Thursday, March 18, 2021

Learning by Playing


What is in your mind when you hear a word "childhood"? If somebody asks me that, I will possibly answer that childhood is all about playing, gaming, and all having fun. In term of learning, children would like to learn something if they feel free to learn. Feeling happy and feeling free to do something exciting will affect them to memorize what they see, what they hear and what they do in their long term memories. Are you with me?

Two days ago, my little cousin, who is still first grader of elementary school, came to me. He had an English homework. He had to write a missing lyric of an English Song. What a homework! In fact, he is learning how to write a word and a bit sentences in Bahasa, his second language. I even didn't believe it at the first time till I saw his book. It really didn't make any sense.

English is taught as the Foreign Language, here in Indonesia, since most of Indonesian children know English after they know their mother tongues (Javanese, Madurese, Banjarese and so forth), then Bahasa Indonesia as an official language of all. English is just an optional subject to give in elementary school, not a compulsory one. I have no idea whether any regulation of giving this subject to students of elementary school and on which grade it supposes to give. The first grader student is just learning how to write each single word, phrases and later on simple sentence in Bahasa Indonesia, they learn to read by spelling the words per syllable. If teacher pushes them to read English word or phrase in which is totally different with how to spell and to read in Bahasa Indonesia then you'll figure out what's happening. Look at his face. Can you imagine how their heads work? If you are supposed to be able to see what is in their heads, you will be able see question marks (confusing) and also exclamation marks (irritating). Do you see that marks? Of course not, it is the same as you wouldn't see their confusion but surely you know it. So, why don't we think it over wisely?

What is pondering my head is that English as Foreign language shouldn't be taught on that way, right? It's really helpful if we learn about language acquisition before asking the first grader students to write or to read English words so that we can provide easier teaching learning process, although I slightly disagree of teaching English on such a heavy way to first, second or third grader students of elementary school as they are mostly learning how to write and to read their second language (Bahasa Indonesia) officially. We have to make a deep learning on how someone acquire new language so that we can formulate an appropriate approach, technique, and method based on the characteristic of our students since different object will need different treatment. Let them be good in writing and reading their second language so that they don't feel distracted with the next new language that we are going to teach. It doesn't mean that I want to discourage one who has taught English to beginner. I just want to say that there are some considerations on introducing English to first grade learners.

Is that impossible for us to teach English for the first grader? I think it is quite possible to introduce new language to beginner but under some considerations, of course. We should think the time allocation, the material, and the most important things are the approach, technique and method presented. In the following discussion, I would like to elaborate the discussion on how we find good ways of presenting English for beginner. Making the students learn English but still they are not frustrated with English. Learning by playing might be as one of big shots of presenting the new language, though there are many techniques and methods that teachers can do in the classroom activities.

English has cycle of skills to master namely; listening and speaking, then reading and writing. Don't we realize that first grader students are learning how to read and to write in Bahasa Indonesia since they have learned the first couple skills that is listening and speaking. It means that the students have partly known about Bahasa Indonesia orally. Their kindergarten teacher or their parents told them in Bahasa Indonesia (they listen) after that they repeat and then use it (they speak). So, they have already known how to name things though they don't know how to write it. They are able to communicate in Bahasa Indonesia though they don't know how to write their speech in sentence. By considering the English Skill cycle, we could teach them by starting the first two of English skill, they are listening and speaking. Let them listen how to name single thing in new language. Let them draw their understanding of labeling thing in new language.

We can help them learn in context by presenting real things, pictures, and other media to make the concept clear and real. Step by step! Be patient because it is not as easy as the theory! As they are in process of digesting new knowledge input, we can guide them to speak out what they have learned (listened). Don't push them to write, it will be dangerous thing. It will make them confused as I write above that English words are pronounced differently with the spelling.

After all, Some of us (teachers) try to teach them English as the regulation in our school states that. The school (mostly the principal) try to make an image that by giving English as the optional subject (muatan lokal) from the first grader, it will make the school become "more prestigious". The conflict of interest between the students' need of having broad knowledge with the system is sometimes on wide gap. In fact, most Indonesian students of elementary school (especially in remote area--they're even learning their second language) haven't been taught English before. They don't know how to name something in English but still we push them to do what they don't know. What a poor!

Furthermore, the problem will emerge if teacher teaches students as my opinion above (since I would rather not to teach first, second and third to read and write). The problem mostly come from the regulation of school is that the evaluation needs authentic measurement on what has been taught. How could it be? if you teach students but their parents as well as the principal can't see the material that you've given on their book. To prevent this problem arise, you need to talk to other teacher especially the principal, as the decision maker, how you run your English program. The education is not just about numbers. Learning is not about grade point. Learning is a process. Process of changing behavior, knowledge, attitude, mind set and all aspects of human kind to be better. If you cook vegetable then you find it over cooked, then the following day, you cook the same vegetables and you make it. You write nothing and read nothing, isn't that learning? Experience teaches you so.

Experience is the best teacher. Make your students experience the process of having English in classroom then. Sometimes, The system and regulation need as what they want though they don't even know about what they want. They want the students master English well and they don't know about how to present English (new language in common), finally they push the English teacher do what they want to but don't let him does what he want to do. That's really irritating, isn't it? But never give up to do your best, teachers!


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