3 — Effective language learning for EAL/D students requires consideration of affective factors
Students’ success with acquiring EAL/D is influenced by certain aspects of their emotion. When they lack self confidence, are anxious about certain elements of the learning process or have a negative attitude to learning English they are less likely to embrace language learning experiences (Sheen, 2008) and their language acquisition and learning are less likely to flourish. When students are pressured to produce language their anxiety levels increase (Effiong, 2016; Sheen, 2008; Horwitz, 2001; Krashen, 1998).
Krashen’s affective filter hypothesis (1985) provides some degree of explanation for this phenomenon. When language learners feel stressed or anxious or lack confidence they employ their affective filter which serves as a barrier to language input. A high affective filter prevents the acquisition of language (Lightbown & Spada, 2006). On the other hand, students’ language acquisition is enhanced when their affective filter is low. This is dependent on them feeling confident as language learners and being in a low stress, low anxiety language learning environment.
The reading aloud of picture books to EAL/D students provides them with a context for learning English that is without the stress-inducing qualities that tends to result in high affective filters (Hemmati, Gholamrezapour & Hessamy, 2015; Chen, 2014). Students’ anxiety is alleviated because they become absorbed by the narrative of the story rather than focused on the grammatical features of its language (Hsiu-Chih, 2008). They attend to what is happening to the characters, what is going to happen next and on finding out how the story ends (Hemmati, Gholamrezapour & Hessamy, 2015).
Picture books serve to increase EAL/D students’ confidence (Chen and Squires, 2011; Hsiu-Chih, 2008; Taylor, 2000 delete ref). When appropriately chosen for the English language classroom the illustrations support story comprehension. Students can largely understand the story even without fully understanding the language of the text.
4. Effective language learning for EAL/D students requires learning about the culture in which the language takes place
Language is an intimate part of culture and effective communication requires knowledge of how language is used specific to the culture of the group. It requires knowing the culturally specific ways in which communication between people takes place. (Fellowes & Oakley, 2014).
Language teaching that aims to develop students’ communicative competence involves assisting them to use language in ways that are appropriate to the cultural group. This involves learning how language use is shaped by social roles and about the rituals and non-verbal behaviours involved in interpersonal communication. (Wee, Park & Choi, 2015; Fellowes & Oakley, 2014).
Picture books provide EAL/D students with encounters with the behaviours and cultural customs used by a society (Wee, Park & Choi, 2015; Shanahan, 1997) and they support them in learning about the culturally specific way that English is used in communicative interactions (Akrofi, Swafford, Janisch, Liu & Durrington, 2008) by a specific group of people. Picture books can serve as the platform for considering and learning from communicative interactions (Akrofi et al., 2008).
Take for instance, the cultural significance of the use of ‘please’ and ‘thankyou’ in the conversations that occur between characters in the picture story book, I want my hat back (Klassen, 2011).
Have you seen my hat?
I haven’t seen anything all day. I have been trying to climb this rock.
Would you like me to lift you on top of it?
… and then later in the story.
Have you seen my hat?
No, I have not seen any hats around here.
Ok, thank you anyway.
… and ponder the cultural message about appropriate voice tone and volume in different social situations in, Decibella and her 6 inch voice (Cook, 2014). Picture books expose students to communication in action; they provide cultural and language encounters (Shanahan, 1997).