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Monday, May 9, 2011

Imaginary Trips - Let's go to the fair!

It's Feria time again and I thought I would link to last year's post in which I outlined a way of encouraging (very) young learners to talk about the fair.
At the Fair by Dominic on Flickr

 When creating my own lesson ideas for young children I always try to provide a variety of activities that include movement and drawing or colouring, in order to change the dynamics - after a noisy game that includes running around, an arts and craft activity can be ideal in order to lower excitement levels and successfully sustain a quiet period during the lesson. I also try to make the lesson multi-sensory, which means using senses other than sight and hearing (which are the predominant senses used in an English lesson), such as touch and smell. This may mean bringing in real or toy objects for the children to handle.

In the lesson above, I used pictures to present the vocabulary, but another option would be to play recordings of the sounds as well. There could be a horse trotting or galloping, fireworks going off, "sevillanas" music, the sound of a rollercoaster, the siren of the dodgems etc. Using the sense of smell can be more difficult to organise, but you could try to bring in some typical foods of the fair, such as candy floss, caramelised nuts. Taste would be a better option maybe - you could have a blindfolded tasting session of toffee apples, candy floss, lollypops, crisps or whatever else is typical. Try not to give them too much sugar though!

With young children I always try to tap into their imaginations, as they have not yet begun to doubt their own creativity. Children left alone will naturally start to play and imitate situations they have seen in real life or on TV. All little girls have played "house" and all boys "cops and robbers" or "cowboys and indians" and we have all pretended to be superheroes like Batman or Superman. Children know that these games are not real, but this doesn't stop them from having fun - in fact, it is much more fun to be a superhero than a 6 year-old boy!
I really believe we should be taking advantage of this in the classroom. Too much lesson time is spent on drilling with flashcards or large pictures - I'm not saying this is bad, but the same language can be "presented" and practised in a much more fun way. Instead of having the children sitting at their desks pointing to flashcards around the room, take them on a pretend bus to wherever you want to take them (with animals you can go to the zoo or the jungle), in this case to the fair. Put them in a line holding hands in twos, just like on a real school trip, and point things out to them. I usually have the pictures of the vocabulary placed around the classroom and I point to them, saying "Ooh look! There's the big wheel! Can you see it? It's very big! Shall we go on it?" In this way the children are being exposed to a lot more language than if you just say "big wheel" and they point to or touch the flashcard. You can involve the children even more by asking them where they want to go next. All this makes it more special - the children can really imagine being at the fair!

I have done similar "physical" visualisations with the topics Autumn, Winter and Spring, as well as Animals. We pretend to do lots of the activities we associate with those seasons, such as making snowmen or jumping in puddles. The children have lots of fun and just as importantly, all the children have the opportunity learn, whether they remember more things they have done, heard, drawn or written. In short, this kind of lesson is VAK because it includes activities that activate the different senses and therefore encourages learning from all types of learner.
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