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Playing beyond COVID with Ed Cousins

Updated: Jul 3, 2020

The spirit and practices of Playing beyond CLIL encourage us to celebrate creative opportunities leading from associations. With this in mind I found myself connecting with a well-known quote from Charles Stewart Parnell, considered by many to be a key figure in helping Ireland emerge from centuries of Imperial rule.

Parnell and his legacy inspired writers such as James Joyce and W. B. Yeats. When he said,

"No man has a right to fix the boundary of the march of a nation; no man has a right to say to his country - thus far shalt thou go and no further."

He was appealing to his countrymen to imagine a future nation.

I now make the same appeal to educational authorities across Europe to imagine new ways of teaching and assessing. Let us not put limits to our thoughts on how to improve the experiences of our learners.

We are facing an unprecedented learning deficit due to lockdown closures of schools and the often uneven and improvised nature of onscreen provisions. There is an urgent need to devise how to bring about this catch up in all subject areas. When the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote of ‘learning boot camps’ with their implication of drills and the ’no pain no gain’ school of learning, he had no concrete plan or roadmap in mind. We propose something tangible, flexible and creative using the Show What You Know events developed through the Playing beyond CLIL project.

Show What You Know (SWYK) is the vehicle we have designed to transport our principles and objectives into the classroom. They offer accelerated learning, which is effective, and fun. After all this lockdown, our learners need quality interactions on and off screen with meaningful challenges and innovative forms of capturing, reporting and assessing. SWYK can be an interface between the enforced on screen learning of lockdown Europe and the Blended Learning of an enlightened post Covid era.

There are many conversations taking place on the need to adapt and evolve but few on how and what to do. Show What You Know is a great place to start. Teachers need training and guidance on ways to connect relevant subject content and how to engage the blended approach. This link to a short BBC essay on change in education brings us reflections on the relevance of exams

Connecting beyond CLIL

In response to the post lock down learning challenge, Interacting and partners have designed an innovative blended learning programme FESTIVALS OF LEARNING. The FESTIVALS combine the innovations of PbC with the new digital learning skills acquired by both teachers and learners. We share here our work in progress as glimpse into a possible framing for Show What You Know in practice.

The example cited is for students in transition year from primary to secondary in schools working through CLIL.

The FESTIVAL of English.

We are also designing FESTIVALS of French and Spanish, before including other subjects, FESTIVALS of History, Science etc.

During the Festival week

A programme of daily activities and challenges has been developed by our team based on the blending of two SWYK events, The Discovery and The Exhibition.

Participating classes are free to choose a city or region in the British Isles as their subject. Their goal is to create and share two products from the Festival. One is an exhibition celebrating their discoveries and the second is an avatar of a child from the city or area they have chosen and have this character as guide and animator of the exhibition.

Our actors present activities designed to last for about two hours on each day of the festival, talking directly to the class on pre-recorded videos. We have created characters with special interests allowing them a natural access to the subject areas most commonly taught through CLIL in primary schools, History, Geography, Music, Science. We added cooking.

These characters have spent the last month coming to life in front of a green screen, modelling how Discoveries can include classroom subjects and setting tasks for their viewers either in class or at home.

Cast List

Wellington - Fascinated by history, literature and quirky facts. He loves meeting people and has friends everywhere.

Susie - Wellington’s sister, she’s an activist. She loves travelling, going on protests and shopping.

Pinkerton - Everything is scientific to him and he can design an experiment and determine laws from the most surprising elements.

Chef Goldbloom - An expert on world cuisine he can cook anything from everything.

Milana Cantamucho - Milana is a real-life walking musical. She knows the hidden songs of cities and likes to compose songs to help her remember things better.

Can you guess who is who?

Participating classes are encouraged to organise their discoveries into an exhibition uploaded to a secure platform shared by schools taking part in the programme the same week.

Before the Festival week teachers get access to:

Webinars produced by Playing beyond CLIL where pedagogy is explained and practical guidance provided for working with Show What You Know events.

The programme of activities for the festival week, including associated resources and teacher’s notes. Online support is also available to all practitioners involved in the festival. 

The area shared between schools from other countries taking part in the same programme.

After the Festival week

Teachers will be able to use the resources and the teaching techniques for the rest of the year. Teachers will be invited to join in the Playing beyond CLIL learning community. Support will be given to teachers and pupils to interact and enjoy each other’s exhibitions and avatars should the school wish to do so. Wellington will have made many new friends!

We hope this outline of our idea for taking Playing beyond CLIL forward from the perspective of a theatre in Education Company serves as a model for future innovations.

For further information on FESTIVALS OF LEARNING contact me at:


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