Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Curtain and Dahlberg, Chapter 1: Characteristics of Young Learners

Curtain and Dahlberg, Chapter 1: Characteristics of Young Learners  (p. 1-30)

     The reason that children learn languages better than adults is because they are acquiring it. However, it takes more than just plopping someone in an L2 environment for them to learn a language. The input has to be comprehensible, or on a level at or slightly above what they can understand (Krashen).  An example of this is caretaker speech or teacherese. Adults speak more slowly, use less complex sentences, gestures, meaning checks, and concrete referents when talking to babies and toddlers.
SLA theory proposes that language which learners are exposed to should be "as natural as possible... that the past tense should not be postponed" (4). I agree with this theory; however, I wonder how a teacher could keep the speech natural while also not exceeding the "i+1." 
       Second language acquisition is much more complex than behaviorists suggest. Behaviorists believe that people are motivated by external reward and behavior is increased as a result. Cognitive psychologists believe that "internal motivation drives the learning process" (8). The learner is an active participant in their learning and, as a result, their response, emotions, and personality matter. The brain will store information that is meaningful, attached to a context, and novel. Therefore, drilling grammar out of context is not good practice and will most likely not be stored long term since it is not meaningful input. The affective filter needs to be lowered in order for learning to take place (10). Learning also is more readily constructed through social interaction such as "games, role-plays, partner and small group activities" (8). 
       Children ages 4 through 10 years old interpret the world "in terms of absolutes" (16). Fantasy and emotion are important aspects of learning. An instructional practice that stems from that is that instruction should have a story-like quality with a strong beginning, middle, and end. Instruction should also "have strong emotional and moral appeal" (16). Children ages 8 or 9 through 15 years old are more interested in their internal world, realistic detail, and heroic characters. This chapter offers lots of fantastic, detailed information about what types of learning activities to do with children of different ages. I would like it if we could discuss this idea in class in more depth. How do instructors plan instruction differently for different age groups?

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