It was wonderful reading Sean and Sarah’s blog post on “Halloween is Coming“. They posted some wonderful pictures of their young learners getting into the spirit of Halloween – definitely worth visiting their blog to see how they are settling into Korea and their regular posts of their classroom activities. The activities that I really enjoyed seeing is getting the learners to create their own Halloween Pumpkins as well as their own personalised scary masks.
I believe arts and craft is a very under-respected activity in the classroom, possibly because the students are not necessarily taught any language points. This in itself is a very prescriptive view of language teaching, whereby teachers are expected to deliver language points. However, it is a nice refreshing change to focus on the soft skills in the classroom – getting learners to improve their cutting, sticking or colouring skills. Whenever I have incorporated any form of arts, craft or project work in the classroom, learners revert to their L1. This is another contention among language teachers, as students should be speaking English at least 100% of the time. However, when you listen to what the learners are saying, they are negotiating the task set, exploring ideas or developing opinion. It is not necessarily off-task and they are coordinating the activity to work better as a team. However, there are better ways to develop project work in the classroom to ensure some vocabulary or language is acquired during the lesson.
One activity that I enjoy including during the task is to play background music related to the theme. For example, the theme of Halloween is quite prominent at the moment so I like to include a Halloween song which I will be drilling or have drilled with students during the day. The LearnEnglish for Kids website has some wonderful songs such as the Scary Skeleton Song (refer to the link). When I was teaching a group of Colombian young learners last week, we drilled the song altogether and taught them vocabulary of the body. I drew a skeleton on the whiteboard and got learners to name parts of the body. The next lesson, I played the Skeleton Song as background music and put it on repeat. The students were quietly singing to the song – they looked very relaxed – as they focused on writing a Halloween Party Invitation.
Another activity which could be developed after the arts and craft is a presentation. For example, Sean and Sarah got their learners to create their own pumpkins. You could extend the activity by getting learners to write a diary entry of their pumpkin, name their pumpkin, present their pumpkin person to class or create an acrostic poem. An acrostic poem is where you get the letters of a word and then write extra words so “Pumpkin” could turn into:
- P: piles of candy
- U: under the bed
- M: make for a delicious snack
- P: people
- K: know
- I: it’s been Halloween because
- N: no one is without candy
Further information about acrostic poems are available from readwritethink.org. Nevertheless, for any success with arts and craft, it is very important to prepare for the activities. Get stocked up on glue, make sure you have enough scissors, get the coloured card or paper and get the coloured pencils or crayons ready. As with anything, preparation is key and it is important that the young learners feel that they have the resources available to successfully complete their project. It will motivate them and ensure that they are enthusiastic.
So, how do you supplement arts, craft and project work with a language focus? How often do you do any form of art, craft or project work with young learners? Does your school keep a stock of handy pencils, scissors, etc in the young learner classroom or do you have to buy this? What are you doing for Halloween?