A blog for the Second Language Literacies course from the MA in Learning and Teaching Processes in Second Languages (ML2) at UPB-Medellín
During the acquisition of a second language it is important to think what are the elements that constitute the methodologies implemented in a classroom, but also the policies required to teach a second language. One of the most important elements that will help you to support the teaching of English in your classes are stipulate for the laws and policies implemented in your country, in this situation Colombia.
In the case of a public school we can find policies just like “The Colombian National Bilingual Education Program is intended to improve the learning of English as a foreign language at the various levels of schooling” (Cárdenas, R., & Miranda, N. 2014). In the private school situation, they have the opportunity to incorporate in their curriculum international policies or The Common European Framework to support the bilingual process in their classes. “The Common European Framework Of References For Language: Learning, Teaching, Assessment will be adopted in order to provide an internationally acknowledge of the system of references for learning, teaching and assessment processes in Colombia” (Dix peña, B. & De Mejía, A. M., 2012, p, 140.)
This policies and statements can only be applied from first grade to eleven grade as a support of the bilingual processes. In the levels of preschools, some institutions can use the competences relative to the first grades as a support to the development of the competences to the lowers grades, just like: pre-kinder, kinder and transition. Having this in mind, it is important to bear in mind that in kinder grade, the Common European Framework it is only a step that teachers will need to prepare their classes. It is necessary to have some methodologies, elements and strategies to support the English teaching in the kids’ classes.
Be relative with the correct elements and resources will help you as a teacher to teach the foreign language in a way where you can catch the attention of your students. This practices can be also used according with the grades of the kids where you are going to impart the knowledge of that new language.
In the case of the preschool level and as a teacher of the youngest, you need to be familiar with the characteristic of your students and what are the correct methodologies and strategies that you can use. Building a curriculum that strategies in an environment according to the kids´ needs and to their interests will help you to involve them in the acquisition of a second language processes. With preschoolers the class need to be more adaptive to their ages and their imaginations, their tastes. It is important to have in mind that an environment where the students have the opportunity to explore the learning of a second language through their native language, in this case, English, will facilitated the integration of both languages. As evidenced by the following texts:
Additive multilingualism is the acquisition of, or gaining of competence in, a L2 while maintaining L1. This implies that the appreciation and reinforcement of both L1 and ELoLT will have a complimentary effect on the learner’s cognitive and social development (Plessis, S. D., & Louw, B., 2008, p.54.)
Children born in a monolingual environment can become bilingual in school, but they will be consecutive bilingual, having acquired a lot of their first language before entering school. This means that they will naturally use their knowledge of the first language to learn the second one and will need to be able to consciously recognize differences between the two. (Ordóñez, C. L., 2011, p. 149)
Required a lot of patience, imagination, and creativity to make the connection between the native language and the foreign language when you are teaching to boys and girls from the preschool level. They need to feel that association of their native language and the foreign language. The relation that this two language, native and in this case English can have will let the students to comprehend the communication methodologies that are implemented in the classroom. “It appears that learners in multilingual situations draw on their language sources by code-switching to accommodate each other. It may in fact be a strategy for effective communication” (Plessis, S. D., & Louw, B., 2008, p.56.). When your students figure out how magical it is to comprehend to different language they well be prepared to venture in the learning of a second language.
It is hard at the first time that the kids can comprehend all the English subjects and that is why it is important to use both languages, English and Spanish. The kids can say that they do not understand what the teacher is saying but in the second period of the year they are going to comprehend more vocabulary, commands and words. In this second period we start to let behind the translation from one language to other.
When a preschool-aged child enters an environment where a second language is used, it is necessary for that child to adjust to this new situation. At this time, the child must realize that an entirely new language is required with a new vocabulary, a new set of rules for grammar, and morphology, and a new set of social conventions. (Tabors, P. O., & Snow, C. E., 1994, p. 105)
One of the biggest impacts that kids can have in the learning process of English is the ability to recognize the phonemic of one or more language. Thanks to the perception of the sounds of the words, commands and phrases that can hear every day. “Studies of the phonetic units of language have shown that early in life, infants are capable of discerning differences among the phonetic units of all languages, including native- and foreign language sounds” (Kuhl, P. K., Tsao, F. M., & Liu, H. M., 2003, p, 1). In the grade of kinder the students can develop their listening and comprehension processes through the practices of a foreign language and to the connection that they can make with their context. This means that one of the first things that we do at the beginning of the classes is to relate the kids with the English language through the environment that surround them.
We need to create the relation between the activities and the environment that we have in the school to the listening process, to maintain the advances in a consecutive way during all the school year. The kids need to get used to hear this new language developing the ability to comprehend it. It is important to mention that when the kids have the opportunity to be exposed to this foreign language as teacher we need to respect the both process, the learning of a second language but also the using of their native language. This is why we need to encourage kids´ parents to maintain their native language in home to contribute with the acquisition of a new language through the abilities that they are being developing with their native language.
Preschool educators, therefore, should be prepared to encourage parents to maintain the home language throughout this period, so their children can develop world knowledge vocabulary, and discourse strategies in their first language at home while developing expertise in the new language at school. (Tabors, P. O., & Snow, C. E., 1994)
After the kids can comprehend some commands we can start the classes with the subject relative to English. The subjects of the kindergarten grade are divided into dimensions of development, which are composed by: cognitive, communicative, esthetic, corporal, and other subjects that are investigation and music. In kinder grade we have 25 hours per week to teach English but using the dimensions, so we need to prepare the classes in a creative way. Being a teacher of kids between 4 and 5 years old allow me to make my classes through the help of the kids´ imagination. We use a program that it is knowing as the project program, where the students can choose a theme from their interests. In this themes we can find animals, dinosaurs, the space, the air, animals from the sea, the jungle, Colombia is passion, among others.
With the project we try to be immerse in some activities and resources just like handcrafts, the ICT, the exploration and imagination of a specific place, the storybook, the dramatization and mimics, music, and dance, flashcards and object that are palpable. We do not use book of any course or subject, because what we want in this English level is that the kids can be familiar from the listening and the manipulation of any can of elements and representation of the theatrical part. So in the activities and with the use of the commands we need to prepare strategies and exercise to connect the languages that the kids are learning from the concrete to the listening perception and then to the reproduction of some phrases.
With the used of all this learning strategies and after two month we can integrate to the activities some pre-writing and pre-reading exercises just like numbers and counting strategies, recognition of storybook and main character without translation, words and letters in a book, shapes, parts of a plant, vowels and consonants among others. After this we prepare and encourage to the kids to talk and participate in the class with questions and conversation about the project, even if they still are learning about the correct pronunciation of English language. Because the most important here it is interaction of the kids in the classes and the apprehension of this foreign language.
Our participation as teacher of the young students is not only to teach and to let the new language in the classroom but to encourage them to learn and to have fun with the bilingualism environment that it is experiencing our country, Colombia. It is to bring new opportunities to our students around the world with their bachelor degrees and with their professional life. It is to create in them and in their families the conscience and the importance to open their knowledge to new experiences in their futures.
Cárdenas, R., & Miranda, N. (2014). Implementación del Programa Nacional de Bilingüismo en Colombia: un balance intermedio. Educación y Educadores,17 (1), 51-67.
Dix peña, B. & De Mejía, A. M. (2012). Policy Perspective from Colombia. Michael, B. & Lynne, P. The Common European Framework of References. (pp 139 – 148). Bristol: Multilingual Matters.
Kuhl, P. K., Tsao, F. M., & Liu, H. M. (2003). Foreign-language experience in infancy: Effects of short-term exposure and social interaction on phonetic learning. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 100(15), 9096-9101.
Ordóñez, C. L. (2011). Education for bilingualism: Connecting Spanish and English from the curriculum, into the classroom, and beyond. Profile Issues in TeachersProfessional Development, 13(2), 147-161.
Plessis, S. D., & Louw, B. (2008). Challenges to preschool teachers in learner’s acquisition of English as Language of Learning and Teaching. South African Journal of Education, 28(1), 53-74.
Tabors, P. O., & Snow, C. E. (1994). English as a second language in preschool programs. Educating second language children: The whole child, the whole curriculum, the whole community, 103-125.