1 One theme, many perspectives

Every subject has its own vocabulary and way of using language. Speaking, reading and writing about social studies is different from speaking, reading and writing about science. In the first case study that you will read, teachers plan a thematic unit that will also develop English.

Case Study 1: Ms Savitha plans a unit on the theme of water

Ms Savitha teaches English for students in Class VIII at a regional medium school in a metropolitan city. They had been facing water shortages and the onset of summer was set to aggravate the problem.

I wanted students to look at the theme of ‘water’ from different perspectives, so I spoke to teachers of other subjects.

  • In science, there was a unit on water that the teacher had already planned for that month, so she agreed to team teaching.
  • The mathematics teacher said that the students needed reinforcement in volume measurement and felt she could weave that into the theme.
  • The regional language teacher was a theatre enthusiast and volunteered to help the students to create a play on water conservation and rain water harvesting, which they could stage in their neighbourhoods.
  • The social science teacher did not see a direct relevance between the theme and the textbook he was covering, but he agreed to strengthen students’ map-reading skills. During team planning, this teacher decided that students could learn about the connection between water sources and human settlements.

Here is what we all came up with at first, looking at water from the following perspectives [Figure 1].

Figure 1 Perspectives on the theme of water.

Then we listed multiple activities relating to a water theme [Figure 2].

Figure 2 Multiple activities related to the theme of water.

I listed the English vocabulary and language structures that I would be focusing on. I also planned to get the students to collect stories and songs related to water in their home languages and dialects. We could later use these for simple translation activities, such as finding English equivalents for a few words, translating simple phrases and sentences, or refrains from songs.

Once we listed all the potential activities, we felt we would need a month to carry them out with our students.

Pause for thought

What English vocabulary and sentences do you think Ms Savitha listed on the theme of water? List your own ideas for some English words and phrases around the theme of water. These words could be linked to:

  • poetry and creative writing
  • actions (pour, wash, drink, splash)
  • environmental campaigns (don’t waste water).

Try to list some words and phrases in English linked to other subjects. In mathematics, for instance, these could be ‘capacity’ and ‘estimate the volume of water in the container’.

Think about your own school. What topics or themes are the other subject teachers doing right now? Are they teaching topics where some English language could be practised? Are there study materials from these topics that you could integrate into your language lesson?

Video: Using local resources

What you can learn in this unit

2 Using paper as a theme