Section 1

Providing natural contexts for language practice


Learning Outcomes

By the end of this section, you will have:
  • used classroom management to help pupils learn an additional language;
  • used games and everyday activities to develop pupils’ language skills and vocabulary.

How much natural exposure – through radio, books, magazines, speakers and TV – do your pupils have to an additional language to that used at home? The answer might be, ‘Very little. They only hear and use it in their daily class at school.’ This means that you are responsible for providing the kind of exposure to the language that will help pupils:
  • use and become fluent in new vocabulary and grammatical structures;
  • communicate using oral language in social situations;
  • develop their reading and writing skills.
All of this requires a great deal of thought, planning and skill. This section will provide some approaches and techniques to help you.

Page 1

As a teacher, you will often give instructions of various kinds to your pupils. You can use these everyday instructions to develop new vocabulary and listening skills in the additional language. Instructions use the imperative form of the verb. If you use the imperative form consistently, in meaningful contexts, pupils will begin to understand and learn it. When pupils learn a new language, listening develops more quickly than speaking. They need lots of opportunities to listen and respond to new language. In the early stages of language learning (and later as well), you can use activities that require them to respond with actions but that do not need them to reply until they feel more confident. (This is often called ‘total physical response’ – see Resource 1: Total physical response ideas.)

Case Study 1: Classroom management in English

Mrs Mujawayo teaches a Grade 1 class in Kigali, Rwanda. She uses English for all her classroom management. In the morning, she greets individuals in their home language, and asks for home news. After assembly, she says to the class (in English), ‘Line up, children,’ and gestures towards the veranda, where they should line up. ‘Walk in,’ she says, gesturing again. ‘Stand by your desks.’ Teacher and class greet one another in English. ‘Sit down,’ she says. She then switches back to the home language to introduce story work, and continues in their home language until she puts them into groups, for different activities. Each group has a letter. ‘A and B raise your hands,’ she says in English, raising her hand. ‘Take books from the box,’ she says, pointing to the book box. ‘Sit down, and read to your partner.’ If they seem uncertain, she mimes what they have to do. She later gives further instructions to each group in English, without translation. Two groups are to illustrate their story, and one group will read with her in their home language from a big book. Mrs Mujawayo finds that her pupils quickly become familiar with the English instructions, and soon start trying to say the words.

Activity 1: Simple Simon says

In this well-known game, pupils respond physically to commands. You can use it to extend vocabulary and listening skills in a range of subject areas. The leader gives the command and carries out the actions at the same time. Pupils are only to obey commands that come from Simple Simon. (You could change this name to that of a well-known local person.) The game goes like this: Leader: Simple Simon says, ‘Jump!’ (Leader jumps.) The pupils jump. Leader: Simple Simon says, ‘Touch your toes!’ (Leader touches her toes.) The pupils touch their toes. Leader: ‘Scratch your nose!’ (Leader scratches her nose.) Some scratch their noses. Others do not. Those who scratch their noses are out (because the instruction did not come from Simple Simon). And so on… Use simple instructions for new language pupils, more complex ones for more competent pupils. Start fairly slowly, but build up to a quicker pace. The winner is the last person left in.

Page 2

Providing natural opportunities for developing your pupils’ skills in the additional language is important. Here we suggest ways that you can involve the community and use local skills and wisdom as a resource for classroom activities. You have seen, in Case Study 1 and Activity 1, how everyday instructions can provide a useful natural context for language learning. Pupils listened and showed understanding through actions. In this part, we suggest you use local recipes and processes as contexts for instructions, giving pupils the opportunity to speak (and write) as well as listen. The activities used here will be carried forward to Section 5, where your class begins to compile a book of recipes.

Case Study 2: Adult learners learn through doing

Some adult learners of ciNyanja were spending a day in the townships as part of their course at the local college. Each learner was accompanied by a language helper who was a ciNyanja speaker. The helpers supported the learners as they tried out the language they had learned; buying vegetables from hawkers on the streets and chatting with the families that were hosting them. An important part of the day was cooking a meal. The learner was supposed to do the cooking, instructed by the language helper. The cooking had been practised and mimed, and often written down or recorded on tape, in classes the week before. In Zambian tradition, the men were given a list of things to go to the market to buy, while women were asked to stay at home and cook foods like impwa, cikanda, cibwabwa and tomato and onion gravy. They also talked of how they might swap roles around to help them learn the language. When the meal was over, some Zambian songs were sung, and learners learned traditional Ngoni children’s games. Once the dishes were washed up, a happy and exhausted group of language learners boarded taxis to go home.

Activity 2: Learning through doing local activities

  • Tell your pupils they are going find out how certain household tasks are done and explain the steps of the process in the additional language. Ask pupils to bring the information from home or invite community members to school to demonstrate the skills.
  • Divide pupils into pairs or groups (these could be mixed-ability groups), to work out and, if possible, write down the steps of one of these processes in the additional language. Go round and help them with new vocabulary they may need.
  • Give the groups time to memorise and rehearse the steps, in preparation for instructing others. They could collect from home items that are needed for the process.
  • The next day, let one pupil use the additional language to instruct a member of another group, while the class watches e.g. sweeping the house.
How well did the pupils respond to this kind of activity? Could you use it with other processes to extend their vocabulary? If so, how would you plan this?

Page 3

Language is used for communication, and it is important that you create real reasons for pupils to speak, listen, read and write in the additional language. This is not always easy when your school is in an area where the additional language is not commonly spoken. However, the additional language may well be the language of books and written communication. Around the world people exchange information on ‘how to do’ things; for example they give each other recipes or patterns for dressmaking. You have already done this orally; now pupils can do it in writing. Show your pupils conventional written formats for recipes, in the additional language. A recipe is often presented as a series of instructions. When we write a recipe, or describe a process, we are not concerned about who does the action, but are concerned that the action is done.

Case Study 3: Drawing and writing recipes

In a school near Kabwe, in Central Zambia, pupils had been sharing recipes. They wanted to draw their recipes in diagrams and exchange them with their friends. Mrs Malambo, their teacher, thought it would be good for them to know different ways of presenting information. She showed them how to draw flow charts. Once they had drawn and labelled the flow chart, they wrote the process as a description as well (see Resource 2: Recipes for examples). Mrs Malambo discussed with the pupils which they found easiest to do, and why. Over two-thirds of the class found the flow charts more fun and easier to do because they were able to break the recipes down into steps and the drawings helped them remember and understand the words. Mrs Malambo used this idea of flow charts in other lessons, as this seemed to help her pupils to remember more. For example, in a geography lesson, she used a flow chart to write out directions from one place to another, and the pupils drew pictures of landmarks to make it easier to remember the words. See Resource 3: Mango drink and fried bananas for an example of a flow chart.

Key Activity: Writing recipes and process descriptions

  • Ask your pupils to find out how to make their favourite meals from home and share these with the class.
  • Introduce your pupils to the format for a recipe before they do their own examples (see Resource 2).
  • Ask your pupils to write out their recipes neatly, each making one version for themselves, and another to go into a class book of recipes. The second version could use a different format to the first (see Resource 2 for models).
  • Ask pupils to exchange and discuss their recipes.

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