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How young children learn best

Watch a language expert respond to the the statements in the previous activity.
We’ve looked at early childhood development and how young children learn. Now, we’re going to look at how young children learn best and what this means for very young children who are learning English as an additional language. In this video, Catherine Stewart, head of Early Years at the British Council School in Madrid, talks about how very young children learn best, the advantages of learning things when we are very young, and the benefits of learning an additional language at a very young age. While you are watching, note down in your observation journal some of the things you find interesting about what Catherine has to say. Are you surprised by anything she says? They learn best when they’re engaged, motivated, and challenged.
It’s the teacher’s responsibility to plan interesting play-based activities that all children find interesting. So it’s very important that you know your children very well and find out what interests them first. You may think that the class likes dinosaurs, when perhaps they prefer cars, or dolls, or something else. So it’s very important that you see what the children enjoy using and that you plan activities around those sort of areas as well. Challenge, of course, is very important. Children must be learning at their ability as well so that their challenged or that they’re helped if they have some difficulty in areas as well.
I think because they’re so inquisitive and everything is fun for an early years child– so as soon as you put a new activity out, they tend to go straight to it. So actually, you lucky in this moment. You’ve got a captive audience. So if you put something that’s interesting out and while they’re playing there, then you can go towards them and put in the second or even third language if that’s what the aim of the activity is.
Well, I think there can never be any harm on hearing another language. When children are engaged and motivated like I’ve mentioned earlier, sometimes they’re so young, they’re actually not communicating in any language at that time. So if you go in and you’re, say, teaching English, you can be putting in language, talking to them in English, asking questions, and they’re often quite unaware that you’re speaking a different language. So whatever language you’re putting in there, they’re picking up and taking on board without feeling threatened by it, because they’re enjoying the activity they’re doing. They’re engaged and motivated.

We’ve looked at how young children learn, but how do they learn best, and what does this mean for children learning English as an additional language?

In this step Catherine Stewart, Head of Early Years at British Council School in Madrid, talks about how young children learn best, and the advantages of learning an additional language at a young age.

While watching, note down in your observation journal some of the things you find interesting about what Catherine has to say.

  • Are you surprised by anything that she says? What did you find most interesting?

Share your thoughts with us below.

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English in Early Childhood: Learning Language Through Play

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