As we come closer to the free trade era where products, information, and technology will be spreading much more rapidly than today, mastering English as the first international language is a need and a must. The government has surely realized that; therefore, English has been taught as a compulsory subject in junior and senior high school. Unfortunately, as it is widely known, the result is not yet satisfactory. This condition has aroused awareness of the importance of English teaching at the earlier level, that is, at the primary school. There are some considerations related to the children’s condition that support the awareness. First, children have more opportunities than adults. Second, their brain is more adaptable before puberty than after. Third, they have fewer negative attitudes to foreign languages; thus, they are better motivated. The last, they are learning all the time without having the worries and responsibilities of adults. So, it’s very logical that many people think studying English at earlier level can make the children acquire English more easily. However, there are still many other factors to consider. One very important factor would be teacher. It’s no doubt that teachers play an important role in the teaching of English to young learners (EYL). Their methods of teaching would very much affect the learning outcomes. As a candidate for teacher, I realize this great responsibility, and I’m so grateful for having had the chance to attend courses, like EYL and TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), because I’m sure that I have gained a lot of principles, concepts, and experiences from the courses about children’s characteristics, classroom management, teaching language skills and components, teaching tools, lesson plan, and others, which makes me more confident to be an English teacher, particularly to young learners.
One crucial principle on teaching EYL that I still hold until now is giving the students exposure to English as much as possible. We accustom their ears to listening to English, their mouth to speaking English, and their eyes to seeing nothing but English. I’m sure it can be done but certainly not in haste. We should consider the students’ receptive ability and their linguistic level, so that they won’t get bored or even sick of English, and everything we give and everything they do will sustain in their memory and are significant for their learning. We should try to communicate in English with them most of the time and avoid much translation. Instead, we’d better use clues, such as, body movement, facial expression, or demonstration, to convey our message. We can start by having small conversations that is habitual, like greetings, asking whether or not they understand our explanation or have a question, or asking them things related to the topic and their daily lives. We can teach them to use key words when they want to go to the restroom, borrow something from their friends, say sorry, thank people, and any other activity which they commonly do in or outside the classroom. In this way, we train them to use the language in context; therefore, their ears and their mouth will be more easily accustomed to English. Usually, when children learn something new, they will try to show it off to people, so, it is hoped that they will practice the English words they’ve learned whenever and wherever. We should encourage the existence of peer correction since we can’t always keep an eye on every children every time. Moreover, it’s not good for teachers to do constant and direct correction. We should encourage them to remind each other; however, we should emphasize to the students that making mistake is normal, so when they correct their friends’ English, it is not meant to be discouraging. We can give them examples of how to make positive correction. So, we begin an English campaign in the classroom; we speak English and we ask them to listen and repeat, and we teach them how to respond to our speech. Another point is accustoming the students to seeing nothing but English. We can try out the concept of print-rich class environment. We label everything in the classroom: blackboard, table, chair, wall, duster, window, door, and even floor. As long as we do it neatly, nobody would mind. We don’t need to ask the students to memorize the words because they will do it unintentionally. We can also ask them to label their own things, anything they have, especially their school equipment, using English. We provide them with a special board to pin on things, such as, their drawings, writings, posters, or anything they produce in the English class and anything related to English that they like. Young children respond well to surroundings which are pleasant and familiar. It would be much better if we can have an English corner: a special room in the corner where the students can find not only board but also a rug or a pile of cushions, or small chairs and a shelf containing English story books and magazines to read, stationery to write with, and toys to play with during the break time or in a special time allotted during the lesson. In this way, we teach them to learn and enjoy English with their senses. Later on, when they’re already used to listening to, speaking, and seeing English, they will try to find, by themselves, media for language exposure outside the class, and this will obviously help them learn English and lighten our work as teachers.

Another principle that I believe to be able to promote effective and enjoyable English learning is definitely fun. Children have short concentration span and get bored easily. One way that has proven to be useful to keep them motivated is giving them fun learning activities. Songs,rhymes, games, and stories are the common examples of classroom fun. We can use songs to teach the students English sounds or alphabets, to reinforce vocabulary, or to have fun. We can also use sons as background music while they are working on another task. There are many songs specially created for the EYL teaching, so we can just pick one good song that is relevant to the topic of our discussion. Or else, we can find a popular modern song, change the lyrics of a song or even create our own song. Teaching rhymes is an activity which enables the students to have fun by playing with the language since rhymes are repetitive and have natural rhythm. Once they know a rhyme, they would try to repeat it again and again, unconsciously learning pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar. Another practical activity which is inseparable from the teaching of EYL would be games. I think we can use games for any topic we discuss with the students. Games can be a kind of reward or an additional activity placed at the end of the lesson, yet it can also be a part of teaching learning process. They can reduce the students’ boredom, create an exciting atmosphere, and give the chance to them to move about; thus, they don’t have to sit still during the whole lesson. The last example of fun activity, which are commonly done in the classroom, is related to stories. We can tell or read the students a story. But first, we should choose a story that fits the student’s age, ability, and context, and also our own interest. Another important thing is how to perform the story; we should accompany our speech with adequate degree of movement and facial expression. What I’ve written above probably looks not more than theories, but I can tell that from my EYL course and from my daily life, I’ve learned many kinds of songs, rhymes, games, and stories, and I’ve seen and experienced the application. Those activities are undoubtedly significant for the English language teaching (ELT) in primary school, and integrating them in my teaching would be of my best interest.

Still another thing to consider when talking about EYL is the use of instructional media. “Don’t rely too much on textbook!”. This is the principle I’ve always born in mind. We should use varied techniques in teaching children, and media would be an excellent variation if it is used appropriately and proportionally. Picture cards are the most commonly used media so far. They can be taken from any source as long as they are relevant with the topic, give contribution to the learning outcomes, and are appropriate with the children’s characteristics. They can function as still pictures when we use them to explain a topic, or function as flash cards when we use them to drill the students. There are still many other kinds of media that can help us in teaching, such as, realia, real objects, flip charts, transparencies, word or sentence cards, big book, toys, puppets, classroom mascot, and so on. We can use real objects to introduce new vocabulary; flip charts to explain words' antonyms, numbers, or contrastive situation; transparencies to tell a story, describe a process, explain something gradually, or to save time for not having to write on the board; class mascot, a puppet or a doll which is belong to the whole class, to accompany us and the students. We can act as the mascot by changing our voice, then we can talk to the students, so that we won’t have to speak too much as a teacher, which may have been very boring for the students. After the lesson, we can leave the mascot in the class, so that the students can have free dialogue or play with him/ her. Those are only a few examples of media’s functions, because actually, media can be used in an unlimited number of ways. In fact, we will always need media to facilitate our teaching. It’s not an impossible thing; we can buy the media or make it by ourselves. The principle is that when there's a will, there's a way. Besides those kinds of visual media, we should also provide the students with supplementary materials, such as authentic materials and cassettes. Magazines, newspapers, and recorded English speech would be a very helpful variation in our teaching. Talking about media, we may not forget that technology has been of great help in teaching EYL. It is unfortunate that it is not yet widely used in Indonesia, and when compared to other Asian countries, we’re already left behind. However, better late than never. We can start to learn a lot of how to make use of, for example, Microsoft Power Point, interactive learning CD-ROM, or any other computer programmes, which have proven to be very exciting, interesting, as well as educational for the students. So, we’ve discussed a lot about media, which has surely justified many people’s idea that it’s important. Nevertheless, we may not forget about textbook. We can’t rely too much on it, but we still always need it because it’s something that is most accessible by the students. They can open it, bring it, learn from it, and do exercises in it anytime they want; therefore, selecting a good textbook for our class is not less important.

Exposing the students to English, integrating fun activities and using media in teaching, all need a high degree of patience, creativity, willingness, and dedication especially in the part of the teacher, and also, not less importantly, the support from the students themselves, their parents, fellow teachers, principle, and the government. Let’s just talk about the teacher’s part. I believe that we can build our creativity if we want to. We should continue learning, so that we can gain new ideas and apply them in the classroom. We should dare to try out the new ideas, yet we shouldn’t do it carelessly. It should be well-planned and organized: we think about the objectives and the procedure, how to conduct it in the classroom. In this case, we can reduce the probability of failure. Even though we fail, for example, with our media: the students are not interested in it or it doesn’t help the teaching learning process, we shouldn’t throw it away. We have to do an evaluation first, to find what is wrong, whether it’s about the media itself, how we handle it, about our classroom management, or perhaps the media is just not appropriate with the students’ characteristics and irrelevant with the topic. We should know what mistakes we’ve done, so that we can learn from them. There's always trial and error. Teaching English to young learners has to be done carefully and not in rush. It’s not easy, and certainly needs patience and hard work. I personally realize that, but I have, again, one principle, that once I chose this profession, I’ve already had the commitment of devoting my life to the success of my students in learning English.