Science Experiments in the English Classroom (CLIL)

Science Experiments in the English Classroom (CLIL)

Teaching methods are always changing, getting adapted to the new generation and the educational requirements. One of the emerging methods which has got a wide appeal nowadays is CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning) which can be effectively used in the ESL classroom. Read this article to get some more insight into the method of CLIL. 

In this article, we will discuss how science experiments can be integrated into the language classroom.  You try out them with your teens and young learners within your curriculum. Teachers must bear in mind that before carrying out any experiment in the classroom they must try them at home, think of the vocabulary items which they need to pre-teach in order to smoothly run the lesson. 

  • Sink or Float

You will need: A basin of water and various objects to experiment with (e.g. wood, paper,  rubber ducks, ping pong balls, pencils etc), sheets of paper, glue, tape, staples, small weights (large coins work great).

Target Language: Small objects, predictions (eg. I think that…), past tense (The boat sank.),  future tense (eg. The boat will float.), key vocabulary (float, sink, surface, density, weight, etc.)

How it works: At the beginning of class, give each group a sheet of paper and instruct them to create a paper boat. After the time is up float each boat in the tub of water. Slowly add weight to the boat until it sinks. Once this is finished, have a short discussion about what makes things sink or float. Lay out a variety of objects and have each group write predictive sentences about whether they will sink or float. Test each in the tub. Groups get one point for each prediction they get correct. Once this is complete, have a further discussion about why some things float and others sink. 

  • Colourful Flowers

This experiment requires some time (over a week) to see the final results. Therefore, not only is it an experiment, but also a small science project.

You will need: small vases, white flowers (e.g. roses), and a variety of food colouring dyes.

Target Language:Colours, past tense (it turned yellow), present continuous (they are changing the colour), key vocabulary (absorb, colouring dye, nutrient, drop of something, stem, petal)

How it works: Fill the vases with water and add drops of the food colouring in order to dye the water. Cut the stems of the flower so that they will be able to fit into the vases. Over the course of a few days, you will start to notice that the petals change colour, adopting the colour of the food dye. You can talk to the students about what they think is happening and why. It’s also a good idea to take before and after photos in order to remind the student of the change that has taken place.

  • Spaghetti Bridges

You will need: tape, glue, string, spaghetti, some kind of weight that can be applied on the bridge

Target Language: talk about comparatives and superlatives (stronger/ the strongest), key vocabulary (bridge, build/construct, thick, thin, distance/measurements).

How it works: Depending on the class level, have a short lesson on the vocabulary and phrases. Hand out the instructions and specifications for the bridge and have the students review them in their groups. Here is a step by step description of how to build a spaghetti bridge. Once the students have a plan, hand out the materials (each group should get the same amount of each material).  Give the students a set time of 15-30 minutes, depending on the age group, to complete building their bridge. Once all bridges are complete the teacher will test them by placing weights in the middle of the bridge until it breaks. Whichever bridge holds the most weight wins. As an extension activity, students can write comparative and superlative sentences about the bridges.

  • Melting Chocolate

You will need: Small chocolate pieces of the same size (chocolate bar squares is a good idea), paper plates, pen and paper to record your results

Target Language: predictions (it will melt), quantifiers (hot enough, such temperature), key vocabulary (melt, temperature, dark, shade, solid, liquid).

How it works: Put one piece of chocolate on a paper plate and put it outside in the shade. Record how long it took for the chocolate to melt or if it wasn’t hot enough to melt then record how soft it was after 10 minutes. Repeat the process with a piece of chocolate on a plate outside in the sun. Record your results in the same way. Find more interesting locations to test how long it takes for the chocolate pieces to melt ( your school bag, hot water or even your mouth). Compare your results, in what conditions did the chocolate melt? You might also like to record the temperatures of the locations you used using a thermometer so you can think about what temperature chocolate melts at.

  • Invisible Ink with Lemon Juice 

You will need: half a lemon, water, spoon, bowl, cotton bud, white paper, lamp or other light bulbs.

Target Language: key vocabulary (squeeze, dip, cotton bud, to dry, invisible).

How it works: You squeeze some lemon juice into the bowl and add a few drops of water and mix the water and lemon juice with the spoon. Then you dip the cotton bud in the mixture and write a message on the white paper. Wait for the juice to dry so it becomes completely invisible. When you are ready to read your secret message or show it to someone else, heat the paper by holding it close to a light bulb.

So, overall, science is a fun and interesting tool which can be used in the ESL classroom. Each scientific experiment has a practical element and the students get the thrill of seeing live results.

Have you tried any of these ESL science activities in your classroom?

Лиза Мардоян

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