The One World approach to teaching a second language is primarily communicative in nature. We follow a “natural approach” to language teaching much like when we first acquired our primary language. Our pedagogy is based on Noam Chomsky’s theory of language acquisition. We agree with Chomsky that humans learn language by observing and memorizing through repetition.
Therefore, we have developed a gradual “step by step” approach to language learning that eases children into acquiring a second language much like they acquired their first language. This involves a lot of language exposure and repetition in a variety of ways in the initial stages of language learning. We use immersion in our puppet skits. The puppets speak only in the target language. It is natural for students not to understand every word, but through the use of visuals, context, body language, and facial expression meaning is transmitted. Colorful visuals and manipulatives are used to capture the students attention. The participatory nature of our skits, allows students to remain engaged in the learning process as they begin the process of language acquisition through repeated language exposure.
We believe in making language learning as much fun as it can be, and have found it helpful to employ a game based approach to achieve this! We ensure that children are secure in their understanding before we transition from language acquisition into testing comprehension. Usually during the course of the first lesson, teachers will ask students for one word (e.g. “yes” or “no”) or non-verbal responses to ensure comprehension is achieved. At this stage our teachers also incorporate TPR (total physical response) activities, which involve listening, watching, and imitating. This appeals to visual, auditory, as well as kinesthetic learners. This holistic approach is also infused into our vocabulary and pattern games, which follow the comprehension stage. Comprehensible input is employed in active games to entice children to speak. Ultimately, we aim for full communication as we teach children exchanges of sentence patterns and questions. We believe that children are capable of full communication rather than simply responding with “one word” answers.
Noam Chomsky’s theory of universal grammar also corresponds to our practice of introducing grammar in context rather than as a separate concept. We begin by teaching comprehension, and progress to oral communication through the procurement of vocabulary and patterns from grades Pre-K to 2nd. For students in grades 3 to 6 we add reading and then writing to their repertoire of language acquisition. Only once language patterns have been solidly established in context, and students begin to ask about grammatical patterns do we introduce formal grammar lessons in grades 7 and up. In short, we believe that humans have an innate ability to learn language as well as a fundamental understanding of the underlying mechanisms of language (i.e. grammar).
Ultimately, it is our goal to teach children real language and culture to allow them to feel comfortable as they figuratively and sometimes physically travel to their target language country. We use age appropriate language and as they mature their language evolves. We do not teach them to speak as “little adults”, but use the precise language a child their age would use in the target language country. Over the years their own language evolves as they transition from child to teenage language. We capture their interest and attention by teaching content that is relevant to them as children as we take advantage of their natural ability to acquire a second language at a young age.
We find our method of teaching a second language to be impactful on students. We have had many children to go on and have great success learning another language at the middle school, high school level, and collegiate levels.