Innovation in Language Learning

Edition 16

Accepted Abstracts

The HeartSpeak Project: Stepping Out of the CLIL Classroom and Learning Language through Dance…

Angela D. Kaufman, Freelance Teacher (Italy)


I created The HeartSpeak Project in 2009 after many years of teaching two separate subjects; English and dance, in reply to what I saw ten years ago as something parents desperately wanted for their children in Italian state primary schools; the opportunity to experience English in a bilingual environment. In recent years the introduction of CLIL in classrooms in this country has seen a welcome explosion. This project goes a step further and specifically consists of dance classes conducted in L2. What began as a fun experiment has developed into a fully-blown mission. All HeartSpeak sessions are structured using sound principles of dance technique and within a solid framework of English language-learning, combined with a wide variety of music, illustrations and storytelling. Children are encouraged to find a voice, in any ‘language’ other than the spoken word and in the beginning the emphasis is on listening and comprehension. They are then guided by pictures, story, music and characters with feelings to express what they have absorbed through any means in as many creative ways, gaining confidence and boosting self-esteem in the process. Co-operative learning occurs by way of pairing, small group and whole class activities, as does memory enhancement, co-ordination, spatial awareness and stamina within choreographies that culminate in real performances. By starting with our most basic tool, our body, learners and teachers alike experience how we can always create something both powerful and poignant from nothing. In fact, the HeartSpeak Project prides itself on one simple, basic premise. All you need to take part is a body, some space, and (perhaps) some music. The fact the project needs very little resources in order to work is what makes it so viable. In a fast-moving and constantly changing world, increasingly dominated by high-speed technology, the development of an approach to teaching that encourages more connections and a deeper search within our inner world of the self through the creative arts, I believe, will prove vital. This article will outline very briefly the fascinating journey I have experienced in schools to see for myself the value of the arts as a channel for second-language learning, especially in the early years when language acquisition is blossoming at its fastest pace. But as children must absorb and learn slowly, so HeartSpeak aims for a more nurturing approach, allowing children in the beginning to ‘learn a language’ without uttering a single word.

Keywords: CLIL, dance, creative arts, connections, language acquisition, bilingualism.

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