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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

TESOL Spain: Young Learners Part 2

In my last post I talked about Nina Lauder's session "Exploring the Real World in the English Classroom", which you can find here.

It is now the turn of Carol Read, who is an expert in teaching primary-aged children. I recommend taking the time to have a look round her blog where she discusses the theory behind many aspects of teaching younger learners and provides practical ideas on how to do so.

By Enokson on flickr
Carol's talk at TESOL Spain was entitled "Picture books and cross-curricular themes". It was a very interesting session, where Carol talked about different kinds of picture books and how to use them in the CLIL classroom. Unfortunately, I arrived slightly late (blame the slow waiters at VIPS restaurant!) and missed the introduction, where Carol introduced the audience to BICS and CALP (Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills and Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency).

We looked at Cummins' Quadrant (see below) and where picture books might fit in. Of course, this depends on the book in question, and Carol divided picture books into three categories: Factual, Fictionalised Science and Fiction.
Cummins' Quadrant
We were shown examples of each type of book and some of the advantages and disadvantages of each. Personally, because the group of learners I am using a CLIL-type syllabus with are very young (6 years old, first year of Primary) I prefer fiction. All young children love stories, and pick up lots of language from listening to a story and participating in a story-telling session. Stories are more fun than non-fiction, although it may sometimes be more useful to use a fictionalised science book, where the story is based on scientific fact, than a fantastical story of pure fiction. Carol did mention, however, that she had never come across a child who had problems distinguishing between fact and fiction in stories. Just because in the story the ladybirds talk, doesn't mean that the children will actually believe that ladybirds can speak! Children are actually very good at differentiating between what is real and what is not.

Carol the showed us some of the books more closely, providing us with examples on how we could use these books in the classroom. The two story books I remember clearly from the presentation, were:

I will not ever NEVER eat a tomato by L. Child
Lost and Found by O. Jeffers

Eric Carle's books such as The Very Hungry Caterpillar and The Tiny Seed were also mentioned. I have used The Very Hungry Caterpillar in my own unit on Creepy Crawlies as a basis for the introduction to the life cycle of the butterfly. This was also one of the ways Carol suggested using picture books as a springboard into CLIL projects. Others she talked about were the life cycle of a frog and the food pyramid.

Overall, Carol's talk was very informative, but more importantly in my opinion, fun! She read us the stories as if we were the children in her class, and we all really really wanted to know what happened next! This was a valuable experience, as sometimes it can be hard for teachers to tell a story effectively, especially when you have a class full of restless children. Carol managed to keep around 200 of us engaged - not such an easy task when your session is just after the lunch break!

If anybody is interested in using CLIL resources in their classrooms, Carol has shared a couple of projects on Onestopclil.
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