English Town (Project)

Why do children at primary school learn English? Because they will need it one day. But ‘one day’ might be quite a hazy, distant idea for some seven- or eight-year-olds. Not everyone has opportunities to test their language skills in real life and some learners go through years of English instruction without a chance to use the language anywhere but in the classroom. That’s why the project ‘English Town’ came to life, inspired by an already established concept in Germany.
For a day, a team of students from our department visit a primary school in Prague and turn a part of the building into an English speaking zone with shops, a restaurant, a cinema, a library, the police and more. Each child gets a few play ‘pounds’, a little shopping bag, and their task is to collect as many little objects in it as they can, such as a postcard from the tourist centre, a cinema ticket, a library card, or a receipt from the restaurant. When they run out of money, they can choose one of the places and ask for a job, for which they need a stamp from the town’s hospital and an ID. Once they have earned some money, they get a cheque from their employer, go to the bank, and they can start spending money again. Some of them even get to witness a bank robbery and they have to help the police by describing the robber. And the whole time they can only communicate in English, using all their available resources and developing their strategic competence.
So far, the project has taken place three times: in 2014 and 2016 at Základní škola Marjánka in Prague 6, and this year at Fakultní základní škola Drtinova in Prague 5. The ‘town’ was designed and operated by students of years 3 and 4 of the Teacher Training for Primary Education program, who always do an amazing job creating props and costumes and using their various talents and skills. All the children were highly satisfied with the event and expressed their excitement and thanks. “I would like everyone to support this fun project so that everyone can try it out and enjoy it the way I did,” one of the third graders wrote on the feedback sheet. Many of them felt they had learned a lot and they felt proud of having been able to get around in English, interact with unfamiliar adults, and even get a job. The day was also useful for their teachers, who stated it was beneficial for them to observe their young students in interaction. The next event is planned for 2020.