John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin
Institution: Bilingual Primary School Smart School, John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin
Artur Stępniak is a PhD student at the Institute of English Philology in The John Paul II Catholic University in Lublin, Poland. His scientific interests are focused on Content Language Integrated Learning and Sociolinguistics.Currently, he is the headmaster of Bilingual Primary School Smart School in Zamość, where he also holds a post of methodological adviser in the field of teaching English.
Artur Stępniak is a PhD student since 2010. His PhD project is entitled “Implementing bilingual education and content language integrated learning in Polish primary schools.”
It is conducted under the supervision of and in co-operation with dr hab. Anna Bloch-Rozmej.
Mr. Stępniak has been involved in teaching English to all age groups of students. Presently, he works with B.A. students in The Institute of English Philology at John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin and M.A. students in The Faculty of Education at University of Warsaw
From August 2013 Mr. Stępniak hosts the position of the President of All-Poland Association of Bilingualism “Bilinguis”
The article presents an approach to bilingual education that has been introduced in Bilingual Primary School Smart School in Zamość, Poland. It centers on showing the possible paths of implementing the CLIL approach into the process of integrated education in grades I-III of primary school. The lesson plans attached to the article make the process of correlation of both content and language transparent and serve the purpose of showing practical ways of including a dual-focused CLIL approach into the Polish national curriculum.
Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) uniquely combines learning content integrated with the learning of the language. Children educated bilingually learn the foreign language integrated with other subjects in a more natural way. This model enhances the level of mother tongue. It was also observed that children educated bilingually clearly have better results in mathematics. The researchers stress that the lessons conducted bilingually stimulate child’s brain to work more efficiently and develop logical thinking, because its same areas are responsible for linguistic and mathematical processes.
As any effective educational process, bilingual education is a multistage and long term action. In order to fully achieve the planned effects, this model covers education from kindergarten to secondary school. Based on the natural ability of humans to learn, the launch of Bilingual Primary School “Smart School” draws from the well-known scientific knowledge of pedagogy and developmental psychology. Therefore, to achieve the best results it is very important to make optimal use of the period, when the children subconsciously learn the language in which they are “immersed”. In preschool, with the use of methods of play, interaction, listening and repeating, children naturally acquire the basics of a foreign language. These skills are then further developed during the primary education. In this phase, using both the elements of fun and teaching, students undergo a process of the integration of content present in the core curriculum with steadily widened linguistic skills.
Upon entering the stage of the gymnasium, which is characterized by the increase of self-reliance and awareness of the learning process, our students will expand not only knowledge in the scope of different subjects and more specialized vocabulary, but also gain greater linguistic independence. The last three-year stage in our model will be bilingual high school. Based on the three previous stages of bilingual education, young people will have a real chance to reach a level of linguistic proficiency. As a result, not only will they alternately use two languages in an automatic and subconscious manner, but also an autonomous ability to think in two linguistic registers (the so-called bypassing) will be evolved. By understanding this model of education as a coherent and gradual process it is possible to achieve the objectives underlying the idea of bilingualism.
The Process of Bilingual Education in Smart School
Bilingual education in Bilingual Primary School Smart School in Zamość is based on pedagogical innovation of our authorship, consisting of gradually introduced elements of English to primary education. The programme implements the recommendations of methodological assumptions indicated in a number of European Union documents. In addition to the significantly increased amount of English lessons (6 hours per week), students acquire new skills and broaden those already possessed during selected early childhood education classes (10-15 hours per week) as well as outside of the classroom. Because the vast majority of Smart School teachers are fluent in English, such training gives each student a real chance of comprehensive development of intellectual and linguistic abilities; ultimately – complete preparation for the International Baccalaureate in the English language, which allows one to choose a university in any country and to gain knowledge of reality, history, geography and culture of English-speaking countries.
The teachers working in the school are all theoretically and practically trained to teach bilingually. Those members of staff who are qualified to teach both the language and integrated education work with their own class of pupils during both these areas of education. Teachers who specialize in only one of these areas form pairs and work together during each day on correlating all spheres of integrated education with the English language.
Bilingual classes are conducted every day (2-3 hours a day) and create an integral and coherent part of the educational process. Teachers plan the correlation in advance and prepare teaching aids that will serve the purpose of introducing the English language into any lesson. The lesson plans that are attached to this article form a unique collection of ideas for introducing bilingual education into the process of integrated learning in grades I-III
of primary school (attachments 1-5). These plans were created by Smart School teachers to serve the purpose of preparation for the lessons conducted during the study visit of the students and their academic teachers from the University of Warsaw that took place on the 21-22 of May 2015. What needs to be pointed out is the fact that CLIL in Smart School is not a separate part of the education. It forms a continuous process that is transparent
and visible throughout the whole curriculum.
The basis of education and training in Smart School is multi-faceted and multi-directional development of children based on the theory of Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences, which assumes that each child is unique. The starting point in our school’s educational process is the initial diagnosis, containing information on the dominant intelligences and the child’s interests and talents as well as intelligences that require support. Knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of the student is used during the compulsory classes by working in pairs and groups. In addition, educational activities (the so-called Gardner meetings) during which the pupils of classes I-III reveal the secrets of knowledge from different fields, are held every week.
Bilingual education in Smart School is based on already developed and proven model of educational system that exists in many European Union countries. Bearing in mind the needs of the Polish educational market in the development of bilingualism, we actively participate in research in this field. Drawing on our experience and research conducted in the field of bilingual teaching and the implementation of the theory of multiple intelligences into education, Smart School has become one of the most active centers for bilingualism in Polish education. Being in constant cooperation with various institutions of higher education, the embassies of France, Spain and the United Kingdom, teacher training centers and the National Association of Bilingualism “Bilinguis”, we organize scientific conferences, training seminars and methodological workshops – both for novices in the field of bilingualism and the theory of multiple intelligences, as well as teachers, directors and founders of bilingual schools across Poland.
Key words: bilingual, Smart School, lesson plan, CLIL, bilingualism