Picturebooks: an effective tool to encourage children's English L2 oral production
The purpose of this research-to-practice paper is to delve deeper into the rich potential of picturebooks for eliciting children’s spontaneous speech production during face-to-face conversational interaction. Specifically, it analyses how children apply their existing communicative skills during exposure to the non-textual elements of picturebooks. This in turn enables to get wider understanding of how children learn and use English L2 at an early bilingual immersion school. The study examines the oral narrative production of Spanish-speaking English learners in an early bilingual immersion school. The analytical framework of the study is influenced by studies in the field of child language acquisition. The data are drawn from a 2.5 years longitudinal study of four children (aged 4-5 years at the first recording) from four different classrooms. The conversational interactions created by looking and talking about picturebook illustrations were audio-recorded and the utterances obtained through spontaneous elicitation were transcribed and analysed for emerging syntactic production and for communication strategies. Data analysis provides information on spontaneous oral created language which reflects children’s underlying linguistic competence influenced partly by the learning setting, by the type of input and by the amount of exposure time. Research findings reveal how children use illustrations as a language scaffold and how the English oral language skills develop over time for syntactic development. These findings suggest that picturebooks and even more, picturebook illustrations are ideal tools to elicit oral language from children as well as to support natural acquisition of language. Based on the research findings of this study and on observation of how picturebooks lend themselves to build children’s existing communicative skills, the paper provides several hints to maximize communicative interaction in the young learner’s classroom.
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