Teaching English to young learners: More teacher education and more children’s literature!
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionBland, J. (2019). Teaching English to young learners: More teacher education and more children’s literature!. Children's Literature in English Language Education, 7(2), 79-103.
This paper explores the demanding and complex nature of English language teaching with young learners. The paper begins with the challenges of the young learner classroom, then goes on to argue that the low estimation of teaching languages in primary education can seriously impact the confidence and efficacy of primary-school teachers. The popular myth that English for young learners is a simple matter requiring neither advanced language skills nor a deep knowledge of educational affordances and pedagogy is interrogated. While it is acknowledged amongst informed teacher educators that language education theory is well served by a synthesis of applied linguistics, education psychology and pedagogical perspectives, the discipline of children’s literature is mostly ignored. In this paper, the role of children’s literature in teacher education is highlighted and the relevance of high-quality language input is foregrounded. Further, the availability of focused pre-service and in-service teacher education, as well as teacher educators with the necessary expertise, is discussed. Finally, the teacher’s role in providing linguistic accommodation to the young learners with storytelling and creative teacher talk is explored. A case is made that the role of the teacher is pivotal, and the opportunities the teacher could share with the children, if sufficiently well prepared, include the collateral-learning educational goals of English for young learners, such as the pleasure of story, multiple literacies and intercultural learning.