Teaching English to young learners [Archives:2005/900/Education]

December 5 2005

Dr. Qaid Dabwan Farea
Teaching English as a foreign language to young learners aged between six and ten years is not an easy task. It is very difficult because a young learner never feels its necessity and importance. There is no clear incentive for him to learn another language beside his native language which is really foreign to him. At this level a learner's ultimate purpose is to read and write his own native language. In Arabic language, we teach a young learner how to hold a pen in the right way, move his hand on a straight line from right to left, how to utter each letter in Arabic accurately and how to respond in this new language. Therefore, it is unfair to throw him into a new language completely different from his own native language.

The solution is to allow him listen to dialogues in English, act and react in English through natural situations for instance, at bank, at post office, at airport..etc. that a teacher can create for him till his ears get attuned to the English accents he hears. Then, let him enjoy the success of imitating and uttering a few words in English. However, the teacher of this level has to equip himself with specific qualities other than those of the ordinary teachers.

The qualities of a good teacher of English in the Basic Education stage

I have mentioned earlier, that the teacher of the Basic Education Stage should have specific qualities other than those of the ordinary teachers. He is not, here, to teach, but to care for his young learners, create natural situations that could appeal to them, take them away from the passive level of the book, to the real merry situations they like to enjoy.

The teacher should enjoy a lovely personality, a creative mind, a retentive memory, paternal behavior and a sense of duty and responsibility. He should keep smiling most of the time, tell them short and merry stories, tell them jokes or riddles whenever a room for this comes and finally to treat them as kindly as his children. By this way, he endears himself to them.

The teacher should take all learners to his side, make them confide in him, love him and only then he can give them whatever he thinks is suitable for them. His slogan then, should be “Encourage and Praise” before “Blows and Blame”. His ultimate purpose should be keeping his learners highly motivated by lifting them from the passive level of the book, whatever it is, to a more active level of really living English taken from learners' environments. The teacher should be creative and innovative in order to create natural situations where his learners can respond simply and easily. He should introduce appropriate material through usable and enjoyable situations that learners can simply respond to and imitate. This presupposes that the teacher should have a good memory to recall similar situations easily. A creative teacher can use everything around him in the classroom while teaching.

The teacher should be an imaginative and creative person by playing various roles while teaching learners, for example, he can introduce some game like lessons, the entrance of the teacher into the classroom and his greetings could be a lovely game, such as “Hello boys”, “Stand up”. I am standing up. How are you learners? “Fine, thank you.” Teacher “thank you, sit down”. All these appeal to the young learners which they can imitate and act like their teacher. Then, the teacher can choose intelligent learners to play his part, go out of the classroom, then allow him come in and greet his classmates in the same way. Other learners would feel eager to play his turn and do it.

Imitations and utterances of these patterns will give the learners a feeling of great success and self-confidence.

In short, the success or failure of any teacher of English, in the Basic Education schools depends on how he administers to make the English language appeal to his learners. He should be an imaginative teacher to adopt the modern methods and techniques of teaching that attract the learners' attention and encourage them to use the target language in various situations. Through playing games and dramatizing situations, the teacher can give his learners an opportunity to use the language fluently without feeling any of frustration.