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Towards incorporating learner autonomy in language classes for children

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Annamaria Pinter is Associate Professor of ELT/ Applied Linguistics at the Centre for Applied Linguistics at the University of Warwick, UK. Annamaria will be hosting a Global Webinar entitled ‘Towards incorporating learner autonomy in language classes for children’ on February 22nd and 24th. You can more information and register to attend here.

Autonomy is an undisputed educational goal for all. But does this apply to children as well? How can it be applied in language classrooms across different age groups? What can teachers do to help children become more autonomous learners? How does the teacher’s role change?

Why we can’t avoid autonomy:

Each year ever greater numbers of young children in various parts of the world start learning English, and by the time they become teenagers and/ or adults, the world around them will change beyond recognition, and they will need to adjust to new ways of learning. Training them to think for themselves is therefore an essential skill to teach today.

What benefits will this training come with?     

Autonomy goes hand in hand with motivation. If your learners are highly motivated, they will be learning English enthusiastically. Autonomy is also linked to making choices. When children make choices, they will invest more responsibility and effort into whatever they do.

This webinar will be devoted to ideas/ techniques and activities that can be adapted for any classroom. Teachers can incorporate as much or as little as they see appropriate into their practice, and these ideas will work in any classroom because there is also a strong link between developing learner autonomy and attention to individual needs and differences in different contexts.

Here is one idea:

  • Get the children to work in groups and take some photos ( for postcards)
  • Get each child to choose their favourite picture to write about (with a purpose, e.g. my favourite place to show a friend )
  • Get the children to compare their picture stories/cards within the group. Having seen/ read other cards, ask the children to add at least one more idea/ sentence/ to their original writing and/ or improve the writing in any other way.

Autonomous learners  – autonomous teachers?

If we expect children to become more autonomous, should we expect the same of ourselves?    What about ‘Teachers as learners’ and ‘teachers as role models’?              

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Author: Oxford University Press ELT

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4 thoughts on “Towards incorporating learner autonomy in language classes for children

  1. I couldn’t agree more with you. I have been a teacher for 13 years and I have heard my students say things like: “teacher, why did you flunk me?”; instead, they should be saying things like: “I didn’t pass, teacher, is there anything you recommend I do?” Only when students and teachers understand their roles in the teaching/learning processes, meaningful, effective learning will be possible. Looking forward to attending your webinar!

  2. I am glad you agree. Understanding roles and effective communication are crucial. Sometimes it is harder to get things going sometimes it is quicker and easier but it is always a must.

  3. hi ,
    shouldn’t we ask ourselves if children go to school to learn or to learn how to learn. The esssence of teaching is how to make learners use appropriate strategies to move forward alone ad rely on themselves for taking suitable decisions about their lives.

  4. Agreed. Autonomy is important at any age. Another important aspect of learner autonomy with young learners that must not be forgotten is the sense of belongingness. Where exactly to draw the line will be important for autonomous activities with young learners.

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