In this series of articles I want to go deeper into stem/steam teaching. The first articles is as always an article on the technique itself and after that I will offer worked out STEM/STEAM lessons.
Why is it important in TEFL / ESL lessons? Well a lot of students lack STEM instructions. They never get a change to thoroughly learn or practice these terms in classic language lessons.
What is it? Well STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, while STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math. There is a bit of a discussion for the moment whether or not Arts should be a part of STEM. For me in language learning it could indeed enhance the whole process depending on how you implement it of course.
A very important part of STEM/STEAM is that it is lead by EDP or Engineering Design Process. This means there are fixed steps to follow, because it is still a language lesson I always monitor the groups to see that English is used sufficiently and I always have a presentation at the end.
Another important part of a STEM or STEAM lesson is that it needs to evolve around a real world problem. I can hear you think how do you do this in kindergarten or first grade. Well you of course need to lead your group a bit more. In a follow up articles I will work out complete lessons for you.
What are other concepts are important in a STEM or STEAM lesson:
Teamwork: getting students involved in productive teamwork.
Apply math and science content: why is this interesting in a language learning environment? Well with the content comes subject related language which will give your students an advantage in their future academical or professional career.
Multiple right answers: by experimenting students can come to different solutions or conclusions and as long as the solution works that is absolutely fine.
Open ended exploration: within limits the learning path is open ended. Most limitations are time and available materials. Although I had students ask if they could work through their break time.
What are the advantages?
Develop inventiveness and creativity
Encourages to experiment
Build confidence and flexibility in a safe environment
Develop problem solving skills
Stimulates independent an collaborative
In the next lesson I will give a STEM/STEAM lesson suitable for preschool.
Another teaching method that I love is CLIL teaching. Although a lot of tefl teachers use it often they aren’t aware of it. In this post I will go into the concept and the benefits of CLIL Teaching. In this series I will try to give CLIL teaching ideas and help you to have successful CLIL lessons.
Now what is CLIL? CLIL stands for Content and Language Integrated Learning. I can hear you think well that doesn’t says much does it… It actually does. We integrate content in language learning, but what is this content? Content are other subjects like maths, science, geography, history,… So basically you integrate other subjects into your language lesson.
Especially when you have good material and prepare your lessons you can benefit a lot. I find it a great method to use with young learners, but also with older students it can be the perfect way to get their attention and to motivate them.
There are a few disadvantages that I found online while investigating and I would like to go over them first:
A lot of lesson prep: I think honestly that that depends on the whole teaching experience that you have. I used to have great CLIL based text books. I will go into them in a later stage. That already help a lot. Yes there was a lot of prep but not more than with other methods.
Risk of less developing the productive skills: it is indeed a risk but it depends again on the choice of material and activities.
English teachers feel uncomfortable with the subjects: although yes you might not have thorough knowledge of the subject, the aim is not to teach the subject thoroughly, the aim is to teach a language. Most textbooks and materials are very teacher friendly so don’t worry you’ve got this.
Those were the disadvantages now for the advantages:
More motivated and involved students: which leads to better manageable classes and students who are eager and willing to learn.
Students are challenged on different abilities which grows strong and confident students.
A wide range of subjects to pick from which will lead to more variation and interesting lessons.
Students will learn more academic vocabulary and therms that wouldn’t be touched in a normal language lesson. In science for example often English is already the common language by getting familiar with certain terminology students will get an advantages later on in life.
Project work is easy to implement and has a wide variety of options.
You can easily adapt and use material that is developed for the original content.
As you might guess, my experience with CLIL teaching was very positive and I would definitely recommend it. It requires dedication and preparation, but you gain a lot by having motivated students who love your English lessons.