An Early Childhood Education English Language Essay

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Choose and examine an issue or trend that has current significance in early childhood education. Discuss the main arguments and theoretical problems posed in this trend or issue. Relate how this issue or trend impacts on early childhood at your local level. Discuss how you plan to address the challenges this topic presents to you in your local setting and how you will advocate your position in the broader arena of early childhood.

The marking guide on the following page indicates the relative emphasis of aspects that should be addressed in your review. It must be attached to the front of the body of your assignment.

1 Evidence of independent research and reading/scope of literature /20

1.1 Focus and/or question clearly articulated /4

1.2 Depth of included literature /4

1.3 Breadth of included literature /4

1.4 Current, primary references /4

1.5 Literature both described & critically reviewed /4

 Demonstrated ability to identify and analyse influences in early childhood, highlighting theoretical problems and presenting a logical analysis /25

2.1 Relevance of chosen focus and/or question clearly articulated /5

2.2 Chosen topic clearly situated in the context of Early Childhood /5

2.3 Demonstrates a solid understanding of Early Childhood theory /5

2.4 Children and children's issues presented morally, ethically, and respectfully /5

2.5 Explicitly articulates future directions & vision /5

3 APA referencing, acknowledgment of source material/bibliography, academic writing style


3.1 APA in-text referencing /3

3.2 APA end-text referencing /3

3.3 Intro, Body, Conclusion /3

3.4 Central thread throughout /3

3.5 Free from grammatical, spelling, and other errors /3

I would think professional conversations, personal communications and/or observations would be appropriate

Select studies which relate most directly to the problem that you are investigating.

This point may be obvious but your study will be facilitated if you have clearly and specifically focused on a particular problem. For example, if you are studying in the area of early literacy, what exactly are you trying to establish? Literature in the area is vast and a review must clearly state the dimensions of the search and a definition of the area being examined.

Make clear links between the results of the various studies.

Take care not to report the results of various studies by listing them one after the other. The idea is to collect papers on the basis of the way they have looked at a particular problem and then to criticise them as a cluster. You then move on to another cluster of papers and make clear links between how one group has handled the problem and how another group has differed or challenged the methods of the first and so on. A compendium of seemingly unrelated references in paragraph form will not receive approval from any reader. Your literature review must spell out what has been established about a topic to date, how and why this was done, and what gaps or deficiencies remain to be pursued. Looking for gaps and silences in the literature is a key part of your work.

When conflicting findings are found across studies in an area, carefully examine the findings and the explanations of these findings.

These situations are not unusual. You can use them to highlight the complexity of the problem. Often, in these circumstances, you would be wise to consider carefully the philosophical orientations of the writers concerned and point out any differences. Don't be afraid to challenge findings or to criticise writers for not making clear the assumptions on which they built their studies or the limitations of the results they present.

Set out an argument on how the literature appears incomplete or requires extension in a particular way.

By the time you are finished reading papers on the topic which you are studying, you should be in a strong position to explain any strengths and shortcomings of the works to date and target the aspects of the topic which need further attention.

Information from the literature must be properly referenced, but do not make your review a series of quotations.

Be careful in choosing direct quotations. These should be included when they capture exactly the issue or point which you are trying to expose. In most circumstances you should be able to describe in your own words what the issues are and how the findings have unfolded. Too many quotations interrupt the flow of a literature review and are not deemed to be a strength. Rather, they can be an indication that the writer has not fully synthesised the ideas and orientations coming from the variety of papers in question.

The review should be organised according to the major dimensions of the problem being investigated.

Normally, literature in a review is not presented chronologically (although in some cases chronological presentations are suitable). A chronological presentation may make the reader's task difficult because the relevance and continuity of the studies done in an area may be difficult to establish. Even in historical studies, you would be wise to consider tracking what has been said and done about a particular part of a problem over the periods in question and then consider the key ideas which prevailed at particular times and how these influenced the writings and investigations.

Before completing a review give the reader some indication of the relative importance of results from the studies reviewed.

Some synopsis of how some results rather than others have more bearing on the problem you are studying should be made. Certain authors may have dominated the advance of knowledge and understanding about your particular area and this should be recognised.

Provide a summary of the most important points at the close of your review.

An indicator of an effective reviewer is strength in selecting information pertinent to the problem and tying it together in such a way that a clear and accurate background to the problem is presented. A succinct summary closing your review will assist the reader to gain a clear picture of the key issues, and the way forward from this point.



Second-language acquisition in early childhood is the main concern for teachers in international preschools around the world. Despite teaching arts, crafts, maths, sports and a variety of other subjects, the main function of an international preschool is to give the child the chance to learn English. Having worked in an international school in Tokyo for 3 years, this topic is one that I have had plenty of time to consider. To give you an idea of how important learning English is in international preschools, below is a sample of preschools in Tokyo and what they emphasise to prospective parents

Tskuba International Preschool

Provides a full-time English-based learning program for children aged 3 to 5 years old. Our hands-on curriculum has been designed to nurture the growth of the whole child as we prepare them for an English-based international elementary school life.

New Hope International Preschool

English Is the Primary Language! Children experience language and culture first hand from teachers and other students.

Children's Garden International Preschool

Target group: Bilingual/Multilingual children with one English speaking parent in the home

DoReMi Garden Preschool, International

100% English curriculum program, all nationalities accepted

Gregg International School

17 nationalities; instruction in English

Sesame International Preschool

Co-ed English instruction pre-school, all nationalities welcome ."Mommy and Me" classes for starting English

This is just a selection of the preschools in Tokyo. A more comprehensive list can be found via the website listed in the reference section.

In this report I will outline second language acquisition theories, the stages a language learner goes through, identify some of the issues surrounding how we learn second languages and explain why this is important for preschoolers and teachers in international schools. Finally I will offer recommendations on how to overcome any challenges that this topic presents.


Larsen-Freeman and Long (1991) state that at least forty theories of second language acquisition have been proposed. I will look at the theories I believe have a bigger impact on early childhood learners.


This theory was proposed by Schumann (1978) He observed that the student who acquired the least amount of English was the one who was the most socially and psychologically distant from the target language group

Comprehension hypothesis

According to Krashen (1985), the comprehension hypothesis is closely related to other hypotheses. The comprehension hypothesis refers to subconscious acquisition, not conscious learning. The result of providing learners with comprehensible input is the emergence of grammatical structure in a predictable order. A strong affective filter (e.g. high anxiety) will prevent input from reaching those parts of the brain that promote language acquisition.

Output hypothesis

Swain (1985, 1995) argues against Krashen's position towards the role of input and argues in favour of the output hypothesis. She believes that practising language helps learners observe their own

production, which is essential to second language acquisition. She explains that learners may notice a gap between what they want to say and what they can say, leading them to recognize what they do not know. She highlights that 'noticing' is essential to second language acquisition and that learners may output just to see what works and what does not. They then reflect upon the language they produce when negotiating meaning because the content of negotiation is the relation between the meaning they are trying to express and the language form.

Interaction hypothesis

Hatch (1978) believes that a student learns how to do conversation, learns how to interact verbally, and out of this interaction syntactic structures are developed. This theory counters against Krashen`s theory.

Sociocultural theory

The sociocultural theory presented by Mitchell and Myles, (2004) states that language learning is a socially mediated process. From a social-cultural perspective, children's early language learning arises from processes of meaning-making in collaborative activity with other members of a given culture. It is in the social world that the language learners observe others using language and imitate them. It is

also with the collaboration of other social actors that learners move from one stage to another.


Krashen & Terrell, (1983) identified 5 stages a second language learner will go through before they `acquire` their second language.

Stage I, Pre-Production (Silent/Receptive Stage)

Students are developing survival vocabulary, following demonstrated directions, playing basic games, and becoming comfortable with classroom life. They begin to understand what is being spoken to them, acquire a passive vocabulary (words that students recognizes, but cannot use yet), and respond to things non verbally. When communicating with a student at this stage teachers often use gestures, pictures, props and body language,

Stage II, Early Production

Students understand the main idea of what is being communicated, but may not understand every word. They will begin to respond in small word groupings and answer yes / no and cognitively undemanding questions that require the repetition of no more than one word (i.e. Would you like the black or white car? "black"). Mispronounced words are quite normal but there is no need for correction provided the listener can understand what is being said. New vocabulary needs to be introduced at this time while continuing to practice previously learned vocabulary. Students must hear the word in context before they will feel comfortable using it themselves.

Stage III - Speech Emergence

During this stage there is a change from reception to production. Students begin using simple sentences, improving pronunciation and intonation, and demonstrating and expanding vocabulary. They engage in relatively familiar language and tasks. Again, if the speaker is understandable there is no need to correct them on pronunciation. Language tasks that students can do include: 1. greetings/leave-takings, 2. requesting information/assistance, 3. giving information/assistance, 4. describing, and 5. expressing feelings.

Stage IV - Intermediate Fluency

At this level students are developing higher vocabulary. They are beginning to think in the new language instead of translating from the native language. They begin to use longer sentences and more elaborate speech patterns though they may continue to make errors in the use of new vocabulary and complex grammatical structures. At this stage students can make models, maps charts, graphs, solve computational and word math problems assisted by manipulatives and illustrations, participate in discussions, can make brief oral presentations, can use higher order comprehension skills, understand written texts through discussions, illustrations and visuals, write simple reports and answer higher level questions.

Stage V - Advanced Fluency At this stage students understand most (but not all) academic presentations without visuals or demonstrations, use higher level reading comprehension skills , read for information, write essays and research projects, solves math word problems without illustrations, and write answers to higher level questions. They can also take standardized achievement tests successfully. The students level is similar to that of a native speaker.

(adapted from


Having outlined the main theories and stages of language acquisition I will briefly look at some other factors that play a part in second language learning.

The first of these is age. A popular theory proposed by Lenneberg (1967) is his Critical Period Hypothesis. He states that,

"Between the ages of two and three years language emerges by an interaction of maturation and self-programmed learning. Between the ages of three and the early teens the possibility for primary language acquisition constitutes to be good; the individual appears to be most sensitive to stimuli at this time and to preserve some innate flexibility for the organization of brain functions to carry out the complex integration of sub-processes necessary for the smooth elaboration of speech and language. After puberty, the ability for self-organization and adjustment to the physiological demands of verbal behaviour quickly declines. The brain behaves as if it had become set in its ways and primary, basic skills not acquired by that time usually remain deficient for life."

Secondly, motivation is seen by Falk (1978) as a main contributor towards successful acquisition of a second language. Known as integrative motivation, Falk belives that those who like the people that speak the language, admire the culture and have a desire to become familiar with or even integrate into the society in which the language is used have a better chance of succesfully learning that language.

Another form of motivation is instrumental motivation Hudson (2000). This is were a second language is studied because the student stands to gain something from having a second language, such as meeting the requirements for school or university graduation. Instrumental motivation is usually seen where no social integration of the student into the target language community takes place.

The third factor to consider when learning a second language is grammar and in particular a theory posed by Chomsky (1965) called Universal Grammar. Universal Grammar is a set of grammar rules that apply to most or all natural human languages. Chomsky proposed Universal Grammar to explain primary language acquisition, but asserts that it also applies to second language learners who accomplish near-native fluency despite not having interaction with members of the target language group. Singleton and Newport (2004) demonstrate Universal Grammar in their study of 'Simon'. Simon learned American Sign Language from parents as his primary form of communication. His parents had learnt it as a second language and provided him with imperfect models. Results showed that Simon learned how to sign normally despite receiving poor and inconsistent instruction. He was able to understand the rules of the language and thus correct the mistakes he had received.

The third is teaching methods

Age appropriateness of these stages

Language transfer problems because of grammar

Age of effective learning

learning language vs teaching language

Criticisms 600

In this section I will try to identify some weaknesses in some of the language acquisition theories


The main criticism of the acculturation is that social factors are believed to have a direct impact on second language acquisition while Ellis (1994) states that they are more likely to have an indirect one. Ellis also goes on to say that acculturation theory is more aligned to a group setting, while language acquisition is aligned with the individual. Lastly, acculturation fails to offer any variance on the quality of contact the learner experiences to their target group.

Comprehension hypothesis

One of the main arguments behind this hypothesis is that if a student has no output how is a teacher supposed to know what to input. Jacqueline Boulouffe (1986) propose that the learner needs to speak a language in order to learn it. Boulouffe continues by suggesting if we stick to the input method, the learner will not be able to either understand or to produce language, because they have no ability to learn from there mistakes. Lydia White (1987) also criticises the input theory and warns of making understanding too easy and contextualization. She states that the learner will not make the effort necessary to apply the language. This is most commonly seen in international schools with students in immersion programs developing a 'classroom pidgin'.

Output hypothesis

Krashen (1994) argues that the output hypothesis is weak because of the demands it places on students to produce language that they do not know, or may be uncomfortable in reproducing. Such a situation will cause a student to reach high levels of stress and in effect put a block on their output. He goes onto to state that `output` is related to `need` and that students only output when they need to communicate something. Krashen uses a story by Garrison Keillor entitled "The Minnesota Language School" to argue his case against the output hypothesis. In the story the language schools method is to take someone who speaks no German, fly them in a helicopter, and then threaten to throw them out of the helicopter unless they start speaking German. If the output hypothesis is correct, then this would work.

Interaction hypothesis

The main criticism associated with this theory is unnatural teacher talk. Chaudron (1988) offers some ideas about the way in which native speaker teachers speak to non-native speaker students. These are

Slower speech

Longer more frequent pauses

Exaggerated and simplified pronunciation

More use of basic vocabulary

More declaratives and statements are used

The teacher often self-repeats

Lightbrown (1985) argues that this form of speech is unnatural, he states that classroom learners cannot learn language of out side the classroom unless they are exposed to it. Subsequently he calls for ore natural speech when conversing with a non native speaker.

Sociocultural Theory

One critic of sociocultural theory is Santrock (2004) who believes that the importance of language is overemphasized in thinking. A main argument against this theory is if the guidance and advice provided by a teacher is to much and too helpful and doesn't allow the student to learn for themselves. An example of this might be a teacher asking questions to a non native speaker and then over prompting the same student when soliciting a reply. Critics argue that this could cause some children to become lazy and expect help from other students and teachers, when they are quite capable of supply an answer by them selves.

Critical Period Hypothesis

Critics of this theory such as Singleton and Lengyel (1995) observe that there isn't a critical period for vocabulary acquisition in a second language. Whilst Robertson (2002) believes personal motivation, anxiety, input and output skills, setting and time commitment may be even more important than age in second language learning.

Universal Grammar

Sampson (2005) is a very strong opposer of the Universal Grammar theory. He states that universal grammar theories are not falsifiable and are therefore pseudo scientific theory. He goes on to argue that the grammatical generalizations made are simply observations about existing languages and not predictions about what is possible in a language. Critics of Universal Grammar often point to the Piraha language. Piraha language doesn't have numbers,name for colours, subordinate clauses, past tense and only three pronouns. However according to Universal Grammar theory all languages have something in common such as subordinate clauses, numbers, colours etc. If this is true ,why doesn't Piraha Language have subordinate clauses, numbers, colours.


Having been giving a background on language aquisition I want to outline some recent trends and and Classroom pidgin


these trends are important because


They effect me because


I combat these trends within my classroom by using some of the following strategies