Saturday, March 19, 2011

Learner Variables I: Teaching English Language Across Age Levels

Peace be upon you and hello to my dear readers,

It's been so long I have not updated my blog due to the workload I receive for my courses. Assignments, presentations, quizzes, tests, and course project are all need my full attention and great effort as to accomplish and surely, meet its goal. No wonder my blog seems so boring and dull like a dress no longer be used and placed in the cupboard for quite sometime. Pathetic, isn't it? Hahahaha, well readers, I am back; to prove you guys that this blog still has its contents and messages to deliver to the readers. Yeah! Its writer is still alive! She is just being off to settle her work. That's it. So, what am I going to mumble this time? You guys must be wondering what will be my next educational topic for this entry, mustn't you? Oh, wait, wait, wait! An EDUCATIONAL TOPIC? AGAIN? Hahaha, yeah! Again. *It's better to mumble out about something intellectual rather than talking rubbish. Correct?* :D

So, this entry will be discussing on the Learner Variables I: Teaching Across Age Levels. To be more specific, I will be explaining to you, how to teach an English language to the students according to their age as well as what are the things and factors we really need to consider while teaching. As teachers, we should not simply turn our eyes blind to this matter as our approaches determine whether the students are able to comprehend the lessons or not, so that they can accomplish any tasks given. Therefore, let us look at the very first stage of teaching English language: teaching children. (Another two teaching age levels will be explained in the upcoming entries.)

Here are 5 practical approaches to teaching children;

1. Intellectual Development
According to Piaget (1972), children up till age eleven, they are living in intellectual stage or scientifically known as "concrete operations". Thus, we, as teachers, really need to remember their limitations seeing that they are much centered on 'here' and 'now', on the functional purposes of language. Then, they have little appreciation to the adult notions of 'correctness', and they certainly cannot gasp the metalanguage we use to describe and explain linguistic concepts. Below are the rule of thumb for the classroom:

  • avoid abstract terms and grammar rules (e.g : Present progressive/ relative clause)
  • demonstrate certain patterns and give examples to the students
  • repetition is needed in different ways in order to get ear and brain cooperate, thus, they will not get bored.
2. Attention span
Basically, children do not have the short attention span. I bet you readers will strongly disagree with me. But before we deal into great debate, let us think about this; children will stay riveted for television  watching duration. :-D Still wanna come into dispute? However, children DO have short attention span WHEN the materials given is BORING, USELESS AND TOO DIFFICULT. Here, it is teacher's job to make them interestingly, lively and fun. How can we do that?
  • conduct variety of activities which can capture their immediate interest
  • teachers need to be enthusiastic, animated, lively as the energy will be transmitted to the children
  • insert or inject sense of humor but remember, we have to put ourselves in their shoes. Or else, they will not understand the jokes.
  • Surely, teachers need to tap into the curiosity of the children whenever possible.
3. Sensory Input
We, as teachers are supposed to concern that children need to have all five senses stimulated through:
  • pepper the lesson with physical activity
  • project and other hands-on activities
  • sensory aid to internalize the language
  • teacher's nonverbal language as they attend the lesson sensitively.
4.Affective Factors
Children are innovative in language forms but still have a great many inhibitions. Means that they are extremely sensitive, especially to peers; What do others think of me? What will so-and-so think when I speak in English? Children are in many ways much more fragile than adults. Perhaps we as adults do not realize it but children's fragility of ego are still being shaped, and therefore the slightest nuances of communication can be negatively interpreted. Perhaps these thumb of rule for the classroom may work:
  • elicit as much as possible oral participation from students.
  • help the students to laugh with each other's mistake.
  • be firm in your(teacher) expectation of students.
  • be patient and supportive to build self-esteem.
5. Authentic, meaningful language
Like I said above, children are focused on what the new language can actually be used for here and now. They are, in fact, less willing to put up with language that doesn't hold immediate rewards for them.
  • Language needs to be firmly context embedded.
  • A whole language approach is essential because when it is broken into bits and pieces, the children will not see the relationship to the whole.
  • Stress the interrelation among the various skills.
All in all, it takes a very special person to be able to teach children effectively. Not all of us are born with the ability of teaching. Some may have high patience, some may not. Along with all these guidelines, I, personally, hope that  it works for those teachers who seek for help. Who knows, these thumb of rules are effective? God willing. Anyway, I end up my post here, till we meet again in next post. Have a nice day everyone. Bye.

With love,

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