My Blog

Short blog posts to communicate ideas, share experiences on language teaching and learning and reflect on the profession overall. Your comments and feedback are highly appreciated.

Sunday, 18 April 2021 11:39

Young Learners: Optimal conditions for language learning


  • Children learn best when we set a safe and positive learning environment where they are encouraged to experiment and their contributions are acknowledged and valued. As teachers, we might not be responsible for the children’s aptitude towards the language but we can definitely influence their attitude towards it. We don’t want to associate bad experiences with language learning. Creating positive first learning experiences can only lead children into continuing learning in the future.
  • Young learners benefit from multisensory learning. Kids are more likely to learn and retain information when they are engaged with materials using a variety of senses.
  • Children are more likely to learn when they are engaged, motivated and challenged. Children can easily get motivated if the activity or experience is meaningful to them. Taking time to get to know your students (icebreakers/class profiles) and finding out what they are interested in is essential if you want to help them learn.
  • Nurturing children’s curiosity is key to their learning. It’s this drive that leads to knowledge. Children who are curious are destined to succeed.
  • Young children learn by themselves. There’s an early stage in their language development when they are learning in silence. During this time they are actively listening and working out the patterns of the language. Students are able to respond to the teacher's instructions, e.g. ‘Sit down', 'Open your books', but they remain silent as they do not yet feel ready to produce speech. A silent period is the first stage of language acquisition and it’s crucial for the teacher to respect this process and not force the child to produce speech. Teachers cannot speed up this process and it requires lots of patience on their behalf. Gently encouraging a kid to join in, but also giving them the time they need to observe is a delicate balancing act. More info here.
  • Children learn through play. Play provides a great natural context for language development. We need to value play-based activities and the learning opportunities they offer and stop using games as a reward after children finish their class work.
  • Children learn through songs and stories. Songs’ repetitive patterns enable children to memorize language and stories provide a great context and stretch students’ imagination.
  • Children learn when they are encouraged to interact and cooperate with their peers. Based on Piaget’s theory of cognitive development, between the ages of 7-11, children drop their egocentric characteristics and they find it easier to co-exist and share with others.
  • Young learners have a short attention span and can easily get distracted and bored. Using a variety of activities, and providing them with frequent brain breaks (5 min per hour) can help them cope with boredom. However, children can carry on for a long time as long as they are engaged and motivated, e.g. interesting play-based activities. In that case they are so engaged that they don’t even realize they use L2.
  • Effective classroom management sets the stage for optimal learning. Establishing classroom routines helps them feel more secure as they know what they are expected to do.

1 comment

  • Comment Link Camila Martinelli Tuesday, 20 April 2021 17:17 posted by Camila Martinelli

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