English in the courtyard

By Larry Bratke
Feb. 13, 2019

At the beginning of the school day, before classes start but while plenty of students have arrived, I lead a school-wide collective English class in the courtyard that uses songs and videos to teach entry-level English phrases. 

I choose resources from YouTube that are created specifically for an elementary ESL audience, and I cycle them several at a time until I see convincing evidence of mastery among the students. In between songs I often reinforce a particular word or set of vocabulary by repeating it, leading a call-and-response, or playing a game. 

More than half of my class time, though, is spent listening to the audio and watching the videos that accompany them. For some of the songs, I have introduced or adopted motions for the kids to do so that they can associate physical motion with the corresponding English word or phrase. 

I teach this class at two primary schools, up to six total sessions per week.

My intention is not only to teach the students, but to show the teachers, too, how to incorporate authentic audio into their English teaching – particularly because these teachers are novice-at-best English speakers. Through gradual incorporation into the delivery of these sessions, I hope to ultimately prepare the local teachers to lead this activity on their own.