Methodology and pedagogic principles

Principles relating to learning goals and taught content

During early foreign language learning the child should be approached holistically and with due regard for his or her fundamental needs. Phases of intensive work on the new language and culture should be interspersed with ‘rest’ phases giving space for reflection and for development of powers of concentration as well as for the satisfaction of the child’s motoric needs.

The principles listed below involve factors that govern the course of classroom teaching, and to this extent reprise aspects of the preceding chapters. These principles – considered individually – are all of equal importance in determining the success of an early start in foreign languages.
    • Learning must be centred on the child.
    • Early years practitioners and school teachers must know and take account of the children’s individual physical and sensory learning needs, thereby ensuring that benefit accrues from the foreign language programme to the child’s emotional, social and motoric competences.
    • Goals, topics, content and learning types should be defined in such a way as to have relevance to the child’s life horizons and experience. They should have a straightforward meaning and application in the child’s everyday world.
    • As appropriate in the light of the child’s developmental stage, heard and spoken language is the principal learning focus, especially in the initial phases.
    • In pre-school and in the early years of primary school, reading and writing should be introduced on a phased basis and little by little. Reception takes precedence over production, understanding over speaking, speaking over writing. There should be no attempt – or as little as possible – to make children aware of structures.
    • Language proficiency should be built up in a spiral progression.
    • Concepts that associate language learning closely with the transmission of content will permit greater openness in the types of teaching used, e.g. cross-subject learning.

      Principles relating to interaction in the learning group

      • Children should make allowance for the levels of individual progress within a group and develop mutual respect.
      • In the teaching process, children should have a voice in the setting of tasks.
      • Within the group they should support each other during communication.

        Principles relating to teaching procedures

        • The learning processes of young learners of foreign languages should be play- and action-oriented.
        • Rules and relationships should be recognised by the learners in examples, imitated and in some circumstances independently discovered (inductive or discovery learning).
        • During all phases of teaching, the maximum possible number of different learning channels should be utilised so as to offer each learning type the optimal framework (multisensory/holistic learning by hearing, seeing, touching, smelling, reading, moving, speaking, writing, drawing).
        • Learning processes should be facilitated by means of examples and illustrations; in task-setting, preferential setting of small-step and internally discriminating tasks supports the understanding-and-applying process.
        • Frequent changes of social format (independent work, partner work, small-group and large-group work) and of teaching type (‘workstation learning’, learning scenarios, project work) ensures variety, thus keeping up interest and concentration.
        • Differing methodologies (Total Physical Response, Narrative Approach method or similar) should be applied according to goals and content, and – when the learning situation permits – combined with one another.
        • In the early foreign language programme, the child is not exhorted to speak, but begins by listening, then understanding and absorbing, and may often let a considerable time pass before eventually reacting by e.g. imitating individual words from the foreign language or inserting them into sentences in the mother tongue.
        • The practitioner or teacher as far as possible uses the foreign language exclusively; however, when addressed by the children in the mother tongue the teacher indicates that he or she has understood. The overriding principle of early foreign language teaching may be taken to be ‘as much foreign language as possible, and as little mother tongue as is needed’.
        • The teacher should possess an exact knowledge of the previous language-learning experience of the learners, should take account of the individual multilingual ability – or total language resources, as applicable – of individual learners, and should make use of these circumstances in the teaching, where possible.
        • In favourable situations, occasional child-appropriate indication of analogies to or differences from the mother tongue – or even perhaps to other languages in the child’s environment – may foster the child learner’s linguistic awareness.
        • The teacher should give immediate feedback on the success or otherwise of a learner’s contribution in class; positive reinforcement has a particularly strong motivating effect.
        • Errors are a normal element in the process of developing language proficiency, and can be picked up by way of feedback strategies.
        • Oral language production in progress must not be interrupted by corrections.

          Principles relating to the learning atmosphere and physical environment

          • The teacher ensures a child-friendly, relaxed, unafraid atmosphere that at the same time offers stimulus and a challenge, and increases willingness to join in.
          • Wherever possible, the foreign languages programme should take place in a long-term unchanged learning environment, e.g. always in the same room or the same learning corner, so as to ensure favourable physical circumstances for encouraging the children’s attentiveness and concentration.
          • The physical environment for learning should be laid out in such a way that materials and equipment required are readily accessible and usable, so that the even tenor of learning is not disturbed and neither children nor professionals cause needless fuss or disruption during normal everyday work.
          • Clear structures in e.g. time-planning, in particular rituals or classroom seating order – things which can easily be made mere routine, e.g. by means of lables and verbal agreements – have the function of automating learning processes, and meet the child’s need for an element of routine.

            Principles relating to learning materials and the use of media in learning

            • Media (particularly ‘new media’) should be deployed in a targeted and considered way, and for limited periods of time.
            • The use of authentic media and materials (rhymes, songs, stories, children’s books, posters and comparable visual material, television programmes, films) imparts linguistic and cultural content simultaneously.
            • In addition to imparting linguistic and cultural content, learning materials should also allow the experience of a sustainable contact with the environment.

              So that the holistic development of the child is kept constantly in view during language learning, the methodology and pedagogic principles outlined above should be applied, with discretion according to the current learning situation.

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