Unicorns and SuperMe! Home Designers! Underwater World! Race of Champions! The joy of learning, enthusiasm and creativity combined with fine motoric skills and digitalisation. The digital CV of first-grade language learners makes the development of language skills visible right from the start.

Starting language learning already in the first year of school at the age of six or seven is the result of a change in legislation and attitudes in Finland. From January 2020, early language education becomes part of the learning path for Finnish first- and second-graders.

Because playing and games are central activities for children in early childhood education and primary school, they are the cornerstones of early education and learning environments for foreign languages. This creates a playful and game-based classroom environment, in which children learn language while working together in language use situations that are natural for them. Pedagogically well-designed games are an important part of learning. Learning situations guide pupils towards learning outcomes and enable the assessment of skills.

-Our work as researchers, teachers of early language education and providers of teacher education have made the last two years busy but also extremely inspiring. In our research work we have developed a learning landscape that is based on playing and games to support the teaching arrangements of early language education. The landscape creates a strong foundation for the growth and development of language skills in the working environments of early language education,” say teacher trainers Merja Meriläinen and Maarika Piispanen from the Kokkola University Consortium Chydenius.

The theory behind the learning landscape includes a contextual–pedagogical model for learning process in early language learning, developed by Meriläinen and Piispanen. A learning process based on the model supports and deepens the learning of a new language in functional learning environments that are natural for children. The combination of learning situations and pedagogy enables learning through communication and interaction.

The planning of learning situations is guided by an awareness of the type and level of skills that are aimed for. This awareness also helps to select teaching methods that enable the development of multifaceted language skills.

-It is central for the model of early language learning process that language is processed in natural situations that support the child’s natural actions. In such situations, language is learnt as part of a learning entity or theme through vocabulary and activities that fit in the context. For example, the Home Designers learning module familiarises children with furniture in a creative and playful way by putting them into the role of interior designers. Through a four-phase learning process that develops and deepens their language skills, pupils learn vocabulary, design and furnish a room of their dreams and visit a house fair in which they act as presenters who demonstrate the most interesting features of their apartments,” Meriläinen and Piispanen describe.

What kind of competence do early learners achieve and demonstrate in this learning process? To find out, what better way to show the skills of young language learners than their personal digital CVs, where songs, games and natural situations for using language are saved as pictures, videos, podcasts and later as simple written texts.

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