Profesores Vascos en la Red......Euskal Irakasleok Sarean

 

INTRODUCTION OF ENGLISH IN THE SECOND YEAR OF NURSERY EDUCATION

Scheme for in-service training in schools

Department of Education – Basque Government

Academic year 1999-2000

 

I. INTRODUCTION

 

 

II. SUMMARY OF DCB (National Curriculum Reform Blueprint) FOR NURSERY EDUCATION

 

1.      Aims and general objectives of Nursery Education.

2.      Characteristics of children in the second year of Nursery Education.

3.      Guidelines for teaching and learning.

4.      Fields of experience.

 

III. SCHEME FOR THE EARLY INTRODUCTION OF ENGLISH

 

1.      Justification for the project.

2.      General objectives of the project.

3.      Integrated teaching of languages: some reflections.

4.      Methodology.

4.1. Educational interactions: role of the teaching staff.

            . Role of the English language specialist.

. Role of the classroom teacher.

4.2. Social organisation of the class and distribution of time and space.

 . Grouping.

. Distribution of space.

 . Distribution of time.

            4.3. Organisation of contents.

            4.4. Teaching sequences.

4.5. Materials and teaching resources.

5.    Evaluation.

 

 

IV. SUGGESTED ACTIVITIES:

 

1.   Stories and situations.

2.      Songs and rhymes.

3.      Shows.

4.      Handicrafts.

5.      Games.

6.      Fillers.

7.      Rituals.

 

 

V. EXAMPLES:

 

1.      Development of a session.

2.      Special sessions.

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY


I. INTRODUCTION

 

The introduction of English in the second year of Nursery Education will become a reality in nearly all State schools in the Basque Autonomous Community during the academic year 1999-2000.

 

This document is intended to be, firstly, a springboard for reflection for those teachers who will be involved, and, secondly, to serve as an orientative guide to help put the project into practice.

 

To this end, we have considered it necessary to undertake an exhaustive study of the Diseño Curricular Base (National Curriculum Reform Blueprint) as applied to Nursery Education, reflect on its content and highlight what we consider to be essential points to be taken into account by the person specialising in English in Nursery Education. We present these conclusions in section II.

 

Later, in section III we will make specific reference to what this project involves. We will justify and explain the general objectives that we plan to achieve. We will reflect on the integrated approach to language teaching which ought to exist in every school, and on the interaction between teachers and pupils. We will also consider other aspects, such as the distribution of space and time, how contents should be organised, materials and didactic resources which will be used and the type of evaluation which can be carried out.

 

This document is the result of the reflection and discussion carried out by a group of teachers taking part in the experimental project concerning plurilingual teaching set up by the Basque Government in September 1996. Their professional experience and daily teaching practice have helped to create this document, which attempt to draw some working conclusions. However, the content of the document can, and indeed should, be modified, revised and discussed by all those people involved in the process.

 


II. SUMMARY OF THE DCB FOR NURSERY EDUCATION

 

 

1. AIMS AND OBJECTIVES OF NURSERY EDUCATION

 

The introduction of a foreign language (L3) in the second year of Nursery Education takes as its starting point:

           

“The main aim of Nursery Education is to promote child development.”

 

The Department of Education has observed the benefits that knowledge of several languages provides and has decided to start introducing L3 in Nursery Education.

 

In 1996 an experimental project to introduce English at Nursery level was put into practice in 13 Basque State schools with very favourable results.  The Department of Education has recently decided to extend this project to the remaining state schools at Nursery and Primary levels, encompassing the aims expressed in the DCB for Nursery Education:

 

“The many means of expression, especially oral language, are extremely important at this age. (...) Educational intervention at this stage, aimed at getting rid of discriminating differences, provides a stepping stone to obligatory schooling.”

 

The introduction of the L3 in the second year of Nursery Education should help children to achieve the objectives stated in the Decree of Curricular Development for Nursery Education:

 

           

a)      “Discover, get to know and progressively control their own body, forming a positive image of themselves and their sexual identity, valuing their abilities and limits of action and expression and acquiring basic habits to protect their health and well being.”

 

b)      “Progressively act more autonomously in daily activities, acquire emotional and affective security and develop their capacity for initiative and confidence in themselves.”

 

c)      “Establish relationships in a gradually widening circle, begin to listen and learn to articulate interests, points of view and contributions with the group.”

 

d)      “Establish ways of relating to adults and to their own friends, exchanging displays of affection, respecting diversity and developing the attitude to help and co-operate.”

 

e)      “Observe and explore their immediate surroundings with an attitude of curiosity and care, identify the most meaningful characteristics and properties of the elements which form their world.”

 

f)       “Learn some of the cultural norms of society and develop attitudes of respect, interest and participation towards them; begin to respect and show interest in other cultures.”

 

g)      “Be able to represent and evoke diverse aspects of their experience, either lived or imagined and express them through the symbolic possibilities offered by games and other forms of expression.”

 

h)      “Use spoken language appropriately in the different situations experienced in daily life in order to understand and be understood by others, express their own ideas, feelings, experiences and desires, make progress in the construction of meaning, control their own behaviour and influence that of others.”

i)        “Enrich and diversify their ability to express themselves via the resources and means within their reach, make contact with and appreciate different artistic phenomena appropriate to their age.”

 

 

2. CHARACTERISICS OF CHILDREN IN THE SECOND YEAR OF NURSERY

EDUCATION

 

The development of the young child demands a comprehensive response to education in all its aspects. Some of the characteristics of children in this age group are set out below.

 

 

Development of motor skills

 

-There is a constant need for movement. Games making use of motor skills need to be alternated with quieter activities, e.g. those requiring balance and co-ordination of movement.

 

-The variety of actions that the child is capable of increases due to greater hand control. Progress in using a pencil is notable.

 

 

Cognitive development

 

-The child learns to position him/herself in relation to objects.

 

-They can name different parts of the body and recognise them in a picture.

 

-Their knowledge of their world increases. Symbolic games acquire greater importance within  the group.

 

-The first signs of logical thought appear (classifying, ordering and recognising the notion of quantity).

 

-By four years old the child is much better able to distinguish between reality and fantasy. Their explanations are more real.

 

 

Linguistic development

 

-They continue to express themselves via gesture and facial expression, but their ability to communicate with spoken language improves greatly. Knowledge of their surroundings and social interaction helps them to widen their vocabulary and to structure and articulate their sentences more correctly. The child can understand more complicated explanations and stories and is able to concentrate on what an adult is saying for longer periods of time.

 

 

Affective and social development

 

 

-The child enjoys handicraft activities, painting, modelling...

 

-They oppose adults as a way of self-affirmation, but they know how to accept reasoned proposals.

 

-They are able to become part of a more or less stable group. Many pal up with a friend and become inseparable for a time.

 

-Their attitude is more receptive, but still subject to the self-centredness typical of this age group. Educational norms such as inviting him/her to hand out materials, wait their turn, share toys... will help them to overcome this.

 

-They progressively acquire greater control over everyday customs (tidying away, getting dressed and undressed, cleaning their teeth). In this way, they succeed in reducing their dependence on adults and increase their own autonomy.

 

 

3. GUIDELINES FOR TEACHING AND LEARNING

 

In the National Curriculum Reform blueprint for Nursery Education, (herein referred to as the ‘DCB’) a set of guidelines are laid down in order that educational practice coheres to the characteristics of the pupils at this age and takes the following aspects into account:

 

 

Linguistic policy

 

In this section, the DCB refers only to the two co-official languages of the Basque Autonomous Community and does not refer to a third language. However, it does contain some methodological guidelines for dealing with Basque as a second language, which are also valid for the third language.

 

“-Create an atmosphere, which fosters a feeling of security and promotes communication.

-Promote the functional and instrumental use of Basque.

-Guarantee the pupils’ comprehension of the messages addressed to them in Basque.

-Encourage the pupils’ oral production in Basque.”

 

(This part will be developed more fully in Chapter III, 2 of this document)

 

 

Dealing with mixed-ability

           

As the DCB for Nursery Education puts it:

 

“Dealing with the heterogeneous nature of the classroom supposes, on the one hand, accepting and appreciating the differences. On the other hand, it implies coming to terms with such differences and managing to develop the capabilities and skills of each and every child whatever their stage of personal development, their socio-cultural references, or their different processes and rhythms of learning. It also means accepting the wide range of results and the giving help where it is needed.”

 

For this reason, when planning the English language specialist’s role in the classroom, both the different outcomes to the activities proposed and the special educational needs that might arise, will be taken into account.

 

 

 

 

 

Affectivity and social relations

 

  In this chapter DCB states the following:

 

“...the need for affection is as basic a human instinct as eating or protecting. Young children require a constant, stable relationship with those who answer their needs for care, protection, exploration and games. These relationships produce feelings of well -being, confidence and security.”

 

Further on, it continues in this way:

 

“There is no place for the impersonal or mechanical in the Nursery School. Children need an adult ready and willing to provide an affective relationship.”

 

Another very interesting point mentioned is as follows:

 

“Children actively seek out social stimulus, and when they live a situation in which they have to share the central figure of reference and where they do not have exclusive access to that figure, it helps them to restructure their egocentric position and develop new forms of interaction in which they learn to wait, to retain their frustration and to think about others.”

 

 

The English teacher must keep this affective need in mind in her day-to-day dealing with the pupils and be affectionate with each one.

 

 

Relationships with parents

 

  The English specialist must stay in touch with the family and share the responsibility for her teaching with the rest of the teachers involved.

 

“The school needs to know the family situation if its educational policies are going to make sense and be of personal value to the children. A continuous, rather than sporadic, collaboration between the Nursery School and the family is necessary to establish the roles of both parties, and ways in which they can participate and co-operate.” (DCB)

 

On the other hand, experience has shown that families are extremely interested in this early introduction to English. It is easy to use the existing network of communication (form meetings, School Board, Parents’ Association etc.) to exchange information, not just between school and family, but also between all the parties that make up the school community.

 

 

A comprehensive ‘whole’ child approach

 

  We feel it is important to highlight the following extract from the DCB.

 

“One of the aspects which stands out most in this stage of education, is that children at this age express themselves and relate to each other and learn in a ‘whole’ way. This is seen in their expressiveness, their way of being and interacting with the world that surrounds them. As they develop their whole selves, all the affective-emotional, sensory-motor, social-relational and cognitive-linguistic dimensions are linked in such a way as to be impossible to develop separately.

 

Since children work as an integrated and unified whole, the Nursery School will create an educational framework in which their experiences take place in a way which includes and integrates all the dimensions of their development, without ignoring any or dealing with them separately. This means that school activities and experiences should allow the children to put into practice and develop their different personal resources and whole selves.”

 

For this reason, the introduction of English should not be an element that is additional to, or independent of the normal educational framework of the school.Thus, the whole learning approach is related to meaningful learning.

 

“... this does not mean the accumulation and juxtaposition of learning experiences but rather establishing meaningful connections between what has already been learnt in previous situations and experiences, and the forthcoming information of new experiences. The children’s schemata of action and thinking will restructure and change gradually and progressively as they assimilate and relate the new information to their previous schemata.” (DCB)

 

Therefore, in order forchildren to learn in a meaningful way, the introduction of the L3 should promote experiences and activities that make sense to them in a real and affective way. In other words, that children can relate learning to their own interests and experoences which actively involve them

 

 

Relevance of the action:

 

The following guidelines are to be found in the DCB concerning this point:

 

              “Children start to know themselves and the reality that surrounds them through manipulating, playing and experimenting with physical and social aspects of their environment. The importance of the action lies in the fact that it is the focal point and the driving force behind the process of learning development.”

 

Further on, it reminds us that:

 

              “...the need to act should not lead us into senseless action, but rather to propose meaningful, useful and varied experiences.”

 

 

Organisation of space, time and material resources:

 

In order to make decisions about the organisation of the class, the following aspects should be kept in mind:

 

·        The autonomy of the young child, within different activity areas.

·        The mixed rates of working and interests.

·        The balance between more demanding and more relaxed moments in response to the needs of the child and the school.

·        Dealing with the individual and dealing with the group.

·        Observation.

 

 

4. FIELDS OF EXPERIENCE

 

In this first phase of child development, the educational programme is closely linked to the experiences that the children live and in this way they can assimilate certain knowledge, values and attitudes. This fact asks for the distribution of the pedagogic action into fields of experience, which contrasts with the “fields of knowledge” proposed for primary and secondary studies.

 

In Nursery Education, the proposal for working on concepts, processes and skills, attitudes, values and rules is included in three fields of general experience:

 

The field of identity and personal autonomy: includes all the knowledge that the children assimilate step by step about themselves and which guides them to an understanding of their self-image and confirmation of their possibilities and limitations. Their progress in fine motor skills and their growing concept of ‘self’ and personal autonomy helps them to understand where they differ from others.

 

The physical and social field: includes all the knowledge gained from the physical and social world. In other words, all the elements that children are in contact with daily: objects, people, animals, plants, machines... It also includes those relationships that they form with the social groups they belong to: the family, the school, friends... and related situations: parties, special events...

 

The field of communication and representation: looks at all those forms of communication which help to establish the child and their environment. We refer not only to verbal language but also to body language, handicraft, musical and mathematical language. By these means, the child can get to know, communicate and represent knowledge and relationships between things, as well as feelings and experiences. This should be achieved within playful and creative contexts. These fields are closely inter-related and naming them individually does not imply that they should be worked on separately.


III. SCHEME FOR THE EARLY INTRODUCTION OF ENGLISH

 

 

1. JUSTIFICATION FOR THE PROJECT

 

As the demand for English to be taught at school continues to rise, many schools have introduced the teaching of English to Nursery-aged children with whatever resources they have available and without adequate external help and expertise.  It is therfore logical that the Department of Education should provide administrative channels and an appropriate methodological orientation for schools in the foreseable future.

 

During the academic years (1996-1999) a pilot scheme was carried out in 13 schools in the Basque Autonomous Community. The decision made after these three years of experimentation was that, with the right methodology, fruitful learning experiences were possible. The positive lessons learned are therefore being made available to other schools to use as starting points and points of reflection.

 

As mentioned in the circular that the authorities from Educational Innovation sent to all the schools about the early introduction of English, and based on the ideas and opinions of specialists in this area, our bi-lingual education favours the learning of a third language because of the positive transfer that takes place between the languages that the children already know and the new language. Our ultimate aim is to obtain the best possible level of proficiency in English by the end of compulsory Secondary schooling. However, it is also our aim to optimise the home language and the school language.

 

It is very important to point out that the contact with another new language at this age will help the child to understand other cultures and perspectives better. Furthermore, introducing a different code through games and motivating activities will help to stimulate learning strategies which will be beneficial to the child’s cognitive development.

           

           

2. GENERAL OBJECTIVES

 

The outcomes that we aim to foster in the pupils are as follows:

 

1.       To understand the message of some oral texts in English (rhymes, songs, stories, descriptions, instructions, errands etc.) that are accessible and meaningful to children at this age and are related to their ideas, experiences and interests, and also to appreciate their cultural value.

 

2.       To use both verbal and non-verbal resources (signs, pointing, gesture, looks, mime etc.) to interpret messages that have varying communicative intentions (that arise in the classroom or from some other field of social communication).

 

3.       To take part actively in normal linguistic interactions (reaction or reply to messages received) that might arise in the foreign language class respecting the rules that govern the language (pronunciation, intonation, rhythm etc.) or some social conventions of communication (gestures, seating...).

 

4.       To show interest and curiosity in the foreign language and develop positive attitudes towards the different uses of the language (formal and informal).

 

5.       To recognise linguistic diversity and realise that languages, and the different ways they are used, are used to satisfy the need to communicate between people.

3. SOME REFLECTIONS ON THE INTEGRATED APPROACH TO LANGUAGES

 

“According to recent research on multilingualism, the acquisition of more than two languages is feasible in both the natural, and school, environments and does not pose problems in  either cognitive or linguistic development.” (Cenoz & Genesse, 1998)

 

If there are problems, the causes are not in the number of languages that the children are exposed to, but rather in the lack of coherence in the process of teaching and learning each of them. The three languages should not be dealt with in contradictory ways (with grammatical, functional, task-based approaches etc.) but rather there should be a general plan common to all three, where the conceptual, procesual and attitudinal concepts in the field of Communication and Representation are co-ordinated.

 

“The acquisition of a language is not an isolated phenomenon. It is related to the acquisition of other languages, and therefore it is important to look at all the languages involved when studying attitudes in multilingual acquisition.” (Cenoz, 2000)

 

“The acquisition of English in the Basque Country supposes taking on a third language in a bi-lingual educational context. This context justifies the need to compare aspects related to the acquisition of English with those of the other languages in the community.” (Cenoz, 2000)

 

The early introduction of English requires an analysis and adaptation of the project in every school: of the general objectives of each language, of the common methodological plan, of the time for each language, the spaces that they will use, and the different fields for using the language.

 

“In an early multi-lingualism situation, it is vital that the school establishes both general and specific linguistic objectives for each two year cycle for Basque, Spanish and English. Furthermore, depending on the sociolinguistic context, the different characteristics of each school and the hours allotted to each language, the objectives will be different for the languages (…) An important aspect of early multilingualism and one that has received a great deal of attention in some schools, is the co-ordination between the syllabuses in the three languages in order to promote the inter-dependence between the languages and make the most of cognitive and metalinguistic advantages.” (Cenoz, 1998)

 

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For example, in Nursery Education, as well as in Primary and Secondary Education, we must bear in mind that:

 

“... languages are learnt when you do things that are meaningful for those that learn them, and at the same time that somebody teaches these things.” (Vila, 1997)

 

Another example is the treatment given to written and oral texts. The English language should be using the same approach as with Basque or Spanish (Psychogenesis, Phonemeic approaches...).

 

4. METHODOLOGY

 

 

4.1. EDUCATIONAL INTERACTIONS: ROLE OF THE TEACHING STAFF

 

Role of the English language specialist

 

The specialist teacher forms part of the staff of the school and as such s/he should be integrated in the appropriate teaching team, in this case the Nursery Education team. S/he should attend and participate in the co-ordination meetings established by the school. In these meetings, the English specialist will work as all the other members of the group, collecting and giving information, opinions, and proposals about how the levels are working, the organisation of the classroom, and the characteristics and needs of the pupils.

 

In a school which has more than one group in any level, or two or more English specialists, we recommend that one teacher works with Nursery Education and the first cycle of Primary, and the other teacher works with the second and third cycles of Primary. However, there should be time, within the school timetable, for co-ordination among teachers.

 

Based on the premise “one person – one language”, the specialist will use only English in the classroom. It is also seen as opportune to extend the use of English to other moments and places within the school context (playgrounds, corridors...). The whole school committee should however, discuss ideas for this type of proposal. The aim here would be to extend the formal use of English to areas outside the classroom in order to promote individual or group production. However, in reality, the specialist may find that the situation requires the use of Basque or Spanish. The communicative and affective function of language with the pupils, with the other teachers, with the ancillary staff and the parents should always be the main concern. In this way, the children have a model of a person who uses different languages to communicate.

 

In many cases, the English specialists have spent their teaching careers working with the second and third cycles of Primary. They are not Nursery specialists. It is, therefore, important to take measures to ensure that their understanding of Nursery and the first cycle of Primary be more effective. In the first place, the specialist needs to collaborate with the classroom teacher. The specialist could go into the class and share some sessions with the classroom teacher in September to get an idea of the class dynamic and the everyday work of the Nursery class. In this way, when the English classes start at the beginning of October (when the full school day commences) they will have a clearer idea of the tasks they will have to carry out during the school year.

 

During the first term, it is advisable to have the classroom teacher in the classroom as well, to work together and to establish a link between the classroom teacher, specialist and pupils. The specialist will be responsible for the session but will be able to count on the classroom teacher’s support. The presence in the classroom and the type of support given should be decided on in the meetings with the teachers of the cycle.

 

The English specialist must keep in mind that in Nursery Education, the affective factor and level of personal satisfaction are of primary importance. For this reason, they must establish a warm, affectionate relationship with each and every child. In this way, the children will feel more secure and gain confidence to take risks.

 

Since the aim at this age is not oral production, but rather to create a motivating atmosphere towards the English language by means of contextualised and meaningful exposure, every effort must be made to provide authentic learning and communicative situations, so that the pupils gradually, as they feel more confident, can begin to produce orally. Language production should never be forced and cultural and linguistic backgrounds (Basque, Spanish, Galician, Arab, etc.) should be respected and valued.

 

Finally, with respect to error correction, it is worth pointing out that errors and cross-language interference are part and parcel of the learning process, and are therefore a positive sign that the assimilation of the new language is taking place. As the DCB for Nursery Education points out, errors are signs of the process of active construction of the language and immediate corrections based on artificial repetition should be avoidedbecause they interrupt the flow of communication and the desire to communicate.

 
Role of the classroom teacher

 

The co-operation of the classroom teachers is vital for the development of the project, especially since the aim of the project is to have the foreign language integrated into the curriculum for Nursery Education in each centre.

 

The attitude that the classroom teacher displays towards the English class is of paramount importance: s/he can prepare and encourage the children at the start of a session, greet the specialist in English when they come into the classroom, participate in activities, and appraise the progress of her/his group of pupils.

 

We propose that the educational activity carried out in the classroom be the fruit of the collaboration between the classroom teacher and specialist, and that they act together. It would therefore be very useful if the Nursery classroom teacher had some knowledge of English.

 

 

4.2. SOCIAL ORGANISATION OF THE CLASS AND DISTRIBUTION OF TIME AND SPACE

 

Grouping

 

Different types of grouping should be used in the classroom depending on the activity and on the aim which you hope to achieve. Each type of grouping favours a specific type of learning, and therefore during the school year it is worth thinking about types of groupings when planning activities.

 

The organisation should:

 

-Promote interaction between the teacher and pupils and between the pupils themselves.

-Encourage the learning of co-operation between equals.

-Develop the autonomy of the pupils.

-Be based on principles of heterogeneity and homogeneity depending on the characteristics of the pupils, the teaching/learning activities and the factors which are influential in the school and classroom. 

 

For the above reasons, we have planned activities for the whole group (stories, games, dances, etc.), others for small groups or pairs (making up stories, posters...) and others for individual work (products to be taken home etc.).

 

In each session, one child in the group will be in charge as ‘monitor’ (it should be the same person who has the responsibility on that day in the classroom). Their responsibilities will gradually increase as the year goes on: giving out material, getting the pupils into groups...

 

 

Distribution of space

 

Some guidelines for distributing the space in the classroom are outlined below:

 

On the one hand, we recommend that the English class takes place in the children’s normal classroom. We thereby fulfil a double objective: the children feel secure since they are familiar with the space and the rules that govern it, and it makes it easier for the specialist to use the information surrounding the children.

 

It is important to differentiate between two physical areas of the classroom:

 

-One for activities with the whole group: story telling, games and physical activities such as dance...

-Another area for small group or individual work (the corners normally used in Nursery Education can be put to good use here).

 

It is also important to think about a space in which to keep material and unfinished work.

 

Any exhibition of work done in English should be displayed alongside work done in Euskera or Spanish.

 

As far as possible, it is desirable that products of the English class be displayed outside the classroom (in corridors, playgrounds, etc.) to show the pupils their value as a means of communication.

 

 

Distribution of the time

 

As we have mentioned above, the time distribution will be in three sessions of ½ hour per week. That is not to say that we think this is the only valid distribution of time. We do, however, recommend that the session be immediately after the break or first thing in the afternoon in order to avoid interfering with the work of the classroom teacher with her/his pupils.

 

However, in order to ensure that the sessions really last 30 minutes, we propose that the teacher be allowed 5 minutes between classes to give them time to tidy up, put things away and prepare whatever material is necessary for the next session.

 

The specific characteristics of each school should be taken into consideration since most of them have more than one class for each year group and the specialist has to work in more than one year. It is vital that the Nursery team, English teachers and School Board agree on his/her timetable.

 

 

4.3. ORGANISATION OF CONTENTS

 

Any project intended for the Nursery stage of Education must take as its basic starting point, a way of working that deals with the different types of content (concepts, procedures and attitudes) and the three areas of experience for this stage as laid down in the DCB: Identity and Personal Autonomy, Social and Physical environment and Communication and Representation, in a holistic and cross-curricular manner.

 

In the English sessions, therefore, we propose an approach that combines the areas and contents in activities that are meaningful for children at this age.

 

 

The article "Eleaniztasun Proiektua Kueto Eskolan" points out:

 

"... we take the characteristics and attainment outcomes of the children in Nursery Education as the starting point. We want to integrate the active methodology used nowadays in language teaching into the dynamic of this stage.

A language is, for children at this age, a tool to be used, and it is the job of the teacher to create the right situations (games, stories, poems, songs, etc.) to make this possible. On the other hand, the more natural these situations are, the easier the use, since the language is produced more spontaneously.

The specialist teacher, as well as providing appropriate communicative situations, is the linguistic model. This means, on the one hand, that s/he has to adjust the language used for the children (correct pronunciation, appropriate tone, use of gestures and mime to aid comprehension etc.) and on the other hand s/he has to guarantee the quality of the language used.

We mustn’t forget that the greater the exposure to the language, the easier it will be for

the children to recognise it. The more familiar they are with the language, the more secure they will feel, and as a result, they will demonstrate what they have learnt more easily.

The question of “security” is extremely important. It is vital, therefore, to respect and

foster both the references and the characteristics of the children so that they feel secure.” (Cardona & Iturgaitz, 1999)

 

It is also worth thinking about what I. Vila from the University of Gerona has to say on the same subject.

 

“The learner’s progress in their mastery of the language goes hand in hand with their

desire to maintain social contact with the teacher. In this way, they have to ‘negotiate’ arbitrary means of deciding when they want to establish and break off a social relationship, what type of relationship they want it to be, what aspect of reality they want to share, where, etc. In other words, the desire or need to regulate and control social exchanges becomes a potent source of personal motivation to learn the new language...

In general, it is common to think that, as they are so young, they can be fobbed off by

any situation that is presented in the form of a game. They are, therefore, given the same tasks to do in the same place and at the same time. However, it is clear to see that, in practice, not all the children, since they are all different, experience the same degree of satisfaction from the same task. On the contrary, a more motivating and meaningful approach for the learner takes the very differences in interests, attitudes and knowledge of the children as a starting point when considering the types of activities to be used to learn the new language.

(...) There are some games where the language is an object in itself, and there is no relevance to the proposed task. In this way, speaking or listening become activities in their own right without any instrumental reference.

(...) In the long run, these activities are meaningless for the pupils and they become poor contexts of teaching – learning a new language. Since learning a language is directly related to successfully carrying out activities, the new language must be meaningful." (I.Vila, 1996)

 

 

4.4. TEACHING SEQUENCES

 

Different didactic sequences, organised into story-based units, are planned. Each unit is made up of 8–10 sessions and each session follows the same format so that the pupils have concrete reference points. These reference points are vital since they provide security for the pupils. In this case, the pupils find themselves with a new teacher and a new language, and having the same format helps them to get their bearings. This format must be flexible enough to adapt to the specific situation of each classroom: type of pupils, time of year, previous knowledge, styles of teaching – learning, etc. In other words, each specialist, alongside the teaching team for this stage, must decide how and when to carry out the didactic sequences proposed.

 

Each session comprises the following phases:

 

                        1st phase:             Greetings

2nd phase:             Revision of songs and rhymes

                        3rd phase:   Main activity

                        4th phase:   New songs and rhymes

                        5th phase:             Farewells

 

It is a great help if, before starting the session, or even before the specialist gets into the classroom, the children are seated in a circle.

 

 

1st phase: Greetings.The session begins with the specialist English teacher greeting the class. This situation should be as realistic as possible, in other words, the greeting will be to the whole group and not to individuals. It is better to use the same formula and only change it when it has been assimilated by the group. In this same phase, the helper or monitor for the session is appointed.

 

The teacher and pupils then talk about the news of the day: the date, birthdays, who’s missing, the weather, etc. It is advisable to consult with the classroom teacher to avoid going over the same ground.Finally, the teacher presents the activities for the session.

 

2nd phase: Revision of songs and rhymes. In this second phase, as a warm up, the group will sing and recite songs and rhymes that they have worked on before. This will be done gradually and systematically.

 

3rd phase: Main activity. This is the mid point of the session where the main activity takes place. Usually, the activity will have something to do with the story, or new games, or artistic production, shows, etc.

 

4th phase: New songs and rhymes. Once the main activity is over, a new rhyme or song is introduced, related to the story of the moment. Once the children are familiar with them, the songs and rhymes will pass to the second phase of the session.

 

5th phase: Farewells. The session will end as it began, with the children sitting in a circle. To achieve this, a game, gesture, song... can be used to facilitate the leave-taking and the link between one session and another.

 

 

4.5. MATERIALS AND TEACHING RESOURCES

 

The material that we use usual, everyday Nursery material. We group it in three categories:

 

-Specific material available on the market: stories, audio and videotapes, calendars, posters...

 

-Material prepared by the specialist teacher: silhouette puppets, posters, badges...

 

-Teaching aids: video recorder, T.V., cassette recorder, computer, marker pens, scissors, glue, puzzles, containers, building bricks, etc.

 

 

 

5. EVALUACION

 

As the DCB for Nursery Education puts it:

 

"...evaluation is part and parcel of the educational process and its main aim  is to improve this process and the quality of the teaching.”

 

In order for evaluation to be valid, it should be continuous. That it is to say that it should be carried out continuously throughout the whole process. It should also be integrated so that all the people and factors that form part of the process are taken into account. Finally, it should be individualised (from one person, from one group, from one school).

 

It is worth clarifying the areas we should evaluate in our context of the early introduction of English in Nursery Education, how this evaluation should be undertaken, who should be responsible for it and when.

 

 

5.1. AREAS OF EVALUATION

 

The school centre

 

WHAT: to see if the early introduction of the English language is reflected explicitly in the school’s curriculum project; to assess the participation of the school members in this early introduction; to analyse the school’s management: the organisation and co-ordination of the teaching staff with the English specialists, the adaptation of times and spaces dedicated to this early introduction (timetables, use of classrooms and didactic resources, etc.); lastly, to observe if the general objectives, proposed at the start, have been achieved.

 

HOW: through meetings where the above mentioned topics are dealt with, and where decisions are taken to adjust the aspects that are possible to improve.

 

WHO: the school community through its different participating bodies (in our case, the staff, the English teachers along with the directing team, the cycle and/or stage teams, etc.).

 

WHEN: the meetings can be periodic (termly, monthly) depending on the needs of each school.

 

 

The teaching/learning process

 

WHAT: to analyse the objectives proposed and the learning contents selected; to reflect on the situations and activities for teaching and learning planned, and see if they are coherent with the proposed methodological approach; to observe the atmosphere and the relations in the classroom which should be supporting the well-being and whole development of the child, and to see if such a climate favours the interactions in the group and the development of autonomy and socialisation of the children; to reflect on the organisation of the space, the grouping of the pupils and the adaptation of the human and material means and resources in the classroom.

 

HOW: also through periodic meetings where the above-mentioned topics are dealt with, and where decisions are taken to adjust the aspects that can be improved. A systematic assessment of each session and/or each unit of work can be carried out using the tables included with the sheets, where all the activities of the sessions are described. (See Appendices I and II). These tables can be used to note down comments on the timing, the didactic proposals, the materials used, changes made and any other contribution that could be useful for future users.

 

WHO: the English teachers in the school;  on the one hand with the Nursery Education team, and on the other hand with other English specialists from other schools in order to exchange opinions and experiences. As the DCB for Nursery Education states:

 

“Assessing the teaching process means turning the teachers into reflective beings. It is

the teacher who directs and organises the processes of teaching / learning and who is the first and most direct source of information. S/he is, therefore, one of the pillars of the educational system and it is a priority to assess her/his performance, since only in this way can we hope to achieve an improvement in the teachers and the education on offer.”

 

WHEN: in the Nursery and Primary stage meetings in each school and the fortnightly meetings that take place during the school year in the COPs (the Centres of Pedagogic Orientation).

 

 

The pupils

 

WHAT: at the start, the relevant aspects of each child’s personal history will be assessed, with special attention being paid to those cases which need specific pedagogic action. During the school year,  the processes and/or difficulties that the pupils encounter in the different situations of teaching/learning will be assessed, in relation to the objectives set out at the beginning.

 

HOW: through direct observation in the classroom. We have very little time with each group of pupils (1-½ hours a week) which does not facilitate our observation task. We would, therefore, propose the use of a class diary to note down comments and relevant observations about the performance of the monitor for that day, (after each session) and any other incidences and anecdotes worth further reflection. (See Appendix III for this assessment table). This should be done systematically every day, in just a couple of minutes (no more time is available). The use of video recordings of the sessions is very useful for observing and analysing situations that are more difficult for the teacher to pick up on while teaching.

 

WHO: the first assessment should be carried out by the English teacher with the class tutor. The classroom teacher will provide the English teacher with the information about each child and highlight any special-needs cases, and what line of action has been agreed on in each case. The observation in the classroom will be carried out by the English specialist, although the classroom teacher can be a great help if they stay in the classroom for the English sessions, or by providing information about the children other than in their own classroom situations. If the teacher makes video recordings, these can be watched and analysed along with other English teachers or with the staff from the same cycle or stage.

 

WHEN: it is necessary to carry out an initial assessment, before starting the classes, to obtain lessons the pertinent information about the pupils.The class diary needs to be used systematically during the whole school year, as we mentioned above.There should be a section in the term or semester reports that the classroom teacher prepares about each pupil for the English teacher to write about the level of participation and motivation of the child in the sessions and their level of comprehension. The video recordings can be done once a term or more often if it is considered useful or necessary.


IV. SUGGESTED ACTIVITIES

 

 

The types of activities that we propose are already used in this stage of Nursery Education. The English language is used as a tool to carry out an educational proposal that is coherent with the guidelines set out in the DCB. The relevance of action is highlighted in these guidelines:

 

“The importance of action lies in the fact that it is the main focus and motor of the process of development and learning.

It is through hands-on manipulation and experimentation that the children acquire knowledge about themselves and the reality that surrounds them.

Action is a basic element in learning in that it demonstrates the knowledge that the children have.

Action is a vehicle for expression, basic in the beginning (gestures, contact, look, etc.), more elaborate and representative later on.

The Nursery School has to strengthen and stimulate the action of the child and then diversify and reinforce it:

-Giving priority to contexts of action where the pupils can develop their motor skills.

-Maintaining the intrinsic motivation of the action. The need to do and to prove that objects and machines work depending on how they act on them.

-Creating opportunities to verbalise the action. The children can internalise and abstract the characteristics of their action.

-Varying the objects, carrying out spontaneous activities or proposing new explorations

-Encouraging them to try and then praising their efforts.

The relevance of the action, the need to act, should not lead to a way of acting without any sense, but rather to a proposal of meaningful, functional and diverse experiences.”

 

Now, a general description of activities which will be carried out in the sessions will be given:

 

1. STORIES

 

The story is a type of text that the four-year-old pupil knows very well. It can, therefore, be used as a starting point for introducing new ways of learning. The story has two advantages: on the one hand it contextualises the language and, on the other, it easily involves the children  since the situations are familiar to them.

 

The story, as the main activity in the session, is the third part of the session. The following points should therefore be borne in mind:

 

-The group should be sitting comfortably where they can see the illustrations in the book.

-A pleasurable, magic atmosphere should be created when presenting the story.

-The teacher will talk about the author/s of the book, the title, the number of pages, types of illustrations, etc. with the pupils.

-They will talk and make hypotheses about the contents of the book.

 

We should not forget that the specialist will be using only English. The pupils’ replies and contributions may be in Basque, Spanish... Each child’s level of participation will be different and this should be accepted as normal and natural.

 

Sometimes a different format is used for the story (silhouette puppets, blackboard, realia, etc.).

When the story is finished, the teacher will ask the group their opinions about it. The aim of this activity is not to get the pupils to produce in English but to provide a communicative and highly meaningful and contextualised situation for the pupils. Any gestures and expressions in Basque, Spanish, etc. will therefore be appreciated.

 

We should bear in mind that it is not the same to tell a story and to read a story. Naturally, there are features common to both of these activities such as the musicality and intonation of the language, but the aims are different. Telling a story implies working with the oral language. The narrator paraphrases, uses supporting gestures, etc. In other words it is oral language that the teacher uses and tries to develop. On the contrary, when a story is read, it is reading and writing that is mainly worked on, and one of the main aims as such is the development of the written language.

 

When telling a story, the narrator usually sits in front of the children and shows the book with its illustrations, gesturing, changing the voice, etc. S/he tries everything in her/his power to help the children understand. However, when a story is read, the reader, if s/he is in front of her/his audience may be the only one to see the text and the pictures while the others listen and try to enjoy the story.

 

As the stories are used, a couple of copies should be left in the class library or book corner for the pupils to look at.

 

 

2. SONGS AND RHYMES

 

Again, we should point out that songs and rhymes are a normal part of the lives of children at this age, in school, outside and in the home. They are very attractive and offer us a splendid opportunity to play with the language. They provide authentic exposure to the English language in the process of teaching – learning and a model with sound, rhythm and intonation. They are often sung or recited accompanied by action or movement (clapping, actions, dance, etc.). In this way, as well as being motivating, they are easy to follow and remember.

 

In the same way, songs are a good way to start the session and they will always be present in the session. As far as possible, they will be related to the story being worked on at that moment. They can also be used at other moments: in school celebrations, shows in front of other classes, etc.

 

When a new song or rhyme is used, it is introduced in the fourth phase of the session. If it is rather long, it can be divided up and taught in parts. On the first day, the pupils listen once or twice, only copying the gestures and movements that the teacher makes. As they get to know it better, it will be worked on in the second phase of the session. Familiar rhymes and songs should be revised systematically.

 

 

3. SHOWS

 

At the end of a teaching unit, the children show the story, songs and rhymes that they have worked on, to the tutor and/or another class. This activity is very motivating because it gives everyone an opportunity to take part in the show.

 

The English teacher on the one hand, will be able to analyse the oral production of each child and on the other hand, will be able to encourage the use of English outside the classroom and strengthen relations among same age groups or different age groups.

 

The choice of roles can be done by lottery or using some dipping rhymes. The actors and actresses can wear masks, costumes, etc. or a picture of the character hung round the neck. At the end of the show, the audience will be asked their opinion, in a constructive way.

It can be a very rewarding experience if the classroom teacher some other person can record the show. In this way, the specialist can observe directly the development of the pupils. It can also be used for the pupils to view themselves and be motivated by their work. The recording can also be used to show to the family or to exchange with other schools.

 

 

4. HANDICRAFT ACTIVITIES

 

These activities (making books, masks, puppets, etc.) provide us with the opportunity to use the language as a vehicle. The products made will be linked in some way to the story of the moment.

 

The activities will take place in the third phase of the session. They also serve to bridge the gap between the school and home as the children can show, tell, recite or sing what they have learnt to their families.

 

The specialist explains what has to be done to the whole group using examples. Then the material is handed out to the pupils and placed on the tables. The pace of working differs greatly among each pupil, so resources are needed for those who finish their work quickly or those who are slower: the classroom teacher’s help, games, books, etc.

 

The monitor has a greater role to play in these activities, because since as the year goes on they will have the chance to hand out the material, give simple instructions, etc. using English.

 

 

5. GAMES

 

Games offer some of the best occasions to use the language since the context is real and meaningful to the children. The pupils love them, but at the same time they give us the chance to use the language in other situations: to establish rules, form groups, give instructions, analyse and negotiate behaviour, etc.

 

On the other hand, they can be used very easily outside the classroom since the situation is so familiar to the pupils.

 

In order to carry out these activities, we can use any empty space in the classroom, the playground, the gym, the corridors, etc. The rules will be explained briefly and simply and always with an example. We will ask the daily monitor to help with this.

 

 

6. FILLERS

 

These are short, one off, activities with varying aims: to get the pupils’ attention, to discipline, to stir them up when they are tired or bored, to move from one activity to another.

 

For example:

 

-To get the pupils’ attention, we can use a gesture, a sound, a rhyme, etc. It is repeated two or three times until the pupils are looking at the specialist again.

-To get the pupils all sitting in a circle, the specialist can count to ten or use a rhyme.

 

 

 

 

 

7. RITUALS

 

A great deal of the language that the pupils assimilate is transmitted through rituals, that is to say, those aspects of the sessions that are repeated every day, systematically.

 

“Rituals (greetings, daily activities, responsibilities, tasks etc.), are natural situations which are repeated every day and are therefore very useful for working on the language. They also give the pupils a sense of security since they are situations which they are familiar with and which they control. We respect the children’s process of learning since what they know is our starting point, and they are responsible for their own learning. We introduce new language trough familiar situations and when the language is familiar we present new situations” (Cardona & Iturgaitz, 1999)

 

V. EXEMPLIFICATIONS

 

 

1. DEVELOPMENT OF A SESSION

 

In Appendix IV we provide a practical example of a session. For each 30’ session, we specify the duration of each activity, the different phases, the procedure to follow, the language that could be used and the necessary materials. This proposal, as we have mentioned already, is flexible in practice, since it needs to be adapted to the characteristics of the group, the moment, the context, etc.

 

 

2. SPECIAL SESSIONS

 

There will be occasions for “special” sessions, a pupil’s birthday, shows to other groups, school celebrations, etc.

 

The English specialist should know all the birthdays of the pupils and have some small treat prepared (a medal, a badge, a card, etc.) Formats and rituals are very important for the pupils in Nursery Education “so” an appropriate song to sing with the group could accompany the treat. A good moment is the second phase of the session just for five minutes.

 

We consider it essential to participate in the school’s own celebrations (for Christmas, Carnival, end of the year party, etc.) and to prepare something special for these occasions. It provides a way of giving the foreign language another function and integrating it into the life of the school.

 

There will be occasions for shows to other groups of the stories worked on in class. This activity is very motivating for the children, both the participants and the spectators. It is the job of the English specialist, with the help of the classroom teacher, to make it into a rewarding and enriching experience.

 

 

The appendix are at the end of the basque's version