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Diary of a Creative English Trainer: Day 11

Having fun is mandatory!

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Anne and co. on the DLR

The FaithAction Creative English team needed little persuasion when it came to planning a summer programme!  Hubs from various East London bases joined together to have fun during the ‘official summer close down’, providing opportunities to continue and cement relationships formed during classes.

We could give you the full rationale behind our summer events (Like, it being a holistic approach to working with learners and, potentially, their whole family… fresh opportunities for learning language in context…).  But we know you know all that stuff, so we won’t bore you!!!

Woven into the plan were opportunities for exploring new environments together, informal ‘get-togethers’ and some ‘one-off’ family learning sessions, all of which allowed younger children to be involved alongside their parents.  All of these are baby steps in enabling our learners to develop a sense of belonging and self-worth – wrapped up in ‘mandatory fun’!

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Bobby and friend on the DLR

The London-based team took advantage of the good weather during August to have a trip from Stratford, via the River Thames, to the South Bank near the London Eye.  Everyone organised themselves with Oyster cards so that they could travel on the DLR (Docklands Light Railway) to Island Gardens, where we discovered the delights of the small tunnel under the River Thames!  Then we boarded a Thames Clipper boat, which took us on a fascinating voyage along the river to the stop at the London Eye. There, we enjoyed a picnic and took advantage of all the wonderful range of artistic expressions, such as the jugglers, body-poppers and magicians around the park.  One gentleman from Ilford said he had never been to central London before, and was excited to see the Houses of Parliament for the very first time!

Another group of learners and teachers took the train to Southend-on-Sea, in Essex.  Many of the children had never been on a long train journey, so this in itself was brilliant.  8 year old ‘Robert’ got really excited when he recognised hay bales rolled up in the fields, exclaiming, “I’ve never seen hay bales before!”, while looking out the window from his seat on the 45 minute train journey.

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Sandcastles in Southend

We had lots of fun sitting on deck chairs, making sandcastles, drinking coffee and just chatting together!

This seemingly simple day out would have been beyond the energy and confidence of these learners by themselves.  Being unable to do simple tasks like using public transport wears away at their self-esteem, and therefore underlines their sense of failure.

One outcome of this was the cementing of friendship between a teacher and her student, ‘Pauline’.  The student was a weary mother of three, feeling very isolated and particularly low in self-esteem. This has now paved the way for the teacher to introduce the mother to a local community hub, where she has been welcomed in, with opportunities for volunteering and a crèche place for her youngest child.  We see this as the start of a process of generating greater confidence and resilience for ‘Pauline’ and we’re very excited by the progress she is making already!

Several of the Creative English classes took time to arrange shared lunches, where everyone was asked to provide one dish.  An activity such as this moves away from the ‘teacher-pupil’ relationship and promotes opportunities for reciprocity.  Everyone is on a level playing field when it comes to cooking!!!  We even got to see some dancing and hear a traditional Bengali song.  The lunches were a delightfully relaxed way of spending time together, with multiple opportunities to practise speaking English informally, and where the children could be fully integrated into the event.

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On London’s South Bank

Building in extra-curricular activities has led me to believe that, actually, this is a misnomer; rather than being ‘extra’, they are actually an integral part of the wider aims of Creative English.  Many of our learners experience a sense of shame as a consequence of appearing incompetent because of their limited language skills.  So then a barrier goes up, paralysing and preventing them from moving on, both figuratively and literally speaking (in the sense of travelling on public transport!).  And here we are, with our contribution to breaking the cycle.

If you have any stories of activities you have organised as part of your Creative English programme, do please drop me a line ([email protected]) so that we can all share in your good practice!