Implementing English Study in Primary Education: Investing in Early Interactive Reading and Children Literature

By Hakimi, Zahra; Abdorahimzadeh, Seyed Jamal et al. | Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods, September 2014 | Go to article overview

Implementing English Study in Primary Education: Investing in Early Interactive Reading and Children Literature


Hakimi, Zahra, Abdorahimzadeh, Seyed Jamal, Kargar, Ali Asghar, Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods


ABSTRACT

Teaching English to young students has become especially important in recent years. The present study attempted to address the question whether Iranian primary school children can learn English with a reading based approach to teaching and also to monitor the effect of working with children literature on students' development of reading comprehension skills. To this end, 26 girl primary school students in grade 5 were taught English with an interactive reading model and children literature for 15 months. To check overall achievement, four tests were administered at the aid of the program. The tests tapped word meaning recognition, sentence meaning comprehension, short text comprehension, and overall comprehension of simple children stories. Analysis of the data demonstrated that students were at the good level of achievement in word meaning recognition and sentence meaning comprehension tests with reference to the criteria of achievement success applied by the Organization of Education. While students' performance in the short text comprehension test was at the acceptable achievement level, the results of the literature based test revealed that they could handle children literature short stories at the good achievement level. In the quest for finding effective ways to teach English as a foreign language in primary education contexts and to provide a motivating and engaging instructional tool in language learning, interactive reading and children, literature are suggested to be employed in foreign language classes offered to primary school children.

KEYWORDS: phonics, Look-say, primary education, interactive reading, children literature, teaching reading

1. Introduction

In today's world there is an overwhelming interest in learning and teaching foreign or second languages. In the past, learning a foreign or second language was restricted to special groups of children, but today in the world of technology, the recurrent idea is that foreign language learning should be part of every child's education. Therefore, in the profession of language teaching, several methods have been devised as practical means for teaching foreign languages to children. Regarding children's educational development, the study of foreign languages has been shown positive effects on improving communication skills and explicit impacts on memory and listening skills. English is an important language in the world, and in many countries the most emphasis is on learning English as a second or foreign language. According to Brewster, Elis and Girard (2004, p.14), foreign language at a young age gains its importance from following reasons: "children are full of physical energy, are developing literacy in their first language, are developing conceptually and are good mimics". Therefore, there is a strong belief among experts that children leam languages without any problem better than adults. Because of the fact that teaching of reading has been the center of attention over the past twenty years, there have been different approaches to teaching reading to children. Some say reading is mastery in phonics (LaBerge & Samuels, 1974), that is, in learning reading, children at first translate letters into sounds and then use their comprehension skills to recognize what words are made by the sounds. Regarding another view, known as look-say or whole word, children's reading is primarily visual. Smith (1971) argued that children can read words as visual 'wholes' without any prior translation of symbols into sounds.

Today, using children literature for teaching English to young learners is also an accepted way for teachers because children are always enthusiastic readers. The definition of children's literature is categorized based on: intended audience and the purpose. It has three subcategories including entertainment, entertainment and information, and empathy and style/quality. The widely used definition has accentuated on intended audience meaning children's literature is body of any texts that is selected for a particular individual, by any particular society. …

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