Around this time of the year, about a month into the new school year, I visit a neighbouring school for a language and art project day. I work with a class of 25-30 twelve year olds on a variety of language and art based activities for an intense six hour session, using my abilities as both an art teacher and a native speaker of English to my full advantage.
This year was no different, except for the obvious presence of a number Corona classroom rules and the fact that the normal presentation to parents at the end of the day wasn’t allowed to go ahead. Due to this reason I offered to put together a slightly longer blogpost than I might have done to offer parents a little more insight into the day.
I should perhaps start by mentioning, for those not entirely familiar with the situation, that the class of twelve years involved were Dutch children who have three weeks ago started on a bilingual educational programme that involves most of their regular subjects (including art) being taught in English. It is just the start of language immersion project that they are going to be involved with for the next six years.
But for the group at the project day it is very early days. The main aims of the workshop is to get them to hear a lot of English, to let them play with the language a little but above all to start chipping away at the nervousness they have about speaking a new language and helping them worry a bit less about the mistakes they make.
The whole day had a bit of a journeys and traveling theme and started with a whole series of questions about trips that the pupils had made in the past, how they got to school and where they hope to go in the future.
We played story making games about imaginary and fantastic journeys. We looked at how artists had painted pictures of faraway places and looked and guessed at where the cities were meant to be. We played an alphabet game where we tried to think of a different city that started with every letter of the alphabet and the second time through the alphabet thought of descriptive words for each letter that could be matched with a city.
The language games were mixed up with more arts and creative activities. Decorative and descriptive name tags were made for cities on our large shared artwork. Skyline collages were cut-out and added to the map as a sort of frame and a large scale group drawing of a view of London was made.
Some more focussed, and written language output, came in the form of Haiku poems about the cities of the world. Each pupil doing their best to follow the traditional haiku structure of five syllables in the first line, seven in the second and five again in the third. This asks a particular sort of playing with language and using the vocabulary that you already know as well as you can. The results, even for such new language learners, are surprisingly good.
All in all it was a very intensive day and a little different from a regular day with its switches from one classroom to another. I arrived home a little worn out by it all, and I expect the same could probably said for the pupils.