"Una Navidad de Elfish"

Together, Integrating Core Skills into the Language Classroom is Achievable

Thankfully, we were able to go ahead with our TEC annual Christmas themed project this year, where instead of focusing on a traditional theme as we normally do, we embraced the opportunity to introduce our students to the extremely important Skills Builder Framework which contains the building blocks for great language learners.

Acquiring a second language requires many more skills than just the traditional ones; these skills often go unnoticed, unmeasured and undervalued in the language classroom but play an important role in the progress and achievements of the student. In fact, you will find that students who are excelling in the language classroom will be continuously demonstrating a healthy mix of the eight Core Skills.

But what are they? Well, in pairs they cover communication, creative problem-solving, self-management, and collaboration skills, each skill is colour coded and has 15 steps to achieve mastery, and we focused on the initial steps with our students as a way to introduce them to the framework.

With that in mind, we named this year’s Christmas Project "An Elfish Christmas," After all; we all know that these are the skills and abilities needed by Santa’s little helpers to get all those gifts out to every child and to make sure that Christmas runs smoothly, especially this year!

Our students used their creative abilities to create Elves who acted as ambassadors for each Core Skill, each receiving a name and also a place in our centres so that students´ work could be displayed and banners placed beside the Elves to represent the step that students worked on.

Then it was up to our dedicated team of teachers to work their Christmas Magic in the classroom, designing engaging lessons and activities so that students could enter into the Christmas Spirit while gaining an awareness of the Core Skills and mapping them to the Skills Builder Frameworks´ steps which were beautifully displayed around our centres.

And what about the steps? Well, as we mentioned earlier there are 15 steps in each Core Skill and our team worked with the initial steps of each one, so for listening, for example, students did activities that could be mapped to one or more of the steps below.

The result of this, is that students are discovering what these skills look like, instead of just telling a student to listen, which is not helpful at all, we can guide the student through the steps and offer clear, logical and constructive feedback while helping the student to build the skill in a more positive way. We can also identify students´ needs much more effectively and adapt our lessons to accommodate their language learning.

Another important aspect of the project was the idea of TOGETHERNESS and to connect our students with wishes, emotions and of course, gratitude for all the hidden human gifts that they receive on a daily basis. So when writing their Christmas card to Santa this year, non-material gifts are the order of the day, before they post it off to St Nick. Now that´s what Christmas is all about, Merry Christmas!!

Gerard Brady.