The SMILE approach

The SMILE approach

“Smile? What do you mean? What kind of approach is that? Is it about psychology?” Well, kind of. This is an approach to teaching (very) young learners. It is developed by Günter Gerngross and Herbert Puchta and is based on the findings in research in cognitive psychology.

What does it mean…SMILE?

Skill-oriented learning.

Multi-sensory learner motivation.

Intelligence-building activities.

Long-term memory storage through music, movement, rhythm, and rhyme.

Exciting sketches, stories, and games.

Let’s have a look at all the principles closely.

1. Skill-oriented learning
When you teach children, you mostly develop their listening and speaking skills. For this we usually us flashcards, puppets, cartoons, videos, songs, chants, rhymes and action stories. It’s a well-known fact that the learning of a foreign-language is closely related to the general cognitive development. Children use the same abilities to interpret the language as they use to do the tasks in their everyday life. Therefore the teacher, using this approach, develops intellectual skills alongside listening and speaking skills.

2. Multi-sensory learner motivation
It’s quite essential for a kid to learn through all the senses. The SMILE approach® activates all the senses as much as possible. Children learn what they hear, see and do. The more senses you involve in a lesson, the more information pupils take in. Multi-sensory activation of the brain increases children’s concentration and awareness. Moreover, we all have different learning styles and a preference for one sensory channel. This approach takes this difference into account to maintain the balance between visual, auditory, and kinesthetic presentation. So, when you present a story or a dialogue, do it in a multi-sensory way, as a result, chunks of language will be stored in long-term memory.

3. Intelligence-building activities
Intelligence includes a range of different human abilities. It is not what we’re born with, it’s something we develop during the life. In other words, it is directly influenced by learning processes. Learning a foreign language at an early age helps develop and stimulate a child’s
Intelligence. Howard Gardner is well known for his theory of multiple intelligences: linguistic, musical, interpersonal, kinesthetic, visual-spatial, mathematical-logical, intrapersonal. The SMILE approach® activates all of them. It includes chants, rhymes, songs, tasks to decode the meaning of words in different kinds of texts, listening and pronunciation activities, language games, role-play, teamwork tasks, TPR tasks, action stories, drawing, puzzles, dancing, ranking and evaluating tasks.

4. Long-term memory storage
“Happy birthday to youuu… Happy birthday to you…” We all can remember rhymes and songs from our childhood. The reason is that we had a positive emotional association with them and they were performed with movements. It’s extremely important to use music, movements, rhymes, and rhythm to process the language and store it in the long-term memory.

5. Exciting sketches, stories, and games
For a child, it’s crucial to identify with the content of what they’re learning. It facilitates understanding and retention of chunks of language in their memory. Encourage students to transfer these phrases and sentences to other contexts to practise and reinforce the language. It also helps develop good intonation and pronunciation. For example, role-plays, which young learners love to do a lot, develop their identities in the foreign language.

If you are interested, learn more about the SMILE approach®  here.

Enjoy your lessons and don’t forget to SMILE 🙂



Наринэ Егорова

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