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An entry to the competition
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2010/1/14 13:47
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Dear Members of the Committee for the MI World Symposium,

If MI is the seed of a new approach to Education for our Time, I would like to draw attention to the potential of ESL, in particular, preschool ESL, for its propagation.

The unique benefits of an early start in language learning, long since advocated by educators, are now enjoying unprecedented acknowledgement among parents, as well as an increasing number of governmental bodies, worldwide. As a pedagogic field in its own right, however, preschool ESL, is as one awaiting cultivation. Perhaps fortunately so. For the terrain it occupies seems just perfect for MI. It was with this view, at any rate, that it was decided to develop an MI-based ESL program at the preschool section of the Jewish School in Istanbul.

The school was at something of a crisis point. Despite English being spoken to and around them, by their ‘native’ and ‘non-native-speaker’ teachers, children after two or three years there were barely putting two words together of their own. Dissatisfied parents were gathering forces, while the school continually sought for more ‘native speakers’ to fortify the ranks. But was it really ‘native speaker’ teachers that were needed? After all, ‘native speakers’ are only rarely ‘native ESL teachers’. On the other hand, a certain, rather helpful in-tune-ness with the experience of the second-language learner might be said to be ‘innate’, so to speak, to ‘non-native speakers’. Indications, further, were not altogether lacking in children’s responses that some conditions and approaches could bring the desired results whatever the nationality of the teacher. Perhaps then, given improvements in the ESL teaching culture, our own local teachers could play a more significant part in the enterprise than had been thought.

A proposal to this effect was accepted by the School Administration. Pre-Sessional workshops took place at the start of the following school year, during which old-world nursery-rhyme and workbook-based kindergarten ‘themes’ were replaced with ESL-learner-centred ‘topics’. Pedagogic activities, incorporating specific ESL targets, were developed with attention to MI balances, and interconnected on a ‘map’ for each topic. ESL teaching guides and materials packs were prepared to match. Briefing sessions, held on the completion of each new map in preparation for its application in the classroom, were occasions for the hands-on exploration of principles of early-learner ESL pedagogy and MI. The year 2008-9 saw a total of 23 topics mapped, and applied in 8 classes of age groups 3-5, by 12 teachers in two schools.

This year is dedicated to evaluation and refinement of all aspects of the program, through a scheme of classroom observations and teacher feedback. An organisational framework is also in place that co-ordinates,  parallel with each pedagogic plan, elements such as child- progress monitoring, in-service teacher development, home involvement and photo-documentation for the website bulletin. From this central source, information pertinent to their own roles flows to the each of the stakeholders, with negligible demand on teacher time and energy.

The program has already brought about tangible linguistic and pedagogic coherence. Three and four- year-olds are showing linguistic competences and learning behaviours we used to be excited to see in our five-year-olds. This trend, together with accumulating positive feedback from parents, is not without impact on teacher motivation and performance.

It would give me great pleasure, therefore, to present an outline of this enterprise, its developmental apparatus and materials, along with brief but representative audio, visual and video illustrations from the classroom. My aim is to realise the implications of this experience, by encouraging preschool outfits of all descriptions and locations worldwide to participate in the cultivation of MI-based ESL.  The challenges of our era are inviting us, with an ever stronger appeal, to nurture, each in the young generations our own cultures, the global perspectives, linguistic skills and creative spirit needed to come out and meet them.

 Yours sincerely,                      

  Deborah Bilgil.


Posted on: 2010/1/17 17:50
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