Effective communication with young learners
Communication is not only what we say but also how we say. Interacting with others, both children and adults, involves the use of verbal and non-verbal communication. However, there are some major differences between the way which we communicate with children and adults. For example, the very young children learning English do not have the same vocabulary as adults and thus more dependent on the non-verbal means of communication. As children grow and develop, moving through different language development phases, the teachers have to adapt their communication techniques accordingly. Nevertheless, there are some general principles which should always be considered in order to communicate successfully with young learners
. This research is an attempt to identify some of these factors, investigating how teachers can communicate effectively with children who learn English.
It is very important to demonstrate active listening when communicating effectively with young learners
. By Active listening I mean to consider seriously what students
try to say and enabling them to express their views in target language.
Choosing a child-friendly place (for example, let the children sit on the floor, close to their toys when we interact) to discuss and negotiate in target language with young learners
result in improving the quality of communication. Children may also experience additional difficulties in expressing their views through speech. For example young learners
? self-concept can have a negative impact on their involvement in expressing themselves, very young children have limited ability to use the language (even their L1) and some students
with disability have difficulty to express themselves. In these situations, it is essential that adults encourage these students
to articulate themselves through alternative ways of communication such as art, play, writing, ICT or signing.
Regardless of the reasons behind the unwillingness to communicate in target language, if teachers interact with young learners
who do not want to participate, it is crucial that they continue giving young learners
gentle encouragement, but never force them to communicate. Teachers must also make sure that there are enough relevant resources/age-appropriate activities for young learners
to help them to communicate. For example, circle time for very young children is an opportunity to encourage them in a nursery to talk in target language as everyone can express himself/herself freely. Communicating positively with young children, without any negative comments and destructive criticism, helps them develop confidence, feelings of self-worth, and good relationships with others; all need for the young learners
to explore the target language safely.
Finally, it is possible to communicate effectively with young learners
by involving them in decision making process, for example, asking them for feedback at the end of the lesson or after each activity. A study conducted by Krajnovic & Digunovic indicates that Children, even in their early years, are able to self-assess, understand the consequence of quite complex combinations of actions and also protective action that they can take it.
In conclusion, effective communication with young learners
needs to be warm and honest, focuses on respect for the child and it should involve both verbal and non-verbal means of communication. Active listening should be an important part of interacting with students
, as it indicates that teachers showing interest and concern in the subject. This will be expressed in different ways dependent upon age, but the message the child wants to hear is the same: that they are special and that teacher value their individuality all the time. Even when young learners
display inappropriate behaviour, it is important that the focus will be on the behaviour and not the student