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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Autumn Days

Those of you who were at primary school in the eighties will probably remember the following assembly song, especially if you were in the recorder group like I was:

Autumn days when the grass is jewelled
And the silk inside a chestnut shell
Jet planes meeting in the air to be re-fuelled
All the things I love so well
So I mustn't forget
No I mustn't forget
To say a great big thank you
I mustn't forget.

Along with harvest festival celebrations where everyone took in a tin of Spam (when it was something to eat, rather than junkmail) and sang songs about crops and giving and thanking the Lord, autumn was a time for putting on your wellies and jumping in piles of leaves and puddles, smelling bonfires and playing conkers and doing leaf rubbings with wax crayons.

I wanted to allow my class of six-year-olds to feel the magic of those days, and relate to it. I wanted them to imagine they were in a park covered in fallen leaves, to run around and jump and play. To smell roast chestnuts, to feel the chilly autumn wind on their faces. To collect leaves and touch them, feel them, smell them. I wanted them to have a multisensory experience with sights, sound, smells and sensations. And all this in the classroom!

This is all part of the CLILing up of my youngest students. This summer I started working on a project to bring Content and Language Integrated Learning into my classroom. After trying out different course books for this age group and trying a materials free approach, I have come to the conclusion that neither is ideal. So why not do things that the children are really interested in? Topics that will motivate and engage. Tasks that are challenging not just because of the language involved but also for their content. This is what I am trying with one class of six-year-olds and at the moment it seems to be working.

Autumn is a mini.project that we have been doing over three lessons. The final lesson was dedicated to creating a display for our classroom. We had already done the leaf rubbings in the previous lesson and we spent yesterday deciding where to stick each leaf and recognising the written forms of the words we have learnt. Here are a couple of pictures of the display:

Creating a display can take some time and effort on the part of the teacher, but it gives the children a real sense of achievement when they see that their work is the backbone of a beautiful wall display. You can involve the children at all stages, in the planning of what to include and where, in the sticking, in handing out pins and adhesives and so on. The display is ours, we have created it as a class and it shows what we have been doing and what the children have been learning. It shows our progress and it is fun.

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