Early foreign language education: play as a site for child agency

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Understanding the role of play in early childhood education is crucial. Current research suggests that play is increasingly seen as a vehicle for achieving pre-established curricular aims that prioritise school readiness, often reducing opportunities for stimulating child agency. This paper reports on a study conducted within the context of foreign language education in the early years (English as a foreign language in the Catalan context), which aimed to address the following questions: To what extent do pre-primary EFL teachers (1) recognise child agency and take it into account in foreign language education; (2) recognise the affordances play scenarios offer for children to enact their agency? A small-scale qualitative study was designed which included self-reporting questionnaires, an elicitation technique in the form of a Play Scenario Evaluation Activity, and online interviews with teachers to reflect on the Evaluation Activity and their own practice. Findings raise concerns about the ever-widening gap between understandings and implementations of play in general early childhood education and the foreign language classroom. Prevailing assumptions regarding best practice in early years ELT (teacher-centred practice, target language only policies, emphasis on fun) limit children's opportunities for enacting agency and taking an active role in their own development ​
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