We are pleased to bring you a series of blog posts and an opportunity to learn from educator and linguistic scientist, Helen Doron. Helen has been teaching English to children for 30 years. She is the founder and CEO of the Helen Doron Educational Group and created a unique methodology for teaching English, maths, fitness, and infant development with original and revolutionary learning materials.
This week’s question is second in a three-part series and addresses the needs for children ages 2-4: How can parents lay a foundation for early language learning and how can they evaluate what their young child (up to the age of 6) is learning in an English institute?
This is an interesting question because not all parents speak English but will want to know that their child is indeed learning. Because ages 0-6 covers such a wide spectrum of capabilities, we will look at several developmental groupings. The prior blog discussed how parents of children ages 0-2 can lay the foundation for early learning, find early English programmes and assess what their child is learning. In this blog, we will discuss how parents of children ages 2-4 can determine what their child is learning.
Nurturing the foundation for learning
Parents of young children ages 2-4 that decide to enrol their child in English classes understand that starting learning another language is optimal during the early years. These parents also understand how important a strong command of the English language is for their children’s future. For the pre-schooler, there are very few English language learning options but when researching programmes in English specifically for the toddler and pre-schoolers, these courses must teach using an effective and consistent methodology. Teachers, caregivers and parents play a pivotal role in a child’s learning experiences and it is through these relationships that children gain the confidence and the security they need to learn. As with babies, ages 0-2, learning experiences for the toddler/pre-schoolers ages 2-4 are the foundation for growth and development and what they learn during those years depends on the experiences they have each and every day. A successful course for children this age continues to depend upon emotional connections that help give them the confidence that they need to learn.
Mother-tongue language learning
Thirty years’ experience teaching and developing English programmes for infants, children and teens has confirmed that the best way to teach English is as a mother-tongue language. For young learners ages 2-4 years old, they are often learning English at the same time that they are learning their mother tongue. The most effective teaching method is to teach English the same way that they learn their mother-tongue. Children learn to understand and speak before they learn to read and write; this is how language naturally develops. This is not how children are taught in school. Schools teach and evaluate student progress in reading and writing; speaking often comes afterwards. This is due to class size and teachers do not have the time to teach classes of 15, 25 or even 30 students to speak. This method of teaching reading and writing before or even with speaking has not shown to be as effective a format for learning a language. Spoken language practice, basic and functional vocabulary with lots of repetition, positive reinforcement and through fun and games are the key to learning language.
One of the tools that an early learning English programme should provide is monthly or quarterly updates from the teacher with what the child has learned and what they will be learning. The learning materials I have developed for this age group provide the child with home learning materials. These home learning materials are an extremely important part of teaching English in a natural way—the way children learn their mother-tongue. In this way, parents can see and hear exactly what the child is learning.
It is also important to remember that there is lots of repetition in learning. We present opportunities to learn rather than teach. Each child will do it in his or her own way. Each child has his own unique learning style. Most children are kinaesthetic learners. That is, they learn through movement and touch. Movement and touch are strong sensory teaching tools. The programmes I have developed include songs, stories, videos and apps that reinforce classroom learning. The learning materials are also appropriate to meet the needs of children who are auditory and visual learners. This ensures that every child learns English in the way that is best suited for their learning style.
Children learn at different paces and every child will learn. Parents do not need to be anxious. Helen Doron English courses are based upon a methodology that teaches children naturally. For the early age groups, they will learn and there is no need to measure. They learn the whole time. Helen Doron English teacher, Leior Resnick explains that parents of her students will report that while reading to their child in their native language, the child will often say words in English. She continues, “Parents sit in the lesson and are amazed with their child’s response to my instructions and questions, his participation and speaking abilities. Even if the parent can’t understand what is said, they clearly see that their child is fully cooperating in an English environment.”
Sequencing ensures progression
The highest quality programmes offer systematic courses so a parent can also know that the courses build upon each other. As the child grows through the programme there is a natural progression to learning; Children are not just taking in information randomly. At no stage does the parent need to think that their child will not succeed if they miss some of the materials.
Nothing is ever lost
For parents that worry that their child might become confused speaking English together with their native language, there is new information that confirms that language is actually hard-wired in the brain. Even for children that were removed from their native language environment, the language is not lost. “Lost” first languages leave a permanent mark on the brain, according to a report from November 2014. The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) in the US, challenges the existing understanding that exposure to a language in the first year of a child’s life can be “erased” if he or she is moved to a different linguistic environment or speaks a second language.
The implications for bilingual or multi-language learning are clear. Whether a child learns a second language through simultaneous or sequential acquisition, language starts from day one. Everything they have ever heard, even if they are not using it, will come out at some point. Parents must trust their child and understand if they are happily engaged and participating in the English language lesson, they are indeed, learning. For more information about Helen Doron English classes for children of all ages, visit: www.HelenDoron.com
About Helen Doron
Helen began a small home business in 1985 and created a unique methodology with original and revolutionary learning materials. Her courses flourished and the business grew rapidly as Helen added teachers, teacher training courses and additional programmes based on her exclusive methodology of creativity and self-expression. New disciplines were added – maths, fitness, and infant development – and all were united under the brand name Helen Doron Educational Group.
Helen Doron Educational Group stands at the forefront of innovative educational systems providing exclusive learning programmes and quality educational materials for babies, children, adolescents and teens the world over. Helen Doron Educational Group has become one of the largest children’s educational franchisors worldwide, with close to 90 Master Franchisees and over 880 Learning Centres in 35 countries across 5 continents, and full kindergarten programmes in Turkey and South Korea. For more information about Helen Doron English: www.helendoron.com