There are now over 1.1 million non-native speakers in schools across the UK, none of whom use English as their first language. If your child communicates in another language at home, then it can be tricky for them to integrate themselves into a school where the majority of their classmates may never have encountered their way of speaking.
Fortunately, the brain of a toddler is very adept at picking up new skills, making the introduction of a second language much easier at a younger age. For this reason, preschool can be the perfect time to begin teaching English to your child, through simple word association and visual learning. Using this method, your child can begin to take positive steps towards learning English, in much the same way they did when processing their mother tongue.
The Effects Of Play On Language Learners
Play has always been an incredibly important part of the curriculum, as it is one of the easiest ways for children to develop key skills and ideas. In fact, our ability to communicate is mainly built on imitation and experimentation, two of the main driving forces behind cooperative and imaginative play. Without play, children would never be able to put into practise what they have learnt from the world around them and would struggle to make the connections that enable us to express our thoughts and feelings.
One of the main reasons adults struggle to pick up a new language in later life is because they are too analytical with their studies. Children, on the other hand, learn language through movement and songs, with simple chants and actions cementing the language in their minds. For children who are not confident at speaking English, the same principles apply and the repetitive and exploratory nature of play can help them make new connections again.
How Active Play Can Benefit EAL Learning
Teaching EAL (English as an Additional Language) can be difficult if children aren’t engaged with the learning process. When we teach foreign languages to older children, we tend to rely heavily on recital and regular study. But for younger children this is impractical and doesn’t suit the way their brains are wired to process language. Play is so beneficial to communication because it enables children to learn new vocabulary in interesting and engaging ways. Connecting words with actions and objects is a big part of this and forms the basis of games such as Simon Says.
In order for EAL children to begin forming associations between our language and the world around them, they need to learn to retain these connections in their minds. The more actively they make them, the more accurately they will record them. Outdoor play can help boost this process, by providing children with an open and interactive space to learn and communicate. The outdoors lends itself to more expressive forms of learning; whereas the resources in enclosed classroom spaces are limited. More than anything, playing together in a more exciting environment encourages EAL learners to socialise with their English-speaking peers.
Outside, there is an abundance of opportunities for playing games that get children communicating with one another. Indoors, word association is mainly restricted to flashcards and picture books, but outdoors the whole world is your oyster. Playing in the park can lead to the discovery of objects and animals that your children may have never seen before. There is also far more things for them to pick up, investigate and explore together. Hearing other children talk about these items can help EAL learners build connections between objects and words, improving their linguistic capabilities. Parents can also remark on features such as the weather, helping children distinguish between rain, wind, sun or snow.
In fact, when it comes to outdoor play, there is very little that can’t be used as a learning tool, leading to continuous, healthy development for all EAL learners. The more children are allowed to explore and experiment with their surroundings, the more they can begin to understand how to express these sensations through language. The natural world can fill us with wonder at any age and you can be sure that your child will always be eager to talk about their day in the Great Outdoors.
Author Bio: Sam Flatman is an outdoor learning specialist and an Educational Consultant for Pentagon Play. Sam has been designing outdoor school play equipment for the past 10 years and has a passion for outdoor education. He believes that outdoor learning is an essential part of child development, which should be integrated into the school curriculum at every opportunity.
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