“Okay guys, it’s time to make a graph. You all have your blocks ready?” I ask. The children hold their blocks up. On the table in front of me, I have six circles, each a different color. One by one, the children come forward.
“My favorite color is blue,” says one, placing the block on the blue circle.
“I like blue, too,” says the next, placing his block on top of the other. Eventually, there are six piles of blocks, one on each color. Time for the maths lesson. We move the piles around, in order from highest to shortest, and find out which colors have equally many blocks. We count how many blocks there are piled up on each color, and before carrying on to concepts like more than, less than, the most, and the least. Which color do we like most of all? Which colors do we like more than yellow? Which colors do we like less than blue? The children look, think, and discuss their answers with the neighbors before raising their hands and giving their answers.
We use this simple block graph more often: favorite fruit, clothes we wear, pets at home, and so on. Sometimes, we make them out of duplo or legos, and leave our bar graph on the topic table next to the door so the parents can join in the fun.
Graphs are one easy way of incorporating other subject areas into the English lesson. Sometimes, the children would fill in their own graphs, based on the results of a walk and talk activity.
Older children can go even deeper into the material, for instance first building paper airplanes, and then seeing how far each one flies. Questions like “which one flew farther/farthest?” And “how far did it fly?” are simple examples of scientific inquiry. A line graph describing the results can be used to spark discussion and children can be encouraged to experiment with their paper planes to see how they can get even better results – all in the name of science, of course! But also in the name of fun.
And that’s the important thing – have fun, while broadening the ESL experience. If you have fun, the kids will have fun. And when folks have fun, that’s when they learn best.