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An Evaluation of Circle Time in Relation to Communication and Language Acquisition

  • 09 Pages
  • Published On: 09-12-2023

An Evaluation of Circle Time in Relation to Communication and Language Acquisition

Introduction

Communication can be defined is the process of transferring (sending and receiving) information from one person to another (Broadbent, 2013). Today’s society requires that individuals are able to express themselves, both verbally and in writing. Learners and children should make use of every opportunity they get to communicate, whether in Irish, English, or any other language. It is through language that individuals are able to communicate. As a result of this, the other critical aspect of and which precedes effective communication is language acquisition. Taylor (2012) defines language acquisition as process through which children unconsciously learn (acquire) languages. Language acquisition can be categorized into two classes; first language acquisition and second language acquisition. According to Putz and Neimeir (2013), first language acquisition refers to the unconscious learning (acquisition) of an individual’s native language, or languages in cases where they are bilingual, during the early (first six or 7 years) of one’s life. Following first language acquisition, a child born in Ireland will naturally end up speaking Irish, or whatever native language they are taught. Second language acquisition, on the other hand, refers to the acquisition of a second language, which occurs often after the acquisition of the first (native) language (Gass and Mackey, 2013). So, for example, a child born in Ireland and who has acquired the Irish language, can then acquire English or some other language as a second language.

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The aim of this report, therefore, is to examine and critically evaluate the research and theories that underpin the concepts of communication and language acquisition among children from the time they are born up to six years. The report will also explore the roles of families, practitioners, other adults, and peers, and the various ways through which they can support children in their process of developing the native language (Irish) while also acquiring the second language (English).

The aspect of practice that this report will focus on, in relation to how it facilitates language acquisition and the development of communication, as well bilingualism and multilingualism among children, is the circle time. Circle time (also referred to as group time) can be defined as any time a group of people, especially young children, sit together and engage in a fun activity that involves everyone (Bustamante et al., 2018). It is mostly used in pre- and primary schools to develop positive relationships between children, as well as their social emotional and communication skills which will significantly influence their ability to negotiate relationships when they grow up. Circle time is also used as an opportunity to tackle the various issues/problems, such as noise making during lessons. More significantly, circle time has been demonstrated to help children develop various skills, including looking, listening, thinking, concentration and speaking (Bustamante et al., 2018). It is for its contribution and significance to children’s development particularly with regard to communication and language development that circle time was chosen for evaluation.

Other important aspects of communication and language acquisition are monolingualism, bilingualism and multilingualism. Whitehead (2010) defines monolingualism as a person’s ability to fluently speak only one language. Bilingualism, on the other hand, refers to the ability to speak two languages proficiently, while multilingualism is the ability to proficiently speak many languages, although not necessarily fluently (Smidt, 2008).

The behavioristic theory promotes the notion that language learning is similar to the other types of learning, since it also entailed developing a habit of doing something. This theory suggests that a child learns to speak by listening to an adult and imitating what they hear (Eskrom, 2001). Skinner introduced the idea of reinforcers through which language development is shaped. According to Mitchell and Myles (2019), in the context of language acquisition, a certain situation results in a particular response, which will be reinforced if the situation is understood (a desired outcome is achieved). The theory holds that children acquire language through reinforcement, whereby the child will continue saying something the same way if they receive a positive response when they say something accurate (Mukherji and O’Dea, 2000). Skinner, through the Verbal Behavior (a linguistic behavioristic model which he developed as an extension of the theory of learning by reinforcement) argues that children learn as a result of the response they get from their surrounding and that language is acquired in the same way as other types of knowledge.

Chomsky (1998), who criticized the Behaviorist theory, argued that children cannot simply learn a language by listening to adults and getting responses, but claimed that children are all born with innate knowledge (Language Acquisition Device- LAD) that enables them acquire a language. Chomsky (1998) based his argument on the fact that people, regardless of their geographical locations, learnt language in the same manner and proposed LAD as the explanation for why children learnt their native languages relatively quickly despite language being so abstract. The LAD theory is premised on the idea/belief that children’s learning of language occurs instinctively without official instruction, and whereas language rules are influenced by learning and experience, children have in them the capacity for language regardless of the presence or absence of environmental influences (Fromkin and Rodman, 1998).

Cognitive Developmentalism Theory

The cognitive theory is regarded as the opposite of behaviorist theory given that cognitivism focuses on knowledge and believes that personality is linked to cognition in the manner in which people learn various things and approach issues/problems. Piaget suggests that cognitive development is core to humans and that language depends on and arises from cognitive development. Piaget (1964) highlighted how knowledge develops over time during which a child seeks and develops better ways of understanding, as well as outlined the four stages through which a child’s cognitive/intellectual development occurs: sensorimotor (0-2 years); preoperational (2-7 years); concrete (7-11 years) and formal operational stages. Overall, Piaget’s (1964) cognitive theory is concerned with the learning process rather than what is learnt, and suggests that although humans learn as a direct consequence of their personal experience, they make sense of these experiences at various phases of their lives (Imsen, 2000).

Bruner, who argued that language acquisition id dependent on meaningful social interactions and that children require the social support of adults to learn, developed the Language Acquisition Support System (LASS) through which he promoted the idea of adults and children working together in relation to language acquisition to enable children better understand the verbal languages they hear (Mukherji and O’Dea, 2000).

The theory of attachment, developed by John Bowlby, is also used to explain language acquisition, given its argument that children being near people they were attracted and attached to gives them a sense of security and comfort, which in turn promote their communication and language acquisition as well as development (Bowlby, 2005).

Vygotsky (1978) also promoted the idea that social interactions were critical to cognitive development, and theorized that the cognitive development of children occurred simultaneously with their social experiences. As a result, Vygotsky (1978) stressed the significance of language in social interactions and the effectiveness of learning being premised on the nature of social interactions between two or more individuals whose levels of knowledge and skills varied, whereby the one with more knowledge (usually an adult, teacher or parent, and who is referred to as the mediator) is to help the other to learn (Flood, 2010; Imsen, 2000). The theorization of cognitive skills development arising from social interactions resulted in Vygotsky (1978) developing the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) which fostered children’s language acquisition and development of cognitive skills (Pound, 2008).

Second Language Acquisition Theory

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The monitor model developed by Krashen (1977, 1985), consists of five hypotheses that explain how second language acquisition occurs; acquisition-learning, natural order, monitor, input and affective filter hypotheses. The acquisition-learning hypothesis states that, unlike second language development can occur through learning (conscious) or acquisition (subconscious), and that what is learnt cannot be acquired (Krashen, 1981). The natural order hypothesis states that second language acquisition in both children and adults follows a predictable pattern/order (Krashen and Terrell, 1983). According to the monitor hypothesis, fluency in second language is usually a result of what is acquired rather than what is learnt, thus learning only serves as a monitor or editor (Krashen, 1985). The input hypothesis suggests that a language acquirer should understand inputs that are a bit higher than their current competence if language acquisition is to occur. According to Krashen (1985, p.2), ‘‘humans acquire language only by understanding messages or receiving ‘comprehensible input’.” The affective filter hypothesis, according to Krashen (1985), suggests that second language acquisition success is influenced by certain personality traits such as motivation, self-confidence and low anxiety, while the opposite of these and other negative characteristics minimized the likelihood of second language acquisition success.

References

Piaget, J., 1964. Cognitive development in children: Piaget. Journal of research in science teaching, 2(3), pp.176-186.

Broadbent, D.E., 2013. Perception and communication. Elsevier.

Bruner, J., 1983. Child’s Talk - Learning to Use Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Bustamante, A.S., Hindman, A.H., Champagne, C.R. and Wasik, B.A., 2018. Circle time revisited: How do preschool classrooms use this part of the day?. The elementary school journal, 118(4), pp.610-631.

homsky, N., 1998. On the nature, use and acquisition of language. Language and meaning in cognitive science: cognitive issues and semantic theory, pp.1-20.

Fromkin, V., Rodman, R. and Hyams, N., 2008. An lntroduction to Language. Ηοlt, Rinehart and Winston.

Gass, S.M. and Mackey, A. eds., 2013. The Routledge handbook of second language acquisition. Routledge.

Krashen, S. (1977). The monitor model for adult second language performance. In M. Burt, H. Dulay and M. Finocchiaro (eds). Viewpoints on English as a Second Language, pp. 152–161. New York: Regents.

Krashen, S., 1981. The ‘Fundamental Pedagogical Principle’ in second language teaching. Studia Linguistica (35)1, pp.50–70.

Krashen, S., 1982. Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition. Oxford: Pergamon. Krashen, S., 1985. The Input Hypothesis: Issues and Implications. London: Longman. Krashen, S. and Terrell, T., 1983. The Natural Approach: Language Acquisition in the Classroom. New York: Prentice-Hall.

Mitchell, R., Myles, F. and Marsden, E., 2019. Second language learning theories.

Mukherji, P. and O’Dea, T., 2000. Understanding Children’s Language and Literacy. United Kingdom: Nelson Thornes Publishers Ltd.

Piaget, J., 1964. Cognitive development in children: Piaget. Journal of research in science teaching, 2(3), pp.176-186

Pound, L., 2008. How Children Learn, Book 2. London: MA Education Ltd.

Pütz, M. and Niemeier, S. eds., 2012. Theory and Language Acquisition (Vol. 19). Walter de Gruyter.

Smidt, S., 2008. Supporting multilingual learners in the early years: many languages- many children. London: Routledge.

Taylor, J.R., 2012. The mental corpus: How language is represented in the mind. Oxford University Press.

Vygotsky, L., 1978. Interaction between learning and development. Readings on the development of children, 23(3), pp.34-41.

Whitehead, M., 2002. Developing Language and Literacy with Young Children. 2nd edn. London: Chapman.

Whitehead, M., 2010. Linguistic: The Study of Language. In Language and Literacy in the Early Years. 4th edn. London: Sage. pp.3-17. SE5055PD: Communicating in Multilingual Contexts. Available at: http://weblearn.londonmet.ac.uk (Accessed 06 March, 2021).

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