Saturday, September 17, 2016

Give Them Something to Touch

In ESL literacy instruction, it is so very important to make learning as physical as possible. ESL literacy classes tend to be comprised of at least three kinds of students who direly need learning to be made as hands-on as possible: refugees, whose recent trauma can make focusing on dry lessons impossible; learners with interrupted formal education, as they are unaccustomed to sitting for long periods at a desk; students with learning disabilities, especially ADD/ADHD, who may be desperate for any excuse to get up out of their seats.

I was reminded of this 'best practice' this week as I was passing by the new literacy classroom that is currently blooming in a former childcare space next door to my classroom. Every time I pass by the door, something different draws me into the space. First there was the welcome sign, then the tea kettle with a collection of herbal and black teas, next the little alcove with a carpet that has already been used by our newly arrived Syrians seeking a safe space to pray.

This week's eye candy was a collage of student work covering one wall. Maria had led the learners through a colour lesson involving leaves and fall colours. One thing she noticed about the lesson was that everyone was so calm afterward. Even the men got into carefully colouring around their leaves.

From role plays to realia, anything that allows them to manipulate objects, move, stretch, sing, drum or dance is going to help create an effective and enjoyable language learning experience for this very special clientele.

What's your favourite way of giving your learners a hands-on learning experience?

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