At EF we want to afford children the opportunities to use their English as much as possible. We have the Efekta LEARN, TRY, APPLY system, with APPLY predominantly taking the form of a Life Club.
Life Clubs can be a great way for children, and teachers, to experiment with and explore English that they might not learn in class and could result in some incidental learning on both parts.
The children are exposed to more English, and more natural English at that, than they might be in the classroom.
As someone who has travelled a bit, and lived in a few countries, I can tell you from experience that there is a lot to learn in the classroom; it is an excellent environment to work in a controlled, safe space and explore the language with positive feedback from your peers and teacher. But nothing can really prepare you for foreign language use in the real world, and there has been many an occaison where I have found myself, in spite of decades of foreign language study, unable to express what I what. You don’t realise that you don’t know the vocab for ‘short back and sides, grade 3’ until you sit in a barber’s chair in France and end up having to use all the vocabulary and grammar that is in your arsenal to work your way the long way around to getting a haircut. Or worse, even though you have stared at your dictionary for 10 minutes to find the right phrase, the Russian barber plonks you in his chair and starts hacking away before you have the chance to open your mouth and so you just prattle on about Dostoyevsky. But enough about me….
The teachers at CD5 have worked hard on creating ways to support our children’s learning and give them new options to engage with language outside the classroom. As a result, we have devised Speaking Club and Reading Club. These Life Club Plus(es) aim to work on the skills that children may be lacking and give them extra help, or on the flipside, offer them more chance to practice since they may not have the option to speak as much as they want: all of us know one or two chatterboxes in the class who would just love to talk the birds down from the trees.
Reading Club, which has been organised by Neil and Kate, enabled us to work with children who are passionate about reading, engaged with the texts, and also those who want a little more time dedicated specifically to reading. As there is so much for us to do in two hours, we don’t always have the opportunity to develop this skill which enables children to autonomously language learn outside the classroom. Speaking from experience, I have read many a Russian novel whilst on the metro to work, or sat in a park with a copy of Bei Dao and the other Misty Poets, and being exposed to the language, even if I don’t totally understand it, means that I can learn more and faster.
In Reading Club we can provide children with more difficult texts than they would normally read, and create engaging topic specific lessons, for example ‘Going to the Cinema’ or ‘Life in Space’, along with fomenting Book Flooding and just a general enjoyment of reading. Working with research into Second Language Acquisition and Reading Skills we aim to encourage ‘reading for pleasure’ as I have found it is one of the greatest ways to expose oneself to the language when they are not always able to engage with native speakers and practice. Subsequently we have devised MPW, but more on that another time…
At the same time, Becky and Zoey, two of our amazing local teachers, have run a Spelling Compeititon, along with coordinating the Monthly Show and Speaking Workout video, it’s a wonder they have any time, to work on yet ANOTHER language skill, writing. It was run as part of out Phonics Summer Course, and as can be seen above we had lots of proud parents and happy children for whom a dictation wasn’t entirely a dreaded experience.
We would also like to extend a special thanks to Hanna, a new foreign teacher and trained doctor, who came in during her free time to help us run another Speaking Club, this time working with medical terminology and learning the parts of the body. They all had a great time checking each other’s temperatures, using tongue depressers a.k.a lollipop sticks, bandaging each other up like mummies, and likely just being the monkeys that they can be. But using English that they wouldn’t otherwise be learning in the classroom and nattering away.