Education Insight| Optimising Conditions for English Classes

The mastery of a language is an exciting journey of discovery that comes with lifelong benefits. Optimising conditions for language learning is the prerequisite for easier language acquisition.

In this article, we will focus on the conditions needed for language acquisition and the English teaching strategies used to satisfy them.

Language acquisition occurs when input is comprehensible, engaging and challenging, and delivered in low anxiety learning environments.

Comprehensible

Language acquisition occurs with the help of certain contexts by which children can understand and practice new languages. To add a context at the beginning stage of English learning, teachers provide customised guidance and assistance to pupils as tailored to their individual needs. For instance, teachers might add context linguistically by grading speech and using Chinese translations, or add context non-linguistically through using gestures, images, sounds and objects.

Input needs to be engaging and challenging

English learning materials need to be both engaging and challenging. Engaging content focuses pupils’ attention and increases their motivation by inspiring them to engage in a more active manner, while challenging content helps form new neurological connections that stimulate their learning potential to achieve advanced language acquisition.

Input needs to be received in low-anxiety learning environments

Studies show that one’s learning initiative and self-esteem increase in a relaxing learning environment and decrease in an anxiety-inducing one. Creating a relaxing learning environment is therefore undoubtedly beneficial to language acquisition. However, it must be noted that some teaching practices can increase anxiety for learners and should be avoided in teaching, including pressuring pupils to speak before they feel ready, constantly correcting errors in free speech and failing to provide the support they need to participate.

These three conditions inspire us to apply the following effective teaching strategies for English learners.

1. Using images

Teachers can use images to introduce new English vocabulary so pupils learn to understand their meaning by classifying them, comparing them and identifying their causal relations. In this process, reinforcing contexts helps pupils deepen their understanding and memory of the vocabulary.

2.Using story maps and emotion maps

Story maps and emotion maps help engage pupils in learning so they can learn through cooperation and interaction. A teacher’s guidance and assistance in this process will further advance their learning.

3.Develop understanding through listening activities

Listening is fundamental to language learning. By practising English riddles and reading aloud, pupils’ listening improves along with their understanding of the context.

4.Learn vocabulary and sentence structures through game play

Developing language through game play, such as vocabulary in series and card-matching, inspires pupils to find joy in knowledge and engage more with the material at hand. It serves to foster learning interests and lifelong learning capabilities.

Effective teaching strategies allow teachers to offer comprehensible input that is engaging and challenging in low-anxiety learning environments. We provide an immersive language learning environment at Huili School Hangzhou and allow our pupils to develop their cross-cultural and cross-lingual thinking. We hope our Huili pupils grow into bilingual talents who can follow the trends of the times.