For our preparation for teaching English in Laos, Prof. Martin asked Ms Leonora Fröhlich-Ward and her friendly hand puppet dog “Mister Mopsy” to come and do a workshop for us. Ms Fröhlich-Ward and Prof. Dr. Gisela Schmid-Schönbein are the authors of English for Mopsy and me, a successful didactic concept for teaching English to very young learners in preschool. The book was published in several editions; there is also a second volume; teachers’ notes are in English. Copies for every participant were provided free of charge, with accompanying CDs.
On 14 October 2015 Ms Fröhlich-Ward undertook the journey from Munich to Karlsruhe (and also covered the costs for her train ticket herself as a donation to the project!) in order to show us how to work with the material.
To start with, she recapitulated why and how we should teach English to young children. Children at the age of 5 are still in the process of learning their mother tongue. Therefore, they are still very aware of language in general, and trying out new words and structures is natural for them. Also, young children are able to pronounce foreign words more easily than adults or teenagers, being less inhibited. Research also shows that the earlier children immerse in the target language, the more likely they are to develop native-like language competences later on.
Learning language within an appreciative environment with lots of fun, games and songs helps learners to embed new language skills into their personal sets of competences. The concept of English for Mopsy and me aims to provide such a positive environment. Young learners should enjoy discovering a new language. Sustainable language learning needs to be free of stress (or boredom), which is why students should never be forced to speak English when they are not comfortable. The concept of English for Mopsy and me mainly seeks to foster a positive attitude towards the target language within the young learners. The motivating stories around the protagonist Mister Mopsy encourage young learners to learn freely and playfully, and by and by they start to communicate in English with the hand puppet.
During the workshop, Ms Fröhlich-Ward showed us a variety of hands-on lessons from the first book. It provides multiple opportunities for communicative interaction throughout. The hand puppet dog establishes very appealing moments for conversation, so language learning occurs as an intended side effect of enjoying English community. Language learning being facilitated this way, the young learners take their first steps towards a sustainable and hopefully life-long learning process.
We are very glad that we had the chance to learn from Ms Fröhlich-Ward and meet Mister Mopsy. We will start teaching English lessons with Mopsy in the Lao preschool of Ban Sikeud and Ban Phang Heng soon – and these experiences will be recounted in another report (click here)!
Text by F. Frister
Photos by I. Martin