fruit-tree concept

– motivation in the EFL classroom

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Peer-teaching workshop and a crosscurricular English teaching

A couple of weeks ago, I travelled to Leipzig to take part in a seminar about Peer Education. On the whole there wasn’t a great deal of new stuff presented and some of the concepts were not really within my specific realm of interest i.e. English teaching.

However,  I did meet some teachers from a school in Berlin who use “peer teaching” in science lessons, for example. This concept worked well with older students in physics or other sciences and was similar to how many seminars at university are organized: a couple or group of students present information via posters or Powerpoint and prepare tasks or discussion questions to anchor the information. As interesting as this is, it is less relevant for language teaching in this form but I shall include the website address here as it very much mirrors the thoughts presented in the talk below by Sir Ken Robinson (except in German) but shows how this one school is actually turning some of this rhetoric into reality:


This week I also assisted a year 7 class on a field trip about medieval artisans. As I was the only person with a camera, I documented the trip and prepared a presentation for the class. As their class teacher is also their English teacher, I took the liberty of captioning the presentation in English thus giving their teacher the option to make a bilingual unit out of the follow-up lesson to the school trip.

I haven’t had any feedback yet but I can imagine that this may have been quite effective in arousing their interest as the students were included in the photos and were involved in researching the information which was then presented in English with the photos. They were also sent the digital file and could look at it at any time on the computer.

What is so different about the Fruit-Tree?

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I am sure everyone has heard of bilingual lessons, usually in Biology, History or similar subjects and indeed these lessons are often used as a selling point when promoting a school. But is the argument of using these lessons really valid? I have no idea why any teenager would need Biology/Geography jargon in everyday life (At tImagehe bus-stop: “Oh, I think we can expect some heavy precipitation later on”) and wouldn’t it be important to learn the perspective of your home country before you start looking at things from a different point of view (one of the arguments for History in English)? And what about those students who aren’t so good at English? They are robbed of the opportunity to learn the content of the said subjects. This is not just one of my ideas but observations of a teacher who carried out such lessons (see Chapter 4.5 “A CLIL Worst Case Scenario).

Art lessons have the added advantage of not competing with the subject content for grades. A student can be creative (or not) independent of linguistic ability. I see the further advantages being that there is a certain amount of action and authentic everyday speech (giving tips, requesting, explaining). This is good for the weaker students who would have more language contact timewise without the pressure of possibly missing content information due to incomprehension.

However, at this point, I realised that if we were to have an increased exposure to the language, we would need adequate language input, which painting or drawing alone would not offer, so that some students would not be able to escape tuition completely – especially the quiet ones. After being introduced to digital stories, I realised that this is one great approach to combining visuals with language (both spoken and written) with a further advantage of allowing students to practise their IT skills which are often not as well-developed as many adults think (just last week I showed a year 8 student how to insert a photo into a word-document and others how to send an attachment in an email which are fairly basic tasks).

This gave me the idea for the practice but it still didn’t deliver the language input: I then visited a Storytelling seminar which promoted the skill of oral storytelling and then I was hooked and my concept which has been developing for years started to take on a more concrete form.

I have found some good sites and shall include them here and some time, but the first I found, I think I was contacted via Facebook was which also promotes Art-CLIL (but without the Storytelling) and has some good ideas and a nice collection of links, including one for the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York City. Art can be as personal or transcultural as you want to make it – and for the more advanced students, the teacher can include academic content.

Taking a story (language input), related themes can be developed visually and/or through language. A student could re-write the story from another perspective, illustrate it, make a digital story of it or do a factual project (research and presentation) on a theme presented in the story. For example, if we took Little Red Riding Hood, a student could present the work of a forester or do a project about wolves, but others could make puppets and write a short play based on the story – the possibilites are endless. The main objective is to engage each student in the language and have a “product” at the end of a period of time. A strong student will automatically be more ambitious in the use of the language and may manage more projects in the same space of time than a weaker student – this is true individual learning.