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Our Creative English Family Learning at the ELTons awards

Imagine that you’re the parent of a young child who will be starting school soon. But you’re painfully aware that you don’t know much about how school works in the UK – only that it is very different from your own experience of education. What’s more, although of course you want your child to do well at school, you’re scared they won’t learn properly and that you can’t help them because your own English isn’t good. Yet without access to childcare, it’s impossible for you to attend an adult English class.

This is exactly the challenge that Creative English Family Learning is designed to address. Unlike other courses, it combines the adults’ need to practise useful language for everyday situations with the child’s need to learn through play with their parent, developing their communication skills and family relationships at the same time. So a Creative English Family Learning session combines basic vocabulary for talking about homes, food and people with functional language that enables the parent to support their child’s engagement with health and other services. Most importantly, being a Creative English course, fun plays a major role.

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An example is the dentist-themed session, which doesn’t sound so serious when you realise that it involves parent and child making a sock-puppet crocodile together – complete with teeth! The craft activity provides the opportunity to practise language for parts of the body, colours and instructions. Families then use their puppet to tell a story, which includes whole group action responses and answering the questions a dentist might ask, with parents having the opportunity to role-play making a dentist’s appointment. The families make a mini-book to retell the story at home and can role-play visiting the dentist with their child and sock puppet. There is space for a game and a song which reinforce the new vocabulary and, like the puppet and book, can be used by the family at home.

It’s easy to see that this kind of practice can make a real difference the next time someone in the family really does need to make a healthcare appointment. But in the short term, parents and children are having fun together and developing the kind of bond that the child needs in order to flourish.

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The parent I asked you to imagine earlier is a real mum. On the first week of the Creative English Family Learning course, her son only wandered around the room, looking cautiously at the activities from a distance. By the end of the course, he could sit and listen to a story and do a craft activity. He understood basic instructions and could use some English himself, while his mum was able to ask him questions in English which he could answer. She now feels more confident that he will be all right in school and that she understands more about how he will be learning. She now plans to attend the adult Creative English course, which will help her with the language she will need to talk to her son’s teachers and continue to support him through his school life.

ELTons-2016-nominationWe’re thrilled that the power of Creative English Family Learning has been recognised, as the course has been shortlisted for the prestigious ELTons awards. The ELTons, run by the British Council and sponsored by Cambridge English, are the only international awards that recognise and celebrate innovation in English language teaching (ELT). We are up against some of the major publishing companies, and it’s so exciting to see that this course, run in faith and community centres and supported by passionate volunteers, is being seen as making a real contribution. The awards are announced today (2 June), so watch this space!

Meanwhile, if you’d like to know more about Creative English Family Learning, or Creative English in general, get in touch with Felicity: [email protected] or 0845 094 6350.