Like almost everywhere else, the role and the status of the English language have been increasing in Swedish society, including the education system. All students in Swedish schools receive some more or less formal instruction in the English subject by the time they are in third grade, though very many are exposed to the language even earlier, both at school and outside of it.
Despite these circumstances, we seem to know very little about the realities of English for young learners (EYL) instruction at Swedish primary schools, e.g. regarding the following aspects: What activities do the teachers organize in their English classes? What materials do they work with and how? In what ways and to what extent do they use the target language, English?
The present contribution reports on the results of two small studies addressing precisely these issues, among others. The first study is based on a number of actual observations and recordings of EYL lessons from preschool class to grade 3, followed by interviews with the respective teachers; the second is based on a questionnaire with a broader range of primary school teachers.
The results suggest that some commonly promoted recommendations in the literature regarding EYL are not generally followed by many EYL teachers in Sweden. For example, when it comes to the use of English vs. Swedish in the English classroom, the share and quality of the target-language input, not least from the teachers themselves, might well be enhanced. In addition – and this aspect is related to the previous one – EYL instruction and its efficiency could be expected to benefit from contextualizing the classroom activities and communication to a greater extent, e.g. by using children’s literature of various kinds and engaging in meaningful interaction about it.
Västerås & Eskilstuna, 2016. no 11, 47-73 p.