by Paula de Nagy

Unit 1 - Issues and contexts in teaching young learners


Aims and preliminary information
This unit starts by describing who we mean by young learners, and then gives a historical background to the field of teaching a foreign language to children. It offers you the chance to become conversant with some of the theories and research evidence behind important issues in TYL. It both attempts to present a global picture of TYL, and to help you to explore aspects of your local context.
This unit, more than the following units, is dependent on the set reading to give you the overall picture. Most of the papers are overview papers and can be read quickly - so don’t waste time making copious notes on these - they are there to give you a general picture of the state of TYL. However, there is one paper on the age factor which is quite challenging, and we hope that you will enjoy the task we set for you.
As in the FND unit, the main aim of the tasks is to encourage you to reflect on the issues raised in the unit and on how they apply to your context. They are numbered to help you keep track of your notes. In this unit, there are seven ‘reflective’ tasks, and there are also six Reading Tasks which have their own numbering.

By the end of this unit, you should:

• be able to identify some key characteristics of Young Learners of different ages
• be aware of the historical development of the teaching of languages to Young Learners
• be conversant with the current debate on the age factor and the various arguments for and against ‘starting young’;
• be familiar with a range of contexts for teaching English to Young Learners and be able to relate your local context to others;
• be able to describe the Young Learners in your local context;
• be able to identify why English is taught to YLs in your context;
• have seen samples of course and syllabus outlines for a range of countries and noted different objectives and aims.

Core Reading (articles included in the file marked *)

Brewster, J. 1991. What is good primary practice? In Brumfit C, Moon J and Tongue R (eds.) 1991. Teaching English to Children – From Practice to Principle. London: HarperCollins Publishers. Pp 1-17
Brumfit, C. 1991a. Introduction: Teaching English to children. In Brumfit C, Moon J and Tongue R (eds.) 1991. Teaching English to Children – From Practice to Principle. London: HarperCollins Publishers pp iv-viii
Donaldson, M. & Elliot, A. 1990. Children’s Explanations. In Grieve, R. & Hughes, M. (eds.) 1990. Understanding Children. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers pp 26-50 (*)
Howatt A.P.R. 1991. Teaching languages to young learners: patterns of
history. In Brumfit C, Moon J and Tongue R (eds.) 1991. Teaching English to Children – From Practice to Principle. London: HarperCollins Publishers. pp289-301
Lucietto,S. 1993 Teaching English to Young Learners: the Italian Way to Teacher Training. Young Learners Special Interest Group. IATEFL. Issue No. 11 March 1993 (Appendix B)
Marinova-Todd, S, Bradford Marshall, D, and Snow, C (2000) Three Misconceptions about Age and L2 Learning TESOL Quarterly, Vol34, No 1, Spring 2000: 9-34 (*)
Tough, J. 1991. Young children learning languages. In Brumfit C, Moon J and Tongue R (eds.) 1991. Teaching English to Children – From Practice to Principle. London: HarperCollins Publishers pp213-22
Vos, J. 1998. Can Preschool children be Taught a Second Language? in Early Childhood News Sept/Oct 1008 (*)

1.1. Characteristics of Young Learners
For the purposes of this module, Young Learners (YLs) will refer to children from the ages of four to twelve. Increasingly, though, children as young as three are being formally introduced to English as a foreign language. We will not be considering children younger than four specifically in this module but it seems to me that in many countries the trend to ‘go younger’ is very much here to stay. In fact, this may be your reality and section 3 in this unit will give you an opportunity to explore the advantages and disadvantages of starting English language learning so young. Lastly, a number of ELT organisations such as RSA/UCLES in their YL courses, also include teenagers (thirteen to sixteen) in the Young Learner category. Again, although most of the examples in the module will not refer to those age groups, if this is the area that interests you the most, you should feel free to look at it in more depth.


At this point, write, in list form, your own brief description of Young Learners. If you have done YL teaching before, or if you have observed some YL classes, try and identify the key characteristics of learners you’ve encountered. If you have no experience of YL classrooms yet, describe children you’ve got experience of (your own, cousins, friends, etc) - try to think of them in situations where they are learning something new. What are they like? What do they like? What makes them different from adult learners?

Your list probably included some of the following aspects: their ages, personalities, preferences, learning strategies, attention span, and for those who have little experience of children, some tongue-in-cheek comment like ‘they’re shorter’. But irrespective of how you described them, you are obviously interested in teaching or improving your teaching of English to YLs and this is why you have chosen to take this module. This section will help you identify some of the key aspects that characterise Young Learners and their implications for your teaching.

Sarah Phillips (1993:5) in the introduction to her book ‘Young Learners’ describes YLs as…
… children from the first year of formal schooling (five or six years old) to eleven or twelve years of age. However, as any children’s teacher will know, it is not so much the children’s age that counts in the classroom as how mature they are. There are many factors that influence children’s maturity: for example, their culture, their environment (city or rural), their sex, the expectations of their peers and parents. (my underlining).

The child’s learning of a language is not independent of the fact that they are ‘professional’ learners who spend most of their day in a learning environment. Therefore, those who argue for an integrated approach to language learning (Garvie, 1991) are simply advocating the full exploration of the child’s daily learning context. Equally, the characteristics of good language learners and the way they learn will be highly influenced by the environment, and the way in which they are learning, particularly with very young learners. The belief that learning to learn is fundamental when teaching YLs (Brewster et al.1992; Ellis, 1991) becomes, therefore, of paramount importance.

Lest the above leads you to the dangerous belief that YLs are so-called ‘empty vessels’ for teachers to fill, some words of common sense from Susan Halliwell (1992:3) on working with Young Learners:

Young children do not come to the language classroom empty-handed. They bring with them an already well-established set of instincts, skills and characteristics which will help them to learn another language. We need to identify those and make the most of them. For example, children:

- are already very good at interpreting meaning without necessarily understanding the individual words;
- already have great skill in using limited language creatively;
- frequently learn indirectly rather than directly;
- take great pleasure in finding and creating fun in which they do;
- have a ready imagination;
- above all take great delight in talking!


In your experience, what other characteristics do YLs in your context have that help them learn languages successfully? If possible, try and relate your beliefs to specific theories and to illustrate each opinion with a concrete example.

Teaching adult beginners is, by no means, an easy task but it is to a great extent the interaction between adults, teacher and students, who share many common characteristics. In addition, if you compare two adult beginner groups you will see that content of syllabuses can be fairly similar, students are likely to have a fairly good idea why they are in the English classroom and their rates of learning, all else being equal, are likely to be fairly similar.

Contrast this with teaching YL beginner classes. But note that the beginner student at five requires a totally different approach to the ten-year old beginner. The five-year old may not be able to read or write, they may be new to learning in a group and in a school environment, they may not even be aware of the concept of a foreign language. The ten-year old, on the other hand, is an old hand at learning, having probably spent nearly half their life or anyway at least three years in a school environment. They are probably confident readers and writers and their knowledge of the world is huge when compared to that of the five-year old. They are probably very much aware that English is a foreign language and are also likely to have some awareness of its status as a world language of real importance. Although the ten-year old may still lack any instrumental motivation for learning English, their experience of films, television, computers and other world knowledge is more likely to provide them with some integrative motivation for giving English a chance. On the other hand, the older child’s familiarity with school may already have predisposed them to be reluctant learners. Their learning habits are already quite firmly established and teachers will have to deal with these. Remember that both groups are beginners and therefore the contents of the course at a number of levels will probably be fairly similar (for example, at the level of language it might include the verb ‘to be’, colours) but our approach to teaching them is fundamentally different as it needs to take into account their age differences.

READING TASK 1 (Optional)

For those of you who are fairly new to YL teaching and who wish to see what classes with different age groups can look like in practice, read Frölich-Ward, L. 1991 Two lessons: five-year-olds and seven year-olds in the Brumfit et al. (1991) collection.
What are the main differences between the two lessons?
Do you have any comments on the approach used, and/or on the paper itself?


Given your own knowledge of YLs, try and complete the following grid identifying the key differences between the three different age groups and the implications for teaching. You may want to add to the list of characteristics (e.g. their experience of language in use; typical activities they enjoy) and to change the age groups to fit in with your local context.

When you’ve finished, compare your list with the one in Appendix A, and reflect why you and they may have written different things.

Characteristics 5 year olds 8 year-olds 10 year-olds
Experience of formal tuition
Knowledge of the world
Ability to read and write

So far, we’ve only concentrated on a few key differences between age groups. There are many other factors that help us describe our YLs. Some of these, expressed as questions, are:

• Are they all of the same nationality group?
• Do they come from the same social background?
• Are parents supportive and interested in their learning?
• Are there any other stake-holders? (FND unit 7)
• What is the status that English has in your society?
• Is English a foreign language or a second or third language?
• What about the learning environment where you teach: is it a state primary school? A private language school?
There will be more on this in units 2 and 3


Before you continue, brainstorm the key features of your YL teaching context (think of what a person unfamiliar with your context would need to know if they were thinking of applying for a job in your school.) Where do you teach, who do you teach and what makes that situation unique? Write a few notes in response to these questions.
Do you know how long your school/institution has been teaching English? and when and why they started? If you cannot answer these last two questions, leave them for now –but find someone to ask before you start Task 5, further exploration of this will be part of the next task.
If you don’t teach YLs yet, you may wish to interview a colleague with YL experience.

1.2 A historical overview: from the Middle Ages to the present day

The notion that children are special learners in themselves, requiring a specific approach to the subjects on the school curriculum, is a relatively new one historically. In fact, the concept that children were anything but small-sized adults did not begin to emerge until the seventeenth century (Ariès 1960). Therefore, the formal teaching of children was, like most teaching, concentrated on the transmission of information and involved chiefly rote learning. However, the tradition of teaching foreign languages in Europe is a long but fascinating one and is well described in Howatt (1991).


Read Howatt’s article entitled ‘Teaching languages to young learners: patterns of history’. This is in your core book Brumfit et al. (1991).
What two contrasting attitudes emerge?
Are there any historical phases or patterns that he describes that sound familiar in your context? Note down any issues he raises that are still being discussed in your country today.

Howatt’s article looks at a broad outline of teaching foreign languages to young learners up to the early 1980s. He clearly outlines two different policies for the teaching of foreign languages to young children. On the one hand, there are those that argue that there is little benefit to learning a foreign language early as they feel that it gets in the way of general education in the mother tongue. They believe that a foreign language is a ‘peripheral skill’ (1991:299). On the other hand, their opponents feel that the mother tongue and foreign languages are not mutually exclusive and that tuition in a foreign language can even replace tuition in the mother tongue.
In recent years, naturally, more points of view have arisen. In 1989, in Western Europe, a survey was conducted to investigate the situation of foreign language teaching and learning in the first four years of education. This was reported by Freudenstein in 1990. His article outlines some of the advantages of doing so:
- children who begin a foreign language at an early level seem to benefit intellectually, their awareness of the language systems in their own language seems to improve
- they seem more culturally aware than other children. Freudenstein points out the benefits of the latter point for children living in multi-cultural and multilingual environment such as Europe is quickly becoming.
However, there still needed to be greater co-ordination between primary and secondary schools to ensure that the benefits of early language learning were not dissipated by a different approach in later years. Other issues were:
- how many languages can children feasibly be taught?
- should the foreign language be taught as a separate subject or integrated into other subjects?
He recommended that more research be done to investigate whether learning languages at pre-school level helps to lay the foundations for primary education. He suggested that perhaps language awareness, where the children develop positive attitudes towards languages in general, is more desirable in the early ages than language learning. He concluded:

The best way to proceed is, perhaps, to start foreign languages
in the third year of primary education during a transitionary period in order to avoid sharp discrepancies between existing educational practices and necessary changes in the future. (1990:11)

So, what happened in the last decade of the 20th century? And how far is the situation in Europe representative of the situations in other continents?
To complete our historical overview, read the survey paper by Rixon (2000) included in the file and try the following task.


While you are reading, try to do two (or even three) things.
1. Identify the context Rixon describes that best fits your own context, (it may not be the one with the same geographical label), and note what additional points might also be true for you. (Is there anything she says that doesn’t apply?)
2. Identify the situation you would most like to teach in, and justify your choice. (Maybe for your future career?) You may - for fun - also want to do the opposite - decide where you would never want to teach, and why (only professional reasons count, of course!)

Now that you are familiar with some of the background to teaching Young Learners a foreign language, it is time for you to reflect again on your local context. The next task picks up from where Task 4 left off, goes into more detail, and leads up to the more academic debate about the age factor in the next section.


When do students officially start learning a foreign language in your present context? Who decided that they should do so at this age and what were the reasons?
What about unofficially? Are there children who start younger? Again - identify the reasons for this.
This will probably involve some research in the ‘archives’ (both documentary and oral e.g. interviews with long-standing colleagues or senior members of staff) of your institution.
As you make notes, reflect on whether you agree with the rationale for your situation. What leads you to agree or disagree? What concrete evidence can you gather to support your position?
Start thinking, too, about other evidence/theories that you have read about that affect your views. (This will be developed further as the module continues)

1.3. The age debate and the Critical Period hypothesis

You will recall from the previous section that for a long time in history, it was believed by many people that learning a second language during primary school was potentially detrimental to the child and their confident use of the first language. Although this wasn’t the only view, it was sufficiently prevalent to prevent children in mainstream education from being taught a second language until they reached secondary education. This, however, as we all know, is not the current view in many western societies. At present, certainly in Europe, the belief is that in a multi-cultural society, the early learning of a second language can only be beneficial. In many other societies, for example in Africa and India, many children grow up being bi- or even tri-lingual and seem to benefit from this, which seems to support the view that the learning of other languages at an early age helps the child rather than hindering them. But one of the most hotly debated questions is: do they learn a language better the younger they start? what is the optimum age for beginning a foreign language?

Of the three age groups you’ve looked at so far (5 year-olds, 8 year-olds and 10 year-olds), do you believe that starting to learn English at any one age , all else being equal, is more likely to lead to greater or lesser success? As you will see from the next reading task, (Vos 1991), there are people who have argued convincingly that the younger you start studying a foreign language, the more likely it is that you will achieve native-speaker proficiency. This may be because it is believed that younger minds are more open to learning or simply because learners have longer to acquire the language. Others, in turn, claim that there may be an ideal age when learning a foreign language is easiest, in other words, that there is a critical period after which language learning is not likely to lead to full proficiency. Naturally enough, there are also those e.g. Abrahamsson (1999), who argue that the age factor is not a major issue in learning a foreign language. The next reading task will help you consider this issue. You will be asked to compare the views given in two different papers.

Vos (1998) published a lively article in an American lay journal entitled Early Childhood News. Its aim is obviously to persuade parents that their pre-school children can and indeed should be given the opportunity to learn a second language. Many sources of evidence are cited to give supportive rationale, and there are lots of good practical ideas, which, although given for pre-school age children, would quite probably be possible with older children, say up to seven or so.

Two years later, Marinova-Todd, Bradford Marshall and Snow published a highly academic paper in which they weigh up the evidence concerning the existence of a ‘critical period’ for language acquisition. They look critically at the research findings available and claim that the facts have either been seriously misinterpreted, or misattributed or misemphasised. They aim to clarify three misconceptions in their article, which they hope ‘will lead to a better understanding of L2 learning and, in turn, better approaches to L2 teaching’ (Marinova Todd et al 2000)

You will need to set aside a good hour for the next task, but you should find it worth the effort.


This task is in two parts.
a) Read and enjoy Vos 1998. It won’t take you long. Make notes of things you may like to follow up in later units on activities and materials.
What aspects of this paper do you find most persuasive? Make a list of these - about three or four points.
b) Now settle down for a serious read - Marinova-Todd et al (2000). This is an excellent example of a piece of academic writing - it begins with an abstract and a two page overview, and then gets into the nitty gritty... There are excellent summary tables, and an interesting conclusion.

At the end, sit back and reflect on the Vos (1998) paper. Look at the list of points that convinced you, and see what evidence you can find for or against them in the Marinova-Todd et al article.
Rehearse in your mind what you feel are the arguments that apply most aptly to your YL context. Then compare these with the most used arguments in your local situation.

After doing this, you may well be feeling a bit bemused about the age factor. But before giving up altogether, there are other issues that need to be considered. It is to these that we now turn.

1.4. Why teach English to Young Learners?

The decision to introduce foreign language learning into primary schools is, according to its supporters, one that has identifiable advantages.

Brewster, Ellis & Girard (1992) make the following points:
- Advantage can be taken of certain aptitudes children have in order
to start teaching a foreign language at primary school.
- There is no theoretical optimum age for starting teaching, It can vary according to country and linguistic situation. The age of 9 is often settled on after trying other ages.
- Early learning of a non mother-tongue language must be integrated into other teaching in the primary school.
- Whatever else may be achieved, the main concern is to prepare the ground so that the most can be made of the teaching which will be received in secondary school. (1992:19)

Later on, the same writers (1992:24) summarise the key objectives of early foreign language learning as: linguistic, psychological and cultural. It is worth keeping these three objectives in mind as you read more on this topic, and also as you evaluate materials for YLs.

But there are other advantages, too: cognitive and social. Research carried out in India by Mohanti (1994) and reviewed by Tove Skutnabb-Kangas very positively in TESOL Quarterly (1998) has shown that bilingualism from an early age promotes cognitive development and has wide-ranging social advantages. The review begins:

Ajit Mohanty has succeeded in correcting some of the biases in most Western research comparing cognitive benefits of bilingualism (1998:775),
and it gives an excellent overview of his work.

So here already we have five broad reasons other than the age factor to justify early second language learning.

Brumfit (1991a:vi-vii) outlines some of these reasons in more detail, but goes on to point out that there isn’t much ‘theoretical agreement over exactly what the advantages are’ (ibid:vii). The reading for the next task give a pretty good overview.


At this point, in addition to the review of Mohanty (1994) (in the articles file), you should read two extracts from your core reading book Brumfit et al (1991):
a. Brumfit, C. – Introduction: Teaching English to Children pp iv-viii
b. Tough, J. – Young children learning languages pp213-227

As you read, consider the following
1. The authors overall seem to favour the teaching of English as a foreign language to Young Learners. Do they have the same rationale for doing so? What do they list as the main reasons for doing so?
2. Do the authors equate learning English as a foreign language to that of learning it as a first language? In what ways is it similar or different?


Before you go on, take a few minutes to reflect on where you stand. I suggest you start by listing all the points in favour of each side of the argument and then, notes down which ones you agree with the most. Reflect on why you think this. Whose theories or evidence do you find the most convincing? Is it your own language learning experience? Your experience of teaching YLs? If you have any concrete examples (e.g. YLs you know or have taught who prove either point), try and describe them briefly. Try and compare your experience with that of colleagues, as opinions are bound to differ.

And finally in this section, it might be useful for you to explore and possibly question the key reasons why English is taught to Young Learners in your context? What kind of status does it have within the community?
What other advantages might it have/does it have?

1.5. Different countries, different needs: implications for course design

Although we will look in more detail at classroom activities, materials and course design in later units in the module, it might be enlightening, especially if your own experience is limited, to look ahead at some of the materials in Unit 8 and sample course outlines and syllabus plans given in Unit 10. They will give you some idea of the wide range available for Young Learners. Look specifically at the objectives given for the course or syllabus.

However, it is not only different countries that dictate a different reality. Within the same country, situations may well be different too. Consider the following situations:
Monica is 8 years old. She attends a local state school and is in her second year of primary school. This is the first time she is being taught English at school. She has two 30-minute lessons a week and her class teacher is also her English teacher. This teacher is a non-native speaker of English who has approximately First Certificate level English. English is a recent addition to the curriculum and the teacher has had no specific training in this area. However, she is a very experienced primary school teacher and believes that the learning of English is an excellent addition to the school programme. The classes consist of work related to the normal school curriculum and there are 25 students in the class.

Monica’s parents have also enrolled her in a local language school. She also has two lessons a week – 50 minutes each. The teacher has a degree in Engineering and the RSA/UCLES CELTA (previously CTEFLA) course where she was given a two-hour session on teaching Young Learners. However, she has been teaching YLs for many years and has a particular love for this kind of teaching. Classes are small (maximum 12) and the syllabus consists of following a popular EFL YLs book such as Stepping Stones.

While fictitious, both situations are fairly common in many countries. Both have their advantages and disadvantages as do all teaching situations. The point is not to judge them as good or bad but to consider their strengths and weaknesses. This last section should help you finalise a succinct description of your context.

Here are some teachers’ descriptions of their local contexts. As you read them, reflect on whether these are similar to contexts you are familiar with, and what the course goals might be for each.

“Whether you are running independent summer schools or courses which are part of a general year-round school you will find that the most typical short course for a younger student is likely to be for 2-3 weeks’ duration and to consist of a whole ‘language plus activity’ package tuition, full board accommodation and social programme. In general, classes will take place five mornings each week with sporting activities, cultural visits, excursions and social entertainment being offered in the afternoons, evening and at weekends.” (Richardson, 1998:7)

“Working with ESL children mainstreamed in English-speaking primary schools caused me to develop a curriculum for nursery-age children. The goal was to get the children integrated into the regular classroom, to further their skills and conceptual development.” (Lohff, 1997:12)

“Since 1983, eight and nine year old pupils at Austrian primary schools have been taught a foreign language, primarily English. Total teaching time during these two years amounts to about 60-70 lessons of 50 minutes each. The curriculum introduced in 1983 emphasises the practice of dialogues…” (Gerngross, 1993:6)

This final task provides useful preparation for the ‘professional context’ section of your assignment.


It is now time to put together all the reflection you have done so far on your own context. To help you do this economically, refer to Appendix B where an Italian teacher succinctly describes her own context. Following a similar format, describe your own context so that someone else would be able to understand it. You may have additional details that you wish to include, for example, the reasons why TYL was introduced.

You will notice that she includes information on the following areas:
- Whether learning a foreign language is optional or compulsory and since when
- how old the children are when they begin learning English
- the type of school she is describing
- who the teachers are and how they were trained
- frequency of lessons
- who trains the teachers and how the trainers were trained
- the basic outline of the training programme
You may not yet have information on some of these areas and/or you may feel that these are not areas of interest in your context. Even so, try and make some notes, no matter how informal, in case the issue becomes relevant later on in your research.


As an end to this unit, two readings in preparation for Unit 2:

i) In your articles file, you will find Children’s Explanations by Donaldson and Elliot (1990). There are many insights here for us as firstly teachers of Young Learners and secondly as teachers of ELT. Again, relate this to the YLs you know and have taught. Have you seen evidence of their conclusions? How relevant are their conclusions to your local context? This reading should form the basis for much of your later analysis of YL materials and classrooms.

ii) Read the article by Brewster in Brumfit et al (1991) pp 1-17. It succinctly outlines many of the key issues in teaching English to YLs. This is a further opportunity to reflect on and summarise your conclusions about the teaching of YLs in your context.

Abrahamsson, N. 1999. Review of David Birdsong’s (ed.): Second Language Acquisition and the Critical Period Hypothesis in Applied Linguistics, Volume 20, No. 14 Dec. 1999 (OUP) pp 571-575
Ariès, P. 1960. Centuries of Childhood. London: Pimlico edition – 1996
Brewster, J. 1991. What is good primary practice? In Brumfit C, Moon J and Tongue R (eds.) 1991. Teaching English to Children – From Practice to Principle. London: HarperCollins Publishers. Pp 1-17
Brewster, J., Ellis, G. & Girard, D. 1992. The Primary English Teacher’s
Guide. London: Penguin. Pp16-26
Brumfit, C. 1991a. Introduction: Teaching English to children. In Brumfit C, Moon, J and Tongue R (eds.) 1991. Teaching English to Children – From Practice to Principle. London: HarperCollins Publishers pp iv-viii
Brumfit, C. 1991b. Young Learners: Young Language. In Kennedy C. & Jarvis J. 1991. Ideas and Issues in Primary ELT. Edinburgh: Nelson. pp9-17
Brumfit C, Moon J and Tongue R (Eds.) 1991. Teaching English to Children From Practice to Principle: London: HarperCollins Publishers.
Curtain, H. & Pesola, C. 1994. 2nd edition. Languages and Children – Making the Match. New York: Longman
Donaldson, M. 1987. Children’s Minds. London: Fontana Press
Donaldson, M. & Elliot, A. 1990. Children’s Explanations. In Grieve, R. & Hughes, M. (eds.) 1990. Understanding Children .Oxford: Blackwell Publishers pp 26-50
Elliot, A. 1981. Child Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Ellis, G. 1991. Learning to Learn. In Brumfit C, Moon J and Tongue R (Eds.) Teaching English to Children – From Practice to Principle. London:
HarperCollins Publishers
Ellis, R. 1985. Understanding Second Language Acquisition. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Pp104-110
Ellis. R. 1997. Second Language Acquisition. Oxford: Oxford University
Freudenstein,R. 1990. Towards the Future. In 10th Anniversary Edition
of the IATEFL Young Learners Special Interest Group Newsletter
Frölich-Ward, L. 1991. Two lessons: five-year olds and seven-year-olds.
In Brumfit C, Moon J and Tongue R (Eds.) Teaching English to Children - From Practice to Principle: London: HarperCollins Publishers. pp97-10
Garvie, E. 1991. An integrative approach with young learners. In Brumfit C, Moon J and Tongue R (Eds.) Teaching English to Children - From Practice to Principle: London: HarperCollins Publishers. Pp115-126
Grieve, R. & Hughes, M. (eds.) 1990. Understanding Children. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers
Gerngross, G. 1993. Using Multi-sensory Techniques. Young Learners
Special Interest Group IATEFL No 11 March 1993
Johnson, J.S. and E.L. Newport, 1989. “Critical period effects in second language learning: The influence of maturational state on the acquisition of English as a second language.” Cognitive Psychology 21: 60-99.
Krashen, S.D., M.H. Long, and R.C. Scarcella. 1979. “Age, rate and eventual attainment in second language acquisition” TESOL Quarterly 13: 573-82
Halliwell, S. 1992. Teaching English in the Primary Classroom. Essex: Longman
Holt, J. 1984. How Children Learn. London: Penguin
Howatt, A.P.R. 1991. Teaching languages to young learners: patterns of history. In Brumfit C, Moon J and Tongue R (eds.) 1991. Teaching English to Children – From Practice to Principle. London: HarperCollins Publishers pp289-301
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Light, P., Sheldon, S. & Woodhead, M. (eds.). 1991. Learning to Think.
London: Routledge
Lohff, B. 1997. Teaching Young Children English as a Second Language.
Young Learners SIG Newsletter. Issue No.18, July 1997
Lucietto, S. 1993 Teaching English to Young Learners: the Italian Way to Teacher Training. Young Learners Special Interest Group. IATEFL. Issue No. 11 March 1993
Mohanty, A.K. 1994. Bilingualism in a Multicultural Society: Psycho-social and Pedagogic Implications Mysore India, Central Institute of Indian Languages – reviewed in TESOL Quarterly 1998: 775-780.
Mussen, P.H., Conger, J.J. & Kagan, J. 1979. Child Development and
Personality. New York: Harper & Row
Penfield, W. and Roberts. 1959. Speech and Brian Mechanisms. NewYork: Atheneum.
Phillips S. 1993. Young Learners. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Richardson, T. 1998. Effective Young Learner Courses. Young Learners
Special Interest Group. IATEFL. Spring 1998 Issue
Rixon,S. 2000. Young Learners of English, In Modern English Teacher. Vol. 9 No.4, Oct. 2000. Pp 5-10.
Szulc-Kurpaska.M. 1996. ELT in the Early Primary Curriculum. In Young
Learners Special Interest Group IATEFL. Summer 1996 Issue
Tough, J. 1991. Young children learning languages. In Brumfit C, Moon J and Tongue R (eds.) 1991. Teaching English to Children – From Practice to Principle. London: HarperCollins Publishers pp213-227
Williams, M. & Superfine, W. (eds) Pp14-36 1996, pp19-20, IATEFL SIG Newsletter Issue No.17, March 1997


An experienced YL teacher’s response to Task 2

Characteristics Five-year olds 8 year-olds 10 year-olds
Experience of formal tuition -no school readiness skills
-no experience of formal tuition – only in pre-school or kindergarten context which does not follow ‘formal’ tuition -some have had 2 years of primary school
-learning to read and to write, etc.
-some school readiness -complete or completing primary school
-4 years of formal education
-because of above, expectations with regards to teachers/learning, etc.
-awareness of how to behave
Knowledge of the world Limited – depends on home background Some but still mainly concerned to own reality More extensive – influenced by educational process/outside factors, etc.
Ability to read and write Not able to or beginning to learn Confident but for some still very much in the learning process Proficient


Teaching English to Young Learners: the Italian Way to Teacher Training – Sandra Lucietto ( IATEFL SIG Newsletter. No.11 March 1993)

From September 1992 the study of foreign language became compulsory in Italian primary schools for children from 3rd grade upwards (8 year olds). Four languages are involved: English, French, German and Spanish. About 8,000 mainstream primary teachers, who passed selective language tests, are currently acquiring foreign language teaching methodology in 100 hour INSET courses. These teachers are required to teach 6 classes of children, 3 hours per class per week.

Most trainers are primary teachers themselves with previous experience in teaching a foreign language to young learners, but with no experience as trainers; they accepted the job after a 5-day trainer training course.

In Trento the English teacher training course is run by a secondary school trainer who has planned sessions applying the methodology described by O’Brien in ELT Documents 110: Experience > Rationale > Observation > Trial > Integration (the E.R.O.T.I. model)