A bilingual lesson about body parts


Aoife Tuohy

Dublin City University

I would like to share a lesson I created that promotes the full use of a child’s linguistic repertoire.
My class is a mixed class of 28 senior infant children, 6 of which are from Poland originally. The children have a wonderful relationship with their home language, and I encourage the use of it in everyday life as I feel it helps their confidence and motivates them in school, helping them across all curricular areas.
However, I felt it would be nice for all the children in my class to learn a bit of Polish to create awareness of the diversity present in our classroom.

The lesson I taught was a science lesson on the different parts of the human body.
This lesson aims to solidify the children’s knowledge of the body parts in both English and Polish. It is a fun interactive way that the children can learn new vocabulary in the language of one of their friends.
This lesson teaches the words head, shoulders, knees and toes. You can decide the number of words and languages you want to include each time.
I chose to include just 4 to start, as I wanted the children to enjoy the lesson and not feel intimidated by many new and unfamiliar words and sounds. I also chose these words as they are body parts that you can use in a lot of fun games and songs.

The song I chose to use to help teach these words is ‘Head shoulders, knees and toes’ as it is a song most children will have prior knowledge of and is quick to learn.
The children will sing the song first in English so that they are familiar with the rhythm and tempo of the song. I would then invite a child who speaks Polish to teach the class some new words for the body parts. I feel it is important to have a child teach the new vocabulary as it gives them autonomy over their language.

I advise making notes and researching the words the night before to help with the pronunciation of the class and make you feel more confident going into the lesson. I included games such as ‘Simon Says’ and ‘Knee to Knee’.
Simon says is a fun way of solidifying the vocab with the children as they not only have to recognise the word, but they must locate the body part on their own body. The person calling out the instructions is also practising their oral language skills and pronunciation of the word.
This activity can then be used as warmups/ busy breaks throughout the school day.

language explorers

The ‘Knee to knee’ game is one that the children are familiar with from PE. The partner work helps children learn from each other and allows for peer assessment and correction. This vocabulary can then be used for future PE classes as body parts are common when giving instructions to the children. I encourage you to get creative with it and see how you can incorporate this new language vocabulary into new situations for the children.

When planning for the song ‘Head shoulder knees and toes’ do not worry that the children may choose Polish words that might not fit the tempo or pace of the song as well as their English equivalent. There are variants for the names of the body parts but you can adjust the pace and tempo of the song accordingly very easily.

I would advise if you are looking to adapt this lesson for another language to try it out beforehand yourself or look up videos on YouTube of the song in the language as all languages are unique and may not fit the song as perfectly as others. You can add a colouring activity at the end to assess the children’s learning and this is also a nice way to end the lesson.
It is important to allow the children to reflect on the lesson and discuss what they liked, didn’t like or what they found difficult. This helps you see how effective your lesson was and can influence future lessons. I feel this lesson is a fun way to incorporate the languages present in your classroom and be able to use those languages as a resource in your lessons.

Such activities help to create a welcoming atmosphere in your classroom where everyone is valued for all their language skills and the children learn more about one another. I encourage you to use this lesson in your own classroom and adapt it to make it your own. Looking forward to hearing how you get all get on!

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