Friday, October 25, 2013

How to Make an English Lesson More Interesting

Reenactment of the Battle of Hastings
Reenactment of the Battle of Hastings (Wikipedia)
by Marie Maille

When teaching English to foreign students I have found that incorporating a hobby or interest of theirs has made a big difference to their language learning experience.

At present, I have a group of three Italian teenage girls who are all interested in arts and crafts, as well as wanting to improve their English language skills.

As they are staying with me in my hometown of Hastings, East Sussex, which has great historical significance, yesterday I planned an art lesson with a difference.

A favourite craft of mine is transforming empty bottles into lamps or decorative candleholders. I accumulated several old wine bottles which we prepared for decoration by removing any sticky labels and polishing.

I gave all the instructions in English and asked the girls to repeat what they were doing as they were doing it. Our theme was Hastings and I explained that our objective was to decoupage these bottles using various images from a selection of local magazines.

Prior to starting the project, I had explained to them the history of the 1066 Battle of Hastings, when William the Conqueror invaded England and the Normans took over the country for several centuries, as a consequence.

The girls seemed very interested in this and asked me a lot of questions on the subject, as they had no idea of the historical importance of the place they were staying in!

We flicked through several magazines and found numerous pictures of the Hastings castle ruins, the old town with its ancient Norman church, the West and East hill cliffs, Knights in armour, the fleet of fishing boats, the funicular climbing the cliffs amongst many other relevant images.

We proceeded to cut out these images roughly and pile them all on the table. The various images created dialogue between the students and myself as they became very curious about the area especially when I mentioned the old town ghost walk!

We also spoke about towns in Italy which also had particular historical interest from the same era. In fact, this lesson turned out to be a combined English, Art and History lesson.

The next stage of the lesson was to start applying the various images to the bottles' surface. I placed a large pot of PVA glue in the centre of the table and each student helped themselves to a paintbrush.

Only one of the students had done decoupage before so I had to explain the procedure to the other two students. For those readers who are not aware, it is simply glueing image on image overlapping slightly, until the surface is completely covered.

Once the surfaces were all covered we then proceeded to apply a second layer of glue over the whole area, ensuring that there were no air bubbles and making the images as flat as possible.

We left the bottles to dry overnight. The following day, before we attempted to do anything else, we discussed the whole procedure so that the girls could reinforce the language and vocabulary they had learnt on the previous day.

The project turned out to be very successful. Our final step was to varnish the bottles with a water based varnish spray.

We wrapped string around the neck of the bottles to give a neater appearance and then inserted a thin candle into the neck. The girls were delighted and each had a souvenir of their English homestay experience to take back to Italy.

The following day we recapped on all the English learnt and I asked the girls to compose an essay in which they described the procedure from start to finish. They also worked together to create a sales pitch for promoting these bottles on a market stall.

My name is Marie Maille and I organize English language courses for foreign students. I work with a network of highly qualified teachers who offer one to one private tuition in their comfortable Sussex homes.

The homestay packages include one to one private tuition, full board accommodation and excursions. We cater for all ages and all levels including Seniors 50+ and parent-and-child programs. We believe in offering a quality, reliable service and try to be competitive with our prices.

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