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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

TESOL Spain: Young Learners Part 1

Small Explorers - from Morgue File

In the first of this series of posts I plan to write about the TESOL Spain 2011 convention, I will first be looking at the talks I attended about Young Learners. Those of you who regularly read this blog will have discovered that teaching children has become one of my passions over the last two or three years and where better to start than with something I am always striving to do better?

Often, when I go to conferences, I tend to go for any session related to young learners, but this time I decided that a healthy mix would be more valuable. I attended four sessions where the focus was on our younger learners and in this post I will summarise some of the key points that were made in the first session, as well as my own reflections on what was said.

The four sessions were the following:

Exploring the Real World in the English Classroom by Nina Lauder
Picture Books and Cross-curricular Themes by Carol Read
Writing Instructions - Where? How? Where Does It Fit In? by Elizabeth Forster and Richard Stenhouse
Classroom Management for Primary by Helena Kennedy

Exploring the Real World in the English Classroom by Nina Lauder
Nina gave an informative and enjoyable talk about how to incorporate different aspects of a child's world into our classes. Suitable for both a CLIL context and a more traditional language learning setting, her presentation provided lots of practical ideas to take away and use in the classroom. The talk began by looking at reasons why we should be trying to bring the real world into our lessons: It can be motivating and fun; it makes English real and meaningful; it helps the children learn values such as respect and tolerance.

Practical Activities:
  • Have children bring in a photo, an object, a song to show and tell
  • Bring realia into the classroom e.g. if you are looking at food, bring in real or plastic food, have tasting sessions etc
  • Riddles: Choose an animal (or a word from the lexical set that is being studied) and write a set of clues about it. One by one, give the children a clue and ask them to think of what it could be. They could discuss this in pairs or put their hands up to answer.
  • Guessing Games: Show the children pictures of the words they have been learning. The children ask each other questions to determine which word was chosen.
  • Stamp or Clap: Like a guessing game, the teacher (or pupil) chooses a word (in this case an animal) and asks questions about it. If the answer is "yes", the children should clap. If the answer is "no". they should stamp their feet. A fun way of getting children to listen carefully and respond.
  • KWL: This stands for KNOW/ WANT TO KNOW/ LEARNT. Draw a table with three columns and write KWL at the top, one in each column. The children write down things they know about the subject and things they would like to know. When the children have learnt more about the subject (e.g from reading a text or doing a project) they fill in the last column.
  • Poster Grids: With any poster or large picture, divide it into cells with co-ordinates. The children then ask each other what they can see in a cell of their choice.
Nina also talked about doing experiments and using estimates, code-breaking and using charts; bringing Science and Maths into the classroom.

One of my favourite ideas from this talk was the idea of explorers. OUP have a series called Explorers and Nina showed us her cardboard friends from the series that she takes everywhere with her. She takes photos of herself and the explorer in different places and then brings them into class to use as a springboard for discussion. I love this idea because it really brings the real world into the classroom. Your little "friend" does not necessarily have to be an explorer - it could be any classroom pet or puppet that you choose, but I particularly thought that the idea of an explorer would appeal to children of all ages, both boys and girls, and that it lends itself well to work on the environment, geography, history and so on. After all, what an explorer does is go out and explore new places.

Overall Feedback: A very positive session with lots of practical ideas and the reasons behind the theory.

Next up:  Picture Books and Cross-curricular Themes by Carol Read

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