On Sept 7, 2013, Dr Fiona Copland convened a colloquium titled “New kids on the block: issues and challenges in teaching English to young learners” at the 46th Annual Meeting and Conference of BAAL, held 5-7 Sept at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh.
Among the five papers of the session, one was given by Fiona and Dr Sue Garton, Co-Director of CLERA, on “How to make children love English: identifying global challenges in teaching English to young learners”, and another by Aston postgraduate researcher Brian Gaynor, titled “Foreign language activities for young learners: policy and practice in the introduction of a new early language learning curriculum”.
New kids on the block: issues and challenges in teaching English to young learners
The widespread introduction of English in primary schools is part of what Johnstone (2009) has described as ‘possibly the world’s biggest policy development in education’ (p. 33). This is as a result of social, cultural and linguistic changes which have led to a new group of English speakers – the young and the very young.
The value of English for these speakers is increasingly being questioned. A number of researchers have challenged understandings of the place of English, how it has reached its current level of popularity, whose interests the rise of English serves and if learning English enhances children’s life chances. Moreover, the way English is taught in the primary sector has attracted attention and a number of issues in its practical implementation have been identified. These debates call into question the underlying premises on which the introduction of learning English at an early age are predicated.
This colloquium will take a critical perspective on the introduction of Early Language Learning and Teaching (ELLT), bringing together researchers from around the world who are investigating the policy and practice nexus. The colloquium will hear voices often marginalised in the policy and practice discussions, namely teachers and their young learners.
Johnstone, R. (2009). An early start: What are the key conditions for generalized success? In J. Enever, J. Moon & U. Raman (Eds), Young learner English language policy and implementation: International perspectives (pp. 31-41). Reading: Garnet Education.
Paper 1 – ‘How to make children love English’: identifying global challenges in teaching English to young learners
Fiona Copland and Sue Garton, CLERA, Aston University, UK.
This paper focuses on the challenges teachers face as a result of new ELLT policies, the global and local nature of these challenges and teachers’ responses to them.
Paper 2 – Socio-economic factors and their effect on young learners’ English learning
Yuko Butler, University of Pennsylvania, USA.
This paper focuses on parental factors – including socio-economic status – and their influence on motivation and early language learning in China.
Paper 3 – ‘Foreign language activities’ for young learners: policy and practice in the introduction of a new early language learning curriculum
Brian Gaynor, University of Muroran, Japan.
This paper presents the interim results of a study of four elementary schools in Japan examining the interpretation and implementation of national language policy by local teachers.
Paper 4 – The young language learner as informant: children’s insights into language learning
Jelena Mihaljevic Djigunovic, University of Zagreb, Croatia
Drawing on innovative research methodology in the Early Language Learning in Europe project, this presentation shows how learners can contribute to deeper insights into ELLT.
Paper 5 – From researching children to child researchers
Annamaria Pinter and Sameneh Zandia, University of Warwick, UK.
This presentation illustrates the benefits and the challenges of ‘participatory approaches’ with children whose perspectives about language learning are valuable, and complement adult views.