, and discovering concepts and skills.” In terms of creativity, children like to make things to show and share। Superfine states that “their creativity is more wide ranging than a traditional reading/writing lesson allows for.” She adds that collaboration can reinforce social as well as linguistics skills.
Brown, H. Douglas. 2001. Teaching by Principles: An Interactive Approach to Language Pedagogy (2ndEdition). New York : Pearson Education.
Cameron, Lynne. 2001. Teaching Languages to Young Learners .Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Dulay, Heidi, et.al. 1982. Language Two. New York: Oxford University Press.
Fahrurrozy. 2010. Teaching English as a Foreign Language for Teachers in Indonesia (a handout) 2010 edition. English Department – Faculty of Letters. The State University of Malang.
Lightbown, Patsy M. and Spada, Nina. 1999. How Languages are Learned Revised Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Superfine, Wendy. 2002. Why Use Activity Based Learning in the Young Learner lassroom? Educacado & ommunicacdo, 7, 27-36. www.esel.ipleiria.pt/file/F1412.1.paf. Retrieved Marc 10,2010.