by Sophia McMillan
(Shane Training Centre, Japan)

Children, especially very young children, are physical, tactile and use all their senses to experience the world around them. They need a variety of activities to acquire the language they are presented with: music, games and movement.

Research has shown that using craft in the classroom results in:
• curiosity about the language and the task
• behaviour and socialization
• more involved children

Craft activities can be anything from simple colouring pages to more complicated constructed projects. They combine learning and fun while providing an opportunity to personalise the language and increase opportunities for social development. During craft activities learners are exposed to a wider range of vocabulary and lots of repetition of key terms, such as colours, numbers, in addition to developing their fine motor skills.

Every lesson should contain some sort of practical task (painting, cutting and sticking etc.).

Tips for using craft successfully:
• Preparation: Prepare as much as possible before the lesson
• Time: Schedule enough time that most learners finish
• Materials: Vary the type of craft materials used
• Clean-up: Include everyone in the clean up
• Praise: Increases motivation and absorption of language
• Don't give up: Opportunity & patience are needed to master craft skills
• Follow up Activities: Have an activity where the learners can use what they have made, something meaningful for them to do with their object. For example, songs, role-plays etc.

Some Fun Craft Activities
* Coloured Caterpillars: Using pre-cut coloured circles and glue them together to make a caterpillar. They can stick googly-eyes on the faces or draw face parts. In the follow-up, the children could describe order of the colours.
* Paper Chains: Using pre-cut strips of coloured paper and create a paper chain. For follow-up, they could stand in a circle and find colours indicated by the teacher. Learners could take teacher role.

* Animal Masks: Using paper plates with pre-cut eye-holes; have the children decorate the plates and make animal masks. As a follow-up activity there could be an "animal parade" in which the children take turns with their mask.
* Itsy-Bitsy Spider: With the song, the children could create a hanging spider with a foam ball and a piece of string. They paint the spider's body and attach pre-cut pipe-cleaner legs. The follow-up activity could include singing the song with their spiders.
* Animal Stick Puppets: Children colour photocopied pictures of farm animals, which would then be attached to sticks. The group can sing “Old MacDonald’ and the children hold up the appropriate stick puppet.
* Poster: cut-out, photocopied pictures of farm animals, which they colour in, before gluing them on a large piece of paper to create their own farm. In addition, they could draw barns, trees, a pond, the farmer etc.

Seasonal Holidays:
The possibilities are endless and need not be complicated.
* Halloween: Children could make ghosts with a rolled up balls of newspaper covered with a piece of white cloth/paper. They can decorate the face
* Christmas: Children can cut out snowflakes with folded pieces of paper, decorate paper Christmas trees with glitter and sequins. They can make their own ornaments, or for a bigger challenge they can work together to make a tree and decorate it
* Easter: Children can colour or paint Easter eggs, or cover a cut-out rabbit with cotton balls to create a soft bunny.
* Valentine Mice: Children cut out coloured heart shapes and on each draw a nose and eyes. Above the nose have the children punch 4 holes (2 each side) and thread a pipe cleaner, straw or rolled up paper between the holes for whiskers. Finally attach a wooden chopstick to the back behind the whiskers.

Final point: mobiles provide many possible topics… block letters, cars, airplanes, birds, flowers, monsters, pictures of friends, family pictures, dogs, cats, dinosaurs, Disney characters, etc. Picture Dictionaries and story books can give lots of ideas and tie in with the language being taught.

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