Some schools use English to teach subjects such as maths, science, humanities and arts. Children develop their understanding of a subject and learn English language at the same time.
This is not a totally new idea. English language lessons tend to cover a range of different topics such as sciences, geography, history, the arts and so on. It’s a natural way of developing language. Using language in ‘real’ contexts can be very motivating.
Your child might enjoy exploring a topic that interests them and practising English at the same time.
Practise new vocabulary
Different topics use particular words and phrases, which are not always used in everyday language. For example, if your child wanted to learn about castles they might need to understand words such as ‘moat’, ‘drawbridge’, ‘dungeon’, ‘attack’ and ‘defend’.
Practise new words and phrases together. This is a key learning step. It will make it easier for your child to read about the topic and understand the theories, concepts and ideas.
Encourage your child to make their own flashcards with new vocabulary. On one piece of card, write a word. On another piece of card, add a picture for that word. Your child could illustrate their cards with their own drawings and keep them in a ‘favourite word box’.
Then check out these fun learning activities you can try with your flashcards.
Pictures, diagrams and charts are great study tools. They will help your child learn new words and ideas, and they can be a really effective way to show complex or challenging new information.
They also help children to order and organise information and ideas. This can be useful before writing a story or essay.
Learning tip for 5–12 year olds
Encourage your child to make posters. Ask them to label their drawings or photos. If possible, display the poster afterwards – it’s a great way to remind your child of the key words, phrases and concepts.
Learning tip for 13–18 year olds
Encourage your child to use a range of different visual tools before they write a story or an essay – this will help them to order and organise information. Here are some examples:
- cause and effect – flow chart
- series of events – timeline
- compare and contrast – Venn diagram
- brainstorming ideas about a topic – spider map
- planning a story – cartoon storyboard.
Read, read, read!
Build on your child’s interests and encourage them to read widely. ‘Extensive reading’ is about reading for pleasure, interest and enjoyment, so let your child choose what to read.
Encourage your child to choose from a wide variety of text types and topics. Explore your local libraries and online websites such as BBC Bitesize, National Geographic Kids, NASA Kids’ Club, Science Museum online learning, and Smithsonian Education.
Encourage your child to choose books and websites that are appropriate to their level (or slightly above their level, if they have engaging pictures and themes that interest them).
Stopping all the time to look up words is frustrating and makes it much harder to understand the reading material. If a book is too difficult or your child isn’t enjoying it, encourage them to put it back and choose another one.
Creative activities can help children to learn and remember new language.
Make learning more exciting and memorable by using visuals, colours and creativity. Practise key vocabulary and concepts by making posters and drawings, then adding labels and descriptions.
For example, if your child was learning about animal habitats, you could try this fun activity. Fold a piece of paper into four parts. Ask your child to draw on the first part, for example: ‘Draw the head of a polar animal’. Help them fold the paper so that only the second part of the paper is showing. Then pass it to the next player.
Keep going until you have completed the whole animal: ‘Draw the arms or wings of a grassland animal’, ‘Draw the body of a rainforest animal’, ‘Draw the legs or tail of a marine animal’, and so on. Ask your child to unfold the paper by themselves and describe what they can see. The animal might look very strange at the end – let your child know that’s perfectly OK!