Circus ! An independent project for early target language learners

Summer time and all across Europe you will find  the circus is coming to town!
Last year I sat down with a local teacher to plan and consider how we could link the target language  learning of her Year 5 and 6 to the language and context of the circus and the culture of circuses at the seaside in France and Spain.Circus was the focus of the UKS2 children and the school was trying to encourage independent learning at the end of the school year, looking back at what they had learned throughout the year

We set out to be the facilitators of the Summer focus and give the children the time to explore the language skills and knowledge of the language they had acquired during the year.

The children were at the stage in language learning where they could understand ,say,read and write simple spoken and written sentences using nouns, verbs and adjectives in the present tense.

The important points were that we wanted to 

  1. to allow the children the opportunity to explore the language of the circus by independent access to text be it written or spoken
  2. to allow the children to create their own final product - an advertisement for a Summer circus in the target language in either spoken or written form.
  • The task
The children were asked to work in groups of four - differentiated ability- and to include in their project:

  1. A poster (dates, times, venue,cost,participants). 
  2. A simple description of the circus  ( simple present tense description of a circus using there is/are and third person singular of the verb (to be and to have). 
  3. A rhyme, song or poem about the circus ( simple "advertisement jingle" style poem/ song/rhyme describing the circus and giving simple opinions e.g it's good/fantastic/ fun etc).

The expectation was that the children would use their prior knowledge of language and the skills required to access key language to generate the three components mentioned above.

  • Core language gathering 
We let the children explore the language of the circus through simple authentic text.In groups we asked the children to explore an authentic text (here a French book or a Spanish video) and to find the key words for acrobat, trapeze artists, magician , the circus clowns etc, giving them access to bi-lingual dictionaries to check the language.

We found a brilliant book about in French about the circus

And this great simple video clip in Spanish introducing the key nouns associated with the circus. We gave the children the hyper-link for the clip on their chrome books

  • Let the children explore how to create their own circus posters 
Using posters of the circus coming to town we decided to ask the children to use these as information banks they could  access to find and see how to use  target language in their own posters. The important thing was that the children should access the posters to find out for themselves for example how to describe the action , how to write the date and times etc.

Care was taken to select posters that had sufficient examples of key information so that the children had a text from which they could find examples for their own posters.

  • Generating your own advertisement jingle 
We understood that these would need to be simple as the children had limited language but we wanted also to consider how added a flavour of the circus to their advertisements 
We watched with them video clips  and asked them to discuss how they could make sure their jingles had a circus flavour. We added the hyper- links to their chrome books so they could watch again for inspiration!

Here is a Spanish example 

Here is a French example 

  • Over to the groups 

Then it was over to the groups to create a package that sold their circus to the class!

We found that the children really enjoyed the feeling of independence when using the target language and having to think of ways of accessing and checking language.The children valued the material that each group.

The  project worked because the challenges were not beyond the limits of the language but the project allowed the Year 5 and 6 children to feel the responsibility we often bestow upon them in other subject areas to organise, access and generate their own materials and outcomes! 

A great end of year project !