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Education in Early Years
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The key to understanding young children as they develop is observation. Observing children is important and require skills especially for educators of the children. Observation involves watching a child’s actions, behaviors and expressions. It is also about listening to children as they talk and checking their interactions. An observer may join in the children’s conversation and interactions. He should thus have an attitude of openness to the children’s learning agenda and approach them respectfully (Helm, 2010 pg 78). In most instances when an observer joins in the children conversation, he or she should expect questions from them. Observation is also important to assessing and planning on the best education methods for the children.
I undertook my observation on an 8-year-old pupil in St Anthony elementary school. An elementary school is an establishment where pupils receive the first compulsory education. The child’s name is Melinda Nadia. She is the daughter of our local pastor who happens to be a family friend. I requested him for the permission to observe her daughter. I explained to him that the information I obtain will assist him in planning development programs for her daughter. He accepted. The child knows me and explaining to her my intensions was not difficult. The idea that I will accompany her every day to school and be with her in all language classes seemed to impress her a lot. I also requested for permission from the principal in the school. The principals’ response was positive. I undertook an observation that lasted 250 minutes in a language class. I observed the instructions provided by the teachers and the response of Melinda in five 50 minutes classes.
Literature Review: Language or creative development
An observer should posses the patience and skills to observe the children. This is the fundamental role of each observer. A child needs training and everyday practice to progress in all areas of life (Smith, 1997, pg 102). An observer should therefore observe children with the intention of developing an adequate program for the training of the child. This is important for assessing a child’s progress or development. As an observer, I had to be alert to the child’s need to identify the unique quality that the child has in order to facilitate the best teaching and learning methods.
Theories of language acquisition
Human beings mostly acquire the capacity to recognize, produce and use words while still young. The language can be in two forms, vocal or sign. Several theories of acquiring language have been developed over the past years. The four common ones are Behaviorism, Mentalism, Cognition and Motherese. As children experience use of language, development of proficiency is naturally promoted.
Teachers face the task of evaluating linguistic competence of their children every now and then. Assessing linguistic competence of pupils has become an important issue that language teachers need to take seriously. Teachers must therefore know their pupils level of proficiency to develop ways of instructing them appropriately.
Organizations that desire to improve language competency have proposed that a linguistic competence indicator to be developed. There has been an effort to have a one set standard, used when making comparisons on language competency of different pupils hence enabling making of necessary adjustments where possible. Much progress towards this noble cause has been made. Language assessment falls in the field of applied linguistics. It focuses on the assessment of the first, second or other languages in learning institutions or in the work place. The assessment normally includes speaking, reading, listening, and writing skills.
One of the proven methods that when applied produce success is the use of proper curriculum and assessment of pupils taking languages. For instance, in many developing nations that learn English as foreign language, there is no clear guideline on how to teach this language. The curriculum is not assessed thus measurement of pupils progress is hampered. The role of assessment in teaching of any language cannot be over emphasized, for there to be clear and reliable information on a child’s progress. Research shows that for there to be success in the teaching of languages, teachers must take curriculum and assessment seriously. After analyzing the progress of the pupils, that is when teachers can modify the teaching approaches. Analysis of progress can be either formal or informal. Appropriate curriculum material should be used in order to have the desired results.
Other methods that have proved to be successful include the following: use of standardized assessment tools, these tests the proficiency or practical use of the language and the knowledge or theoretical understanding. Teachers should devise goals based on the curriculum. They should be able to motivate pupils, supervise them and evaluate in accordance to these goals. This should involve drafting the teaching plans with the pupil’s ability in mind. The teachers’ should know the background of the pupils since it greatly affects linguistic abilities of pupils. They should also consider the pupils interest and include pupil’s participation especially in planning or organization of teaching. The ideas that the pupils suggest and the knowledge of various languages including the skills should be used as a resource. The pupils must also be encouraged to create interest in the learning process. Use of the targeted language in the learning environment enables the children to spontaneously master the language.
Development and use of learning aids is also a necessary tool that can be incorporated in the learning process. Developing use of ICT as part of the tools used in teaching languages will improve the pupils’ interest in the learning process. Teachers should therefore put effort in evaluating opportunities, which might be available for use of ICT in teaching languages. Use of ICT encourages accessing of information stored in a variety of ways. Activities, which motivate communication not only in languages but also in all subjects, should be created. Since most pupils come from different backgrounds, multicultural perspective needs to be included when preparing and planning the teaching methods. Images, singing, art, music from the given languages need to be included in the learning process. This will make learning process will make it more enjoyable for the children. Use of poetry and literary skills will give the learning process the required positive experiences, the pupils will learn more and be able to retain even much more. With all this and the teacher being the best language model for the pupils, evaluating the pupil's language competence will be simplified.
Observation techniques are the inquiry or investigation of phenomena. There are two observation techniques. They include informal observation and formal observation. Informal observation is carried out when there is little knowledge about the person to be observed. On the other hand, if an observer has information about the child being observed, then formal observation may be carried out. In formal observation, the person who is being observed is asked a set of question. Since I had no information about Melinda, I selected informal observation. I was interested in creating a hypothesis that I could later analyze and test. In my case, I was interested in the behavior and interactions of Melinda. I observed her behavior and actions at a personal level.
My intension was to collect in-depth information about her that can assist her teachers and parents to develop a learning program for her. In the 50 minutes I had, I was watching her and listening to everything that she was saying. I kept on-the-spot notes in which I was adding every information that I was observing. For illustration, I could note that Melinda has entered the classroom and has greeted the teacher. This has caused disruption in the class for two minutes. Melinda has asked the teacher to clarify the difference between a cage and a gauge. Melinda is writing notes; she is speaking with the girl sitting next to her. At the same time, I was recording everything that was going on in the classroom using an audio tape. I did not take anything for granted. I was thorough and I noted even the trivial details.
Audio Recording of a Child’s Naturally Occurring Talk
The natural talk of a child is a great source of data in an observation exercise (Morrison, 1997 pg 241). I choose the audio recording since it captures everything and stores it for future reference. I used a portable digital cassette recorder, which I placed in sewn pocket at the back of Melinda’s bag. Each morning I would attach the microphone in the front neck opening around of her cardigan. I used a small clip to fasten the microphone to prevent it from coming off. Before every language lesson, I would turn the recorder on. Everyday I would make complete verbatim transcript of the conversation that Melinda had in her language class. The electronic recorder that I was using was of a high quality making almost every utterance that she makes to be clearly audible.
The word Ethics means character, pattern of behavior of an individual or a group or self-discipline (Fraser, 2002 pg 118). Therefore, the accepted code of conduct or values within the society is referred as ethics. Ethics is a natural part in the lives of children and in school; there are rules, which they adhere to on daily basis. The rules revolve around how the children deal with each other on a one on one basis. A pupil can have a bad reputation or a good one. The way a pupil conducts herself brings up the issue of ethical behavior. In my view, Melinda was always striving to show good behavior. I could not tell whether this was due to her awareness that I was watching or it was her normal behavior. However, I did not record her behaviors in a biased was, I kept my opinions to myself and recorded all her actions as they occurred. Ethical issues must begin with the way pupils behave in the school and extend to the entire community. Therefore, to decide whether a pupil is ethical or unethical, we should look into some rules that govern society at large or ethical customs.
Justification of the observation techniques used
I used the informal observation method, which involves a written description of everything that the child does. Every detail of the account of the child’s behavior is recorded in sequence as it takes place. This method is the most popular amongst observation methods since everything that an observer sees the child doing is recorded. Its advantages include the richness in details. Narrative method is based an all behaviors of the child. Most of the other methods focus on a particular behavior. An observer does not need any special training to perform his duties well. The context in which the behavior occurs is of great importance. The only disadvantage it has is that it requires a lot of time.
One of the lessons I learned from the observation is that teaching should not only comprise of delivering of information. Use of tools like teaching aid not only makes the learning process enjoyable but also enhances retention of knowledge (Smith, 1997 pg 211). The teachers used learning aids as a necessary tool, which they incorporated in the learning process. Use of ICT as part of the tools in teaching languages improved the pupils’ interest in the learning process. Use of ICT encourages accessing of information stored in a variety of ways. Activities, which motivate communication not only in the language being taught but also in other languages. Since most pupils in the classes come from different backgrounds, the teachers included multicultural perspective in the teaching methods. Images, singing, art, music from the given languages was included in the learning process.
This made the learning process more enjoyable for the children. Use of poetry and literary skills gave the learning process the required positive experiences. Active learning allows the pupils to listen to their teacher and respond accordingly (Spodek, 1990 pg 321). I observed that if one pupil responds, he instills a sense of confidence in the others. The other pupils will also try to respond thus making the learning process an interactive one. In the case of Melinda, I observed that she is not only an active child but also very bright. She only needs to be motivated to perform well. For instance, she is a type of pupil who will not answer the first question even if she knows the answer. She waits until someone answers the first question and then answers the rest. This shows that she is shy and needs a little motivation in order to do her best.
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