Education does not happen only in the classroom. While ESL instructors provide the information and context of the English language, that alone may not always be effective for some students. Rather than continuing to simply provide them information in hopes they will permanently retain it, they need an opportunity to use their newly acquired English-speaking skills in the real world. This can be accomplished through an incorporation of social learning into any ESL curriculum.
Humans are social beings that rely on each other for useful information and ideas to help improve daily activities. The social learning theory explains that people learn by observing others’ behavior and cultures and apply them to their own lives. Having the desire to fit in with a group, particularly an entire culture, reinforces the need to pay close attention and model after the observed behaviors. Successfully performing certain acceptable behaviors or speaking a language correctly improves self-efficacy and confidence to continue using and improving those behaviors.
Therefore, by exposing students who are learning English to a world outside the classroom, they have the chance to interact with other people in a variety of social settings. Building confidence in their English speaking skills will build their eagerness to learn more. The goal of this method is, ideally, when they are done with school, they can go out on their own and thrive in an English-speaking society and communicate effectively in person, on the phone, and through email and social networks.
This is especially important for young ESL students. Children are more likely to learn in an interactive, social environment. A curriculum containing fun and conversational activities will allow them to absorb more information and model the behaviors of other children whom are already fluent in English. Once children have demonstrated the capacity to hold a basic conversation in the classroom, bring them to the park and allow them to play with other children. Social interaction while playing on the park’s playground equipment will help them develop their social skills and confidence in speaking English, not to mention their vocabulary.
Teaching another language to anyone of any age can prove to be quite a challenge. This is why some schools provide international foreign exchange programs to expose students of a variety of ages to new languages and cultures. These opportunities continuously prove to give students a better understanding of other cultures and social norms while allowing them to speak in a language outside their primary language.
This is why social interaction is so important. Though the classroom is an essential tool for helping students learn, exposure to the world they live in is even more essential for helping students understand. Incorporating location based social activities in any ESL curriculum will achieve greater results in the classroom and increase the likelihood that students will be set for life once they set out into the world on their own.
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