STEAM: Ideas to incorporate it into our English language classes

STEAM: Ideas to incorporate into our English language classes

Spain’s LOMLOE education law promotes STEM as a core competency for students to leave school with. STEM is an acronym that refers to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, areas in which jobs are growing thanks to technology and Artificial Intelligence (AI). In fact, a further step forward in STEM has been STEAM, which adds the word Arts to the acronym. That’s where we come in as English language teachers.

This move forward recognises the fact that professions of the future will need people who are able to function in a computer-driven world and yet also have the social and communication skills needed to problem solve, talk to customers and design user-friendly websites and games, among others. This is something which currently AI cannot do. These social and communication skills are exactly what is practised in our classes. Furthermore, employers are more keen than ever to hire people who are competent in STEAM and can speak a foreign language, so helping our students at school now is key. 

A further reason why Spain’s education law is promoting STEM and STEAM subjects is the issue of equality. Currently in Spain, only around 25% of people who work in STEM industries are women, and schools are a great place to introduce how exciting these subjects are and to break down any prejudices or barriers which prevent women from choosing this as a career. 

Considering that our main focus is teaching the English language, how can we incorporate this focus on STEAM in our curriculum? As we are now teaching children holistically, we can definitely introduce aspects to our lesson plans, or final tasks to carry out which has a focus on STEAM subjects. Furthermore, it consolidates what children are learning in their other classes, such as maths lessons, and cements the language needed to operate in STEM careers (e.g. words such as analyse, quantity, ratio). Here are some ideas to get you started to add STEAM to your lessons 

  1. Lesson planning 

When setting out your lesson plan, try to add in one or two elements of STEAM. If you want to incorporate science, is there an experiment that can be done based on the topic?

  • For technology, can some kind of sequencing or coding be added, or the use of a computer or tablet?
  • For engineering, can the students make an item using different materials?
  • For Arts, what creative thing can they produce, such as a role-play or a picture?
  • For Mathematics, can counting or patterns be added? 

This lesson overview from the Pearson course book English Code gives an example of a lesson plan incorporating some of these elements for primary students.

Example of STEAM methodology on English Code As you can see, it includes engineering when students make a boat, science to understand the materials and conduct the experiment, maths to count and sequence and art for the creative activities. All of this helps students to practice English with useful language and vocabulary, just like any other course book, except that here the lesson normalises and creates a sense of fun around the core STEAM topics. The activities students do in class are bright, fun and easy to understand: 

Exercise 1 STEAM Exercise 2 STEAM Exercise 3 STEM

  1. Take inspiration from all sections of your lesson

You can add in an element of STEAM in nearly all aspects of your lesson. For example, if you are reading a story, then take inspiration from the characters and ask students to design something for them that they would find useful, or to design a character’s perfect home using software such as Floorplanner. You could also give hints for students to predict the story to come in order to engage critical thinking by designing your own QR code for students to scan on their phones and discuss. You can print them off and hang them up around your classroom. Students can also create their own versions of an element of the story, first with a thaumatrope, then on to a flip book, or even writing using invisible ink which they make themselves. Your reading can also be biographical, not only fictional. Reading about famous scientists and engineers and mathematicians of both genders is really fun. If you are learning new vocabulary in your lesson plan, can the students add in engineering aspects and make one of the vocabulary items themselves?   English Code

  1. Add in STEAM vocabulary into your lesson outcomes

To make sure you are adding in elements of STEAM, include a section on key vocabulary the students will learn and use into our lesson plan. Vocabulary STEAM

  1. Use the internet to help you get started

Teachers have been incorporating STEAM into their English lesson for a while now, and you can take great inspiration from them about what has worked in the past. A simple search on the internet for STEAM ideas will help you, plus there are some great websites with free materials and lesson plans to download, such as Science Buddies, DIY, The National Gallery of Art to name but a few. 

To find out more about STEAM and how to teach it, you can check out the excellent Sarah Hillyard and her series of webinars here 

To find out more about the STEAM-focused course book English Code for primary students, click here  

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