EFL and Early Education Teachers: Powerful Project Partners!
Updated: Sep 12, 2021
I've been teaching young learners for a long time now, but in recent years there has been a significant shift in my approach after I embarked on our school CLIL project and three transnational Erasmus+ projects.
Before, my English lessons were separate from all other school projects and routines, and I did my own thing, with little or no interaction with the teachers, except when behaviour issues arose. I'd go in, play games, read stories, sing songs, perhaps do some craft, and although the children had fun, they clearly forgot about me and much of the lesson content between the classes!
So, what changed? In essence, it was the collaboration with the teachers in terms of planning and teaching together and the attempt to integrate English into their class projects and routines. As Anita Demitroff suggests, “plugging into” the Early Years programme and developing a partnership with the educator, based on mutual respect, and sharing of perspectives, was the key.
This didn't happen instantly or smoothly, of course; but with continuous dialogue and lots of adjustments and compromises, the marriage is here to stay and the impact on the children’s learning is visible. English is no a longer separate entity. It has become a natural part of the school life of the learners I work with, integrated into their class theme or project, thanks to the active involvement and encouragement of these learners' teachers and assistants.
So here is a little snapshot of a collaborative project we did with the 4-, 5- and 6-year-olds in the context of our new transnational Erasmus+ STEAM project: "Super inventors on the Move."
In order to explore the theme of plants, with the help of our project mascots (dolls made up of mixed-up animal body parts, inspired by the children's drawings in a mascot competition), we decided to do a bean experiment challenge with the children in all the partner countries and then compare our results.
In Portugal, where I live, I worked with the teachers to plan and implement a series of lessons and activities that would be implemented over about 6 – 8 weeks. We watched and measured how light, water and air affect the sprouting and growth of beanstalks.
We also explored "Jack and the Beanstalk" with activities in different areas: growing our own beanstalks, mathematical concepts, drama, drawing, language games, story sequencing and simple retelling.
In many other class projects like this one, other specialist teachers are involved, like the IT, PE and Music teachers, and there is always an attempt to make connections between areas of learning, so that the concepts and language are reinforced in different ways, over extended periods of time.
So, the interdependence of EFL teacher and Early Years educator brings huge rewards, especially if their joint projects can be implemented over longer periods, in a variety of learning areas, and if possible, with the involvement of other specialist teachers.
In my experience, this has led to a sense of personal investment for everyone involved and deeper, long-lasting learning for the children.
Bio: Fran has many years of experience at all levels and is fascinated by teaching kindergarten and primary school children through a holistic approach which integrates English into a range of interconnected areas, like Social and Natural Science, Maths, Art, Music, Drama, PE and play routines.