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Using crafts to teach science through English

 

What could be more cross-curricular than a lesson where pupils use English to learn about science by making a simple craft? Marcelino Palacios and Paco Santos Juanes suggest a highly creative way of learning about the water cycle. In order to carry out the activity you will need to download the worksheets by clicking on the links or visiting our Links and Downloads section.

   

One successful way to stimulate an interest in learning a foreign language is to involve pupils in hands-on activities which provide an opportunity to practise listening, speaking, reading and writing skills in a meaningful context. Arts and crafts can really help us to achieve this goal, as well as all the other numerous advantages they bring to the English language classroom. In a mixed-level class they can give pupils who have difficulties understanding the language a visual reference. Also, language is recycled through the repetition of the words and structures when giving instructions (Take a piece of paper, fold it in half, be careful with your scissors, etc). And of course, children love arts and crafts. Their self-esteem soars with a little praise and they’re proud to take their creations home to show their parents. But with the increasing profile of other content areas in the English classroom, crafts can play an even greater role. The water cycle Let’s look at an example where the use of arts and crafts will help in the process of teaching English and science at the same time.

 

The water cycle

         
Let’s look at an example where the use of arts and crafts will help in the process of teaching English and science at the same time.

 

Aim: to introduce or revise the water cycle.

Materials: coloured pencils, scissors, glue, worksheets

Duration: 50 minutes

Language focus: the water cycle: evaporation, condensation, precipitation, collection. Other related vocabulary: heat evaporate, cloud, cold, blow, rain, collect

      

• Preparation

   

1. The teacher introduces the vocabulary using the Picture dictionary worksheet 1, using the children’s first language if necessary.3. The children match and glue these pictures to the Picture dictionary worksheet 2, taking care to glue only where it says ‘glue here’.


2. The children follow the teacher’s instructions, firstly to colour the worksheet and then cut the pictures out.

 

3. The children match and glue these pictures to the Picture dictionary worksheet 2, taking care to glue only where it says ‘glue here’.


4. The teacher explains how the water cycle works by drawing pictures on the board related to each stage of the cycle.

 

       

• Making the water cycle craft

 
1. Cut out the square from Worksheet 3. It is divided into four numbered triangles.

      

      

2. Fold corner A of the square to corner C (with the picture on the outside).

      

     

Then fold corner B to corner D (so that the pictures on triangles 1 and 2 are on the outside).

           

   

3. The children match and glue these pictures to the Picture dictionary worksheet 2, taking care to glue only where it says ‘glue here’.

    

 

4. The teacher assigns a different stage of the water cycle to each pupil in the class.

      

5. The children colour the background scene on triangles 1 and 2.

        

         

6. Fold triangle 3 so that it overlaps triangle 4 and glue them together.

       

             

7. Once the background scene is coloured, the children cut out and glue the illustrations on Worksheet 4 to their pyramids (in this example, arrows, raindrops and clouds).

                                                              

         

            

• Completing the water cycle craft


1. The children cut out the label describing their part of the water cycle and the box describing what happens during that process. The teacher makes sure children have chosen the correct labels (see below; these two figures are taken from Worksheet 4 and Worksheet 3 respectively).

 

Fig 1 (from Worksheet 4)
Fig 2 (from Worksheet 3)

      

2. The children glue the first label (Fig 1) on to the corresponding background scene. Then they glue the description box (Fig 2) on to the rectangle on the base of the craft. Above it there is a circle where the children can write the number of the stage of the water cycle they have been working on (1 = evaporation; 2 = condensation; 3 = precipitation; 4 = collection).

  

3. Divide the children into groups of four. Each group has four pyramids containing the four different stages of the water cycle. These four 3-sided pyramids can now be glued together side by side.

 

These can then be made into a mobile by punching a hole at the top and attaching a piece of string which can then be  hung from the ceiling. Alternatively, one pyramid can be used to illustrate all four stages (Fig 3).

    

Fig 3

 

Other uses

We can also use this three-dimensional pyramid to represent an event, a moment in a story, something about the pupils’ lives or other cross-curricular areas such as a food pyramid.

  

     

Some tips to remember

   
There are many factors to take into account when planning a craft activity. The materials need to be prepared in advance and the language required for the activity should be pre-taught and practised. It’s important to take time to explain the purpose of the craft activity to your pupils at the beginning of the lesson, and to talk about it once it’s complete. The craft activity itself shouldn’t be too complicated, but however simple it is, children require time to master any activity so be patient.  If you think you don’t have enough time to do the whole activity in just one session, break it down into sections in your lesson plan. And above all, don’t forget that the aim of the activity is not the craft itself, but the language used when creating it.

    

Marcelino Palacios and Paco Santos Juanes are both Primary teachers and teacher trainers based in León and Valencia respectively. They are the authors of Busy Bugs Bank 1 and 2 (Macmillan ELT).

 
 

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