What I learnt today: Engaging Young learners with Content, Language & Learning Skills

Today I went to a workshop led by Jane Maria Harding da Rosa who blogs at jmhdr.wordpress.com.

When she said we learn by teaching, I knew she was talking to me! So here are some of the things I learnt today:

The workshop was entitled “Engaging Young Learners with Content, Language and Learning Skills”.

The objectives of this workshop were to familiarize teachers with the idea of using content and learning skills to aid language development, to provide practical ideas and activities for using content and learning skills in the classroom, and finally to link these activities with Cambridge YL examinations.

Jane used a variety of activities that were new for me, including a ranking diamond (more effective than a list as it allows you to choose “best” and “worst” but leaves equal positions in the middle) and wall stations (which I do use, but these were folded sheets so the team members had no choice but to explain to their team, instead of the rest of the group looking over people’s shoulders and reading for themselves!) to explain to those present what was meant by deep cognitive engagement.

She illustrated activities such as chant creation and flashing images (that students must memorize) that could be used to develop this in the young learners’ classroom. We discovered the difference between function words which tend to be learnt incidentally, and content words that are taught in more planned ways.

Learning skills were introduced by looking at how children learn their first language, and the mnemonic device CREAM reminded us that language learners need Context, Repetition, Experimentation, Association and assimilation Meaningful input.

Jane explained the difference between homework and home-learning, I thought this was great and she also gave some useful examples of the latter, for example asking students to think in English for five minutes, by looking out of their window for example and naming all the things they can see, adding adjectives, verbs, etc. Another fun practice activity she presented involved drawing a face on one of our fingers and creating a personality and background for this new “character”, we enjoyed creating discussions between our new “friends” and it was easy to see that this would be a popular classroom activity that could be extended in home-learning time.

One of the key points Jane made was the importance in encouraging fluency in what our students know, rather than continually giving new language to be learnt, I really agree with this and then she suggested many simple and effective activities involving word cards that did just this, such as labeling, a version of happy families called Go –Fish, as well as memory games, etc.

In the final part of the workshop we put into practice the many activities that had been presented, choosing which were most suitable for the various parts of the Cambridge Young Leaners’ examinations. I particularly enjoyed the idea of cutting a small hole in a piece of A3 paper, placing it over an image, and moving it about so the students can slowly guess and describe the subject of the image.

I particularly appreciated Jane’s methods of “reflection on reflection”, whereby throughout the event we were encouraged to think about what we had learnt so far, not only did this anchor the many new ideas for us participants, but it was a great example of what we should be doing in class to recycle and anchor learning. She also used a “thumbometre”, where we did thumbs up-midway-down to show our understanding of the concepts she explained. This activity could easily be done in class, with thumbs on chests this could be quite discrete, showing the teacher where we are in our learning without letting the rest of the class know.

To conclude, this was a well-organized and information packed workshop (thank you ETAS/Cambridge Geneva-Vaud!), with plenty of group work and games to motivate the tiredest of teachers on a Saturday morning, and I’ll definitely be looking at Jane’s blog jmhdr.wordpress.com for even more ideas!

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About fabenglishteacher

I've been teaching English for a few years now and this blog is part of my never-ending quest to make learning English more fun, and easier for my students.
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