[this post has been languishing in my drafts for some time … since the spring in fact … but then a few days ago the books were back on our kitchen table after I’d lent them out to a friend … the enthusiasm and interest were still there as my daughter scooped them up again and claimed them as her own]
Today a couple of books arrived in the post. They were inspection copies of CLIL books for primary schools in Spain. I was interested in them for personal reasons as well as professional ones. I left them on the table in the kitchen to see what reaction I’d get from a potential end-user – my six year old daughter!
What’s this? she asked enthusiastically when she arrived home from school. Is it for me? I explained that they were presents from some people I work with sometimes but that she could use them, in fact that I’d asked for them for her.
She opened the book and started a flick test. The book fell open on a unit called My body. There was a picture of a face and words to match the various parts. Eyes, ears, mouth, nose –I’ve done those in class, she said. Then she stopped to mouth the letters, eyelashes – a little laugh – eyebrows – another little laugh, we haven’t done those. Chin, cheek – they’ve forgotten lips.
On she flicked. It’s just like my books in school she said. This was obviously a good thing. Where’s the unit on animals? She looked for the index, mouthed her way through the colour-coded topics. It’s blue, as she fingered the pages looking for the blue corners. Hey, what’s this? Stick? A quick flick to the back of the book and she’d found the stickers. The exercise required her to categorise nocturnal and daytime animals. She didn’t need to read the instructions. She started straight in, choosing the ones she knew. Bat, owl … what’s a fox mum? I’ll do the day time ones first. Sticking finished she noticed the instructions, with all the nocturnal animals listed. Ah, I got it right without reading! Big smile of satisfaction.
More stickers, more flicking and she stopped at a page with a map of Spain. We’ve done this! This is Spain! Where are the stickers? (what do you have to do, I prompt, not able to keep the teacher in me at bay!) Colour the coast yellow, colour the mountains … off she went for her pencil case and the crayons and set to work, immersed, engaged, loving it.
So, what made the book such a success for her? I think it was the familiarity. It looked like her Spanish school books, it had the same kind of exercises, it covered the same information, she knew what to do with it. She found the CD as well and insisted on listening to the chants and the songs. She tidied the four books in a neat pile. Gave them a proprietorial pat. One satisified customer.
Hopefully it’ll help us bridge the gap between English at home and Spanish at school. But would it work just as well for a kid whose L1 isn’t English? I really think it could. I think mirroring the learning that’s happening in their L1 in the English book, bringing it to life with the tricks of the ELT trade (stickers, songs, stories and chants) might well be a good direction for EFL classes as well.
post-script: the friend I lent the books to has ordered copies for the school where she works and is incorporating some of the ideas and materials in her mainstream classes. It’s a bit too early to report back yet. Maybe I can persuade her to write a guest post later in the year 🙂
(PS a big thank you to Macmillan Spain for the inspection copies.)