At the beginning of my teaching career two things filled me with fear: crafts and young learners. The two together? Forget it! Once I gained more experience teaching younger learners, I soon realised my fears were unfounded. However, crafts were still something I avoided. My reservations about doing crafts with Young Learners came from not only the chaos that can ensue and the need for materials but most of all I wondered if the students would be using English enough. I recognise the value of developing the whole child but where is the language work?
I decided to have a craft project lesson before the Easter holiday with two groups of young learners aged 6-7. I was determined that there would be a language focus. Although the idea was to make an Easter card, the language aim would be ‘Can I have…..? plus the materials they needed (e.g. purple card, scissors, glue etc.) as this needed reinforcing. In my induction training Chris Roland advised me to ‘always have a frame of reference with young learners’. I’ve found this suggestion so useful over the last few years so I set up the lesson in the following way.
- I placed a pre-made finished object on the desk which the inquisitive young learners were sure to notice. In this case it was an Easter card.
- The board was already set up with the language they would need in order to ask for the materials.
- I drilled the language, and highlighted new vocabulary (beak, wool etc).
- I showed the students stage by stage how to make the card but following each stage demonstration they would come to the front where the materials were laid out and ask me for the item they needed. E.g St: Can I have a chicken picture, please? T: Yes, here you are.
- Fast-finishers took over the role of responding to students requests for materials.
What went well.
- The fact that this created a genuine need to communicate meant that students were motivated to ask for what they needed.
- The task allowed for a lot of repetition of the target structure ´Can I have..?’ Students became more very familar with it and used it more confidently.
- It gave an opporunity to recycle classroom vocabulary we’d learned at the beginning of the course.
- Everyone working at their own pace had some advantages. Faster finishers were able to take over the distribution of the materials. In some cases they were able to help other learners. They gave the structure where necessary (E.g. Can I have a beak?)
- As restrictions have eased it allowed for movement in the classroom because students were required to get up to ask for the material.
- I saw progress from students who are usually less likely to produce complete questions in book-based activities. Some who have more difficulty reading were able to copy their classmates.
- In practice this was quite a calm and relaxed crafts session.
Any considerations for future lessons?
- It might have been difficult to manage with a larger group. In both classes I had under 10 students
- Although there were opportunities to take on a helping role for the faster finishers, I didn’t really create much of an opportunity for extension or upgrading. Perhaps I would include a more challenging message writing task for them to put in the card next time.
- It’s important to avoid bottle-necks. Ideally you don’t want everyone to finish at the same time and be waiting for the teacher to give permission to take the material. As the activity started with colouring the chick I knew this would stagger the times they’d need to ask for material due to very different colouring techniques and speeds! Towards the end the fast finishers helped out.
- Looking at my board from the photo I think I should write bigger and practise writing in a straight line with clearer letters for young learners. (One benefit of reflecting on classroom practice!)