In any English class it's important to vary the activity type to maintain interest. You will always be dealing with different types of learners, some prefer solving puzzles and singing songs, and some enjoy working in groups while others prefer working on their own. With Very Young Learners and Young Learners it's especially important to cater to the different learning styles in your classroom as when learning stops boredom can quickly take over. Here are some tips on how to successfully integrate arts and crafts into your lessons without becoming overwhelmed by a sea of cut up paper and losing your learners under piles of glue and sellotape.
- To integrate arts and crafts in the English classroom without losing sight of a learning objective
- To cater to a range of learner styles
- To successfully give instructions for a craft activity in order to include all children
- To reflect on having an organised approach to craft activities in order to be time efficient
1. Prepare as much as possible before the lesson without removing the creative element of the activity. Carefully consider the different stages of making the craft and decide which stages the children can do themselves, which they can't, which stages will allow them to be creative and which won't.
2. Always ensure you have sufficient tools for all the children in the class. If a child has to wait a long time for glue or scissors learning there is less time for learning and they will get bored.
3. See if you can use templates for part of the craft to help the very young learners. If drawing a dog is necessary for the craft but not the main focus of the activity then consider providing a photocopied template for each child.
4. Always prepare your instructions and have models of what you want the children to make at different stages of completion to demonstrate clearly what they need to do. With your very young learners you could do the activity stage by stage making sure that they have all completed one stage before moving on to the next. You can avoid quick finishers getting bored by asking them to help the others.
5. Make your instructions as simple as possible. This should be done in English so they become part of the language learning process. The more you use simple instructions such as ‘cut, stick, fold' etc the quicker the children will pick up and retain this vocabulary. You will not be helping them by giving instructions in their first language. You should however ensure that everyone has understood what they have to do before moving on. If your instructions are too complex they will get lost and you will lose their interest.
6. Consider what language the children will be using and more precisely what language you would like them to be using pre, during the craft activity and post-making. You don't necessarily have to insist on language work for all three stages, the object could be made to be used for a language exchange afterwards, but you mustn't lose sight of the fact you are in an English class and not an art class.
7. Vary the type of craft supplies you use - be innovative. Use modelling clay, paper, coloured card, shiny card, wool, string, sticks, pasta shells, fabric, beads, cereal packets, plastic bottles, buttons, leaves, pebbles, bits of ribbon, pipe cleaners, newspapers, magazines... Collect and store your craft supplies so that you don't waste time searching for bits of string at the last minute.
8. Tidy the classroom as you go rather than waiting until the end of the lesson. The children are bound to lose vital parts of what they're making if they have to contend with lots of bits of cut up paper on their desks. Integrate the tidying up as part of the language learning process with bin monitors saying ‘Put your rubbish in the bin.' or ‘Any rubbish?' When they've finished using the glue have the glue monitor say ‘Put the glue in your pencil case.' Allocate instruction tellers. They could take it in turns to say classroom language such as ‘Cut the paper.' or ‘Use the red pen.'
9. Always have an activity whereby the children can actually use what they've made. Don't let the craft itself be the end of the learning cycle. Give the learners something meaningful to do with their object. This could be acting out a few phrases in English with a finger puppet or telling a story using a book they've made.
10. Don't underestimate the value of letting a child create something that they can personalise. The moment they walk out the door carrying their English bookmark or their English pirate hat they are transferring what they've done in class to their home environment. If they leave the classroom able to enthusiastically tell someone about their object, why they made it and what they did with it they are much more likely to leave with a positive image of learning English.
Make a monster with plasticine
Make a paper plate mask
Read an article about Multiple Intelligences
Read an article on using arts and crafts with young learners
By Jo Bertrand