It is clear that the teaching of English as a foreign language to young learners is on the rise. For many schools, teaching young learners is a potential area of growth. However, what kind of development each school needs to deal with this growth will vary depending on what state each school’s ‘YL house’ is in now.
Maybe you do not yet have a ‘YL house’ and it needs building from scratch. Maybe it has been around for a while, but it is looking a bit run down and is in need of a lick of paint. Or maybe it is simply too cramped and just not big enough – and you desperately need an extension.
Whatever the situation, with a few carefully selected builders, resources and tools any school can have the ‘YL house’ they are after!
Essentially, what follows are ‘construction or renovation tips and suggestions’ (or resources and tools). Not all will be applicable to everyone, but hopefully there’s an idea that can be put in place in your school, whether you’re building from scratch, renovating or extending your YL department.
1) Levels and Ages:
Grouping YLs is more complicated than it is with adults. It is necessary to consider not only
English language level, but also their age and stage of development. With the under 12 year olds, in particular the differences in abilities and needs can be quite marked. The more you can divide the better. Another tip to keep in mind is that as a child moves up a development stage (for example, going from a non-reading/writing course to one that includes reading/writing), it is often better for the child to not go up a language level too. They will be challenged in a number of other ways and will benefit from the opportunity to consolidate their language as they get to grips with the new cognitive level required.
2) Classroom Management / Discipline:
The area that teachers often struggle with the most when working with young learners is dealing with discipline and classroom management. It is therefore essential to provide a system from the beginning that supports and guides teachers in this. By doing so it will help avoid teachers feeling frustrated with their classes, which can lead to a negative attitude to YL classes in general. In addition school management is better able to spot problems brewing, limiting escalating problems, and therefore reducing the likelihood of complaints.
3) Communication with Parents:
It is essential that all parties contributing to the education of children are kept involved and fully informed of the process. Parents can often be left on the sidelines, only called in if there are problems, or when it is fee paying time! One area in particular where clear communication can make all the difference, is ensuring parents understand the methodology and approaches of the school. Many parents expect classes to be similar to what they had or to what their children are getting in their mainstream schools and will express their dissatisfaction if this is not the case.
4) Teacher Support and Development:
Teachers are often sent into the YL classroom without any training. Many teachers complain about teaching YLs and after a short period, try to avoid doing it. Teaching YLs is different to teaching adults; it requires different skills and knowledge. By providing teachers with support and development they will not only become more effective teachers, but they’ll be more likely to enjoy doing it. This will create a more positive attitude to teaching YLs in general and make staffing the classes an easier task.
5) Extra Curricular Activities:
Events and activities out of normal class time are a good way of offering something different to the competition. They are also a great way of creating a real sense of community in the school and showing the children that English is something that has a use or purpose outside the classroom. Ideas can be linked to the time of year, festivals or local, national or international events. They can have a strong focus on English or this could be a secondary focus or benefit. Extra-curricular ideas can also be used as a promotional tool to draw in new students or highlight the school to the community.
6) Off-Site Teaching:
Teaching off-site requires careful organisation and planning and does bring its issues. However, many mainstream schools look to private language schools such as IH to provide some or all of their English lessons. In addition some schools are happy for their premises to be used after normal school lessons for extra English lessons. This provides a way of reaching a potentially large number of students that would not necessarily be able or willing to attend classes on IH premises.
7) Holiday Courses or Camps:
Another great way of providing something different or extra is to run intensive programmes during school holidays. These could take place on-site or off-site, and could be all inclusive or more simply a morning or afternoon programme. It will depend on each school’s circumstances whether something like this is feasible. Holiday programmes are often the ideal opportunity to move away from a course book and to incorporate more project work, drama, arts and crafts and sports.
In the affiliates area of the IHWO website (www.ihworld.com) there is a YL portal. Here you will find examples, suggestions, advice and forms to support all of the areas mentioned above. There are ideas directly from IHWO and also from other schools in the network. All of these are there to be downloaded and used as they are or adapted to better suit the individual needs of different schools.
As with YL departments around the network, this YL portal is growing and developing all the time, it too is under construction! If you feel you or your school could contribute to the development of this area by sharing an idea or a document that you use in your YL departments, please feel free to do so. If everyone that reads this article sent in one thing, imagine how much more would be available on the site for all to use!
Please contact the IHWO YL coordinator (email@example.com) with any questions or suggestions regarding building, renovating or extending your YL department.
- What Can You Do if You Want to Transition Into a More Senior Role in TEFL? – by Robbie McDonald
- Stop making a monkey out of CPD… or the evolution of teacher development by Alastair Grant
- IHWO News by Lucy Horsefield, Chief Operating Officer, IHWO
- IHWO News: Spring 2008
- Young Learners Conference 2008 Review