Snapshot of learning - Janet Wallbank

Last Friday, I went to visit Year 6 at St Andrew’s C.E Primary School learning French with Janet Wallbank. It was the end of the half-term and the class was just finishing off the topic of ‘sports and how do you play this sport?’

As I walked in, the class was just getting organised for the lesson and I noticed straight away the neatly kept French books on the children’s table and Janet’s tracking sheets – I knew it was going to be a good lesson!

Whilst Janet was getting ready for the lesson she asked the children to work with their partners and practiced as many personal information questions and answers as they could remember – I listened to a few children and heard some interesting and details statement such as ‘Ça va bien car je suis en pleine forme mais j’ai faim’ – evidence that the children are learning to extend basic language and making (huge) progress.

Then the class warmed up to a really fun song that they seemed to be really familiar with

Throughout the lesson, Janet explained EVERYTHING in the target language: going through different slides on her powerpoint presentation and revisiting various questions and opinions about sports: Qui fait un sport ? (opportunities to recap jouer / faire ) Qui veut décrire un sport? Mon sport preféré est… car…

The class had a mini-debate amongst themselves about the sports they liked and disliked reacting to one another’s statements J’adore la gymnastique car….’ Ah non, je déteste la gymnastique car…’ – evidence of children being able to relate their language learning to their own lives and using it for a real purpose: talking about themselves! To support themselves some children spontaneously opened their French book to refer back to previous work and to check words or opinions phrases for example.

Janet then invited volunteers to come to the front and read out descriptions of sport they had written the week before using the written sheet for this unit available on the VLE. These sheets have had excellent feedback both from primary and secondary colleagues.

The rest of the class had to guess which sport was being described and some children had put a lot thought into this activity, adding a lot of details to their description and so the children had to listen very carefully.

As a follow up to this activity Janet asked the children to work in pairs and play a card game describing sports to their partners who had to guess correctly which sport it was – the first step was to choose the correct verb: was it jouer or faire ? then the equipment, where to play the game, clothes, etc. The children appeared confident and fluent with the content of this unit and so the whole class was engaged, on task and …speaking French! 

Finally as it was the very last lesson of the half-term the children referred back to their assessment cloud sheet (stuck at the front of their book) and highlighted what they had been learning during the half-term and managed to tick quite a few boxes. Well done Year 6!

Seriously, fun learning

Emilie now observes our associate teachers and I am really enjoying her "Snapshots" as blog posts on this site.They offer a fresh look "with new eyes" at what I have seen developing over 6 years in the classrooms where associate teachers work. I am still going in to schools to support and to observe often with SLT and I want to share my observation of our associate Steph Stewart in one of the primary schools.She works one morning a week as an associate Spanish teacher in Evelyn Street CP Warrington.


What a delight this observation was! I have highlighted in bold the core components that are making Spanish so successful with these young learners as I write this blog post.

  • Time allocation
  • Investment of money
  • Contuniuity
  • Aspiration
  • Clear,shared vision from leadership
  • Sharing good practice,
  • AfL
  • Tracking progress.

This school has invested time and money in the development of the primary language teaching and learning of Spanish actually from before 2011 and the school continues to do so. The headteacher is aspirational and  very much wants all the children in her school to have the same broad quality learning opportunities as children in other schools in more affluent areas.

Since 2011, Ana delivered Spanish in school and the children have always had excellent pronunciation due to the fact that they were taught by a native speaker.We idenitifed this as a need for all scghools whether they work with native or fluent teachers or not  so we strive on our VLE to offer all our schools access to quality language and native speaker sound files.

Since September 2016 , there has been a change of language teacher and now Steph, associate Spanish language teacher works in class supported by class TA(s) and class teachers across KS1 and KS2 . Steph is a primary class teacher .She became the associate teacher in September 2016 after moving from her previous role as  a KS2 Year 6 teacher. She is naturally exuberbant and her teaching style is  dynamic and enthusiastic. I am very fortunate to work alongside master practitioners such as Steph (often initially trained by Hope University via the PGCE Primary MFL programme).The changeover between Ana and Steph was smooth because Ana was working already with our VLE SoW and also most certainly because the school has committed to AfL and tracking progress of MFL and

  • Staff  engagement
  • Commitment by both staff and SLT
  • Part of the whole school curriculum

What was immediately noticeable, was the engagement of staff  and this was definitely not just because I was in the room.Teachers and TAs were learning alongside the children and also were able to support , guide and encourage all the chldren. The whole class (children and staff knew where they were up to in the learning. "I am learning so much about how to understand  a language" said one member of staff ,supporting a small group. "I am delighted with what the children are all achieving.We keep making links across the curriculum and it is really helping the children" said thre Y6 class teacher.  The role model of teachers learning with the children and actually sometimes being supported by the children was delightful to see.


  • Dynamic learning
  • Encouraging learners' independence
  • Rewarding individual's successes
  • Supporting each other.

Year 6 were "warming up" by revisiting last week's speaking focus on sports in Spanish. At the start of the lesson the class was revisiting sports and opinions from last week.Two girls,one higher and one lower ability, were debating with each other in front of the class  sport and their opinions about gymnastics.I wouldn't have known that there was any difference in ability as they were locked in a Spanish dialogue about gymnastics - using likes, dislikes, conjunctions,opinions and extended sentences to argue for and against gymnastics as a favourite sport.The Year 6 class teacher was thrilled to see how both girls participated in the simple, effective debate and challenged each other.  The class were revisiting prior learning. Steph was animated and encouraging both girls to "wobble those brains" and keep the "debate on fire". "Languages don't always need to be easy" she declared.

  • Learning from and building upon other experiences
  • Sharing across the whole network

Steph had adapted a great activity set up by Joanne Hornby at Barrowhall CP two years ago which Joanne calls cafe conversation conunmdrums.With UKS2 we love this activity as the children can feel really independent and able to express their own opinons not just the teacher's.Joanne is another of Hope's wonderful PGCE Primary MFL alumni !

Cafe Conumdrum Snapshot of Learning link is here , should you like to know more. It is now a part of your Y6 Ready Made French and Spanish SOW.

  • Importance of progression
  • Building on prior knowledge and skill development
  • Age,challenge and skill appropriate activities

Today we visited  a Spanish theme park,Porta Ventura,online and set off on an exploration of language to describe funfairs,as  part of our Ready Made Spanish SOW. Steph set the scene and shared the website with the children.  Steph is following our Ready Made SOW,developed over the last 6 years and which now has progression in 4 core skills, grammar, phonics and generic language learning skills. This means children build on prior understanding and knowledge to move forward one more step at a time. Each focus is chosen to be age appropriate and to support and challenge the children's language learning skills.We identify that potentially children will learn a different language in KS3 so children are actively encouraged to explore transferable language learning skills. These are some of the core tools of the VLE and the SOW .What Steph demonstrated is how teachers can take the fundamental framework and make it pertinent to the class. 

  • Purposeful learning built upon familiar scenarios
  • Using resources in the classroom to best advantage
  • Linked with making exciting new discoveries on the way
  • Making those cultural links
  • Involving the wider community
  • Celebrating similarities and differences

I liked the way the children were asked to discuss in English funfairs and whether they had been to Alton Towers and how many times they may have been to our local Gullivers World and which were their favourite rides.

Too often, in my opinion, we make assumptions that children have already experienced certain activities or can just jump in to language learning.The fun fair website, the discusion and the engagement of class teachers,TAs chatting for a couple of minutes about this was a great way to get everyone engaged.

Too often too, we are so busy with the lesson that we don't necessarily use resources to their full advantage- for example Steph was able to involve the child who came from the Philipines with a different home language (Spanish) , to help recognise a ride that wan't even on the bilingual dictionary. You coud feel the immediate respect for this support from a classmate.

The new DfE Attainment Targets are our guide to teaching and learning.We must remember that cultural links keep it real and fascinating for learners no matter what age.To find out that rollercoasters are called "the russian mountain" in Spanish (and in French) was ojne of those facinating moments! Why? Well the rollercoaster was invented in Russia."Makes sense then!" said one of the children working with a TA. "Make sure you tell your family this intersting fact" said Steph ..and she made that link  between home ,parents, carera and the language learning in the classroom today , cultures and fascinating facts !

So in my opinion the ingredients in bold are helping this school to make effective and substantial progress as a whole school in primary language learning. I think these are goals for most schools developing primary languages. so what are the next challenges ....? 

  • Maybe for me the challenge is how do we achieve this in all our network schools?
  • How do we share this good practice more widely?
  • And for all of us engaged in language teaching - how do we as a language learning community work  with all teaching colleagues to build bridges of good practice that mean all our learners continue to progress forward into KS3 and KS4 and beyond? 





Snapshot of learning - Sally Riley

For my next observation I went to see Sally teaching Y3 at St Basil’s Catholic Primary School in Widnes.

Sally started teaching French at the school last Summer so the children are only just beginning their journey to language learning. She teaches half a day from Y3 to Y5 (30 minutes/lesson).

Sally started her lesson with a couple of songs about greetings and feelings and asking for names around the classroom – the children were clearly used to this routine and all felt confident answering Ça va ?’ ‘Comment t’appelles-tu?’.

In the song the children were practicing both ‘Comment t’appelles-tu? and ‘Tu t’appelles comment?’ as you do in normal, real life, you don’t always ask questions the same way and it reminded me that it is important to be a bit more spontaneous when we are doing this kind of Q&A with classes. The added bonus here was obviously Victor the frog puppet – very appropriate with young children.

Today’s lesson was about animals, masculine/feminine and plural nouns.

Sally started by recalling the nouns introduced the previous week and she mentioned strategies like using memory hooks to remember them.

Then the class played a game of stand-up bingo where each child has a picture card and they have to listen carefully for their animal, if the teacher calls your animal, you’re out and you have to sit down! 

Before moving on to the next activity, Sally asked about the fact that some animal nouns had un, others une in front of them and checked children remembered from the previous lesson about the difference. At this stage you would only except some awareness of the concept of gender and it was evident the class had talked about it before.

Sally reinforced the objective of the lesson about plural – linking it to English.

Next instruction was to find your animal group, using their picture from the previous game the children had to go around the classroom whispering and doing the action for their animal, then sit around a table with their group.

On the table Sally had put envelops with singular and plural nouns inside. Children had to sort out the nouns in feminine, masculine and plurals.

The class spotted 2 nouns that didn’t follow the pattern (plural nouns have an ‘s’ at the end):  un cheval> des chevaux and un oiseau> des oiseaux’ which gave an opportunity to talk about exceptions. Sally pointed out that in the English language they were also some exceptions for example: mouse/mice. I enjoyed this activity as now the children are more likely to remember what exceptions are and that there are exceptions since they investigated them for themselves rather than being told about them by the teacher.

One thing I really enjoyed about Sally’s lesson was the prompts she used with the class, phrases such as ‘you have to remember to put a question in your voice’ (to remind children about intonation when asking a question); ask ‘experts’ on your table if you’re stuck; ‘close your eyes and listen carefully’ (to practice un/une); let’s investigate and be language detectives, etc. I also loved her sticker box!

Watching Sally you could tell that she is an experienced primary teacher and there is something about teaching languages in a ‘primary’ way which I had to learn when I first started working in primary schools having come from Secondary teaching.

Thank you Sally and Year 3 !



Snapshot of learning - Kate Kennedy

For my second observation I visited Kate Kennedy at Penketh Community Primary School in Warrington. I observed Kate teaching Spanish to a Y5 class (40 minutes). Kate has been teaching there for 2 years and teaches 1 day a week from Reception to Year 6.

The lesson objectives were to introduce fruit and vegetable vocabulary (with a cross-curricular link to the class ‘Fairy Tales’ topic as an introduction), recap sound-spelling links and practice a dialogue ‘At the market’.

As the class walked in from playtime, Kate played a song ‘la canción de las frutas’ as a hint of what the new topic was. I thought it was really effective at setting the scene for the lesson and as a result the children were settling in quickly and quietly – without Kate having to raise her voice or give any kind of settling in instructions. The tune of the song was catchy and it created a positive and fun atmosphere in the classroom.

As soon as the video was finished there was already a couple of hands up from children offering some interesting comments: “I think I heard the word for an orange, because I heard the colour ‘naranja" “ I remember manzana from Year 4 when we wear doing ice-cream flavours’.

Kate praised the children for making links to other topics and remembering vocabulary from the previous year.

To link in with the class topic of Fairy Tale, Kate showed a picture of Cinderella’s pumpkin carriage and led a pacey Q&A session on what other fruits or vegetable would make a good carriage and why/why not it would be a good alternative (using adjective of colour and size (i.e. grande/pequeno) – all in the target language supported by a powerpoint presention (reading) and actions to help understand adjectives.

Then Kate moved on to practice the new words with repetition and recall activities catering for all learning styles (auditory, visual, kinaesthetic).

After that, she introduced the written word as a way of consolidating the new vocabulary and used this opportunity to revisit what she called ‘tricksters’, sounds in Spanish words that don’t sound the same as in English (‘z’, ‘j’, etc.)  She gave the children 10 seconds in pairs to spot the tricksters (highlighted letter(s)) and practice pronouncing the word before taking feedback from volunteers.

The class then practiced writing the words from memory on laminates ‘Can you write the words on your laminate? Don’t worry about mistakes – we can rub it out and correct’. The class was reminded and encouraged to write the article (un/una) in front of the noun.

To finish, the class practiced a dialogue ‘at the market’ in pairs.

I really enjoyed watching this lesson and thought it was very cleverly put together with a lot of recalling without it being too repetitive, careful scaffolding leading the children to be able to read, understand and perform a dialogue (focussing on accurate pronunciation). I enjoyed Kate’s gentle and relaxed manners, use of target language (backed up by English) throughout. I noticed that Kate used up any opportunities for AfL through questioning and the class raised to the challenge.

After Kate’s lesson I met up with the MFL Co-ordinator and I was really impressed with the clear vision the school have for MFL and how well embedded MFL seems to be with the rest of the curriculum and the school through the award of the ‘class of the week’ in assembly, Spanish choir, Lingo club (where children can get a taste for other languages), link abroad, etc.  You could definitively feel that languages were valued.