students on the sofa

Explore the Dynamic World of Language Immersion

Cinco, tres, cero, cuatro, cinco, nueve, cinco (5304595) the Spanish teacher Katie repeats the numbers several times, reading from the computer screen as students settle into a comfortable space … language immersion begins the moment you walk into the classroom.

A gentle breeze blows and sunlight streams in through the open window overlooking the lake in Broadfield park that surrounds the school. Students settle quickly into chairs and comfortable floor cushions that line the edge of the room, each balancing their open laptops on their laps quietly chatting in English about the task in hand. An environment that feels far more like a comfortable room in a welcoming home than a traditional classroom.

Speaking in Spanish, Katie encourages students to focus on logging in and choosing their characters for a synchronised online game that tests their understanding and recollection of language and facts learnt in previous lessons.

“Who’s chosen the frog? I’m going to be the king crab” the students hurry to select the avatar they want.

The classroom buzzes with energy and lively chatter as students log into their computers, eager to begin the interactive online language learning game. Each student selects their character, ready to embark on a virtual journey.

Soft music fills the air, creating a soothing backdrop for the learning experience. Amidst the chatter and laughter, students engage in friendly competition, striving to accumulate the most points and earn tasty rewards as they achieve 4 agreed milestones.

“I’ve caught a donut blob fish”

“What is the official language of Spain … er French haha”

“What is Jamon a type of?”

“I’ve got a rainbow glow worm!”

Students ping pong questions, answers and ‘catches’ that entertain and amuse them without hesitation, each of them focused on using their virtual fishing rod to catch as many creatures and earn as many points as they can in the time available – a fun warm up for the mind instead of the body.

As the students progress, Katie moves around the room answering questions, congratulating them on their catches and offering encouragement in Spanish. The lesson is fun, engaging and challenging from the beginning.

“Take your points and colour them here (holding up tally sheets) and get rid of your computers., and those with the most points will be rewarded” Katie explains in Spanish mirroring her words with her hands, using sign language where she can to aid understanding of new vocabulary.

Despite occasional slips into English, the students demonstrate a growing proficiency in the language, spurred on by Katie’s guidance. Taking a moment to digest the new request, within a couple of repetitions, all the students understood and moved to the large, soft, blue, cream and grey rug in the middle of the room.

Would their points qualified them for a reward today or would they have to wait for another opportunity?

Explaining in Spanish, Katie shared – “the milestones are 10,000, 25,000, 50,000 and 100,000 points … catch enough creatures by answering enough questions correctly and you will be rewarded with a golden (chocolate) coin for your efforts.”

“So, if I go home today and work really hard on this to get 100,000 points will I get 3 coins in one go Katie?”

“Si senior,” the response met with an optimistic and excited grin.

Changing pace and focus, all but three of the students remain on the rug surrounded by dictionaries and a printed itinerary for their imminent residential trip to Valencia.

Explaining in English, Katie invites the three students who aren’t going on the trip to choose their activity for the rest of the lesson … “you can continue with the game and increase your points to win your chocolate coin, you can look at the newspaper activity on manage bac (the IB extended learning system) or you can do this exercise with the others if you want to.” The lure of golden chocolate coins was great, all three choosing to top up their points in the remainder of the lesson.

The rest of students focus on a collaborative mini project, challenging students to plan for their upcoming trip. With excitement and anticipation, the students dive into discussions, brainstorming phrases and questions they’ll need to navigate their journey.

As the lesson progresses, Katie shares details of the trip itinerary, outlining the activities and expectations for each day. The prospect of buying lunch in the market, cooking paella, experiencing flamenco dance and heading to the beach ignites the students’ curiosity and enthusiasm.

Amidst the excitement, practical considerations are addressed, such as airport logistics and cultural etiquette. Will they have time to go to Greggs, Costa and how much food and drink can they take on the plane? were top of the list of enquiries met with playful humour from their engaging teacher.

Emphasising the importance of personal responsibility and preparedness, instilling confidence in her students as they prepare for their adventure and inviting them to consider what would make the trip go more smoothly as a large group of young teenage students with 5 staff members Katie cleverly built on the skills fostered within both the IB MYP model and the foundational philosophies of the Atelier 21 approach to education empowering young minds to grow beyond the subject knowledge and develop skills that will carry them through life.

Throughout the lesson, Katie employs a variety of teaching strategies, from immersive language practice to hands-on activities. Her passion for teaching and dedication to her students shine through, creating a vibrant and engaging learning environment.

As the lesson draws to a close, students reflect on their progress and express excitement for the journey ahead. With newfound language skills and cultural insights, they eagerly anticipate the adventures that await them in Spain.