Reading about Feelings - Emotional Literacy.
Teaching English to children cannot be thought of as teaching a subject like Geography or History. The world, seen through children's eyes is not divided into compartments called subjects. English for children is another tool for communicating about themselves and their world. To teach children English successfully, we need to understand child development and respond to individual children's ever-changing needs, as they grow physically and develop mentally, emotionally, socially and linguistically. Many of today's children are stressed. They want and need adults to listen to them. They need help to understand and manage their emotions and without it they are often not sufficiently relaxed to study. Learning English can be an additional frustration for children as it takes time before they can communicate needs and interests as easily as in their home-language. In some situations the frustration may be compounded as the relationship with the English teacher may be more friendly and relaxed than with some of the other teachers. Children may long to share their joys and problems with the English teacher, but have not yet acquired sufficient language in English. Frustration is present in many children's classrooms and often passes unrecognised.
Children need to 'feel good' if they are to learn easily. If the 'feel good factor' is absent, children are likely to be less co-operative listeners and their frustration may even lead to disruptive behaviour. This type of behaviour is generally more usual amongst boys, who are known to find foreign language learning more difficult than girls.
Learning how to recognise and manage personal emotions is an important part of growing up. This is especially so in the pre-puberty years, when children become more self-conscious. In some cultures, although children may be exposed to many forms of stress, home-language education may give little help in emotional management.
REALBOOKS can help children work out how to manage their emotions as many provide focal settings beyond daily life occurrences. Through sharing the pictures and text of selected REALstoryBOOKs, adults can provide opportunities to talk about how to manage stress. Through REALstoryBOOKs children can:
· explore emotions and acquire the language needed to express them.
· share emotions confidently and freely in a sympathetic, warm, caring atmosphere.
· reflect on experiences and relate them to their own life which leads to greater understanding, security and self-confidence.
· through characters in stories try out and feel potential emotions.
· come to terms with their own feelings in a safe, caring situation.
· find out about fear in a way that is exciting without it being a threat or real danger as the experience is contained. A book can be shut and put away!
REALpictureBOOKs can be revisited by children in their own time. Although to begin with children share books, later they may have opportunities to revisit them by themselves, browsing through them interpreting the text and especially the pictures at their own level of experience, understanding and need. Through REALpictureBOOK experiences children can pick up language, and borrow it (transfer it), to talk about their own emotions. If children are given opportunities to do this, talk gradually begins to replace some of their frustrated reactions, which may be physical like a poke or a push. Follow-up own drawings of REALBOOK experiences often reveal details of feelings that are too complex to express in limited English.
The 'feel good factor' can be cultivated if children are listened to and given the linguistic tools and creative outlets (like drawing) to express their feelings. Where REALpictureBOOKS are part of a programme, teachers often report that children appear happier and calmer. It seems that selected REALstoryBOOKs can contribute to individual children's 'feel good factor' as through them they can find ways to understand and manage their emotions and so begin to develop a necessary life-long skill.