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Article: Helping My Child with English at Home

29 Nov 2019 General, Preschool, Preparatory and College

As the most widely spoken language, becoming fluent in English has become a sought-after and essential skill around our increasingly interconnected world. Parents hoping to provide the best education for their children often seek schools instructing in English to best prepare them for the competitive future ahead.  At home, however, some parents can struggle to engage, inspire or help to develop the English ability of their children. 

English lesson at Mount Kelly

Listening

In the early stages of language acquisition and development, children listen to sounds and identify links to real-world objects. From my experience, I have found that the most efficient way to develop the language of children learning English as a second language is to immerse them in an English speaking environment. Over time, children begin to make links between what they hear and what they have seen. At home, non-native parents of children should encourage educational TV and movies. Platforms such as YouTube or Netflix offer a wide range of videos that can help reinforce the English language. Parents who make time to provide additional exposure to English can help to rapidly develop and enhance the English skills of their child. 

Students debating at Mount Kelly School Hong Kong

Speaking

One aspect that parents can forget when developing language at home is the importance of speaking. From my experience as a teacher, I have found that all pupils perform their best writing and complete their best work when they have had a chance to discuss ideas and knowledge with one another before beginning a task. As adults, we can sometimes find a concept difficult to comprehend until we have discussed our understanding with someone. This is equally true for children. It is important for teachers to encourage speaking and listening in all lessons as well as during class performances or end of term plays. Frequent singing sessions are also beneficial to develop oracy in children. At home, parents of EAL (English as an Additional Language)children can invite English-speaking children on playdates to help their child develop their language skills or enrol their child in an extracurricular club or activity that involves speaking such as a theatre or singing group. 

Students at the Mount Kelly School Library

Reading

As a teacher, I always encourage a love for reading in my classroom and I accomplish this in a variety of ways that are appropriate in school and at home. Shared reading is an activity which allows children to access challenging books as teachers read aloud to the children and encourage a dialogue to assess the children’s understanding. It is vitally important in shared reading to select books that engage the age of the child but includes new vocabulary and concepts to develop the child’s knowledge. Parents of EAL children should not underestimate the value of reading to children. If an adult is not confident in the English language, there are a variety of brilliant websites such as oxfordowl.co.uk which include interactive and audio ebooks. When children progress in their reading ability, parents should supplement this shared reading with one-to-one reading where their child can read aloud to them. Teachers should send home a reading book which is appropriate for the child to read. Parents should frequently question their child’s understanding to ensure they comprehend the text that they are reading. It is vitally important that children can get meaning from a text as reading for meaning is the reason for developing this life skill. Some parents who struggle with English may find this intimidating but asking your child to translate a text to your native language or helping them to find the meaning of unknown words in a dictionary is a great way to develop their understanding. 

Writing stories

Writing

Writing can be used in conjunction with engaging texts to encourage children to develop grammatical skills and enhance their vocabulary. Linking writing tasks to texts is a brilliant way to engage children in writing. Throughout my years as a primary teacher, I’ve helped children to write instructions to direct a pirate across a desert island, create their own advertisement for multi-flavoured chewing gum and guided them to imagine how a gladiator would feel when writing in his diary before a big battle in the colosseum. All of which have been supported by engaging children’s texts. Being creative and developing a writing voice encourages children to articulate their ideas and structure their thoughts, creating more articulate and coherent language. At home, parents can encourage this with their own writing tasks. Ensuring children have a purpose for writing often encourages their best work. For instance, encourage your child to write a diary during a school holiday, write a letter to a company to reduce their plastic use or write their sibling instructions for their favourite computer game. 

English learning at Mount Kelly School Hong Kong

English Language Development at Mount Kelly

At Mount Kelly School Hong Kong, we recognise the importance of developing the four essential core areas of English development: listening, speaking, reading and writing from an early age. All children develop skills to read and write through our daily systematic synthetic phonics programme, become confident in comprehending and discussing books within grouped guided reading sessions and develop a writing voice within our English writing lessons. We encourage strong parent partnerships by sending age and ability appropriate books home for children to enjoy and consistently share updates from our classes so parents can talk and learn from their child about what they have learnt.  All of our activities in our school help to build on a child’s English skills which are consistently encouraged and developed in every subject, in every lesson throughout the school day. 

Written by Richard Tinning, English Leader at Mount Kelly School Hong Kong

 


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