Ever wonder why toddler play groups are more commonly called, “play dates”? Sure, there is the obvious play involved on a certain date, but to be more accurate, why not call them “work dates”? After all, play is work to a child. Albert Einstein claimed that “play is the highest form of research.”
Even babies use play to research their world. In fact, through play, infants learn about every new sound, sight, taste, movement, and touch. Older children also use play to learn how the world works, better understand their place in it, and to practice important life skills: such as language skills, social-emotional skills, and creativity. Children make work look like fun!
Using fun and games to help English Language Learners
Now, new research from The University of Nottingham shows that playing simple games using words and pictures can help people more easily learn a second language. The study used spoken and written foreign language words along with pictures showing their meaning.
Initially, English speakers with no knowledge of Welsh, looked at English and Welsh words on a computer. They were asked to determine if the two words both contained the same letter. They also heard the word being spoken and saw a picture of what the word meant. They were not asked to learn the words themselves.
Some time later, the same English speakers were asked to specifically learn the correct translation of the Welsh words. Half of the Welsh words were presented previously. The researchers found that the participants did better on the Welsh words that had appeared in the first part of the study.
PhD student Marie-Josée Bisson, who led the study along with Drs Walter van Heuven, Kathy Conklin and Richard Tunney, explained in a press release: “Anyone attempting to learn another language would benefit from activities such as simple games using foreign language words and pictures, or foreign language films with subtitles where they can enjoy the activity without focusing on trying to learn the words. The results of this study suggest that these kinds of informal activities can facilitate language learning, even days afterwards.”
Using fun, games, and music with young English Language Learners
While the study above focused on adult learners, the results impact English language learners in the early childhood classroom, too. ABC English & Me, our English Language Learners curriculum, uses ESL activities for kids, words with picture cards, puppets, and English songs for kids to teach young children English. From the first song at the start of each class to the last shake or tap of an instrument, children quickly become engaged in actively learning English through fun, games, and, of course, music!
Plus, we provide materials for families to use together at home. These monthly interactive materials support the classroom learning, while giving parents the tools they need to continue the English language learning at home.
Learn more about bringing ABC English & Me and the power of music to your school!