A CLIL approach, in many cases, is based around the 4Cs framework of content, cognition, communication and culture. Content is king and should not be sacrificed for language, higher order cognitive processes should be promoted, communication should be fostered and intercultural awareness should be developed. These are ambitious, but worthwhile aims and many centres of education are wo
rking towards them
at primary, secondary and even tertiary level. This is less true of infant level, however.
Some people might argue that it is really rather difficult to implement a CLIL approach at infant school level. After all, the children are likely to be pre-literate, i.e. they still cannot read and write, and so using texts to access contents is out of the question. In any case, the contents at infant level might appear rather modest or limited. It might also be said that children at that age are too young to be thinking at a high level, too young to be at the top of Bloom’s taxonomy analysing, evaluating and creating. Certainly such young learners are limited in the amount of language they have for genuine communication in a foreign language, and others may claim that it is rather soon to be learning about culture and that they need to walk before they can run.
At our university we continually strive to offer our students first-hand experience with contexts similar to those they will face in their professional lives. Apart from the three compulsory Practicum periods students complete in Infant/Primary schools, they are also involved in activities where children are the main participants. In addition to other benefits, these activities give students the chance to implement what they have learnt, while also letting them observe children in an authentic context. These activities also serve to improve the relationship and communication between the University and schools in a context of mutual collaboration. In other words, they serve as a ‘bridge’ between knowledge acquired in the degree and real contexts.
One of these activities was ‘Monsterland’, inspired by the movie “Monsters University”. Students taking “Foreign Language (English) for the Infant Classroom” organised a workshop around the topics “The Body” and “The Senses”—both included in the curriculum for Primary Education. The school collaborating with us was “Daoiz y Velarde”, a bilingual state school set in our town.
The activity had two main purposes. On the one hand, it was designed to encourage teacher trainees to work on designing activities oriented towards the use of multiple intelligences in the Infant English classroom. On the other hand, it intended to help 1st graders revise the topics “The Body” and “The Senses” which they had already covered in class.
The first step was to get university students organised into groups according to the different multiple intelligences. There were 5 groups covering 5 different intelligences. Each group prepared its workshop proposal completing a written report, and presenting key information in front of the class in October. Feedback from the teacher and peers helped these groups improve their original proposals and ‘polish’ weaknesses spotted.
In November, students prepared materials and resources necessary to carry out their workshops. On D-day, everybody was ready to welcome the children at the University’s entrance. Children were organised into groups, and then went on exploring each workshop every 15 minutes. Towards the end of the session, ‘Monsters’ and children sang together songs related to the parts of the body, and children were given awards for their good work and behavior.
After all their hard work, students reflected on the weaknesses and strengths regarding both, their group and individual performance in the activity. This self-assessment contributed to their professional development and led them to reflect on the target areas of improvement for the near future. With regard to children’s reactions, Primary teachers involved in the project reported high levels of enthusiasm and learning. They felt they had reinforced key concepts while enjoying a day in Monsterland they’ll never forget. And neither will we!
In our classes within the Bilingual program for the Degree in Infant Education at Cardenal Cisneros University College, we try, whenever possible, to use similar strategies as teachers use in the classroom for children of ages 0 to 6 years. An example of this is holding an assembly at the beginning of class.
Galleries and museums are an immensely rich teaching and learning resource. Having an exhibition room inside an educational space like the library of our College is a fantastic opportunity to learn about art in a very meaningful way, especially for a subject like Visual Arts in Infant Education. Whenever there is an exhibition, we turn the gallery into a classroom; we go there and talk, discuss, observe and experience real works of art. Our students can see the works of art in person and connect them with their creative and educational projects.
Between November and December 2015, the gallery featured a solo exhibition by David Gamella. David Gamella works as a lecturer at Cardenal Cisneros but he is also a great artist who creates sculptures using recycled materials and transmits a social and cultural critique through his invented objects. How can we describe these works of art? What does the work remind me of? How does it make me feel? How can we interpret their different meanings? These are some of the questions we discussed in the class, and, above all, we tried to agree upon one of the most important issues: How can we help children to approach contemporary art?
Si queremos favorecer el desarrollo integral de las personas debemos potenciar las habilidades expresivas y creativas, entre ellas las competencias musicales, las artes plásticas, la expresión corporal y el movimiento. Para ello desde el Grado de Magisterio en Educación Infantil Bilingüe que impartimos en el CUCC, proponemos una actividad interdisciplinar en la asignatura Proyectos para la Expresión Integral en Infantil denominada “Proyecto Sombras”.
Este proyecto integra las tres artes. En el vídeo se explica el procedimiento metodológico seguido por las alumnas hasta llegar al resultado final lleno de alegría, emoción y contenido por lo vivido y aprendido.
Spatial concepts and geographical skills are especially complicated for small children. They perceive the space in a different way that is influenced not only by their cognitive level, but also from their egocentric point of view. Their knowledge is based on their subjective experience so that they only understand what they can observe directly. In addition, they cannot imagine real distances neither logical routes. As a matter of fact, when they draw sketches they are used to applying a topographical perspective emphasising those elements that are emotionally important for them (home, the school, the playground in their neighbourhood, etc.).
Infant teachers will deal with these spatial difficulties, even more if they teach in English in a bilingual program. This is why it is very important to create didactic activities that may help children for a better understanding of the space. In the subject Teaching and Learning Social Sciences we practice how to do this. A couple of months ago, our trainees designed orientation games to be played in the university gardens, and afterwards the whole class played the game as if we were children.
Those games proposed easy-to-walk itineraries organised in a trouble-free way. Some strategies to make that possible was providing very clear instructions, using our own body as a geographical reference, pointing visible landmarks and using adapted maps to explore the space. By doing this, our students realised how children could get over spatial difficulties, practice their physical coordination and improving their measuring abilities. What is more, we had a lot of fun while playing!
To sum up, these types of activities are wonderful opportunities to connect theoretical concepts and pedagogical methods with real problems in the world near around us. This is exactly what we try to do with the Bilingual program for the Infant Teacher Training Degree at Cardenal Cisneros University College.