Teaching English, especially for young learners (7–10 ages), should be enjoyable, interesting, repetitive and understandable. In doing so, there should be appropriate strategies for teaching English. Some strategies that can be applied in the classroom are the so-called, Songs, Pictorial illustration and TPR (Total Physical Response games, activities). These strategies try to introduce some language skills or components in an action. Using of them can be benefit to develop and improve listening and speaking skills that can be an option to learn grammar and vocabulary patterns easily. As it is known, at these ages children start to discover world broadly and their psychical and mental abilities are at the stage of developing. Around the world the term of young learners’ age is differentiated. In most countries the primary school age is defined from 7 to 10. According to Piaget, children are active learners and thinkers. In addition, they are curious in learning as well as in discovering. Learning and teaching any language is challenging process and requires great patience. Young learners tend to have a lot of physical energy and more involved in visual learning, physical and social interaction. For the first time teaching young learners seems to be simple action but it demands more experience and knowledge that assist to make effective teaching. Making lessons more interesting for them is one of the most essential parts in teaching. The most preferable strategies for teaching children can be considered to be Suggestopedia (songs), chants, choral drills, pictorial illustrations, storytelling, and Total Physical Response.
How do young learners learn? According to Piaget (1970), children are active learners and thinkers, and as well as they learn through social interaction.
Young learners will learn best if the people involved in the teaching process facilitate the learning and take into account the way young learners learn into the teaching practices. Piaget (1967 cited in Mc Closkeey, 2002), suggested that children developed through specific stages, they are:
- Sensory-Motor Stage (from 0–2 years) in which children seems to learn through physical interaction with the world around them.
- Pre-operational stage (from 2–7 years) when children need concrete situations to process ideas.
- Concrete Operational Stage (from 7–11 years) in which children begin to conceptualize and do some abstract problem solving, though they still learn best by doing.
- Formal Operational Stage (from 11–15) in which children are able to use abstract thinking.
Piaget believed that children went through the stages above and that they could only move onto the next stage when they had completed the stage before and were ready to do so.
Another expert, Vygotsky (1978, cited in Hughes, 2009) believed that language was central to the cognitive development of children, that it was instruction provided by an adult that helped children learn and develop.
Donaldson (1978, cited in Hughes, 2009) stated that children were able to cognitively develop by trying to make sense of the experiences that they had, and by asking questions and trying things out, or hypothesizing.
Chomsky believed that learning was innate, in the sense that every child has an innate capability to learn a language.
Harley mentioned that the cue effect is compounded by an effect of age. In studies of immersion language learning, younger children (7–8 years) seem to pay more attention to sound and prosody (the ‘music’ of an utterance), whereas older children (12–14 years) are more attentive to cues of word order.
Furthermore, Moon (2000:3) pointed out that young learner learns foreign language:
– Through being motivated. It depends on the teacher’s style. I the teacher motivated them they would learn fast or quicker.
– By listening and repeating.
– By imitating the teacher. They want to please the teacher. They feel embarrassed when they make mistakes.
– By doing and interacting with each other in an atmosphere of trust and acceptance,
– Through a variety of interesting and fun activities for which they see the purpose.
– Through translating sentences into their own language.
Other teaching strategies for primary level of students by Bonnie Piller and Mary Jo Skillings California State University, San Bernardino USA: Demonstration, Choral Drill, Look and Say, Pictorial Illustration, Verbal Illustration, Association, Questioning, Narration, Read and Say
Strategy 1: Demonstration
– Demonstration includes the use of real objects, performing actions, using gestures, and facial expressions. It is used for presenting words like toy, bracelet, or hat. Demonstration can be used for sentence patterns that stand for concrete ideas. For example, saying «I am looking at my watch», or «I am cleaning the chalkboard» while performing these actions. The teaching strategy includes the teacher doing the demonstration and students practicing with feedback from the teacher. Demonstration is important. Demonstration builds connections between new knowledge and what the child already knows.
Strategy 2: Choral Drill
– In Choral Drill the children all chant together following along as the teacher leads. It is the repeating of poems, nursery rhymes, the alphabet, an alphabet song, sentence patterns, and vocabulary lists. Children repeat the melody and rhythm. Choral Drill presented speaking aloud and verbatim memorization. This occurred in unison or in the form of echo recitation. The purpose was for transfer to the long-term memory. Current brain research supports the idea of speaking aloud 1Speaking generates more electrical energy in the brain than just thinking about something (Bower, 2003; Perry, 2004). Choral drill is also a powerful way to cause over-learning to occur. Over-learning, that is, continuing to recite after something is memorized, creates deeper memory traces that make for longer retention (Banich, 1997; Ridley Smith, 2004).
This poem was heard:
School is over,
Oh, what fun!
Who'll run fastest,
You or I? Who'll laugh loudest?
Let us try. (Children laughed loudly)
Strategy 3: Look and Say
– Look and Say is the technique of students listening to the teacher and looking at the object or print, then repeating a word or sentence after the teacher. Children either watch as the teacher points to the words on the chalkboard or individually point to the print on a page or in a textbook.
Strategy 4: Pictorial Illustration
– Pictorial illustration is the use of blackboard drawings, diagrams, sketches, match-stick figures, photographs, maps, and textbook illustrations. These are used for presenting words and structures that stand for concrete ideas.
Strategy 5: Verbal Illustration
– Teachers at each level used Verbal Illustration. Sometimes this was simply giving a phrase or sentence that showed the typical use of the word in context, as in «the sky is blue».
Strategy 6: Association
– Association was used for presenting vocabulary items. Teachers used Association for synonyms, antonyms, and simple definitions. For example,
blossom -- flower (synonym)
diligent -- hardworking (synonym)
fresh -- stale (antonym)
lad — means a boy (definition)
Strategy 7: Questioning
– Questioning is another strategy that is used in lessons at all levels. It is used in the introduction. The questioning section of the lessons appeared to be for the purpose of developing thinking processes for concept formation.
The Questioning strategy resembles the strategies described in the classic work of Hilda Taba (1967), in which she postulates that thinking can be taught. In Taba's inductive thinking model, questioning is used for concept formation, interpretation of data, and application of principle.
Storytelling is effective for early foreign language classes
Storytelling can be effective for teaching English to young learners for the following reasons given by Wajnryb (1986):
– The purpose of telling a story is genuinely communicative.
– Storytelling is linguistically honest. (It is oral language, meant to be heard.)
– Storytelling is real!(People do it all the time!)
– Storytelling appeals to the affective domain.
– Storytelling caters to the individualwhile forging a communityin the classroom.
– Storytelling provides listening experiences with reduced anxiety.
In addition, conducting lessons with physical activities gives considerably high results in developing language skills comprehensively. Playing games has a significant role in the second language acquisition process. With the help of games children can also learn social skills: sharing, working as a team and helping each other. Playing games in the classroom develops the ability to co-operate, to compete without being aggressive, and to be a good loser. There will be expected that with the help of games and physical response teacher is able to create environmentally friendly atmosphere in language learning and to get students’ attention. Also Schneider and Crombie (2003) announced a motto of multi-sensory techniques that is ‘Hear it, see it, say it, write it, act it out’ and make learning as active as possible. It is not refutable repeating the most effective factor in getting success in learning procedure. In general, children learn better when they are actively involved in lessons. However, in the view of diverse learning styles and preferences children display different results. For this reason properly designed lessons may become efficacious in solving problems related to teaching process.
1. Piaget, J. (1970). Science of Education and the Psychology of the Child. New York: Orion Press.
2. McCloske, Mary Lou. 2002. Seven Instructional Principles for Teaching Young Learners of English. Symposium, San Diego. http://home.comcast.net/~educo- atlanta/Handouts05/McCloskey_TESOL_Symposium02.pdf accessed on 29 September 2009
3. Annie Hughes and Nicole Taylor, Research Seminar Papers (2011). Teaching English To Young Learners: Seventh International TEYL
4. Hughes, Annie. 2009. An Introduction to Teaching English to Young Learners. http://www.ed2go.com/elt_demo/3te_demo/L02.htm, accessed September 10, 2009.
5. Slatterly, M., & Willis, J. (2001). English for primary teachers. Oxford: Oxford University Press.