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The Role of Informal Interaction in Teaching English to Young Learners

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The Role of Informal Interaction in Teaching English to Young Learners by Monique Barb -

By informal interaction is meant the exchange of ideas, using spoken English, between teacher and learners and among the learners themselves.

BilIows (1961) was one of the first language teachers to stress the fact that a language has no life in itself. 'It must live,' he wrote,'in the mouth of the teacher in relation to the activity and situation of the classroom. It is a social skill. In other words, the teacher must really be himself (or herself), talking to real people about real things and then training the pupils to talk to one another about real things.

The concern here is not with interaction that may be part of the formal planned part of the lesson (although any lesson with young learners is likely to include interactional activities like games or drama) but with ways in which the use of English can be encouraged for real communication outside the main pedagogic events of the classroom. The proposal is that it is the job of the teacher to provide learning experiences that will help the children to use spoken English for real communication about matters of interest.

There are four main content areas in most lessons:

1. Language

2. Procedure

3. Subject Matter

4. Life.


The first of these areas, Language, concerns those times when a teacher is explaining or illustrating the language, or when the pupils are asking questions about the language, are practising pronunciation or structures. In most English classes nowadays, this part of the lesson is conducted in English.

The second, Procedure, concerns those times when the teacher is managing the class, explaining what to do next, how to do it and so on. Some teachers use English for class management and others use the children's mother tongue, at least in the early stages.

The third, Subject Matter, concerns those times when the language is being used to convey some specific topic as part of the lesson. For example, if the teacher tells a story called The Frog Who Got Lost, the subject matter is:the frog and its adventures. In this case the teacher's intention might be to illustrate the use of the past simple tense, but the content area of language used in that part of the lesson is not tenses but the tale of the frog. In the language classroom, this part of the lesson would be conducted in English.

The final content category, Life, concerns communication between teacher and pupils about real life matters - not directly about the lesson. This category embraces the type of questioning Barnes called "Social" as well as any other type of communication about the real world. Thus, for example, if the teacher directs a particular student to "Open the window", or asks another, who has nothing to write on, "Where is your note-book?", or genuinely asks another,"Is your brother playing football on Saturday?", he/she is using language to talk about thereal world that is part of the learners' direct expericnce. In the majority of foreign language classrooms, this type of informal interaction is conducted in the mother tongue rather than in English.

The Role of Informal Interaction in Teaching English to Young Learners written by Monique Barb for FamousWhy.com
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Tags: role, informal interaction, teaching english, young learners



Category: Education  - ( Education Archive)

Date Added: 08 February '07


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