Section A
Section B

Module 2.4

What kind of speech in the classroom is most conducive for young learners then? We call it “teacher talk” and it includes:

  • exaggeration of pronunciation and facial expression;
  • decreased speed and increased volume;
  • frequent use of pause, gestures, graphic illustrations, questions, and dramatisation;
  • sentence rephrasing and simplification;
  • prompting; and
  • completing utterances made by the student.

At the beginning levels of speech development in the target language, there is much targeted negotiation in order to increase accuracy and communication. The following sample dialogue illustrates the negotiation of meaning in a one-to-one communication situation. The “stretching” of language to higher levels is also obvious as is the assistance from the native speaker, in this case, the teacher.

Student: I throw it – box. (Points to a box on the floor)
Teacher: You threw the box.
Student: No, I threw in the box.
Teacher: What did you throw in the box?
Student: My . . . I paint . . . 
Teacher: Your painting? 
Student: Painting?
Teacher: You know . . . painting. (The teacher makes painting movements on an imaginary paper).
Student: Yes, painting.
Teacher: You threw your painting in the box.
Student: Yes, I threw my painting in box.

  • The teacher is speaking near to the child’s ability and specific context and is providing scaffolds upon which the student can build.
  • The conversation is about the immediate environment.
  • The vocabulary is simple.
  • Repetition is frequent.
  • Acting out is used . . . All in response to the feedback.

The focus for the teacher is on the meaning not on the form. The child is acquiring correct forms not by the process of direct correction but through the content and the process of indirect correction or modelling. Notice that “throw” becomes “threw”, the preposition “in” is incorporated into the prepositional phrase, and the article “the” is picked up before box.

Here the grammar is being acquired through the natural process of communication; a conscious sequencing of grammar does not seem to be necessary in this instance. For most second language theorists and educators, the key to effective learning and teaching seems to be a balance of structured language and free, responsive communication.