A couple of thoughts on why English and science go well together when teaching YL
At the very beginning, I need to state that what you are about to read is nothing more than my own experience and conclusions; no quotes from professional literature or studies, just genuine day to day reflections based on my work. Whether you are expected to teach CLIL or ‘regular’ English classes, science is your best friend. For various reasons. First of all, it is a subject which, just like art, is ideal for introducing some hands-on experience in the classroom. Learning by doing helps retaining and understanding not only scientific facts, but also new vocabulary and chunks of language. It creates an almost instant connection between the task and the language. Science gives an opportunity to experiment, observe and discover, which apart from being great fun, develops reasoning and critical thinking. Children are naturally curious about the world around them and making that knowledge available in your English class will surely boost their motivation.
You may think the subject-related vocabulary and its content itself will turn out too difficult for young learners, but we can always adapt them both to our students’ age and language level, and, most importantly, we need to have a little faith in their abilities. I have been teaching science or its elements to different kinds of groups, and I was surprised to discover that young non-native English speakers actually manage to follow a British curriculum-based science program, including some, as it would seem, complicated subject-related vocabulary if it´s well adapted. Just imagine how much can be done in an English class with 6-year-olds, even if their knowledge of L2 is pretty basic. Let me give you some examples.
This is such a brilliant topic, already used in many English textbooks.
Ask your kids to write down the names of animals they would like to learn about, then choose the ones that appear most times (3-5). Do you want to revise food vocabulary? No problem. Prepare flashcards with your animals and 3-5 products that they eat (you can also cross out one they should never be fed with, e.g., chocolate or potatoes for dogs). Hang them around the classroom, read the out with the children, let them go around and have a good look at each picture. Get a recipient with a picture of each animal. Give out pictures (or names) of different food items, including the ones animals shouldn´t eat. Children have to pick the right recipients to put their pictures in. At the end, you check with the whole class whether they managed to match the animals with their food correctly. It is a good idea to bring a real pet to the classroom (e.g., a hamster or a guinea pig ) and let the children choose the right products to feed it. Maybe you would like to revise the parts of the body and add some animal ones? Again, prepare the flashcards with different animals and label some of their body parts, then hang them around the room. Make sure that there are at least two different animals labeled with the same body parts (e.g., fins: a clownfish and a shark, wings: a parrot and a bat) Give out animals’ pictures with gapped labels and make the children go around and find the missing information. Do not preteach the vocabulary, let the kids figure out what it means. Check it with the whole class, eliciting the meaning of each new word, and giving the right pronunciations.
Show the food pyramid and explain its meaning. Bring real products, make a pyramid shape on the floor/table (e.g. using strings or colourful Sellotape) and ask the kids to fit the items into the right level. Make sure they say the name of their item before placing it inside the pyramid. If you can´t bring the real thing, make flashcards. I had a pyramid painted on the window and my students were sticking their pictures with Blue Tac. Later on I would ask them: what should we eat every day? What should we eat once a week? And so on.
Experimenting with water is fast, easy and it awakes a vivid interest among the children. All you need to explain evaporation is a mug, hot water and a mirror. Make them observe what water vapor is, how it goes up and stays on the mirror. Can they see how it changes back into little drops of water? It is a good way to start the water cycle topic.
Where will the ice melt faster? In hot or cold water? Where does it disappear? What happens if we put it into the freezer and take it out the next lesson? Prepare a follow up worksheet with things that melt turning into water (e.g., a snowman, ice-cream, snowflakes) and others that don´t. Make your students fill in the gaps according to the pattern: A snowman melts. A crayon doesn´t melt., etc. Another idea is to check which objects float and which sink. I guarantee that the kids will want to try it out. Bring a piece of wood, metal, a candy, a cotton pad and whatever else you want. Let the little ones bet on which item will float and which will sink. Were they right? Prepare a follow up worksheet: pictures-words (floats, sinks) matching, gaps filling, finishing sentences, etc.
All those ideas create countless possibilities to practice and revise vocabulary, sentence structures and grammar rules, apart from teaching about the real world instead of focusing only on the language itself. If you lack ideas, I personally recommend to make use of Usborne´s Activity Cards: 50 Science things to make & do (available on Amazon or Usborne webpage). I hope this short text will encourage you to give science a chance in your English class.