Fluency versus Accuracy

The value of fluency in teaching young learners

Stefan Chiarantano writes...

I�d like to share with you my experience with teaching young learners. Perhaps it may spark some thoughts for you in your context.

I believe that the role of the EFL teacher is to encourage, motivate, stimulate and even lessen the anxiety of learning a foreign language, all the more so for young learners. And I think that correcting speech in the case of young learners shouldn�t be emphasized. I think it may create a negative attitude towards learning English and may diminish a child�s interest in learning English.

Here are my thoughts on the matter. I am against criticizing and pointing out to young learners their mistake in pronunciation or otherwise in class. I am more interested in fluency than accuracy in the early stages of language acquisition. I think back to my own elementary school days. I disliked teachers who singled out students for correction. I think correcting speech is counter-productive to learning. I think some students are initially going to have a difficult time learning English due to not comprehending what is being said and also due to vocalizing new words. So, if I correct, students might feel that English is too difficult. They may perhaps tune out and/or become embarrassed and may develop a negative attitude to English. I don�t want that to happen.

So, what do I do? I keep my lessons simple and ensure that the target language is repeated often enough in drills, activities, and games so that most children can pick it up. I know that to single out a child in an Asian classroom would be hurtful to that child. So, if I find a child is unable to answer a question, I ask another child to step up to the plate and assist the first child with the answer. And I also communicate with my young students using gestures and actions, and simple language. I avoid a lot of big words that they aren�t going to understand. I also put a smile in my voice. It helps to set the tone. I also continually check with myself if I am being critical or supportive. I tend to offer only positive feedback and I praise children for their participation. I want the learning of English to be fun and to foster a positive spirit in class. The most important thing for me was to recall the wonderful teachers I had had in the past with a view to modeling them as much as possible in my own classrooms. And I found reflecting on the outcome of my lessons brought me closer to the ideal. This I found was a positive way for me to improve my teaching and create an ever more joyful atmosphere for the learning of English as a foreign language for my young students.

TEFL.net ESL Reviews & Articles© Stefan Chiarantano 2007
Stefan has been teaching English as a foreign language in Asia for the past several years. He presently teaches English in Japan. He's a Canadian with an interest in filmmaking and photography.