Do you remember the Indian fable about blind men describing an elephant? Depending on which body part they touched, they described a very different animal.
At times, trying to describe English as a Foreign Language for young learners feels a bit like describing an elephant. There are two things common to young learner EFL classes: they are taught in countries where English is not the dominant language, and students rarely have exposure to English outside of class.
Beyond this, young learner EFL can be a very different beast. Students might be as young as 2 or as old as 17. Teachers may speak English as their first language, or English may be their 2nd (or 3rd or 4th) language. Some teachers work in international schools, some work in private schools, and some work in public schools. Some classrooms have technology tools available. Some classrooms do not. Some teachers use textbooks. Other teachers create their own materials. And still others do a little of both.
If we describe any one specific teaching experience, and use that to make broad generalizations about teaching EFL to children, we’re just not getting a very accurate picture.
In October, I’m going to begin a new series that will hopefully help us to do a better job of describing the EFL elephant by involving more teachers in the description. It’s called “Stories from the Front Lines” because that’s where teachers of young learners work–on the front lines of English Language Teaching. Children’s teachers often provide the first glimpse into a bigger world. Teachers find themselves teaching the concepts of right hand/left hand while teaching the vocabulary. They teach children to read and write in a language that may bear precious little resemblance to their first language. They may teach a small group of children in their living rooms or classes of 60 children in a public school.
If you teach English as a Foreign Language to young learners, I hope you will consider joining this project. The more voices, the greater our understanding. Other teachers are excited to hear about your students, your classrooms, and your experiences.
I’ve included more information about the project in a google document. If you are nervous about writing for a blog, or writing in English, please don’t be. Your voice is unique and precious to those of us who share this profession, and other teachers are hoping to hear from you
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- It’s all about reading - March 16, 2013