We are pleased to bring you a series of blog posts and an opportunity to learn from educator and linguistic scientist, Helen Doron. Helen has been teaching English to children for 30 years. She is the founder and CEO of the Helen Doron Educational Group and created a unique methodology for teaching English, maths, fitness, and infant development with original and revolutionary learning materials.
This week’s question is third in a three-part series and explains for children ages 5 and up: How can parents evaluate what their young child is learning in an English institute? Are they learning enough English? How can parents check what their children’s capabilities and ongoing competence in English actually is?
This is an interesting question, because not all parents speak English, but will want to know that their child is indeed learning. In the prior two blog posts we addressed parents of infants/toddlers aged 0-2 and preschoolers aged 2-4. In this blog, we will describe how parents of children, ages 5 and upwards, can determine exactly what their child is learning.
There is a range of recommendations as to how and when to test children learning English. From ages 5 and upwards, some countries do not yet formally test students at these ages, while in others, including China and Korea, parents have expectations that the child will prove and display what they have learned. This will vary by culture and community. It is essential to take into account how the child feels and factor this into the testing process.
Trust Your Child
I have this philosophy of trusting the child. If you trust the child, the child knows when someone is trying to test them and testing them at this tender age, up to 6 basically means “I don’t trust you,” or “I am not sure you can do this.” You never ever want to put that message out there. If you can make the assessment part of the joyful fun activity that is ideal. The last thing you want to do is stress the child, have him think that he might fail something or give them the feeling that you don’t trust them. There will always be the extra-ambitious and boisterous child that can weather anything, but most children will be sensitive and understand that you don’t believe in them. The goal is to build a child’s confidence and self-esteem; make them feel good about learning and believe that they can succeed.
Helen Doron English teacher Amal Abboud agrees with Doron, “It’s not about testing, it’s about trusting the child. When a parent asks the child the meaning of a word in English, they cannot always translate, but when shown a picture of the object they will produce the response, in English, naturally.” Amal continues, “Parents can be supportive by playing with their child while listening to background songs and stories in English, at home.”
It is my belief that the best English programmes introduce spiral learning. With spiral learning, the teacher introduces a topic, touches on it for a short time and then moves on and then revisits the topic through different activities and in subsequent lessons. The premise is that with each learning session, the student will expand on their skill level and build new understanding. Traditional classroom learning is often based on the master method of learning. With this format, the students learn in a sequential manner– they must master a topic before moving on to the next. The topic will not be “revisited” as in the spiral learning method.
Helen Doron Methodology
One of the fundamental strategies used in all Helen Doron English courses, for ages 3 months to 19 years, is the spiral learning method. With spiral learning, even if the child misses a session or two due to illness or they are simply distracted, they will pick up the language. With this strategy, teachers come back and teach the same subject in different ways and different times. Spiral learning is implemented through dedicated course materials to be used at home. Students listen to songs and stories as background hearing. This repeated hearing at home reinforces the learning and is an essential part of learning English successfully.
For ages 5 and up, assessments should be ongoing and should answer two questions:
1. Is the course material appropriate for students?
2. Is the teacher teaching the materials correctly?
An English course should test learning to determine if learning materials are appropriate and if the course is being taught well. From this perspective, it is the teacher being assessed, not just the child. This assessment is good for the teacher as it reinforces and refines their teaching skills. English, as taught in most schools, assesses reading and writing but the Helen Doron methodology teaches and assesses first and foremost, speaking. It’s much easier to teach and assess reading and writing in a classroom of 30 or more children. In fact, it is almost impossible to give speaking the language the proper attention in requires. If you think about it, the order that we learn to speak our mother-tongue language is first to hear, understand and speak and only then, to read and write.
The foundation to understand and speak a language starts at home when babies and toddlers hear their parents and siblings speak. At Helen Doron English, we mimic this order of learning, the “mother-tongue method.”
Whole Child Learning
The best English language programmes and teachers approach language holistically, they embrace the whole personality of the child. In this setting, the child is being nurtured through the activities, not just putting things on paper and getting them “right” or “wrong.” That is not what education is about; all education, including learning English, should prepare children for life. What prepares children for life? Indeed, some of what is needed is academic knowledge, but there are other essential skills that outstanding courses include: socialization, self-esteem and self-confidence. Students who have strong socializing skills and self-esteem, these are the children who will succeed in life. And they will speak English as well.Learn more about Helen Doron English programmes.