Have you ever (really) thought about why do we learn languages?

Have you ever (really) thought about why do we teach languages?

Have you ever (really) thought about why the languages were invented in the first place? 

To me, the answer is to exchange information, express the feelings, to be understood ... to find human connection.

If we want to communicate (so that we are generally understood) then knowing isolated words is not enough. We need to know at least how to use the words in meaningful chunks of words or sentences.

If, however, we would like to convey more complex information to someone then it is good to know how to put sentences together into a coherent message.

In my belief, children are not too young to start learning to communicate. Step by step, and layer by layer, they can do it. Even in a foreign language.

It's relatively easy once we know how to tune our teaching to fall into children's concept and understanding of the world.

The preparation

In my previous posts, I have talked about the first three steps of the PBA, the preparation. Let us just quickly refresh our knowledge.

Introducing the theme is the step where we serve topics in a nicely wrapped context - through a story. Children are absorbed into the plot (story, action). They are not interested in divided topics (for instance knowing about all the clothes the characters are wearing or the food they eat). Isolated topics or words make no sense to them. 

Mixed topics entwined in a story is what children need. That's what engages and motivates them. 

The next step in teaching the language to young children is to make them become aware of the language. Not to lose their interest, teachers need to stick to what children want - some sense of what they're doing there and then.

Extracting language elements in a topic-mixed-way can be easily done through so-called doodling

(Not yet finished doodle, created from the story Oliver Finds His Way by Phyllis Root)
Creating an illustration needs different topics to become interesting. This one can include nature, colours, directions, clothes etc... 

And what's best, with doodling children do not need to write words (yet) to extract language but are nevertheless actively involved in the action ...

Doodling: sequencing the story The Enormous Turnip (age 5)

To practise language with children, we can use a gap-fill-approach during the process of doodling, or once the doodle is complete:

T: John, what is this brown in your picture?
John: (Points to the leaf) Leaf?
T: Oh, I see. There is a b...
John: brown
T: Yes, the brown leaf. There is ...
John:  brown leaf 
T: the brown leaf in the picture. 

At one point, children need to memorise some of the language. To make it engaging, meaningful and natural, we use social games

It is very important that, whatever practised, it has to be through sentences. Isolated vocabulary is not useful for other things but memorising and enumerating it for the sake of memorising and enumerating.

If we want to teach children how to communicate, we need to show them how to use the language. 

Literacy ...

... is the step of the PBA where the language is used in reading and writing.

The first step is to focus children's attention on the written words. Following the written instruction with the help of Card-Picture-Dictionary is a good start. 

Don't forget to make the 'reading' in the context.
The song is just right with the 6 year-olds.

To make children consciously aware of how to create sentences the visual sentences are very handy.

Sentences are created with the help of the CoolTool cards taken from the 
Picture dictionary and based on the doodle.

The Picture Dictionary

To create sentences, the individually created doodle is used.

The doodle Under the Sea

When putting visual sentences together, we create a visual story.

Do you recognise the original story?

The visual story is a step in literacy where we address time concept and some real grammar: tenses, auxiliary verbs, question words, parts of speech, prepositons ...

When the visual story is read and the grammar comprehended, children are ready to write it down. The cards in the visual story help children with the spelling.

To introduce and teach children to read and write real texts we start with the pre-prepared texts on the covered theme. 

The topic is known to the children but the text is new, which means that some unknown vocabulary is present. Activities with the text show children the strategy on how to understand the meaning of the unknown words from the context, how to find different information, grammar structures, parts of speech, and many more.

The last step before children start writing texts themselves is poster writing. 

Children dictate and form sentences, while the teacher's role is to show
 them how to structure the sentences into paragraphs, how to use linking
words, point out the relevant grammar etc.

Reading books

Teachers often complain about how their pupils don't like to read. Well, the colour-coded system for reading books can change that. We start with Usborne's Phonic Readers, and my pupils line up for the books. 

You should try it!

Would you like to see in detail how the PBA literacy works in practice? I invite you to sign up for the C00lSch00l workshops.

Or, if you happen to be near Berlin in mid-November, I'm having an interactive speech, presenting the PBA approach at Expolingua Berlin on 17th November 2018. 

See you there?

Until my next post,

I wish you all an inspiring November.


Don't forget to sign up on the list (Slovenian) or the list (English) if you want to be updated on all the C00lSch00l YFLL workshops and posts.