Teaching English Is Beneficial for Primary School Students in EFL Context
English is considered to be one of the most popular international languages in the modern world. People from different countries are interested in studying English language since it is widely used in all parts of the globe. However, adults usually experience difficulties in studying English as a foreign language. Children are better adjusted to studying languages (McLaughlin, 2013, p. 124). Despite the fact that some scholars do not confirm the fact that it is easier for children to study languages (Lightbown, 2008, p. 2), many studies actually prove this fact. Children tend to copy the actions and words of adults and starting learning languages early can promote the development of communication skills faster. The research of the techniques of teaching English as a foreign language among elementary level students is necessary, as children development is an important theme required for development in the modern world. Teaching English language for elementary level students produces higher learning outcomes in EFL context.
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Studying the principles of teaching English language for elementary level students and expecting higher learning outcomes in EFL context, it is important to understand what specific outcomes are meant. The research conducted among Grade One students in Croatia, who study English as a foreign language, has shown the following results. Elementary level students easier acquire pronunciation and intonation but have problems with writing in EFL context. Teachers of Croatia have highlighted that early studying of English in EFL context was “a good investment for later learning” (Djigunovic, 2012, p. 9). Overall, the success of learning outcomes in EFL context among elementary students is influenced by many factors. Renandya (2013) states that students’ success depends on the amount of language they hear and see, write and speak, grammar knowledge, vocabulary, knowledge of set expressions, the ability to use the language with ease, motivation, and amount and intensity of instruction. The methods of teaching are also important, as the particular issues can guarantee students’ success. Having an intention to understand the reasons of better English language perception of elementary students in the context of EFL, it is necessary to define the overall expectations of the learning outcomes in EFL context. Usually, teaching EFL, one expects to see understanding of a language as a system. Despite the fact that most scholars agree that the effective instruction of English increases the further outcomes, there are other factors which influence students’ success, such as the size of a class, the qualification of a teacher, and the amount of hours spent on teaching (Celik & Karaca, 2014, p. 8; Eslami & Fatahi, 2008).
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Overview of the Main Ideas
The discussion of higher learning outcomes in EFL context for elementary students will be focused on several factors. The main ideas covered in the research paper are age, motivation, and mechanisms of developing English thought. The main idea of the research is to prove that children in early age have higher learning outcomes in EFL context and, that is why, the practice of learning English from elementary stages should be spread all over the world. Having an intention to provide a reasonable argumentation in the study, the selection of age, motivation, and thought development are explained by the need to refer to “cognitive, affective, and social dimensions of language learning” (Renandya, 2013, p. 23). Each of the ideas highlighted in this paper focuses on one of the dimensions of language learning, which can guarantee the analysis of as many parameters of teaching EFL as possible.
Having focused on the aspects mentioned above, the research highlights the peculiarities of elementary students as the English language learners. The detailed analysis of age significance and the ability to study from the psychological perspective are taken into consideration. Students’ motivation depends on many factors, such as age, interests, home, classroom environment, etc. The basic motivational factors, which are going to be highlighted in the context of EFL, are personal desire to learn the language and progress in English language acquisition. The aspects of the development of English thought are going to be discussed with the reference to thinking and writing issues. Understanding whether the elementary students have higher learning expectations is incomplete, unless speaking and writing skills are highlighted.
Critical Period Hypothesis
The main idea of the critical period hypothesis is a link between human studying ability and age. The problem still remains contradicting, as scholars cannot agree on the specific age when a foreign language can be acquired at the same level as the native one. The problem of the critical period hypothesis for second language does not prove that children acquire the language better. The main idea of this hypothesis is to confirm that there is a specific link between biological age of people and their ability to study language successfully. Considering this issue from the psychological perspective, it should be noted that child’s brain loses plasticity with time. There is no particular proof which age is considered in this case. Zhu (2011) has analyzed the current situation from the perspective of learning EFL for Chinese students. The researcher has concluded that, in accordance with the critical period hypothesis, the younger the learners, the better they acquire a foreign language. People who begin studying a foreign language before the critical period receive high results faster and “can achieve native-like proficiency while adults cannot” (Zhu, 2011, p. 1218). Those who start learning a foreign language after the critical period will possibly experience discontinuity. Overall, the critical period is an important factor in developing EFL competency. The current research has a relation to the critical period, since being interested in teaching English in the EFL context to elementary students, the analysis of the critical period helps to confirm the fact that elementary students have better acquisition abilities than older learners.
English as Basis for Foundation
The foundations for studying English as a foreign language in elementary school depend on many factors. The country, the general curriculum, the overall load and many other factors influence the foundations of English in a particular educational establishment. As far as elementary students show better learning potential, the foundations for studying language in EFL context are related to the basic skills one needs to obtain. Speaking, writing, and reading are the basic competencies which elementary students should adhere to in order to improve learning outcomes in future. Speaking is based on repetitive and copying strategies. Overall, a speaking competency is considered to be the easiest one, paying attention to psychological and learning abilities of students of the given age. As for reading and writing, these competencies are developed on a more complicated way, since children in elementary level school also acquire writing and reading in their native language. Hence, one cannot put the native language relations, as it is done in oral communications. Understanding English foundations depends on the final goals of learning EFL, the culture of a country and a language learnt.
Reading competency developed at the elementary level should allow students to read the simplest texts, and understand its meaning. Reading rules should be known by students with different exceptions. Writing skills at the elementary stage cannot be developed in the same way as the writing skills in native language. At the elementary stage, students should understand the main principles of writing letters (printed ones). Teaching students at this stage should not focus much on writing, since oral communication is the basic goal. Speaking is the main focus of teaching attention at the elementary level within EFL context. Teaching speaking students at the elementary level, educational system in the EFL context should focus on pronunciation and a limited vocabulary. Students at this level should learn the basic principles of sentence formation. However, this strategy cannot be considered as the only possible. Having based this curriculum on TESOL’s Pre-K-12 ESOL Standards (Ediger, 2001, p. 157), it is possible to vary the skills students may develop. Overall, this information has been gathered for elementary students with the purpose to make sure that age needs are met.
High Desire of Learning
Motivation is one of the basic factors for making people study. Children do not have high motivation, since they do not have a full understanding of the world and all its processes. It is an important task for parents to motivate their children/elementary students and to impose a high level of desire on them. According to Bahous (2011), the best motivation for people to study a foreign language is a connection of that language to their future career, better opportunities and, therefore, a higher salary. However, it does not work for children. Child motivation differs greatly from the motivation of adults. Since the research is focused on elementary students, it is important to understand their psychological needs for the increased desire to learn. From the very childhood, people are taught that grades are the best appreciation of their skills and knowledge. It is found that assessment is one of the ways for students’ motivation to study better. Besides, an assessment may be of different nature (Brown & Abeywickrama, 2010, p. 57). Having a desire to increase the level of student motivation to learn, it is important to give elementary students what they want: playing games, easy and fun learning, varied tasks with the involvement of physical activities and colourful and striking materials are the main aspects in increasing the desire of elementary students to continue studying. Elementary students are interested in smaller activities but in a high number rather than longer exercises in a smaller amount.
Progress in English Language Acquisition
The progress in English language acquisition is defined by the increased level of knowledge students have, in comparison to their assessment of the same skills without some period in the past. As it has already been said, the progress of language acquisition may depend on many factors. Teaching elementary students EFL, the progress will be seen immediately. Children are very persuasive. They always receive information in a fast rate and huge amount. Children are able to acquire information in EFL in better way than adults. This information learnt at the early age will influence students’ performance in the future. Students’ progress in any age depends on the amount of hard work one refers to learning. Speaking about EFL and a background in the early age, it can be said that such students will have an advantage while studying language in the future. The arguments in favour of this statement can be derived of the information mentioned above. Elementary level students better perceive information due to their psychological abilities. The critical period hypothesis is also related to this issue. Students who study language from early age and those who began studying English as a foreign language from the secondary school will have huge differences in progress. Speaking about progress, the aspect of knowledge should not be touched. The research shows that even highly professional teachers cannot achieve the same progress in knowledge if they refer to secondary students without any elementary level experience of studying language as a foreign language.
Developing English Thought
Thinking in L2 Structure
Studying a foreign language requires from students the understanding of the information and thinking abilities. Considering the information for elementary level students, it is important to note that thinking in L2 structure means the ability of students to react adequately to the teacher’s actions and words and to be able to use the necessary phrases. As it has already been mentioned above, communication skills are the basic for development at the age under analysis. The structure of English as a second language differs from the structure of other languages. Elementary students at their age are able to compose the simplest sentences, to reply to the questions, and to make statements adequate to the situation. The communication only in the L2 structure is complicated since elementary level students do not have enough knowledge and skills for pure communication on the learnt language. Therefore, the communication learning of English in the classroom at the elementary level should be provided via L1 structure.
Teaching elementary students in EFL context may follow in several stages, depending on the situation. The main structures are initiation of the activity, the response of learners, a teacher’s feedback on this activity, and evaluation of the performance. This structure should be used to teach any activity in EFL context. This specific structure of the activities promotes the better performance and higher learning outcomes. Children of the elementary level, due to their psychological peculiarities, expect to see some reaction to their activities. This is exactly what teachers should do during classes.
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Writing by Using Correct Grammar
Despite the fact that communication skills should become the focus for teaching English language for elementary level students, it is important to pay attention to grammar to guarantee higher learning outcomes in EFL context. Even elementary level students should pay attention to grammar rules and study them precisely. Obviously, the grammar aspects discussed at this level should be presented in a limited way. Students must know the basic of grammar in English. Speaking English, students should understand the way how the phrases are composed, what issues formation of a sentence and how the language is structured in general. According to TESOL’s Pre-K-12 ESOL Standards (Ediger, 2001, p. 157), grammar skills developed at the elementary level should be limited to understanding the cases when upper- and lowercase letters should be used, how to apply the most frequently use nouns and verbs, how to create plural forms, how to ask the simplest questions using the interrogatives, and how to use the prepositions, which are the most frequent in daily communication. The correct grammar use in writing will guarantee a correct use of English language in communication. Overall, grammar use in writing should be the only way of applying written competence at the elementary level. Having acquired this information, the further success in learning English as a foreign language will guarantee higher learning outcomes.
In conclusion, teaching English language for elementary level students produces higher learning outcomes in EFL context. The analysis of the problem from different perspectives confirms this statement. Elementary school children are sure to remain below the critical period age, which guarantees better acquisition of the information due to age peculiarities. Motivation is a guarantee of better performance. Since students do not have any vision of the world and its processes, they do not require any motivation related to career development. It is kind of advantage which requires additional consideration. Children strive for learning since every day they discover something new about this world. This psychological desire to new knowledge is one more guarantee for successful learning in EFL context. Children learn more every day, and this progress is more visible for them, which guarantee higher learning outcome. Developing English thought among elementary level students for improving their performance in the EFL context, the communication with the reference to L2 structure and writing using correct grammar strategies should be developed. All the points discussed in the research paper deserve additional consideration and analysis as for now the paper has only touched the reasons for higher learning outcomes among elementary level students. The points discussed are not the only possible in the EFL context; in fact, there are more issues which require studying. The understanding how age, motivation and development of thought influence the learning outcomes of students in EFL context may help develop better curriculum and implement stronger strategies for teaching.