In the resource vault at EMAS UK there are thousands of resources that can be manipulated to fit the need of the learner. Each mat is designed by either Liz or me, John,and is a starting point for the journey that you wish to take. I have started to manipulate a language mat for you to see how I saw it being used in the classroom. I have been a teacher and remember the frustration of not having the resources I needed when I needed them. This mat is the anatomy of a flower and is good for ages 7 to 15, but I have seen it used as an aide memoire for A level students. Even when I did my degree I would go back to simple books like the Penguin ranges for inspiration and knowledge, they seemed to explain things in a way that used words and pictures together to reinforce my long-term retention. This is the reason that I have created large format mats with clear pictures and simple labelling. I used them as a teacher and developed them to work with all abilities in the classroom, differentiation for vulnerable groups isn’t a new concept, it was what good teacher did and still do as part of their daily classroom practice.
I started out with the basic mat that you can find in the ‘resources by language’ section of EMAS UK. This is an ideal starting point as it is in two languages, This one is in Arabic but there are thousands to choose from. The next stage was to remove the English words from mat, this was a way of progressing the learner to start linking the English words to the picture and the Arabic words. Taking all of the words off would be pointless as we want to bridge the learning between Arabic and English, helping the learner use the skills they have in their home language in English.
The next stage has to be to remove all of the labels but to place the English words in a side panel help the learner recognise the pattern of the words and link them to the parts of the flower. Remember that these are all good assessment pieces as they show progressive language development and understanding.
At this stage the learner has gained the relevant English language skills needed to identify the parts of the plant in bot Arabic and English and is using them to label the parts effectively. Now we must look at the understanding and how without labels and pointers in English the learner used their home language skills to label the part of the plant.
The language mat is now void of any real information apart from the English words and the picture of the plant. This will give you as the teacher the opportunity to gain an undesrtanding of the learners knowledge.
Don’t forget that all the way through this process the learner should be explaining what they see, the colours, the shapes, the image and linked words. For example if this was a triangle then we would be asking the learner to think of other words that have ‘TRI’ in them, this is an opportunity to make them aware of the links between words.
The next stage is that of the learner drawing their own flower and labelling it. To remove the ‘blank page’ fear, put a range of boxes on it. I use this as my final assessment but it might be a step on the way to yours.
I hope this has made sense of how to use a language mat and some of the opportunities for its extended use.