This essay is aimed at discovering possible paths to include the development of young learners’ social skills within their learning of English as a second language. Young learners are considered to be children between five and twelve years of age, in accordance with Cameron (2001, xi). The portfolio’s activities will be referred to through the essay by their number, e.g. ‘act.12’, and will serve to illustrate.
The idea of not limiting the teaching of English as a second language to just the aspects of English language and culture is not an innovative one, other attempts have been the ones forwarded by CLIL. However, this paper is not concerned about English language as a tool to learn other contents but social skills needed for children’s everyday lives.
Social skills’ foundations are laid down during infancy (Plummer, 2008, 21) and have an essential role not only in school success (McClelland and Morrison, 2003) but also in their lives, self-development, and ability to connect with others (Plummer, 2008, 23). They are known as well as interpersonal skills, which encompass behaviours such as positive interaction, negotiation and cooperation, together with sharing and respecting other children (McClelland and Morrison, 2003). Therefore, teachers as educators need to stress interaction in the classroom and seek for ways? of transferring social skills to children. So as to facilitate the child initiation and participation in social interactions some aspects have to be taken into account.
Creating the right atmosphere for the children to feel safe and supported is crucial; they need that sense of belonging (Whitebread & Coltman, 2008, 236). The teacher‘s role is then that of facilitator and helper. That atmosphere can be established by means of praising, songs, defining boundaries, or even the classroom layout. (Plummer, 2008, 35-36)
Praising students whenever they provide the right answer or accomplish a task they were asked to do (act. 1). Even when it is teachers’ duty to correct them, they have to avoid any possible offence (act.2). Positive feedback may be accompanied by appropriate reinforcement, e.g. edible (act.10), or tangible token (act. 6) (Fellows, …, 85).
Songs with repetition and movement make children feel comfortable, e.g. a welcome song (cf. act.1), which makes them relax, calms the atmosphere and makes them focus on what they are to do next. ((Whitebread & Coltman, 2008, 279-280).
“Children need to feel safe and secure both in themselves and in the group [and] this is provided by the boundaries that we operate within” (Whitebread & Coltman, 2008, 236). Teachers have to agree the rules with them and negotiate a “code of conduct” (Harmer, 2012, 158) including “not laughing at each other, everyone has turn, no speaking when someone else is speaking […]” (Harmer, 2012, 158).
Classroom layout also plays an important role as it may facilitate interaction between students and with the teacher as well. It has to be...