Helen Doron has been teaching English to children for 30 years. She is the founder and CEO of the Helen Doron Educational Group and created a unique methodology for teaching English, maths, fitness, and infant development with original and revolutionary learning materials.
Helen answers this week’s question: Many children learn English most of their lives but still can’t speak fluently. How can the Helen Doron methodology help them?
I know that all parents are very eager to give a better present and future to their children and they are correct in believing that introducing a second language early on is not only possible, but it actually benefits the child’s brain development. Our thirty years of experience is backed by research that supports thisunderstanding. The reality is that most children begin learning English as a foreign language when they are in school. They learn reading and writing and because of class sizes, there isn’t the opportunity for lots of practice speaking. Often, they are spoken at but they don’t actually have to respond. Sometimes the reading and the writing skills take precedence over the ability to speak.
Sometimes parents will turn to private tutoring that work with their children one on one. While the children are most likely absorbing the language and may very well end up speaking to a certain degree, they do not have the benefit of a proven methodology that ensures they will speak.
The Helen Doron methodology introduces four basic principles that contribute to the child’s ability to speak. Experience has shown that when language is taught in a small group environment with background hearing, positive reinforcement and innovative games, the child learns effortlessly.
Language Needs a Context
Children need a context in which to speak a language; the environment must be conducive and provide a sense of support and structure in which language learning can develop. Many children, who are bilingual won’t speak back to their English-speaking mother or father; they will use their mother-tongue language. If the children do understand what the English speaking parent is saying why do they need to use their native language? The answer is that language needs to be learned within a social and a linguistic context and is best learned in its natural form: through discussions, conversations and stories.
We create a context for language in our classes. We start very early and the classes are small groups of 4 to 8 students at most, which are great fun for the children. Children have the benefit of interaction with other children and still receive individual attention from the teacher. The teacher can actually hear them speak and respond to them. But we also create games and activities in which the children need to use English in order to get what they want. To participate in the activity; they actually have to produce language. Of course, the level or response depends upon the age of the child. If they are very young, aged 2, we are not going to require them to speak, but if they are aged 4, 5 or 6 we are going to use those games and really encourage them to communicate. We never single them out and pressure the children; ‘YOU! What’s the answer to this?’ We don’t do that. We don’t point a finger at them and demand an answer which can be frightening or intimidating. When it’s a game the children don’t even realize that they are learning. The way we present language through a game or activity encourages the children to speak. English becomes fun; it’s not daunting. These games, along with positive reinforcement, are two pieces of our methodology for teaching English which bring out the language spontaneously. For more information, read about the Helen Doron methodology.