If you can use part of a classroom as your own or if you always use the same classroom, then find out about the possibility of displaying your pupils’ work on the wall. Not only does it give them huge satisfaction to see their poem, picture or poster on the wall it also provides a fun and interesting place to work in.
Your school will probably want to make the most of your presence. Being a native speaker you can bring a lot to the children. They may ask you to participate in an English Club or indeed you may want to develop some sort of club of your own. Using your initiative with both classrooms and clubs will be both a rewarding and stimulating bonus to the actual teaching you’re doing. Here are some ideas to get you started.
- Providing a space dedicated to English to motivate and inspire learners
- Enabling learners to work as a group in a non-threatening environment
- Investing time in your own development and language assistant experience
The English Zone
- Try to start each session with a ritual so that they know they have entered into the ‘English Zone’. This is especially important if you are just coming into their normal classroom and teaching where their normal teacher would be.
- Make your classes distinctive from what they are used to by having a welcome song.
- If possible gather everyone into a circle on the floor to get them out of their seats. This may not be feasible given the seating arrangements you have but make sure you ask about the possibility of changing the seats or even room.
- If you can’t change the seats themselves then get the children to sit in different places.
- You need to really mark the beginning of your classes – this will help them concentrate on what you’re going to do.
- The work you display should be as ‘correct’ as possible. So avoid displaying posters which say ‘THE FAMMILY’ for example. Make sure you and they thoroughly check what they display. They can check each other’s work as well. It doesn’t always have to be the role of the teacher to check and correct.
- Let them take responsibility for pre-checking before displaying their work but oversee this process for the very young learners.
- Don’t stick up scraps of paper, first drafts or scribbles. This doesn’t mean however that if your group of five-year-olds have all drawn pictures of their favourite toy you only display those which are distinguishable. In this case you must of course treat everyone the same and value what they have done.
The English theatre club
- You may be asked to run, participate in or advise on an English Club. You may decide yourself that you want to spend some of your spare time with the children but not actually teaching.
- An English Theatre Club could take up a fair amount of your time but it will be time well spent.
- Why not aim towards putting on a short play at the end of the school year for their peers or even parents. The National Theatre has commissioned a series of plays written especially for young learners which you can easily use for all primary ages.
- This is a great year-long project in which everyone can be involved, from the one-liner walk-on roles, the assistant backstage ‘manager’, the lead role or the prompt.
- For very young learners you can begin with non-verbal activities to put them ease while maintaining English as the club’s main language.
- For older primary they could imagine their own scenes to act out.
The English conversation club
- Although you shouldn’t expect a real debate, a conversation club doesn’t have to be reserved for secondary. This could be with slightly older primary children as 10 – 11 year olds can take a real interest in other people’s opinions as well as obviously expressing their own.
- Allocate a session to a couple of children. They can be responsible for choosing a subject they want to talk about. This could be their favourite sport, singer, film or friend.
- Tell them that they should bring with them one object connected to their subject. This is their visual aid. It will also help you and their peers to ask relevant questions about the subject.
- Avoid leaving the sessions without structure. It will never work if you turn up saying ‘Right what shall we talk about today?’. They need a minimum of preparation. Have a set structure to the session i.e. 5-10 minutes for the two children who have ‘prepared’ a subject, and 10-15 minutes for a general topic that you have bought pictures in for and have vocabulary to introduce (say 5 new words).
- Take along some photos of your family, hometown or friends. Ask them to bring photos too. Visual stimuli will often help arouse interest especially when they themselves have provided the visual aids. A photo of your own house will interest them much more than a photo taken from a magazine.
http://www.shellconnections.org Find out about the short children’s plays commissioned by the National Theatre - I personally am using Jeremy and the Thinking Machine with a group of 25 children ranging from 3 - 14. It’s a musical so even the youngest can be involved with the songs.
http://www.learnenglish.org.uk/kids Use this site to get ideas for conversation club topics.
primary-tips-drama2.htm Be sure to look at the primary tips archive for ideas on using drama with primary learners
By Jo Bertrand