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Young Learners : step by step
on the road to autonomy
Pierre Pinet
- 1

Foreign language learning has been part of the French primary syllabus for the last five years. All 8 to 11 year-olds are concerned, 80% of them choosing English. The Communicative Approach is adopted with an emphasis on oral skills.

Many teachers feel obliged to “flood” the classroom with speech and the result is learner confusion: too much can be counterproductive. A regular “dripping tap” together with a lot of feedback is more coherent in primary school life (two 45-minute periods a week): the clearer the signposts guiding the learner, the quicker he progresses on the road to autonomy.

The teacher needs to think long and hard about the progression of a lesson so that his learners feel comfortable and step from the easy to the difficult, from the known to the unknown. Out of respect for official recommendations, he should also keep in mind a few principles:

- teach communicative language to be used in a limited number of daily situations and use target language only in class.

- learning should be student-centred, make sense, lead to active participation, encourage interaction, develop mutual listening and aid.

- activities should be varied and link learning to doing, language to action.

- to help students learn , teachers should use a multi-sensorial approach : little by little students are led to recognize, understand and use target language.

- the teacher should consider himself as a facilitator, a mediator.

- to avoid cognitive overload, the contents should be introduced as gradually as possible with equal attention given to understanding and producing questions and answers.

Taking into account the students’ feelings throughout the lesson is also a major point which should lead the teacher to structure his lesson like a “pedag-logical funnel” - see diagram below:

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