How young children learn

Young children learn in an integrated way and not in neat, tidy compartments. A child making shapes out of plasticine is learning maths (shape) and art (texture, shape, design, colour), building fine motor skills (physical development), and hearing or using language to describe shapes, colour, texture, materials and techniques (English). The activity drives the need to communicate.

Young children will learn a language better when they see a genuine need for communication, which is often the language they are hearing or using while they are doing an activity that they enjoy.

While adults can plan a range a activities to enhance the learning experience, not all of them will be motivating for every child. Children more likely to be motivated if the activity or experience is meaningful to them. Taking time to get to know the children and finding out what they are interested in is essential if you want to motivate them and help them learn.

The interactions you have with a child while they are engaged in an activity help develop language and communication in context, making the language learning more memorable and authentic.

Rhymes, songs and chants help children memorise words and sentence structure, and they also help with pronunciation, expression and the rhythm of sentences. Children learn their home language by playing with language in this way, and it’s a fun way for them to learn another language too!

A good story takes children to an imaginary world filled with characters and events that will make them want to find out what happens in the end, and that they will want to hear again, join in retelling, and even retell in their own words. Illustrations and actions help children understand descriptions of characters and events, because they can connect what they are seeing and doing with the language in the story.

Giving clear, simple instructions in English with accompanying actions, gestures or demonstrations is more likely to result in children understanding. Children love copying – the teacher, their parents, older siblings or friends – and will often join in after observing how something is done. Including routines is also a useful way of helping young children understand what is expected of them (e.g. every time we sit on the mat we will hear a story or sing a song). Children may not understand straight away, but giving instructions in English is an excellent way of reinforcing key language, so in the long run it’s worth the effort.

How can we play with children

Here are several games and activities to do with children to help them learn and interact.

Playing with blocks

  • use language for counting and sorting: How many are there? Shall we put the blue ones here?
  • use positional language: in, on, under, below, behind, next to
  • explore language related to size: big, small, long, short
  • describe what a child is doing while playing: finding, stacking, pulling, pushing, building, pressing, dragging
  • describe shapes and objects the children are making: square, rectangle, tower, house, castle, garden

Dress-ups (and drama)

  • describe the costumes (fairy, princess, pirate, king, clown) and actions for getting dressed: put on, pull up/down, zip up, do the buttons up, unbutton, unzip
  • highlight the relevant parts of the body: put your arms through here, tie this around your waist/wrist, put these on your feet – first your left foot, then your right foot, put this over your head
  • use nursery rhymes and stories to model language for imaginary play
  • develop listening comprehension by encouraging the children act out the rhyme or story in their costumes
  • extend vocabulary associated with role-play: hospital, airport, artist’s studio, garden centre, vet, doctor, routines (breakfast/lunch/dinner/bed time)

Making and decorating (art and craft)

  • name the materials: paint, paintbrush, crayon, felt-tip, marker, card, paper, crepe paper, shiny paper, tissue paper, newspaper, glue, scissors, cotton wool, fabric, sequins, feathers
  • describe properties and textures of materials: runny, thick, smooth, hard, long, short, spiky, rough, shiny
  • experiment with and describe colour
  • use instructions: paint, draw, colour, smudge, blur, blow, copy, pour, make, cut, stick, decorate, hang (it) up
  • art appreciation and describing what the children have made, painted or drawn.

Malleable materials (dough, plasticine, clay)

  • use language of manipulation: push, pull, drop, squeeze, press, bend, twist, roll, stretch, squash, squish, pinch, flatten, poke, scrape, break apart
  • describe length/thickness: longer than, shorter than, the same length as
  • use language related to colour and smells
  • describe texture: soft, hard, squishy, lumpy, grainy, shiny
  • talk about materials that can be added to dough: feathers, sticks, twigs, shells
  • explore language related to shapes

Music and movement activities

  • use language related to actions, position and parts of the body: put your hands up in the air, draw circles in the air, touch your nose, wriggle your fingers, jump, hop, lie face down on the floor, lie on your back, move over there, come closer, curl up into a ball, stretch your arms out as wide as you can, take a nap
  • name musical instruments: shaker, drum, recorder, xylophone, block, triangle, bell, tambourine
  • use language to describe sounds: loud, quiet, soft, high, low, long, short, fast, slow, tap, shake, scrape, knock, tick, hum, howl
  • familiarise children with a range of sounds through onomatopoeia
  • use songs and rhymes to work on pronunciation, rhythm, stress and intonation

Toys and small world play

  • extend vocabulary related to a particular topic: park, zoo, farm, hospital, transport
  • comment on the objects, toys or figurines the children are playing with
  • comment on the settings, scenes, themes or storylines children are developing as they play
  • describe the position of the things the children are playing with: behind, next to, in, on, under

Puzzles

  • describe the pictures and colours on the puzzles
  • comment on the shape of the puzzle pieces: rectangle, square, triangle, circle
  • comment on the position of the puzzle pieces: up/down, here/there
  • encourage the social aspects of using puzzles: take turns, it’s your turn next, share

Sand play and water play

  • use language related to equipment and resources: brush, spade, scoop, spoon, cup, jug, bucket, sieve, cutters, rake, comb, funnel, sponge, soap, bubbles, straw, ladle, tea pot, watering can
  • extend vocabulary related to imaginary play: boats, diggers, bulldozers, tractors, treasure, dinosaurs, pirates, gardens, tea party, firefighter, plumber, dolls
  • use descriptive language: wet, dry, damp, gritty, hard, lumpy, flat, smooth, wavy, sticky, cold, frozen, clean, dirty
  • use language related to size, shape and position
  • describe capacity and quantity: enough, more, less, too much/little, overflowing, how much/many? a pile/cup of…
  • describe actions or what is happening: it’s fallen down, it’s gone, flatten, pour, tip, fill, scoop, cover, stir, splash, leak, drip, float, sink, trickle, spray, wash, dry

Have you got anything else to add to these categories?

Can you think of other activities or areas of childhood development and the related language development opportunities?

Share your comments with us below.

© British Council

Children need time to play

Play is fun, all children love playing, and children learn so much through play without even realising it. So we need to give children time to play, not just ten minutes when they finish their ‘work’.

When children play, they are experimenting with ideas, testing hypotheses, mastering skills, using their imaginations and representing their world. If you cut out play when teaching English you are removing a vital step in childhood development.

Here are a few examples of the different types of things children are learning and developing as they play.

  • When playing with plasticine children develop their fine motor skills. Children are working on hand-eye coordination and building up the muscles in their hands and fingers when modelling plasticine. These are valuable pre-writing skills, as good muscle strength and hand-eye coordination will help children hold and use writing tools properly later on. By playing with plasticine, children are also experimenting with things like colour, shape and texture.
  • When playing with dolls and a tub of waterthey are learning about the concepts of wet and dry, floating and sinking, clean and dirty. They are also engaging in sensory play, and experimenting with the way water feels.
  • When playing with musical instrumentschildren are developing sound recognition (the sounds that different instruments make and an understanding of how sounds can change (e.g. high, low, soft, loud, fast slow) and an appreciation of music. These valuable listening skills are transferable to the area of language and communication.
  • When playing with transport toys, children are experimenting with friction and motion, up and down, forwards and backwards, fast and slow.
  • When children are playing with blocks, they are learning about colour, shape and patterns, as well as the concepts of weight, size, height, length, vertical and horizontal.
  • In dramatic play and small world play(acting out scenes from real life, stories and/or imagination created with small figures and objects) children are representing ideas that help them make sense of the world around them. They can also experiment with playing different roles and inventing different scenarios, taking them beyond the real world and developing their imagination.

What do you think?

  • How important do you think it is to give children time to play?
  • How do you think play can help a child’s language development?

© British Council

Play and learning

We’ve talked about why children play and the benefits of play, but the idea still persists that if it’s too much fun, children are not learning.

However, the evidence suggests the opposite. Research shows that children actually learn through play. Play is learning.

Internationally renowned expert on early childhood and play, Tina Bruce, outlines in her book, Early Childhood Education, the 12 features of free-flow play:

1. Children use the first-hand experiencesthey have had in life during play.

2. Children keep control as they play. Play does not bow to pressure to conform to external rules, outcomes, targets or adult-led projects.

3. Play is a process. It has no products.

4. Children choose to play. It is intrinsically motivated and spontaneous.

5. Children rehearse their possible futures in their play. Play helps children learn to function in advance of what they can do in the present.

6. Play has the potential to take children into a world of pretend, beyond the here and now, in the past, present and future, and it transforms them into different characters.

7. Play can be solitary, and this sort of play can be very deep.

8. Children can play together or with an adult, in companionship (parallel play), associatively or cooperatively in pairs or groups.

9. Play can be initiated by a child or an adult, but adults need to respect the child’s play agenda by not insisting that the adult agenda dominates the play.

10. Child-led play is characterised by deep concentration.

11. In play, children try out their recent learning, mastery, competence and skills, and consolidate them.

12. Play makes children into whole people, able to keep balancing their lives in a fast-changing world.

Tina Bruce (2015) Early Childhood Education 5th Edition

The Year of the Rat – Chinese zodiac

Esse será o ano chinês do Rato. Um animal silencioso, rápido e que sabe se multiplicar!

Seguem alguns provérbios chineses para inspiração nesse novo ano.

Some Chinese proverbs:

If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.

Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps the singing bird will come.

When there is light in the soul there is beauty in the person. When there is beauty in the person, there is harmony in the home. When there is harmony in the home, there is honour in the nation. When there is honour in the nation, there is peace in the world.

If you chase two rabbits, both will escape.

A book is like a garden carried in the pocket.

A child’s life is like a piece of paper on which every person leaves a mark.

Be the first to the field and the last to the couch.

A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.

A bit of fragrance clings to the hand that gives flowers.

If you always give you will always have.

To succeed, consult three old people. Teachers open the door; you enter by yourself.

He who asks is a fool for five minutes, but he who does not ask remains a fool forever.

To know the road ahead, ask those coming back.

Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps the singing bird will come - Chinese Proverb (poster available)

Source: Activity Village

A história por trás do Black Friday.

As primeiras origens e história

O termo “sexta-feira negra” foi realmente associado à crise financeira, não às compras de vendas.

Dois financistas de Wall Street, Jim Fisk e Jay Gould, compraram juntos uma quantidade significativa de ouro dos EUA na esperança de que o preço global subisse e, por sua vez, pudessem vendê-lo com lucros enormes.

Na sexta-feira, 24 de setembro de 1869, no que foi chamado de “Black Friday”, o mercado de ouro dos EUA entrou em colapso e as ações de Fisk e Gould deixaram os barões de Wall Street em falência.

Não foi até anos posteriores que o período pós-Ação de Graças se associou ao nome.

Nos últimos anos, circulou um boato impreciso, sugerindo que os proprietários de plantações do sul poderiam comprar escravos a um preço com desconto após o Dia de Ação de Graças, no século XIX.

A Message to ESL Teachers.


Learning in a second language can be challenging, but you as a language-aware teacher can make a big difference. Here’s a summary of the main ideas:

  • Language is more than vocabulary, grammar and spelling. It is shaped by discourses, genre conventions and context.
  • Students need control of both the everyday interpersonal register and the more formal academic register to succeed in school.
  • Language learners will come from a variety of circumstances with a variety of resources, so don’t make assumptions about their needs.
  • Don’t leave it to osmosis – plan for language learning as well as curriculum learning.
  • Keep the focus on making meaning, not on correctness.
  • Encourage repetition, recycling and redundancy.
  • Use visuals and gestures to support language learners.
  • In your talk and classroom resources, aim for ‘comprehensibility plus’.
  • Welcome your students’ first languages into the classroom.
  • Plan different spaces and activities for different types of talk.
  • Give language learners a bit more wait time.
  • Understand the particular language demands of your curriculum area.
  • Build the genre cycle into your lesson planning.
  • Let students into the secrets of genre conventions.
  • Use feedback on students’ work as an opportunity for language learning.
  • Observe how your language learners are progressing, and plan for the next stage.

Devemos traduzir para o aluno?

Estudos comprovam que o uso na 1ª língua ajuda aos alunos a compreender melhor o significado das palavras na 2ª língua. Esse processo chama-se Translinguagem!

In English

Recently, there has been a growing recognition that our language learners’ educational outcome may in fact be improved if they are given support in their own first language alongside their English language development. Despite this, some teachers and parents still fear that by supporting bilingual pupils’ first language their development of English will suffer. Evidence suggests that this is not the case. Rather, acknowledging and incorporating the use of our language learners’ first language in the classroom as a learning resource offers a positive move towards building a more supportive learning environment. This is called translanguaging.

Source: https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/tesol-strategies/4/steps/600471