In November 2016, I did my final teacher training in a preschool class at the Sääksjärvi school in Lempäälä. At the same time, I collected material for my master’s thesis, the topic of which is Moomin Language School’s impact on children’s internal motivation in foreign language learning. I am currently busily working on my thesis in Scotland; the results and more detailed analyses can be read later in the spring. I used the Moomin Language School service with my students for a month. Now I decided to write a short practical list for teachers who get the chance to use Moomin Language School. The tips are based on my own experiences with the help of trial and error.
You should choose the time used with the learning application carefully. A preschool day in Finland lasts only four hours and most of it goes to mealtime, outdoor play and possible free play. In my preschool class, there were 20 children and four tablets. Each child practiced the new language with the application every day for 3-10 minutes depending on the content, child, and whether or not they did extra exercises. Altogether we used approximately an hour with the application each day.
Me collecting empirical data and continuously observing the exercise situations affected our conditions and time use, but if I will use the application in my class in the future, the ideal situation would be to have multiple tablets freely available throughout the day. That way children could use the application spontaneously during the day when it suits them. This would also enable teachers to give children more freedom in choosing their own Moomin Language School session. This kind of an opportunity for self-determination increases children’s internal motivation to learn.
It’s a good idea to reserve a separate space for each child to use the application. If children sit together when using the application, they can easily start to compare their results and pay more attention to everyone else’s practicing than their own. The volume can also rise easily and other people in the room might be disturbed. If you have many children in the same space, use headphones if possible so that each child can concentrate on their own exercises. This is especially important when using the additional exercises, where children can for example practice their pronunciation.
In the playful lessons, there is time reserved for using the application in pairs or in groups. The playful lessons have ready-made lesson plans, where communication and interaction are emphasized.
You should reserve enough time to setting up the tablets for use. That way you still have time to fix any possible problems you might have with the school’s internet connection or the tablet’s technology. You don’t need to have a separate tablet for each child, because it’s possible to take turns. Each child has their own profile with their picture that can be used to access the child’s own learning environment on any device (a fact that was especially attractive to the children).
This is the easiest part. Simply log out of the application and charge the tablets for the next day. In my class, each tablet was numbered and had its own safety pouch and storage place. Children can take care of the wrap-up for the most part and at the same time learn to take care of their school supplies.
An excited attitude towards the application and playful lessons motivates small learners. Studies have shown that the teacher’s encouragement and positive feedback increases internal motivation more than external, concrete rewards. I observed all exercise situations for a month while collecting data for my research, and knowing I was present, children cheered and gladly showed me their practicing, and almost daily most of them told me how many stars they had received at the end of the exercise.
The teacher’s role as a positive enforcer is emphasized during the Moomin Language School playful lessons, when children and the teacher do various activities in the foreign language. If you fearlessly start using the foreign language with the children, you will be rewarded with the children’s enthusiasm.
I hope that as many teachers as possible get the opportunity to use Moomin Language School’s digital language immersion in their group, because it turned out to be a great and inspiring learning environment for both the children and me as a teacher. With this list of tips, I wish all children and their teachers joyful learning!