This half term offers a great opportunity to expose the children to more of the target language than usual. So this week I’m making the most of it by teaching the target language at home through role play: playing schools.
Half term sends many parents into a spin: either they don’t know what to do in relation with childcare, or they are at home and know that within two days everyone will be suffering from cabin fever.
My eldest spends a substantial part of her waking hours in school, solely engaged in the community language – English. The rest of the time, she’s still very much engaged in it. I see this half term as a great opportunity to expose the girls to intensive Portuguese at home.
Seizing the opportunity and introducing the game
I had been planning to do this – playing schools regularly in the minority language – for a while, inspired by my friend Susana, who successfully did something similar with her children now aged 9 and 11 years old and good speakers of the minority language.
It never felt like the time was right. I wanted it to stick, to become a regular, fun feature in our lives, but also a serious learning opportunity. So I needed to make sure we were all in the right frame of mind and the materials at hand, so we could have a smooth start.
Today the opportunity presented itself and I think it’s fair to say, I literally pounced on it! I had already decided that this week I would focus a lot more on the minority language – Portuguese. Life has been getting on the way far too much recently, and it was time to get back on track!
Amelia goes to music class for pre-schoolers every week. When she started playing music on her own, I said, “Amelia, are you doing music class? Are you the teacher?”. I had their attention and we started the whole “you be this”, “I’ll be that” exchange. I wanted them to feel empowered, like it was their idea.
So we were going to play schools together. Yaaaay! They already do that by themselves, usually with Sophia bossing Amelia around, but this time, I’m capitalising on it and joining in.
And we’re in…!
Amelia was going to be the music teacher, I was going to be the Portuguese school teacher, and Sophia the English teacher. “No mummy, I’m the headteacher!” she said. Ok, then… ‘whatevs’, as long as I get to teach you Portuguese, precious!
We set up the seating as if it was a school. They sat in small chairs next to each other and I was standing, writing on the blackboard.
The resources we used
As mentioned above, I had been planning this for a while. Thankfully, my mum had sent us great resources from Portugal which I could start with: a fun workbook with activities, stickers and even certificates. And a bigger book with posters related to the curriculum. I found the one that related to today’s class – healthy eating – and attached it to the fridge. They’re not from the same publisher but they link up nicely. They cover a similar curriculum to here in the UK, but in Portuguese.
We have an IKEA easel, so I stood by the blackboard and used it as necessary. For example, when the activity asked to write a word, I wrote the word clearly in the blackboard and Sophia, the eldest, would copy it. The youngest basically scribbled away and I have to say, remained sat for longer than expected.
Obviously, I kept praising and encouraging them in my finest ‘teacher’ voice. Sophia was so, so good at it, she played along nicely and tried hard with the activities.
Here in Reception Year they have the ‘star of the week’. The star of the week is someone who has performed exceptionally well and gets to take the classroom Teddy home, along with a postcard congratulating the child on being the star of the week. It’s quite the accolade!
I used an old postcard and star stickers to nominate Sophia star of the lesson. And then we broke for ‘playground’ and a snack.
We all loved it, and I cannot tell you how happy I am with how it went. I’ve got to say, though… my heart goes to teachers who have to do so much, talk a lot of the time, keep various children of different abilities and temperament with them. I was so exhausted after that half an hour or so.
So to you, teachers, I say, thank you! You do an amazing job!