theory, and are excellent opportunities for as well as getting meaning across very
meaningful interaction. However, for these successfully. Or repeating a chunk of language
activities to succeed, learners need to know acquired in a story, but in a different context,
why they are working in pairs and be able to e.g. winning a game and saying ‘I’m the best!’,
reflect on how well they succeeded in speaking a chunk of language acquired from its
in repetition in a story of the same name.
objectives. This has implications for planning
and activity set up.
3) Children have a capacity for indirect learning,
for this is how they learned their mother tongue.
6) Focusing on meaning – implicit in many of In the L2, using the language meaningfully
these points, yet often overlooked. For young allows for this capacity to kick in. An activity
learners, the focus must be on meaning, for a which involves guessing what someone is
focus on form comes later, through experience thinking will involve children eagerly using the
and discovery. question form ‘Is it a …?’, and the response
These six points are interconnected and have comes as naturally, ‘Yes, it is!’. The learners
been artificially teased apart here. But they place are focused on the task, guessing the object,
an onus on active, meaningful language use over and are using the language meaningfully and
and above anything else. instinctively. This is a real task, yet it is also an
Specificity 4: Teaching children
4) Children have an instinct for play, so activities
Halliwell (1992: 3-6) summarises the unique become
qualities children bring to the classroom. Many of children make them so. They put immense
these effort into a mime game or a dramatization.
facilitators of L2 acquisition.
1) Children come to school with an innate ability
to grasp meaning, using intonation, facial
expression, gesture, actions and the context in
which all this is happening. This is extremely
They really do have a secret that needs
discovering and delight in their peers struggling
to find it! Halliwell describes children living the
language for real through their sense of fun and
play, which is what we want children to do!
useful when learning a language, as the 5) Children have a tendency for imagination in
general message is understood at its basic learning, and this is still their reality, even in
level. Over time, and with further exposure, this Grades 3 and 4. Taking on the roles of
understanding is dissected and analysed characters in stories, describing monsters,
resulting in a deeper level of understanding. including extinct creatures in a list of pets are
2) Children can also be very creative when using
their own limited language resources. This is
well documented as children acquire their
mother tongue, and there is evidence that this
all part of their imaginary world. Picture books
and stories also support and develop this
imagination. Imagination in action requires
language and this is key.
is the case in an L2 as well. Children use what 6) Children have an instinct for interaction and
they know to get their meaning across, so talk! This can sometimes be a problem, but we
adding a firm negative may result in ‘No like!’ need to ensure it is used to our advantage.