Monday, October 28, 2013

Our Locality, an example of multilateral project working

The materials I want to share with you today are quite old, but they are still very useful if you want to offer your students the possibility to work the town or the city in a more "multilateral" and "sharing" way.

The OUR LOCALITY poster project consists of two activity booklets containing 15 photocopyable cut-and-paste pages, and two posters, each consisting of two A3 sections, a top and a bottom.

The activities follow a cross curricular theme and could be attempted by any primary class group, depending on the level of expectation. Any activity could be expanded for greater depth of study or could accompany a series of photographs, drawings or a video of the locality.

In the Our Locality project the children present aspects of the local area in a project format. In all classes it is possible to include pictures of the area, physical features, other cultures and languages in the area, shopping in the area, things which can be seen from the school, flags typical of the locality, etc. High level classes could draw maps and plans of the area.

The children should be encouraged to work in teams on different aspects of the project thus building a class project.

This project offers opportunities for linking schools in a multilateral school partnership, as the project could be exchanged with children from other countries working on a similar project. In high level classes the inclusion of videos, photographs, stories, poems, dances and recorded music from the area would greatly enhance the project work.



If the school is on Internet, the children could publish their articles, photos or videos in the school blog, in a wiki or in the school web site.

The 15 photocopyable cut-and-paste pages


And the two posters, each consisting of two A3 sections, a top and a bottom.
These materials were produced with the assistance of E.U. Socrates funds in and European Training Programme in 1997. The project co-ordinator was Seamus O'Neill from Navan Education Centre in Ireland,  with the help of teachers from Denmark, Finland, and Ireland.

You can find another project proposal called My City, Project Based Learning or Content Based Learning in the ESL class in this same blog

Monday, October 21, 2013

How do cultural differences affect the English Language Learners ability to succeed in school?

I’ve been teaching in a CAEP School* for two years and primary ELL’s show cultural differences that really affects how they respond, act and react in class.

Sure. Some cultures don't talk about the future and so won't answer questions like, "What job would you like?" "What will you do this summer?" They think it is bad luck to talk about it. Some cultures think Fairy Tales are lies and they are upset when they talk about fairies or elves or flying dragons. Some cultures don't mention the name of the dead and so are upset when you ask about Grandma or Grandpa. Some cultures don't let you touch the children on the head. Some of our body language means different things to different people and can be very offensive.  While it is very important to some children to remind me about their nationalities and their background, to some others this is something they don’t want to talk about a word.
I had a student who always answered my questions with another question, and, another who didn’t do his homework because "his nationality." I had another student who thought it was appalling that people would keep dogs and cats as pets. Or another who wouldn’t have eye contact because “you could lose your soul”…

I welcome this kind of dialogue with the children because it generates great discussion and opens up everybody’s' mind to different ways of thinking.

Does this happen with your students?

We all bring differences to the table. But as a teacher, it is our job to celebrate the diversity in the classroom. Not only will it help the students to respect one another but, also, it may allow us - the teachers - to better understand why our students do what they do.

I do agree that it can sometimes be hard for the teacher and students to cope with cultural differences in the classroom. However, I do think that it is the teacher’s role to create an atmosphere that promotes cultural awareness so that everyone can be open-minded to others.

When the curricular calls for cultural subjects that relate to the English culture, the teacher should always make links between the different knowledge with those from other students’ cultures. In doing so the teacher helps students to construct meaning by establishing new relationships with themselves and with others and helps to share practices and beliefs regarding the subject that is being talked about.

People's cultures are a huge part of their life. It has a huge effect on how they see the world, and how they do activities and work in their life. Whether this comes in the way of their learning and our teaching depends on our ability to see all these differences in a positive light and encourage everyone to share these differences and point out the merits of each.

So, I think it is important to learn more about the cultural differences and similarities of your students in order to facilitate their cultural adaptation in your classroom, help them to increase their cultural awareness of the culture of the target language and help them to interact easily with you and their classmates.

Of course, there are some great books on what to do and what not to do, but they are usually written for business people. It is fun to talk about these things with the parents, especially what they expect from the school and teacher.

You never stop learning.


The iceberg model of culture

One of the most well known models of culture is the iceberg. It focusses on the elements that make up culture, and on the fact, that some of the elements are very visible, whereas others are hard to discover.

The idea behind this model is that culture can be pictured as an iceberg: only a very small portion of the iceberg, can be seen above the waterline. The top of the iceberg is supported by the much larger part of the iceberg, underneath the water line and therefore invisible. Nonetheless, this lower part of the iceberg is the powerful foundation.

Also in culture there are some visible parts: architecture, art music, cooking, and language, just to name a few. But the powerful foundations of culture are more difficult to spot: the history of the group of people that hold the culture, their norms, values, basic assumptions about space, nature, time etc.

The iceberg model of culture implies that the visible parts of culture are just expressions of its invisible parts. It also points out that, how difficult it is at times to understand people with different cultural backgrounds because we may spot the visible parts of their iceberg but we cannot immediately see what are the foundations that these parts rest upon. 

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(*) A CAEP is a school where the students have especial education needs to achieve the main basic skills and objectives. It is mainly due to their poor socio-cultural and economical conditions.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Is that CLIL or what?

I have received some comments and questions about what’s CLIL and what’s not and, especially about the definition of "language showers"...  it seems to me that this is an aspect not clearn enough!
Is teaching a subject in a foreign language CLIL? Are immersion programmes CLIL? Are “language showers” CLIL? Are “workshops” or modules CLIL?

Have a look at the following article and decide by yourself if you are doing CLIL or not!

The many faces of CLIL

CLIL stands for Content and Language Integrated Learning. It refers to teaching subjects such as science, history and geography to students through a foreign language. This can be by the English teacher using cross-curricular content or the subject teacher using English as the language of instruction. Both methods result in the simultaneous learning of content and English.

CLIL is an umbrella term covering a dozen or more educational approaches (eg immersion, bilingual education, multilingual education, language showers and enriched language programmes). What is new about CLIL is that it synthesizes and provides a flexible way of applying the knowledge learned from these various approaches. The flexibility of the approach is, above all, evident in the amount of time devoted to teaching or learning through the second language. CLIL allows for low- to high-intensity exposure to teaching/learning through a second language. The approach can also be used for short-term high-intensity exposure (see figure below).



Language showers

Language showers are primarily intended for students aged between six and ten years old, who receive between 30 minutes and one hour of exposure per day. This includes the use of games, songs, many visuals, realia, handling of objects and movement. Teachers usually speak almost entirely in the CLIL language. 

Routines are developed and considerable repetition is used so students know what to expect. This creates a sense of security, lowers anxiety and boosts learning.

Language showers aim to help students to:
• be aware of the existence of different languages;
• develop a positive attitude towards language learning;
• be prepared for language learning.

Suggested activities
Teachers focus on routine activities with which the students become comfortable. They set the stage by telling students what to expect and then switch to the CLIL language, for example:

  • to manage snacktime or lunchtime. Instructions are given in the CLIL language, vocabulary for foods is learned and students answer questions about what they are eating. The teacher says: ‘Mmm, apples. Shelly has an apple. Who else has an apple? What is that Paul? Yes, very good. That’s right, it’s an apple. What colour is the apple, red or green? Is it red like Igor’s shirt or green like Chantal’s skirt?’ Simultaneously pointing to Igor’s red shirt and Chantal’s green skirt will facilitate comprehension.

  • to help students get dressed for breaks or for going home. Articles of clothing can be put on in various sequences while the students repeat the new words. Considerable gesturing/pointing is used to help students associate the object with its name in the CLIL language. The teacher may say: ‘What shall we put on first? Our gloves? Our hats? Our coats? Our boots? What colour is Vadim’s hat? What colour is Penny’s scarf? Today, let’s put on our gloves first. Now let’s put on our coats and try to button them. Is that difficult?’ (Said with a grimacing face.) ‘Is that easy?’ (Said with a smiling face.) Students answer with one word or in short phrases using the CLIL language.

  • singing songs that include considerable movement and that help teach vocabulary (eg the Shimmy Shimmy Shake, also known as the Hokey Cokey: I put my left hand in, my left hand out, my left hand in and I shake it all about …). Using actions together with new vocabulary helps students to learn and more easily recall vocabulary. Also, words in songs are more easily retained than lists of words.

 Are you a CLIL teacher?

Even if you are unaware of the term CLIL, you may already have been using CLIL methodology for many years. You may already be following and using many of its principles.
•             Bilingual Integration of Languages and Disciplines (BILD)
•             Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL)
•             Content and Language Integration in Primary CLIP
•             Content-based Instruction (CBI)
•             Content-based Language Instruction (CBLI)
•             Content-based Language Teaching (CBLT)
•             English Across the Curriculum (EAC)
•             English as an Academic Language (EAL)
•             English as a Medium of Instruction (EMI)
•             Foreign Language Immersion Program (FLIP)
•             Foreign Languages as a Medium of Education (FLAME)
•             Languages Across the Curriculum (LAC)
•             Teaching Content Through English
•             Teaching English Through Content



Part of this article is taken from onestopenglish 

Monday, October 07, 2013

A Science Workshop in English

English language teachers enjoy a flexibility that few other teachers have.

Teaching English as a Second Language has the advantage that the courses can be designed based on the spoken language, in the display of productions and peer interaction.

But it also has the advantage that, in addition to language, you can do many things in English, even scientific, natural or social content. This is a multidisciplinary challenge, and without good selected materials you can fail on the try!

This year, once again, it has been impossible to start a project CLIL at school. Local governments in Spain have made a dramatic reduction on education investment. This means a lack of material and human resources. Most of the schools have been forced to reduce innovative projects and forced to develop alternative plans. And what's more, schools have decided not to start a project that won’t probably have continuity...

The solution taken by many schools is to offer “workshops” (taller" in Spanish) on language and content, one or two hours per week. The aim of these workshops is to offer a "language shower" and to cover some basic aspects or sub-competences both in English and the chosen subject: “short-term high-intensity exposure"!

So more than a CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning) becomes a CBLT (Content-Based Language Teaching), that is teaching some content in English.

At school we chose science and today I would like to share some materials with which we have organized our workshop.


  • The Thinking Lab® is a project promoted by Cambridge University Press for the purpose of generating knowledge and debate on CLIL teaching. The findings will eventually be transformed into specific publications. The project is formed by a varied team of authors, teachers, editors and others who work together to achieve a more effective, dynamic and engaging approach to content teaching using English as the classroom language (CLIL).

  • ScienceforKidsBlog.blogspot.com. Sue Cahalane  propose lots and lots of hands on activities to experiment science. She says "Kids are natural scientists! I created this teaching blog with the hope that we can share ideas about teaching science to children.  By teaching this subject in a hands-on, fun and interesting way, it is my hope that children will never lose their love for science".                           It is an incredible blog! 



  • Little Miss Hypothesis a blog created out of "the love and passion for Science and Early Childhood Education". This is a great blog to take you into a real Kindergarten classroom and show you that Science is possible even in this level.


There are many more blogs, wikis, webs and materials and I'm sure everyone has their favorite ones about science. But I find these great if all you wanted is to start with some experiments that fill the learning of the language with content (or vice versa!).