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Kids World

Topics of interest to teachers of English as a second or foreign language to young learners.

July 29, 2013

Children Do Not Use Books As Shields

Children Do Not Use Books As ShieldsI teach at three universities and have noticed that ALL of my EFL students use their English books as shields during pair work. They appear to talk to the books rather than talk to their partners. They also tend to face forward and do their pair work with their faces in the books and their partners to their sides. They do not look at each other. It is a constant struggle for me to get them to give up taking to their books and turn around and face their partners.

One of the wonderful things about teaching children is that they have not learned how to stick their heads in their books when they speak English. Children are naturally eager to try out their English with each other. I think this is something we should cultivate.

Communication is teamwork between the speaker and the listener. As the saying goes, "It takes two to tango." The speaker is responsible for 50% of the communication. Clearly the speaker’s goal is to be easily understood. This can happen if he/she speaks slowly, loudly and clearly with eye contact. The listener is responsible for the other 50% of the communication. The listener’s goal is to understand spoken English. This can best be attained by the listener giving their full attention to the speaker by listening with their ears, eyes and heart instead of staring at a book. When kids do this with each other, it gives them a thrill.

So, in a nutshell, I am not a big advocate of textbooks for children. I think workbooks are fine for individual work contributing to the progression of reading and writing. But as far as speaking goes, the emphasis should be on English communication via warm-ups, self-introductions, English couplets (simple questions and answers) between two students giving them ample chances to try out their English on each other as opposed to having to speak in front of the teacher or in front of the class. It is fun for kids to try to speak to each other without the teacher looking over their shoulders. If we orchestrate appropriate activities for them, they can do it. And as a result, they will feel good about themselves, their partners, and English.

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