Early Years Education
Our selection and development of resources and the way in which we approach our own sessions with young children is underpinned by some key beliefs about early years education:
- Children learn best when they feel positive about the activity they are engaged in.
- Children learn through play. See CMEC’s Statement on Play-Based Learning.
- Children learn in an integrated way so that subjects such as maths, art, science, language, etc. cannot be separated.
- Children need a stimulating and secure environment and exposure to a range of engaging materials and activities in order to develop creativity, imagination and skills such as reading, writing, drawing, dancing, dancing, music, mathematical numbers, algebra, role play and talking.
Language Acquisition and Learning
In order for acquisition to take place, children need to be exposed to language being used in a meaningful way and they need to hear an item of language several times. While the amount of exposure is important, the quality of the input matters more. This means that language should be contextualised, used in real communication rather than isolated words, and repeated often.
In terms of second language acquisition, contexts often vary considerably and it is often not easy to provide the time or quality of exposure necessary. For example, children may only have 1 or 2 hours of dedicated English time a week. For that reason, Kids Club English seeks to help parents, teachers and other childcare professionals maximise the opportunities available. Stories, songs and craft activities that help the child view the second language as a genuine tool of communication will aid acquisition.
It should also be noted, however, that when young second language learners enter formal primary education, they are often ‘taught’ the language in thematic units. Here, the language is something to be ‘learned’, rather than ‘acquired’. Kids Club English attempts to bridge the two approaches by relating this thematically organised language to other mediums often associated more with first language acquisition: stories and songs.
Stories are fantastic tools for educators, in that they can provide the opportunities to learn and develop a whole host of skills. In the context of language acquisition, they are invaluable for several reasons:
- Storytime is often a relaxing and enjoyable experience for children. When children are relaxed and enjoying themselves, they are better able to acquire language.
- Stories are universal and common across all cultures. Children are familiar with common themes, structures and tropes and are able to understand and recognise them, even if the language is unfamiliar.
- Stories provide a memorable context in which language is used meaningfully. Children are often able to recall language used in stories and they understand how it can be used.
- Stories for young children are full of engaging illustrations which help support understanding.
- Stories often include a lot of repetition. As discussed above, this is a key factor in successful language acquisition.
- Stories provide children with a genuine reason to communicate. Children naturally want to express their thoughts, feelings and understanding of the world, as inspired by the story.
- Interaction between the storyteller and the children provides multiple opportunities for repetition and drilling.
Songs play an important role in acquiring our first, as well as second or third languages. Apart from being fun, engaging and motivating, they offer some distinct advantages for young language learners:
- Children are naturally drawn to songs and chants. They love playing with sounds, lack inhibition and are not afraid to repeat. This repetition fosters acquisition.
- Songs can help children acquire natural rhthym and intonation.
- Songs build confidence. Children often enjoy showing off what they have learned to the adults in their lives.
- Songs often provide the opportunity for language to be reinforced in a natural, meaningful environment.
- Songs help memory and recall.
Craft and Printables
At Kids Club English, the approach is more English through Craft, rather than Craft through English. Whereas Craft through English activities are more focused on the completion of an activity in an environment where English is spoken, in English through Craft, activities and suggestions maximise interaction in English so that there are several opportunities for repetition, and thus language acquisition. Many are also dynamic in nature and connect to stories and songs so that interaction can extend beyond the classroom. For example, some crafts involve the creation of a game to be played with parents, while others illustrate a song or story that can be retold in a different context. In this way, the quantity of quality exposure to the language can be increased. The inclusion of craft activities allows:
- Repetition of key language presented through stories and/ or songs.
- Opportunities for individual language production. Depending on your context, it is not always easy to interact with each child individually.
- Opportunities for children to ‘re-live’ the language. During many activities, the child may be silently recalling parts of a story or song.
- Increased opportunites for interaction between parents, childcare providers and teachers.
Craft through English activites where specific language is less targeted are also of significant value. Kids Club Englsh encourages the incorporation of these types of projects, where time allows, as it is a less controlled way for children and adults to engage in genuine interaction.