Young learners should get as many speaking opportunities as possible. The teacher combines various methods and tools: songs, games, chants, rhymes, etc.
Young learners are like sponges, they soak up everything we say and how we say it. Thus clear and correct pronunciation is of vital importance, since young learners repeat exactly what they hear. What has been learned at an early stage is difficult to change later on. With the help of mixed activities, such as dialogues, choral revision, chants, songs, poems and rhymes students' speaking abilities grow, their pronunciation gets better and their awareness of the language improves. Choral reading of the short texts is also very important.
Textbooks are usually filled with situation dialogues, helping the students learn language in real-life situations. But learning these dialogues by heart is a definite no-no. It is much better and far more useful to substitute the words so that they are true to students and their world. Thus each student uses his/her own variation. Note: with young learners, grammatical points should be taught implicitly only, after they are 11 and up, the explicit approach can be used as well.
The tasks for speaking should meet the level of the students. Teachers keep them interested by introducing new approaches to speaking in class. This could mean talking to different people, talking to different numbers of people, speaking as a whole class, half a class or in small groups.
For different levels in the same class tasks for speaking can be different. For example, the weaker students tell how many teddy bears there are in the song and the stronger ones tell what the teddy bears are doing in the song.
Some speaking activities are:
Action guessing game:
Teacher creates cards with actions written on them. He passes the cards around and has students mime the actions while others shout out what they think is happening.
Find someone who?:
Teacher creates a class set of cards, each with the name of an everyday object or word that students have already learnt. There are pairs of words in each set. Teacher gives each student one card and has him/her walk around the classroom to find the other student with the same card by asking, for example, 'Do you have an apple?'
This is an easy warm-up game that can be used to practise dialogue on any topic. It can be used for colors, emotions, vocabulary, weather, days of the week, months etc. One student takes a card with a given word written on it and looks at it without showing anyone else. The others have to guess the words by using appropriate language; for instance:
'Is it Monday?'
'No, it isn't.'
'Is it the day after Monday?'
'Yes, it is Tuesday.'
The student who correctly guesses is handed the card. At the end of the game, the student with the most cards wins.
1 minute activity:
The teacher sets the task: 'Talk about your favorite food for one minute', 'Talk about your favorite sport'.
Teacher spreads vocabulary cards around a table in an 'S' shape and give each student a toy car or some other type of counter. With all students starting on the same vocabulary card, they take turns to roll a dice and move along from card to card. On whatever word students land on, they have to make a sentence using that word.
Teacher shows some vocabulary cards or real objects to students and allows time for them to study them for 30 seconds or more. Then he asks students to turn away and then removes one or more words/objects. Students turn back around and have to guess what's missing.
Simple writing activities are used with young learners: copying down sentences from the board, writing out a jumbled word sentence from a workbook, filling in the blanks. They are often very important activities as they help students with their writing. If students are unable to copy sentences correctly, then they will make lots of mistakes when they come to write something longer.
Students should be motivated to write. If students see a reason for writing they will write. It is not enough for a teacher to say, "I'd like you to do this because it will be good for you."
When we write in our daily lives we always have a reason for doing so. So, if students write lots of texts and emails, why not start with these?
Also, when we write in real life we often receive some kind of response. This may be in the form of a phone call, a spoken comment or a written reply. Perhaps students can write to each other!
Collaborative writing is where students work in pairs or small groups to produce a piece of writing. In many cases this involves only one student actually putting pen to paper but all the students contributing through ideas, discussion on content and language and checking through the final product then refining, editing and improving.
By getting students to work together the focus shifts from being solely product orientated to emphasizing the process - how you get to produce the final piece.
Activities for writing
Students have been learning vocabulary to describe people. Teacher chooses a character appropriate for the age of the students like an alien, a robber, a super hero. First he asks the students to shut their eyes and imagine this character. Then they tell each other what this character looked like in their mind's eye. Next they decide on how they want the character they are going to write about to look. They could draw a picture first.
After this they write a list of all the main characteristics e.g. evil eyes, a long scar on the right cheek, blue skin. Once they have plenty of ideas, they must write a descriptive paragraph together (the length depends on the age and ability of the children). While they write they must try to be as descriptive and interesting as possible. They can make as many changes as they want while writing. Once they are happy that they have got a really good description they can write it up neatly.
Students of all ages all like doing picture dictations, which are very easy to set up and get lots of language practiced. First the teacher describes a picture and students must draw what they hear. For example it could be to practice describing people (He is very tall, he has large round eyes and a square shaped nose...) or for prepositions of place (There is a house on top of a mountain. An airplane if flying over the house, an elephant is standing in front on the house...)
He gets students to draw their own pictures without showing them to their partners and then take turns describing their picture to their partner who must draw the picture. They check each others' dictations by comparing the pictures.
Characteristics of a young learner | Differences in teaching children and adults | Types of learners | Questions for discussion and practical tasks | Teaching grammar to young learners | Teaching vocabulary to young learners | Questions for discussion and practical tasks | Teaching reading to young learners | Knowledge. | Evaluation. |