From little acorns...
Avril Brock believes that the best way to acquire language is to use it; that children learn from first-hand experience; and that whole-class lessons are not the most appropriate way to teach English to second language learners.
So, together with colleagues from Bradford and Ilkley College and a group of students, she created a forest in the spare classroom of a Bradford first school (four to eight-year-olds) that became the setting for a story, exploration, science and role-play. Out came the cellophane, foil and crepe paper, and the enchanted forest was born, a place that was to grip the imaginations of a group of chidren for weeks.
The story was set in Pakistan where, the children were told, the dog Kaliya was lost. The caretaker's dog took on the role of Kaliya, and by solving various clues the children managed to find him, although his enthusiasm understandably diminished as the project progressed.
The book is a charming case study that points up the value of capturing the imagination of the learner. But it is also a report on a research project, so unless you have the resources, space and lots of time, you are unlikely to replicate it. However, it is to be hoped that the underlying principles are properly considered, even in these days of literacy-hour mechanics.
Paul Noble is head of St Andrew's primary school, Blunsdon, Wiltshire