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Interactive Language Learning with Young Children

Group of children crowding around a model globeChristina Giannikas owns a chain of private language schools in Southern Greece. Here she talks about the benefits of more interactive classroom experiences.

Many teaching approaches have been implemented in language classrooms over the years in order to provide positive outcomes and successful language learners.  Although various approaches have their advantages, an effective interactive methodology can help increase confidence and result to successful language learners in an environment where children learn to appreciate the foreign language and encounter it as a means of communication; and what better way to achieve this than by introducing an interactive approach with young learners?

One of the many pleasures of teaching children is their enthusiasm and motivation to explore the unknown. For young learners, being able to use a new language is exciting. However, this enthusiasm may quickly fade if children are exposed to teacher-centred environments where the opportunity to freely explore the language through communication is limited. In order to avoid this, teachers can intrigue their students with more communicative activities.

Contemporary language teaching supports the view that language is not simply symbolic, but largely inference-based. In such an environment, the emphasis is on comprehending and transmitting meaning through interaction within a classroom context.

Rivers (1987) believes that interaction is vital to language learning situations because through interaction, learners can enrich their knowledge of the foreign language as they are exposed to authentic linguistic material while listening or even having a discussion with their teachers or peers.

Nonetheless, in order for students to benefit from an interactive classroom environment, it is essential to provide the appropriate layout. Students can be encouraged to interact when seated in semi-circular groups, ad-hoc clusters of chairs or in pairs, where the teacher is not the centre of the communication network. A teacher can be surprised with how the introduction of an interactive approach can bring out the confident language speaker in even the shyest student.

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