The photograph on the left shows some kids in a Dutch classroom. However, the pupils are not all Dutch, they are from Norway and Italy as well. They are participating in an international exchange at my school.

This week, on Monday morning, students from three countries dropped in on me in my classroom.


It had been decided that a short hands on activity would be nice to mix the groups. In comes the tto-art teacher, which happens to be me. The task had to fit in the theme for the international week: sports. So I had the students working at a design in international groups, to produce within 50 minutes a proposal for a sports outfit to be worn by athletes of a highly hypothetical “United Confederation of Small Countries” on occasion of the next Olympic Games at London.

It worked out really fine. Asking to pass a pair of scissors is a natural and amicable way to break the ice. Choice of colours had to be discussed. The group had to decide also whether the design for the outfit would allow some reference to the athlete’s nationality, and if yes, how this could be achieved without interfering with the idea of joined efforts. Every group of three students came up with a visualized idea and could explain it to the others. Well done!

To me such a class room experience epitomizes what tto is about. Tto-teachers are not just experts in their subject, they have to teach their students also how to implement skills and knowledge in an international setting. That’s why we teach in English. This can’t be done by just changing the language spoken by the teacher from Dutch into English. We have to instil confidence into our students that they can use their second language effectively. They must communicate in English in our class rooms as much as possible. Our pupils need tasks to do so and feedback on their use of English when necessary. We cannot take the use of language for granted any more, whether we teach physics, geography, P.E, or art, or any other subject, we have to be language teachers as well.

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