Miriam Stewart is of one of Oscars International’s most prized teachers. Popular with staff, Miriam is also a big hit with students, mainly because she goes the extra mile. This was illustrated most recently when she and another jewel in the Oscars International teaching crown, Eoin Knox, merged classes for an afternoon of hands on skills, learning and language production.
“We set up four stations: clay. origami, paper quilling and a puzzle corner for anyone who didn’t want to be too crafty,” explains Miriam. “The idea was that I would introduce how to do something. So they had to listen to instructions and directions. They then had to explain it to someone else how it was done, which meant they had to use the target vocabulary themselves and pass on the information. So there was lots of modal and semi-modal verbs such as ‘must’, have to’, ‘should have’ and lots of new adjectives. But for me the most important thing is that it was spontaneous, creative language. They are not following a script. They have to use new language, access different language and come up with new conversation skills.”
“It was fantastic and great fun,” says Eoin. “It’s lovely to do something new like that and see what they come up with. They really all enjoyed it too.”
Miriam and Eoin based their class on the Content and Language Integrated Learning philosophy. Rather than simply focussing on grammar and lexis in isolation, CLIL promotes the idea of learning a language through the learning of other skills and thereby accessing target language.
“You’re teaching a subject – art, maths, science – through the target language in order to elicit related vocabulary and practise language in context,” says Miriam. “The unit we’ve been working on this week is all about sports and hobbies so I thought it would be good to bring in some realia and do something that’s practically connected to the target language in the book.
“It really helped and encouraged them to open up and be creative,” she continues. “The guys who used the clay, for example, they turned their characters into part of a story about the Giant’s Causeway. I initially showed the guys who were doing the origami how to make a flower and they ended up making ninja death stars and swords. In the end, they teamed up with the paper quilling group and they started to work together. So there was a lot of peer learning, peer correction, peer coaching and the stronger students were helping the weaker students and myself and Eoin were there as guides really. I think the benefits of this type of lesson is that t allows for autonomous learning and it allows them to explore language that they might not explore other wise. It’s about creating an environment that promotes the use of language rather than explaining this does this and that does that.”