1. Encouraging the use of English

As a teacher, you will often give instructions of various kinds to your pupils. You can use these everyday instructions to develop new vocabulary and listening skills in the additional language. Instructions use the imperative form of the verb. If you use the imperative form consistently, in meaningful contexts, pupils will begin to understand and learn it.

When pupils learn a new language, listening develops more quickly than speaking. They need lots of opportunities to listen and respond to new language. In the early stages of language learning (and later as well), you can use activities that require them to respond with actions but that do not need them to reply until they feel more confident. (This is often called ‘total physical response’ – see Resource 1: Total physical response ideas.)

Case Study 1: Classroom management in English

Mrs Mujawayo teaches a Grade 1 class in Kigali, Rwanda. She uses English for all her classroom management.

In the morning, she greets individuals in their home language, and asks for home news. After assembly, she says to the class (in English), ‘Line up, children,’ and gestures towards the veranda, where they should line up. ‘Walk in,’ she says, gesturing again. ‘Stand by your desks.’

Teacher and class greet one another in English. ‘Sit down,’ she says.

She then switches back to the home language to introduce story work, and continues in their home language until she puts them into groups, for different activities.

Each group has a letter. ‘A and B raise your hands,’ she says in English, raising her hand. ‘Take books from the box,’ she says, pointing to the book box. ‘Sit down, and read to your partner.’ If they seem uncertain, she mimes what they have to do.

She later gives further instructions to each group in English, without translation. Two groups are to illustrate their story, and one group will read with her in their home language from a big book.

Mrs Mujawayo finds that her pupils quickly become familiar with the English instructions, and soon start trying to say the words.

Activity 1: Simple Simon says

In this well-known game, pupils respond physically to commands. You can use it to extend vocabulary and listening skills in a range of subject areas.

The leader gives the command and carries out the actions at the same time. Pupils are only to obey commands that come from Simple Simon. (You could change this name to that of a well-known local person.)

The game goes like this:

Leader: Simple Simon says, ‘Jump!’ (Leader jumps.)

The pupils jump.

Leader: Simple Simon says, ‘Touch your toes!’ (Leader touches her toes.)

The pupils touch their toes.

Leader: ‘Scratch your nose!’ (Leader scratches her nose.)

Some scratch their noses. Others do not. Those who scratch their noses are out (because the instruction did not come from Simple Simon).

And so on...

Use simple instructions for new language pupils, more complex ones for more competent pupils. Start fairly slowly, but build up to a quicker pace. The winner is the last person left in.

Section 1: Providing natural contexts for language practice

2. Learning a new language through everyday tasks