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My new kindergarten pupil is a seven-year-old Senegalese who lives with his Aunt and Uncle. The Aunt and Uncle are his legal guardians. They have arrived recently in the country. The couple is part of Senegal’s diplomatic service. I developed a survey, which I used to interview my pupil and his guardians. This survey can also be used to interview other families in the future. The family members were all born, raised, and educated in Senegal. This survey was immensely helpful.
This is the pupil’s second school experience having done 20 months of school in Dakar. The whole family is fluent in French and Wolof. They primarily speak Wolof at home. Only the Uncle is fluent in English. The aunt has encouraged the Uncle and the Pupil to speak English at home for the last few months. They reluctantly agreed. The Aunt has also been taking weekly English classes. She enjoys the classes, and she tries out what she has learned in conversations. According to the pupil, the Aunt helped him with most of his homework back in Dakar. The pupil is a Muslim and does not celebrate Christmas or Halloween. He does not know about Thanksgiving or Valentine’s Day either. However, he showed a willingness to participate in any fun activities at school. He also promised to teach the class a few words of French and Wolof and a game he played in Dakar.
From the interview, I have been able to formulate a plan for the pupil. I suggested that the Aunt should device a fun system that will allow them to speak both Wolof and English at home. This will create a system of balance that the Uncle and pupil will not find restrictive. I also advised that the uncle should take an active role in the homework because he is fluent in English. This will also give them time to spend together. I have suggested that the Aunt and the pupil review their daily progress in learning English at the end of the day by exchanging any new words they had learnt. This will be beneficial to both of them in their learning.
It will be very important to encourage the child to develop imitation of certain people especially the Uncle in speech and actions. Imitation is a process through which a person observes and replicates behavior of another person. The child will be given a role mode, Uncle to help in the language learning process. Encouraging the uncle to act in funny ways and speak more often is a funny way to enable the imitation process will be an upper hand in ensuring that the pupil grasps the English language. It is true form Stern’s perspective of some of the ways in which a pupil may learn a new language. Stern (2003) says, “the use of a text as a basis of language learning, demonstration of pictures and objects, the emphasis on question and answer, spoken narratives, dictation, imitation, and a host of new types of grammatical exercises have resulted from the direct method”.
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In school, a role model for the pupil to imitate will be either peers or the teachers. I will encourage the pupil to imitate how the teachers talk in their teaching or even the peers. Since the imitation of the peers is likely to cause some trouble it will be my duty to enlighten them on the importance of imitation to the new pupil. Stern (2003) says, “this in the second language learner is a more deliberate social strategy of following a model or of imitation” thus a better way of making the pupil understand English as the second language. Stern (2003) believes that this is a very direct method “self directed learning can be distinguished from other-directed learning (learning from a teacher, receptive learning, following a model or identifying with it, learning by imitation or suggestion)”.
I noted that the pupil already had a smattering of English words at his disposal, unlike the Aunt. This is not surprising. Gordon (2007) quotes Chomsky’s hypothesis that “children are quick to master the grammars of their languages because their capacity to develop grammatically structured speech is innate and because a special grammatical blueprint is wired into the children’s brains” (p.46). I also availed the guardians a program of the school activities so that they can know how to assist and prepare the pupil for each day of school. The Uncle will have the responsibility of translating schoolwork that is in English to French to help the Pupil understand and grasp meanings.
The pupil’s apparent willingness to engage in class activities will enable me to make him feel at ease and settle into class. The survey indicated the pupils love for fun and games. I will be able to integrate games, songs, and stories into his learning regimen. The information on his background will also be helpful. As noted by Barone, Mallette and Hong (2005), “it is important to include students’ background in classroom learning, and to make connections between children’s homes, and the classroom to make sure that all students are successful” (p.14). Armed with this clear understanding of the pupil’s language background, I am better positioned to assist him in his learning.
During the interview, I realized that the pupil has a lot in terms of games and songs. These social skills and styles are very important in the learning graph of the pupil. Any child who is natural in his or her social and communication seek to find opportunities to interact with others. These skills of interaction are very important in the development of the language by the pupil. Stern (2003) confirms that “neither aptitude nor proficiency tests appear as yet to have tapped the features underlying these social skills that also contribute to the development of the second language”. It will be my responsibility to ensure that the pupil is engaged in serious interactions with the other pupils. This will be enhance by encouraging the pupil to teach the others new games and songs from the native home.
I will encourage the guardians to ensure that the pupil away fro home interacts with the other children. Picnics to children sites will be a good idea to enhance interactions between the pupil and others. The personality, learning, and social styles of the people the pupil interacts with will enhance faster development of the language. The pupil’s study group will further enhance the process of interaction. Through this interaction, the pupil will be in a better position to grasp the language even faster.
Research has shown that where there is real need to communicate in two languages, a child is likely to be bilingual. This has to provision of opportunities to the pupil to use the learned language. If a second language is learnt and there is neither opportunity nor its need to be used, it is likely to become extinct. It will be very important that the pupil given the opportunity to develop and use the language as well. “Curriculum should be based both on formal and functional analysis and at the same time offer opportunities for experiential participation in real-life communication which by its very nature is non-analytical” (Stern, 2003). Language learning is never a linear process but exponential sped up by certain factors, opportunities for usage being one of them. Stern (2003) adds that “in the second language’ situation where the language is used within the environment in which it is learnt, teachers and learners have immediate and regular access to opportunities of language use”. Indeed, through all these help process the pupil will eventual learn the English language.
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