Maximising English Use in Craft Classes

Frances J. Shiobara, Kobe Shoin Women’s University; Ran Niboshi, Kyoto Sangyo University

Craft and project work are an integral part of many English as a foreign language (EFL) classes. These activities are valuable in increasing the motivation of young learners and often introduce other skills, such as fine motor skills, which are useful for writing. However, sometimes these activities lack a clear language acquisition goal. As the time most young learners spend on foreign language learning is limited, maximizing the opportunities for language acquisition is essential.

In view of this, the authors sought to identify ways to increase language learning in craft and project work. The classroom activities and management were then adapted to encourage foreign language acquisition. The results were observed and noted by the authors. This paper is a description of this process and the results gained over a year. All observations were carried out over a year in a class of 23 7- and 8-year-olds in an English Saturday school program for elementary school students. Most of the students studied in Japanese elementary schools Monday to Friday and attended the English Saturday school program from 9am to 3pm for 34 weeks per year. The teachers were a native English speaker with more than 30 years’ experience teaching English to Japanese children and a Japanese native speaker, with extensive experience teaching young learners as well as studying and living abroad.

Students had three skills-based classes comprising reading, writing, speaking, and listening, plus one class focusing on hands-on activities, which was observed for this research. They also took physical education and computer classes taught in English. The students’ English abilities ranged from intermediate to advanced for their age. Based on student application forms, five students had lived in English-speaking countries, 15 had attended full-time English medium schools for kindergarten, and four of them were growing up in multilingual families. This research investigated ways in which language acquisition could be increased in a project class through increasing comprehensible input and pushed output. The students were not tested formally, and results are based on the authors’ observations. The coordinator of the program granted permission for classes to be observed. All students’ parents or guardians involved in this activity gave written consent. Total anonymity of participants was observed at all times.