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Chapter 3 How Children Learn

Every day is new in terms of learning and absorbing.

Children learn in a number of ways:

a) They learn by imitating what others do, typically their parents and other family members.

b) They learn by watching what is done, how it is done and trying to do it themselves.

c) They learn by doing thing repeatedly.

d) Children learn by using all of their senses ・ seeing, hearing, touching, tasting and smelling.

e) They explore and learn by interacting with things around them, investigating them, discovering what everything is all about.

f) Children learn by adding new knowledge to what they already know.

g) They are inquisitive and learn by asking questions such as  展hy・lt;/FONT>

h) They learn by interacting with others ・their family, their classmates, teachers and outsiders.

i)   Children also learn by being taught. This is why they need to have teachers.

The role of the teacher is more than that of a lecturer, a provider of information.  In order to maintain a good balance between instructivist and constructivist approaches, a teacher needs to provide a good learning environment, opportunities for discovery and investigation in the classroom and proper guidance to ensure that the intellectual development of the students follows correctly.

Children want to do what they want, when they want to do it and in a manner of their own choosing. They learn much more effectively when they are having fun and are not being forced to do something that they may not want to do. However, sometimes they have to be shown the proper way to do things. As they get older, they want to be taught how to do things better or how to learn a new skill.  Thus the teacher acts as a guide.

Spending an hour making young children memorize the alphabet and new words would be a frustrating experience for both children and teacher. The same task can be accomplished much more effectively by turning it into a fun activity with coloured paper, crayons and pictures of animals and things that represent the letters.  Children can search for the pictures that match the letters (investigation). They find (discovery) the right letters or pictures. They correctly match them up (intellectual development).

Children have very short attention spans. If they are not having fun with an activity that you want them to do, they won稚 do it and your job will become more difficult. Thus, it is important for teachers of young children to plan a variety of activities and to have back-ups ready in case something turns out less fun than you had anticipated it would.

Children need to be active.  Whatever lessons you plan should include physical activities ・drawing, walking, moving from place to place, standing and sitting for short periods of time.

Children have to be able to relate things to their own world. If they cannot understand how something new relates to them, they may not be interested in learning about it.

They do not distinguish between fantasy and reality.  As they get older, they are slowly weaned away from magic, fairy tales, the tooth fairy and, alas, Santa Claus. In the learning process, their teachers have the whole magical universe to use. They are not limited by the reality of the adult world.

Children usually function well together in small groups. The younger the children, the smaller the groups should be.  Sharing of classroom materials can sometimes be a problem. Children quickly develop possessiveness and want their own things. If another child reaches for something they feel belongs to them, they react. They grab it back. Co-operation and sharing are traits that young children have to learn as part of their intellectual development. Here, size can become a factor. When a child understands that he or she is bigger or smaller than their classmates, they soon figure out that strength and size can have either advantages or disadvantages.

It is important for teachers to maintain a good relationship with parents of their students if at all possible.  Intellectual development, skills development, social interactions and responsibility along with general knowledge acquisition do not only take place in the classroom.  The home is the first and most important learning environment. The classroom and outside environments form the world to which young children relate.

Parents are the number one role models and teachers. Children whose  parents model  confidence to attempt English communication, are much more likely to feel confident themselves.

Teachers can foster confidence and learning at home by encouraging parents to:
 -  let children hear them speaking English at home, however limited their ability is.
 -  speak English with their children for some time each day.
 -  read English story books to their children every day.  (Also great practice for less fluent parents.)
 -  bring English language media (books, newspapers, music, VCDs, websites) into the home for children to become familiar with and/or use.
 -  wean children onto English language tv: CartoonNet is great for simple repetitive language.

Teachers can also keep the parents informed and involved by sending home worksheets, art, songs etc, that the children have been working on in class.  Encourage the parents to use these as a starting point for speaking English with their children. Parents can help to reinforce learning, be involved in their kids lives, provide good role modeling, and improve their own English skills, all at once!

Children develop the ability to speak over a period of time.  Some are chattering away before they are two - others rarely say anything until a year or so later. They are late bloomers and this is often a concern to parents and teachers alike.   Each case is different of course but because a child does not begin to speak until later than his playmates is not necessarily a reason to run for a child psychologist.

Remember also that people, including young children, learn in different ways. Some toddlers who do not seem to pay attention to what you are saying or asking, and who may not be the most orally expressive may be showing a kinesthetic sense of learning.  They may not be auditory learners so pay little attention to commands.  They may need to get involved with their surroundings. As young explorers, this could require most of their focus - to the frustration of a parent or teacher who is trying to get them to do something they are not interested in・ike talking.

If you are teaching K-3 levels, one website that you should visit is "Enchanted Learning".  This great site is full of activities, songs, rhymes, themes, crafts, colouring, printouts, and quizzes.

If you are teaching higher levels, visit the site anyway.  At the very least, you will find many ideas you can adapt.

Chapter 4
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