March 20, 2017

Interviewing Affective Educators: Beatriz Siqueira



I met Beatriz when both of us were classmates studying Education at the Catholic University here in São Paulo. Since then, Beatriz has worked at several schools, including  Juan Uribe Ensino Afetivo, and has recently ventured to live in an amazing island off the Brazilian coast. There in Ilha Bela, Beatriz shares her time between her own English school for children, which is called Beatriz Siqueira - English for life, yoga classes for children, and her personal projects. Needless to say, I admire Beatriz both personally and professionally. Here is our interview!

Juan: I would like to thank you again for the lovely days I spent with you and your husband Jorge in the inspiring place you have on the beach. I have really enjoyed being with you and learning more about your work teaching young learners in the lovely area you have in your house. In our conversations I have notice your eyes shining when you talk about promoting the holistic growth of children. Could you please share what this is in your view and how you do it?

Beatriz: What I call holistic growth, or development is looking at the student as a whole, looking at everything the student is and brings with him/her when they come to my class. I happen to teach mostly kids, but it's the same with kids or adults. So, for example if the student comes to your class very angry because he/she just had an argument with his/her mother, this has somehow to be included in the class, or I might need a moment to deal with this before I start the class.  

Beatriz: I have to know,  as a teacher,  that the student's head is going to be on the argument at least for a while. Notice I'm giving a very simple example, but many times teachers don't do it or don't know how to deal with student's emotional issues, because they don't know how to deal with their own emotional issues. So in a deeper level, I'm taking about emotional education, which is something we, as professionals and persons,  don't know how to do because we didn't learn it in our education, at home, in school, or in university.

Juan: What changes have you noticed in your students'  thinking, talking, and doing as results of your educational approach? 

Beatriz: Some changes happen slowly and others very fast. Something that I always work on is expressing feelings. I encourage students to say how they feel when we have any kind of conflict in class, instead of saying this is right or that is wrong. In the long term, they start doing it not only in class, but also at home too and in other situations at school.

Juan: I saw pictures of you telling stories, creating scenarios, and living adventures in English with the children. How do you see the relationship between fantasy and language learning?

Beatriz: Fantasy is one of the ways we people express ourselves and for children fantasy lives very strongly. It's a pity that after kids grow a little and intellect grows stronger, regular schools abandon or decrease very considerably the work on stories and fantasy, and creative activities.  I believe fantasy never actually die in us, even as adults. So it is certainly one very rich way of learning that is very much ignored by traditional education. 

The more involved the student is in the activities, the better he or she can learn because it becomes something very meaningful. So fantasy should be part of the teaching/learning process as well as intelectual activities. 

Beatriz: I have to know as a teacher that the student's head is going to be on the argument at least for a while. Notice I'm giving a very simple example, but many times teacher don't do it or don't know how to deal with student's emotional issues, because they don't know how to deal with their own emocional issues. So in a deep level, I'm taking about emotional education, which is something we, as professionals and persons don't know how to do because we didn't learn it in our education, at home, in school or in university. Juan: What changes have you noticed in your students'  thinking, talking, and doing as results of your educational approach? 

Beatriz: Some changes happen slowly and others very fast. Something that I always work on is expressing feelings. I encourage students to say how they feel when we have any kind of conflict in class, instead of saying this or that is right or wrong. In a long term, they start doing it not only in class, but also at home too and in other situations in school.

Juan: One area that I am really interested in is creating the conditions for learners and teachers to be fully present when they are together as I believe this presence can not only boost learning, but also make it very memorable. I remember that you are mentioned having a minute of silence in the beginning of classes and that students really enjoy it. How did you start fostering mindfulness in your classes?

Beatriz: This is a very good start, to have a minute of silence in the beginning of classes. It makes them very present and children realise that. As a result, they start using silence in other moments of their lives, before they go to bed, before an exam. But the teacher must practice this as well, it has to make sense for the teacher, otherwise it will become an empty practice and the students will be the first to notice, it just won't make sense to them and it will definitely not work. 

Juan: I love when students talk about how they have progressed and are aware of how they learn best. How aware are your students about their own learning? 

Beatriz: Very much aware. This awareness gives the students a sense of responsibility in their on process ,which automatically makes them participate more actively. This is actually the "test" or "exam" I apply to them instead of giving them a grade.

Juan: What inspires you personally and professionally? Where do you get your ideas and energy from?

Beatriz: What inspires me the most is the change I see in my students and families. Working with kids means working with the whole family, and we as teacher should know the responsibility it entails. When I see how much English my students are learning, it makes me want to work more and more. Ideas and energy come from the interaction with students, the every day life, research, meditation, the awareness of my place in the world, my hobbies, my free time, vacation. These are things that nourish me.

Juan: Which message would you leave to teachers of young learners around the world?

Beatriz:  I'm going to quote B. K. S. Iyengar, an amazing Yoga master that left a great legacy to the world : "Teaching is a difficult art, but it is the best service you can do to humanity"

Juan: Thank you so much Beatriz for the lovely interview and congratulations on your amazing work! 

And here we celebrate one more interview that casts a light on how English can be learned affectively around the world. Do you know anybody that you think should be here in the blog? Let me know and I will interview this teacher! 

Hugs from Brazil, 

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Thank you! 

Interviewing Affective Educators: Claire Venables

I met Claire earlier this year when she wrote me asking about my courses in affective language learning. She had lots of questions and I could immediately notice she had a lot of energy and interest in learning more and expanding her understanding and her skills in teaching English to young learners.

It was with great excitement that I learned that Claire, who lives in Vitória, was coming to São Paulo to attend a Braz-Tesol seminar on a Saturday. We managed to get together, I gave Claire a tour of Juan Uribe Ensino Afetivo, and over lunch we talked about ways of promoting more teacher development opportunities for teachers of young learners.

Claire also agreed to share her experience being an Australian teacher of English to young learners in Brazil. Here is our interview!

Juan: You are Australian and Australia is really far. How did you end up coming to Brazil?

Claire: Love brought me here!!  It sounds corny but it’s true!  After living for over a decade in Spain, I moved with my family to Vitoria, ES in 2011.  It was really important for us to be closer to my partner’s family.

Juan: I know how that feels, Claire. I am very happy that I am back home after two years travelling around the world. But coming back to you, what were your first impressions concerning ELT here in Brazil?

A koala puppet engages kids to speak at circle time. 
Claire: Well, my first instinct when coming to Brazil was to apply for teaching positions at a private language academy.  Much to my dismay, the ‘escolas de inglês’ here in Vitoria were a huge disappointment.  It seemed that the only requirement to teach was to speak English fluently.  The lack of qualifications required was reflected in the rates of pay which were unacceptably low.  

I quickly changed tactics and began applying at schools that had or wanted English classes for kids.  I have several programmes running now as well as my own office where I coach adult learners, too.  It has been an incredible few years dedicated to honing my skills, experimenting with new methodology, researching, and reflecting.   

I guess the situation I found myself in forced me to go out on my own and that has been both professionally and financially very rewarding. The downside of this has been my separation from the teaching community.  I think I got a bad early impression of the ELT scene here and developed some misconceptions.  It’s only in the last 8 months that I have begun reaching out to other teachers and participating actively in some great online teaching communities.  Through these I have met some fantastic people who I learn from and am inspired by.

Juan: I understand what you say, many schools had a similar attitude towards teachers of young learners when I started teaching, but fortunately things have changed for the better in many schools. Let me ask you my third question: when did you first notice you would be an English teacher of young learners?  

Claire and a group at Na Brinca!
Claire: There are a lot of teachers in my family.  Early Childhood Education was a natural career choice for me I think.  I didn’t become interested in teaching English until working with ESL students at a high school in London.  That was when I became really interested in pursuing a career in TESOL.  I’ve taught students of all ages and levels since then but teaching Young Learners and now Very Young Learners are what I am most passionate about.

Juan: Tell us more about this passion, please.

Claire: Well, I think it comes from the autonomy I have to innovate, create, and teach in the way I truly believe in. The English immersion programme that I created for Na Brinca, a "brinquedoteca" in Vitoria is a great example of this. It incorporates elements from methodologies such as Reggio Emilia. CLIL (Content Language Integrated Learning) and PBL (Project Based Learning). Having the freedom to create and teach in this way is so rewarding. The response from the children and their families has been very positive and this fuels my passion for working with kids.

Juan: What do you stay fully present in your classes with young learners? 

Claire uses models healthy ways to talk to each other.

Claire: First of all, I make sure I’m looking after my physical and emotional health. Developing a self-care routine is essential for feeling healthy and happy. This allows me to have the right frame of mind for working with children. I try to make connections with my students every day on an individual and group level. One way I've done this is to include a special moment at the start of the class to give them positive affirmation individually. "You are kind, you are awesome, you are so helpful and brave. I am so happy you are in our group." I love the way they have started doing this more with each other too.  

Juan: I had the pleasure of showing you around my school. How do you incorporate the ideas that you see in other schools?  

Pictures taken at Juan Uribe Ensino Afetivo in São Paulo
Claire: There are many things that we learn from visiting other schools.  I loved seeing the way the classrooms were set up, the noticeboards, the presence of the students through the work which is displayed, however, the heart of a school for me is the staffroom.  You can tell a lot about the health of a work environment by examining the heart.  I not only loved the staffroom you have at your school, but also the way you talk about what takes place there and your pride in your teaching team.  It sounded like the kind of environment where teachers could learn from one another and develop together.  Fantastic!!

Juan: You have mentioned you feel there is a lack of professional development opportunities for teachers of young learners. What are the needs that you notice and how do you conceive this challenge can be tackled?  

Claire: I think a serious conversation about professional development for the Young Learner Teacher is well overdue.  Children across the world have begun learning English at an earlier age and Brazil is no exception.  This situation has led to an increased demand for YL teachers and, consequently, the need for additional training for teachers wishing to work in this specialized sector of ELT.   Now, I’m all for the learning of foreign languages at preschool, but I truly believe that a child can only benefit from an early start if that experience is an effective and affective one.   Luckily, most of the teachers That I have met who work with young children are VERY passionate and committed to their work. I have no doubt that these are the kinds of people who would really appreciate and benefit from more training opportunities. I am all for more courses that are both practical and cost effective as for many teachers, professional development is something they have to pursue and pay for themselves.

Juan: What are your plans for the future?

Creating, contributing, and connecting with YL teachers.
Claire: My mission this year is to create, contribute, and connect. Not surprisingly, I would like to devote more time to teacher training in 2017. I feel this is where I can make the biggest contribution at this stage of my career.  I am currently doing research into the developing YL teacher with the objective of designing a course which will cater to their needs.   

I’m also big into connecting with teachers and sharing ideas and projects and I hope to continue doing more of that through my blog, social media and the talks and workshops I give. This passion for helping others grow and develop has led me to becoming the Vice-President of a new Special Interest Group called Voices. We are part of BrazTesol and we work to promote and support gender equality in ELT. As you can see there is lots going on this year!  Hahaha! 

Juan: Please leave a message to our readers from around the world. 

So many magic moments when you are learning with children.
Claire: YL teaching is something you have to be very passionate about first and then invest in if you actually want to become good at it.  When you do, you will find children to be the most rewarding students you have ever had.  I would also encourage new and experienced teachers alike to remind those around you that our work is not a mere extension of mothering but rather an incredibly important job which will have a huge impact the lives of our students.  

Don’t be afraid to charge what you deserve for your work.  Passion does not pay the bills!

Juan: There is so much involved in teaching young learners. Agree that the work of teachers of young learners has to be valued and be better paid!

Juan: Thank you so much for this interview, Claire.

Claire: You're so welcome, Juan! It's always a pleasure to talk to you.

Juan:Happy to have one more lovely interview here in our blog!

Do you know anybody that you would like me to interview? It could be even yourself!

Sending you a big hug,

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Thank you!

June 07, 2016

Questions about Affective Language Learning

During the course that I recently gave, one of the last assignments I proposed the group was for teachers to write ten questions that they still had about affective language learning. My idea there was to spark teachers' curiosity about different aspects of affective language learning and to help them choose future paths of research. I was also very curious about which questions would come up as these would give me important course feedback as well let me understand a little about what was happening inside their minds. 

I was thrilled to read their questions and wanted already to start answering many of them. I am happy to share these interesting questions here with you. I am going to group them and my plan is to have them also as a list of areas that are important for me to address here in the blog. In other words, I am going to learn a lot based on my learners' curiosity. I feel great about it! 

Understanding the concept of affective language learning

Why didn't I hear about affective learning before?
What is the history of affective learning? When and where did it come from? 
Is there any research regarding affective language learning?
Has there been much research in to the effectiveness of affectiveness in the classroom?
How different / similar is it to building a good rapport with students? 

Is affective learning an approach / method? 
When did it start?  Where did it come from? How much is it related to psychology?
What is the relationship, if any, between affective learning and positive discipline?
Shouldn't all teaching be affective by nature? 
Aren't many teachers affective but they just don't know about it?
Is affective learning exactly the same as humanistic learning or are there any differences?
What's the difference between an affective and a humanistic language teacher?
Are there hard 'don'ts' in an affective learning approach? What are they?
Can I say that in the school I work we promote affective learning thru affective teaching skills?
Does affective language learning have any possible relation with positive reinforcement? 

Affective language learning and the curriculum 

Is there an affective language learning framework for lesson planing? 
How do I default to an affective style for planning a lesson for YL whenever possible?
Most course books are still organised around a grammar type syllabus if you produced an affective coursebook series for ESL how would you organise it?
How do I balance the dual and mostly opposite demands of affective learning planning, delivery vs. curriculum completion?
Is affective learning as we know it only applied to teaching a foreign language?

Affective language learning in the classroom

What are the 5 most important activities to implement in a classroom to show affective language learning?
Can affective learning help teachers involve new students joining the course late (after having built an affective kind of atmosphere in class) ?
Can affective learning be particularly helpful with certain skills (like speaking) or it's just a classroom management tool that generally helps set tasks and get the best of them ?
What are the best ways to carry out proper differentiation with slow and fast finishers according to affective learning?

How can affective language learning be applied to stop bullying?What to do to stop name-calling?
How do I make finding/identifying the moments in delivering a lesson when an affective approach would be the best?
What can you do when students get frustrated because they can't perform in the language?

Affective language learning and assessment

Should there always be evaluation in affective learning?
How do I assess learners when using an affective learning approach?
How can we use a Needs Analysis at the beginning of a course to decide what kind of affective learning we need to adopt?
How long does it take to see the result of affective language learning in students?
In compulsory education, would an affective learner fail his/her students or envisage doing without the pass/fail system?
How is affective learning perceived by parents?
How can we turn evaluation into an affective stage of the lesson too? I know that we cannot skip testing, so how do we make it affective too?
How do you counter the argument from the parent who says this is just lovey-dovey crap you need to be teaching my child grammar and how to pass tests!

Affective language learning around the world

How to go about showing affection without being able to speak their mother tongue?
How can affective learning help us get learners of different nationalities engaged in a course more?
Is affective learning included in the curriculum in any country?
Why most private language schools around the world are looking for native speakers (ONLY) and don´t care about affective language learning?

How popular is affective learning and where is practised, by who and in what kinds of environments and institutions? 
Is affective teaching embraced in many countries at a national level and integrated into the curriculum of all schools?
Education systems around the world are shifting towards more tests is this at odds with affective teaching?

Affective language learning and adults

How do I use affective learning with older YLs i.e 11+?
How would an affective teacher best deal with a teenager who rejects English altogether ---as I have found during my practicum?
How different can affective language learning be with adults ?
Is Dogme: Teaching Unplugged written by Thornbury and Meddins a adult version of teaching affectively?

Affective language learning and technology 

Is technology an appropriate tool to use in the affective classroom?
Where do reward systems such as Classdojo sit in an affective classroom?

Teacher development on affective language learning

Were we affective teachers before this course?
Speaking a language perfectly doesn't mean we are going to teach effectively, does it?
How can we feel the difference between an affective teacher from a regular teacher?
What might make some teachers better than others in affective language learning?
How can I motivate my co -workers to be affective teachers? by telling them? By acting like one?
How do you help teachers feel comfortable teaching affectively, in particular using puppets in the classroom? 
How can I create a training session on affective language learning? Which areas/ what kind of content? 

Wow, so many questions! 

How was it reading a post with only questions? 
Was there any that you wanted to start answering straight away? 
Would you like to add any other questions? 
Which ones would you like to answer first here in the blog? 

I would love to hear you! 

Sending you all a huge hug,

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Thank you! 

June 06, 2016

Teaching Young Learners Affectively

During the month of April I lived an amazing experience!
I gave my very first online course on Teaching Young Learners Affectively!

Everything started when Chuck Sandy kindly offered me to teach an online session on affective language learning at iTDi's Summer Intensive last August. I rapidly accepted it and got ready for my online debut. I was a little nervous at first, but slowly I got more and more comfortable with this means and I was overjoyed at the end. The marvellous feedback I got showed me that I had an opportunity to pursue!

Last December in talks with Barbara Sakamoto I told her I was interested in giving an advanced course on affective language learning. She agreed and we scheduled it for April of this year.

This was one of the banners used to promote my course:

I had four weeks to share my 20-year journey learning and discovering affective language learning with young learners and I decided on the following program:

Week 1: Introducing Affective Language Learning concepts to get you started. 
Week 2: Empowering resources for you and your learners to learn affectively.
Week 3: Unleashing creativity and fantasy through storytelling and puppeteering.
Week 4: Making grammar and writing enjoyable and meaningful.

We started advertising the course and slowly participants from many different countries started enrolling. In the end there were 31 participants from 13 countries. The countries were Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Egypt, Japan, Mexico, South Korea, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, United Kingdom, and the USA. Wow, what a privilege to be able to learn and share with such an audience!

Then the first day was getting closer and closer. In the previous week Steven Herder gave me a course on how to use the Adobe platform and also gave precious hints to make the course run smoothly. Here are some of these:

My computer was on boxes for me to be better on screen.

I had a lamp with a sheet of paper to difuse the light.

I had earphones to avoid echo.

I had all my slides printed in a list I had by my side.

Each session lasted an hour and sessions happened on Sunday mornings in Brazil and that worked fine as most participants could watch the session live without having to be awake in the middle of the night. Participants also the opportunity to watch the recording of the sessions or even watch these again to get more details.

This is the screen that I had in front of me while delivering the course. I had to manage time to cover all the planned content in one hour and also to keep an eye on the running chat box to comment on and answer the questions that were coming from the participants.

Affective learning has to do with responding to students' demands, so my challenge was set there!

I was very happy by the end of the first session that I even cheered on screen. Facebook feedback was also great. Then I was ready for the second component of every session: the google community forum. Every session I present three tasks from which students had to choose two to share their views on the forum. One of the first tasks was to take a picture that represented affective language learning for them. Their pictures and the motives were brilliant. Check some of these below:

One area that we had in the Adobe platform that I like very much is the lobby. The lobby is a customizable area where I welcomed participants while they were waiting for each session to start. 

One affective strategy that I used was to display there some of the pictures that participants had shared in the forum the previous week as a way to validate their work and celebrate our learning. 

I could clearly notice how teachers were excited to see their pictures in the lobby. I will certainly do this again in my next courses! 

Another important moment was circle time when we shared about what we had thought since the last session. It was also a great way to acknowledge the great work that was done in the discussion forums. 

Throughout the course we explored how to foster affective language learning through everyday objects, storytelling, and puppeteering. In the last session we focused on how to engage young learners in writing and grammar in meaningful and creative ways.

Participants also recorded lovely videos of how they would present puppets to their students. Here I would like to share here a special video made by Damien Herlihy from Thailand in which he even used chroma key. Check it out! 

Every week I had the most adorable time engaging in dialogue through the participants' discussion forum posts. There I was able to bond individually with each teacher validating their dedication and commenting on their ideas. A highlight were the puppets that teachers made and their sharing of how they introduced them to their students using the techniques learned in the course. 

The ending was a very special moment that I will always remember. We turned on our cameras and we were able to see each other around the world. Many of us got emotional, including me, and we were all very excited to celebrate these four intensive weeks in which we share our experiences, lives, and dreams. I feel that lots of the affective learning seeds are already germinating!!!

I am certainly going to give many more online courses as I simply loved this experience. I met lovely teachers all around the world, discovered online tools, and learned a lot about affective language learning.

I would like to thank iTDi for this amazing possibility and in special to Barbara, Steven, Chuck and Gareth for all the all the support and attention!

There are always great courses, given by passionate teachers, happening at iTDi .
Check here iTDi's advanced skills courses and choose the next one you will join!

Sending you all a big hug,

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Thank you!

May 25, 2016

Interviewing Affective Educators: Beatrix Price

Have you ever thought about going to a country and staying there just to learn from one particular person?   I thought about doing so as soon as I met Beatrix Price at IATEFL last year. I was already planning how long I was going to stay in Budapest, when I learned that Bea and I would be working together for two weeks. I could not believe it, I was so happy! I immediately wrote Bea and she was happy as well!!!

The two weeks were great and we were able to learn a lot from each other and enjoy each other's company having lots of tea. But I would not let her go without interviewing her first for our blog. 
Here is our interview!

Juan: Let’s get started. When did you discover that you wanted to become a language teacher?

Bea and I met at IATEFL in 2015.

Bea: That is a good question. When I was a child I wanted to be a kindergarten teacher because my mother was a kindergarten teacher. Then later when I went to school I still wanted to be a teacher and my desire had never changed. I was 14 or 15 when I first met English as a language and then I decided to become an English teacher. But as I grew up in a communist country, where it was impossible to learn English, it took me quite a long time to learn it, so only when I was twenty seven I finally started learning English. Before that I was a Russian teacher and a Hungarian literature teacher.

Juan: It is very interesting that you have mentioned that your mother was a kindergarten teacher. How did she influence you? Were there days that you would go with her to school?   

Bea: Unfortunately at that time it wasn’t possible to do this in Hungary. But somehow I picked up the abilities or skills to work with children.  And there was also another very important experience that I lived when I was a child. We lived very near the Croatian border and my parents had friends from Croatia. In fact, these were their best friends, so we visited them and they visited us very often and there was this constant contact between us. Unfortunately they didn’t have any children , so I didn’t get to learn Croatian fluently, but I always heard this other language in the background. My father was sort of the interpreter in the family as he told us where we were going and what we were going to do.  One fascinating thing that I discovered just a couple of years ago is that my mother didn’t speak any Croatian and  her friend didn’t speak any Hungarian and even so they were friends for thirty or forty years.  It was a wonderful experience to have so many holidays together. Now looking back, I recognize this communicative competence that is so important in the lives of language teachers and language learners.  

Juan: Wow, what a beautiful memory! It’s truly amazing how your mom and her friend were able to communicate.

Juan: I saw your presentation this year at IATEFL in Manchester and I was fascinated by the way you promote language learning while you play with children.  How important is affect when learning a language and how do you incorporate in your teaching?

Bea: We all know about  emotional intelligence nowadays because it has been a buzz word for years but if you just look at natural cultures and how mothers, grandmothers take care of their children, then we can learn a lot. You have to feel the children and children have to be at ease with you when you are teaching them, if they are afraid of the atmosphere or the situation, then learning doesn’t take place, but if they love what surrounds them, then learning will happen in a much more effective way.

Juan: How did you become an English teacher of young learners? 

Bea: About fifteen years ago and before that I had never thought I would end up becoming a teacher of young learners.  Life brought me this experience as my children are bilingual  (English/Hungarian) and I had to teach them together with other children who were in the same classes. So I had to discover a method, something that my children who already spoke English would be happy in the class, just as well the other children who came to learn English. So then I started searching for games that are global and multicultural, so I collected a lot of different activities that are played all over the world and that are enjoyed in different cultures, regardless of language, and then I added the language element to it.

Everybody was happy in my class all the time and then I saw how much the other children learned, those who came to learn English. They had a massive vocabulary through the rhymes, songs, poems,  and everything that we enjoyed doing together. Everybody knew it wasn’t about language learning, it was about having a great time together. I think it is so important for children to enjoy what they are doing because many times we adults impose our own will on them and then they end up not having much choice.

Juan: Could you tell us a little bit about your ten-house model?

Bea: When I did my masters’s degree I wrote my thesis on movement accompanied by language learning, and the ten houses were the skeleton for my thesis.  I also included Vigotsky’s and Krashen’s theories in my thesis.  The houses really go through the natural development of the child, when we imagine that the baby is born and the child is in the cradle, the first thoughts that the baby has are his own hands and fingers, and the baby looks up and starts playing with his own fingers. A little bit later when the children are a little bit older, mothers take the children and gets them in their laps and start playing with their palms, their fingers with ticklish games and all that those that belong to the children’s body. In previous cultures  there were no plastic toys and Disney films and other things to entertain the children, so mothers and their children would build very beautiful rapport and that’s how children started to learn language through this emotional bond.

So the first things are the finger games, which are not only important because the mother plays with them or children play on their own, but they are also very good for fine motor skills. And this is what educators nowadays neglect totally, because children grow up in front of screens, they only touch buttons or they are just watching something. Their fine and gross motor skills are not developed nowadays and children get clumsy to the point they can’t even climb trees.

The other activities in the ten-house model are those that children enjoy in social interaction such as  bean bag games, circle games,  skipping games, and string games. We can find these in every culture,and they are enjoyed by the children because they share. Social interaction is another very important element, because I think a lot of children lack social competence in our world because they are just interacting with cell phones. Playing together has another educational value in my system.

Finger games, bean bag games, string games, and circle games incorporate singing, which is very important. That's because singing is in a different sphere. And then when I take children through these activities that are always a  little bit more difficult for the children and they want to learn that skill that is very important for them as well. These manual skills are always a little bit higher than their actual competence, just as Krashen says that comprehensible input should just a slightly higher than the child’s language competence. In my model I put the skills competence, so they want to learn the language together as well.

These activities are always accompanied by authentic English nursery rhymes, songs, and verses,  so children can build a very big vocabulary doing these activities and then after a  while, they start being introduced to real poetry. So after a couple of years of teaching children through these rhymes, I introduce very simple authentic poems to and after this stage we learn in the realm of literature and that’s the finest stage in my learning curve, that’s the last house,  when I can already introduce authentic novels to these children obviously through graded readers or simplified versions or I myself make them accessible to them.

I think that children deserve to be introduced to Narnia in English when they are small as well as Robinson Crusoe, which is my other favourite book. These are all layers that are built one on top of the other.  I think that when we introduce literature, they will become readers, that’s another stage and then authentic learning takes place. And they are able to learn in English and look after their own language development.

Juan: Which advice do you give to teachers of young learners?

Bea and Anastasya sharing their storytelling board. 
Bea: Learn lots of songs and  look at mother goose nursery rhymes and choose the ones you will teach according to your taste. It’s most important that you teach according to what you like, just believe in something and teach through that. And children will love it because they can see you are enjoying it and you will love it too. I think we can never stop learning and learning children’s rhymes is not a childish thing. We can learn from each other and even nowadays meet other colleagues around the world and then share our treasure with them. We should not hide what we know, we should make it accessible to everybody.

When teaching children it is very important not to simplify the language, as when you look at natural language acquisition, when a child learns in her own environment, everybody speaks in full sentences with lots of language, and I think that in second language acquisition we should do the same, providing a lot of authentic language to children.  I try to do it in a rhythmic way  because rhythm carries language, specially in songs, chants, verses, and nursery rhymes that have this natural rhythm that lives in the child’s system or body. As a result children are introduced to a lot a language and they will deduct meaning from this rich language for themselves and that’s how language is built up. Not specifically taught to them saying that this is this and that is that, but allowing the child to recognize the words in the songs, in the verses, and in the poems.

Juan: You have given me this amazing rainbow string. Where did this idea come from and which other tricks do you have in your teaching?

Bea teaching Kasya the witch's story in Paris

Bea: First of all, I felt that as an adult I wasn’t able to learn any of the tricks, but fortunately I had a very good friend who knew many of these tricks. And he happened to drop in my English lessons and he didn’t speak any English and he enchanted the learners in a second. I was a little bit jealous and I wanted to learn those tricks too.

As I wanted to enchant the children as well, so I looked for my son's book on string games and I learned one trick which was a huge success.  It took me a long while to learn other tricks and the most interesting thing is that when I introduce it to children they just pick it up in seconds.

I only know three or four stories altogether and I see that storytelling with strings is amazing not only for children but for adults too. These are well known in many cultures such as in Turkey, Malaysia, Indonesia, in central Europe, Western Europe, well everywhere. So I encourage everybody to learn a couple of string games.

Juan: Being a very affective teacher educator, what do you consider important for teachers of young learners to experience in their preparation courses?

Bea: Well, it comes naturally to me it’s and it is also a very conscious process. I try to build very good rapport with my colleagues, I prefer to call them my colleagues instead of participants.  I like to draw their attention to the importance of being an educator as we we have a very big responsibility for the future generations. I see that teaching young learners has become a very big business around the world and we have the responsibility not to let children be harmed by all this business. As appropriate learning is very important, we have to see who our learners are, language teaching ought to be almost like a therapy for children with lots of singing and lots of good things. 

Juan: Do you have a favourite quote to finish our interview? 

Bea: We only remember 10% of what we hear, we remember 40% of what we see, and we remember 90% of what we are involved with.

Juan: Anything else you would like to say? 

Bea: I love you Juan and Buddy too!

Juan: Me too!  

Wow, what an amazing interview with Bea!

Would you like me to interview any teacher in special?
Let me know and then I will get in touch with this person and give it a try!

Sending you all a big hug,


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