Did you know reading for ten minutes a day can help improve memory and concentration? Reading is also a great way for children to relax. But there are hundreds and thousands of books to choose from, so how do you decide what to read with your students or children? It can be tricky.
Most teachers include informal, ongoing assessment as an integral part of their lessons. Noticing what students know and don’t yet know helps us adapt our lessons and teaching strategies. Sometimes teachers hesitate to tell students when they are being assessed because they don’t want students to become anxious. However, if we present these assessment activities as a chance for students to see (and show us) how much they can do in English, they can be something that students look forward to. Continue reading
Enter the world of a young child. What might you discover? Young children squeal with delight at surprises. They love to use their imaginations. They easily become animals, princesses, firefighters, doctors, and more! How can we as English teachers build English language skills while nurturing our young learners’ creativity and imaginations? Let’s explore some classroom strategies and activities that successful teachers of young learners use.
1. Classroom songs and chants
Listen to a classroom of young learners. Songs and chants can be heard throughout the day. Let’s consider using a song for a warm-up activity. What kinds of songs or chants work best with young learners? One of the things I look for in a song or chant is a simple pattern. For example, consider this well-known children’s game song, “Looby Loo.”
Here we go Looby Loo. Here we go Looby Light.
Here we go Looby Loo, all on a Saturday night.
We put our hands in. We put our hands out.
We give our hands a shake, shake, shake,
and turn ourselves about, OH!
In this song, the children hold hands while walking around in a circle. For my Japanese students, the song gets their ears ready to hear the /l/ sound that’s not present in their language. The song is cheerful and uses movement that gets children’s bodies warmed up for class.
After children have learned a song, patterns invite them to add their own ideas. What can we change? We could focus on body parts. Children enjoying thinking of a new body part with each repetition. To guide thinking, you can give a child a bilateral choice: Should we move our legs (move your legs) or our fingers (wiggle your fingers)? After a few repetitions, children may be able to name a body part independently.
Sing the song at the next class but add something new. We could change the way we “go” around the circle. Children choose new verbs, such as jump, hop, march, tiptoe, run, skip, gallop, etc. Make it more interesting by changing your voice, speeding up the song, or slowing it down.
Giving children choices nurtures their creativity and encourages output.
2. Creative movement
As I mentioned with music, young learners love to move. There are so many ways that we can add movement to our classes for children.
TPR (Total Physical Response) invites children to respond to movement commands. Using movement in a song as mentioned above is similar. Students hear the words, watch the movement, and move to the words.
Some movements are easy to do in one place, such as clap your hands, pat your legs, stomp your feet, touch your toes, wave your arms, wiggle your fingers, nod your head, blink your eyes, shake your hair, bend your knees. Some movements can be done around a circle or in an open classroom space, like the ones mentioned in Looby Loo.
Children can use their imaginations to move in so many different ways. They can pretend to be animals, Halloween characters, or their favourite storybook character. Using simple props makes it even more interesting.
3. Puppets and stuffed animals
Engage your children’s imaginations by making puppets or stuffed animals a regular part of your English lessons. Practice in front of a mirror to make your puppet appear more life-like. I just introduced my new hedgehog puppet to my kindergarten class. I invited my students to give him a name. They chose “Harry.” Harry comes to class every week. Your puppets can lead an activity, join in a game, read a book, or be part of a conversation. They are often just what you need for your shy students.
4. Hands-on classroom learning
What else can we bring into our young learner classroom? Use your imagination! Real items can be used in numerous ways. Thinking of unusual ways to use items makes learning fun while nurturing your students’ creative thinking.
For example, beanbags can be used to practice colours and play games, but we can use them for imaginative chants, too. Scarves can be used to toss in the air. Pretend that they are leaves, a flower, or the wings of a butterfly. Asking yourself if there’s another way to do something will lead you to new creative choices.
Children’s stories can be used in many ways with young learners. Most children’s books have beautiful illustrations, a perfect tool for teaching new vocabulary. Board books often have some type of interactive features that make reading even more interesting.
Come and discover the magic!
In my webinar, I shared strategies and activities that you’ll be able to use immediately in your very young learner classroom. I modelled ways in which you can enter the world of imagination and develop language. Join me for an active session of songs, chants, creative movement, puppets, scarves, beanbags, children’s stories, and more!
Kathleen Kampa specializes in working with young learners. As a PYP (Primary Years Program) teacher, she uses an inquiry-based approach to teaching through which students develop 21st Century skills. Kathleen uses multiple intelligences strategies to help all students find success. She also builds English language skills by creating songs, chants, and movement activities targeted to children’s needs. Kathleen and her husband Charles Vilina are co-authors of Magic Time, Everybody Up, and the ELTon award-winning course, Oxford Discover, published by Oxford University Press.
Thank you to everyone who attended the webinar ‘Strategies for EMI/CLIL Success for Primary Learners’! During the webinar I had defined EMI and CLIL while addressing a few strategies applying the CLIL approach focusing on primary learners.
EMI – English as a Medium of Instruction
Information communicated to the learner (English being their non-native language) in the classroom is in English. This includes subject content, student materials and resources (textbooks and or coursebooks), and lecture instructions.
CLIL – Content and Language Integrated Learning
CLIL refers to, situations where subjects, or parts of subjects, are taught through a foreign language with dual-focused aims, namely the learning of content and the simultaneous learning of a foreign language.
[D. Marsh, 1994]
Strategy Focus for Primary Learners with CLIL – Use of Visuals and its Benefits
Visual aids are tools and instruments teachers will use to encourage student learning by making the process easier, simpler, and more interesting for the learner. Visual aids usage supports information acquisition by allowing learners to digest and comprehend knowledge more easily.
- Examples of visual aids, but not limited to, are: Pictures, models, charts, maps, videos, slides, diagrams, flashcards, and classroom props.
Thank you all for your interesting questions! Here I will do my best to respond to a couple of those I could not answer during the webinar.
What challenges do students in EMI [classes] face?
A student’s stage in education, (i.e. Primary, secondary, etc.) would result in different challenges. Overall, there are usually two main factors to consider in an EMI learning environment; first the student’s native tongue is not English, and second, the acquisition of the subject content being taught. Since the learner is dealing with new and fresh information in a relative new subject, those challenges being difficult on their own, a strong command of English would be a prerequisite.
That being understood, without the language ability, challenges could include difficulties comprehending subject concepts or themes, struggles communicating with the teacher or classroom peers, even troubles using materials such as their textbooks, workbooks, or class resources.
I am not stating that a student must be 100% fluent in English for EMI to be successful, but since EMI classrooms do not focus solely on English language learning, an appropriate level of English is needed to help learners reach their goals.
Does CLIL overlap with the PPP approach?
I believe that CLIL and the PPP method can overlap. Just to clarify the PPP methodology, this style of English teaching follows the 3Ps – presentation, practice, production. This method deals with a set process of how to deliver content to a L2 student, then provides support for language usage and application. Though CLIL does not encompass or represent all learning styles, it does provide a more flexible set of principles and guidelines. To paraphrase our previous definition, CLIL is established as a learning environment that satisfies the two goals of learning content and learning a foreign language equally. I like to think of the PPP method as a language delivery system. If an English teacher is teaching her L2 students science and writing skills, the PPP method can be used just as effectively as with a teacher teaching L1 grammar to an L1 classroom.
Many of the questions that were included were in regards to characteristics of a CLIL classroom/lesson. For that, I would like to recommend a short article for additional information.
The British Council has an article by Steve Darn that addresses CLIL’s framework and expectation in the classroom with supplemental resources: https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/clil-a-lesson-framework. I also would like to recommend some other resources that I have found very helpful as well for CLIL and EMI in the classroom:
- Ball, P., Kelly, K., Clegg, J. (2015). Putting CLIL into Practice. Great Clarendon Street, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Deller, S., Price, C. (2007). Teaching Other Subjects Through English. Great Clarendon Street, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Missed my webinar? click the link below to watch the recording!
Interested in EMI and CLIL? Get practical recommendations from our experts with our position paper. Click here to download.
Joon Lee has been involved in the EFL and ESL educational community at the positions of Academic Director, Content and Curriculum Developer, and Academic Advisor. He has been fortunate to pursue his interests in developmental learning from both in and out of the classroom. At OUP he is part of the Asia Educational Services team and shares his experiences providing teacher training and professional development workshops. He holds great respect for educators and administrators who show passion towards nurturing a learner’s path to success.
If I asked you what the hardest part of learning English was, how many of you would point out the relationship (or seeming lack of a relationship) between how English sounds and how it is written?
My social media feeds are full of jokes about English spelling, like the famous poem ‘The Chaos’ by G. Nolst Trenite, which uses rhymes to point out that
“Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.”
Ahead of my forthcoming webinar Fun with Phonics next month, let’s go back to basics with phonics and think about how it is relevant in the young learner’s classroom.
What is phonics?
English is not spelt phonetically so reading and spelling in English can be challenging even for native speakers. Phonics is a system that was developed to help native speaking children learn to read in English. It involves linking the 44 sounds of English (phonemes) to the possible ways they can be spelt (graphemes). There are three main types of phonics: Analytic, Embedded and Synthetic.
- Analytic phonics takes whole words and asks learners to analyse them. Students are taught to compare sound patterns, for example identifying what is the same about the words pet, purple and potato, or noticing the similarities between words with the same ending like book and cook.
- Embedded phonics teaches phonics as and when it is needed. For example, if a student is having particular difficulties with a new word. It is not a systematic approach, and students are only taught what is needed so not all phonics elements are covered.
- Synthetic phonics is the most widely used approach around the world. This is because it is the most effective. This method takes a systematic approach to phonics, teaching children to sound out words to ‘decode’ what they say, or blend sounds together to ‘encode’ them in their written form.
As Synthetic phonics is the most widely used, we will look at this further during the webinar.
Why does it matter to English language teachers?
As a native English speaker (and reader) I clearly remember receiving phonics instruction as I navigated English spelling. I remember working through levelled reading schemes in school, and reading with my Grandmother as she challenged me to find all the words in the newspaper with “oo” in them while we experimented with the sounds they make. More than 30 years on and phonics has become a buzzword in the English language classroom.
However, phonics doesn’t just help children to associate the sounds and spelling of English. Through focusing on the sounds of English, young learners can develop confidence when they tackle new words. It can also help them to improve their spoken and written English and develop their learner autonomy. We’ll be exploring this further in the webinar.
How can I teach phonics?
In 2018 there are plenty of great phonics-based reading schemes that can be used in our classrooms.
There are those such as Floppy’s Phonics which is designed for the first language English speakers, but which is increasingly used in the second language classroom. Then there are schemes such as Oxford Phonics World which is developed specifically for learners of English. Phonics can also be seen embedded in young learners’ coursebooks such as Family and Friends, where children learn phonics while they learn English.
Of course, having the right materials is only half of the battle. As with anything else in the classroom, success with phonics will also depend on how well you implement the ideas into your lessons.
Charlotte Rance is a freelance teacher trainer and educational consultant based in Brighton, UK. She has been working in the English Language Teaching industry for over a decade, and her key areas of interest are young learners and the use of stories and reading as a tool for language learning. Her main goal as a trainer is to provide practical advice and strategies that teachers can implement in their lessons.