Evidence of progress in primary language learning .

Yesterday whilst  training teachers in Manchester I was able to share some of our network’s evidence that progress over four year primary language learning is being made and that on a regular basis we see this progress.

In Speaking children are progressing from simple utterances to dialogues to simple conversations
In Writing children are progressing from writing single familiar words to writing sentences (noun verb adjective and to writing a range of sentences and short texts with accurate basic grammar using nouns, adjectives and verbs.

Well the primary teachers are planning for progress.The progress has been developing over a period of years.This is not a quick fix!  The network has developed in to it's own support structure where teachers support teachers and resources /ways of approaching language teaching and learning are shared either through myself or through informal links and sub- groups )e.g Emilie's upskilling group). It has taken time.

To make good and substantial progress as would therefore be expected they are working from long term overviews that develop considers ways to introduce, revisit ,re-use in new contexts and build upon language learning. The network and the support helps of course! Here's the link to the page on the JLN website where you can see the colour coded long term overview which many of the network schools use or refer to help their initial planning.Last month I blogged  about what the associate language teachers who work in 32 schools as visiting teachers or language assistants are identifying as progress across KS1 and KS2 

Yesterday I required concrete tangible examples that classroom teachers an achieve and that have been generated by real children in real learning circumstances. Here are the everyday language examples I selected to share with  the teachers in Manchester to show how progress is being made.
The examples are as follows:

Listening and Responding to single words and phrases and saying short utterances

Firstly I shared children listening  ,responding and joining in with a playground PE activity using numbers and colours.(Listening and responding at stage one of learning).These examples come from a Year 2 class at Christ Church CE and you can see examples of their spoken work on their school website Christ Church CE

Moving from questions and answers in a spoken dialogue to building a simple conversation
Then I was able to show how children after 18 months of formal KS2 French learning at Christ Church CE are demonstrating different stages and skills in speaking within the class itself .I have these lovely clips from the school coordinator which show children participating in speaking conversations  as groups of four children .To achieve this ,the Year 4 children ( March of the academic year) 
  • recalled, revisited and gathered familiar questions and answers together in spoken and then written form 
  • written their own simple scripts drawing upon content from the some of the language they have practised across the 18 months (personal information ,feelings, family and illnesses are included in this sketch)
  • practised and remembered their conversations
  • worked in differentiated skill level groups of four to support each other.
For myself the fascinating thing is to see the spread of language skills after 18 months – two children are speaking short phrases and two children are performing a strong question and answer dialogue and one of these two children is pushing the boundaries with asides and reactions that is moving toward holding a conversation. Neither of these two clips is flamboyant but show the product of a sequence of lessons and the skills the children are developing at this stage on their learning.

Independent speaking and writing: short accurate texts 
For us all yesterday it was probably the evidence you can hear in the clip below and the evidence you can see in the short written document below that made us sit up and think! 
You see I have known for a quite a while  that many of the schools  in the network are moving on.I am grateful for the fact that the language learning in local schools did not stop when languages in primary schools were doubtful.This means that in many of our schools we have been able to build upon prior learning consistently, draw upon local good practice and examples and therefore make effective progress and support other schools to aspire/ achieve the same. What I hadn't realised was how this would have an impact on other teachers from different areas where they are just starting off.It didn't frighten them it gave them goals and ways forward.

A short accurate written text
The written script is just one example from a local primary school (St Philips) where the teacher in January this year did some work around likes and dislikes and fruits and vegetables. She brought me several examples of the written work in best handwriting as it was ready for display in the classroom and here is a remarkable example to our subject coordinators CPD afternoon. Some of the children had written longer sentences using correct language in simple sentences but this example stood out because this child had thought carefully and worked upon accuracy in adjectival agreement and position and had used the class bilingual dictionaries to find words to describe the fruit that s/he really wanted to say.The example below is something that most children can achieve and that's why we decided to share this with colleagues .It has to be achievable.

Speaking independently :accurate descriptive text 
Finally there was a clip from my wonderful colleague Emilie @ EWoodruffe at our conference and which she shared as part of her presentation on the use of technology #JLN2014 .
We have known for a while that children in network schools are  producing accurate imaginative and independent descriptive spoken and written short texts .We know that one of the times we see this is in their third year of learning a language when the children work on a context based on fashion shows through the ages. 

This year Emilie captured this brilliantly for us all to share at the conference with the Yakit for children APP. The final creative products by the children are after several weeks of work  on clothes and descriptions and in February Year 5 ,so two and a half years after they have started learning a language. The example I selected yesterday was just a random selection from these recordings but it made light bulbs go on around the room! The recording is a culmination of listening, speaking , reading , writing , remembering and working on grammar with adjectives. Take a listen!

So at the end of a good year within the network and with many more examples of progress and teachers planning for progress ,my questions for myself and colleagues must be – what next? 
This is progress that we are now seeing at different stages across approximately 90 schools- some schools are being supported by other schools in the network but on a weekly basis such evidence of progress at different stages of language learning is shared with me.Exciting and challenging questions which I hope to begin to address with my colleagues next year .... 
  • Where will language learning progress to next year in the network? 
  • What  can we begin to achieve as these children some of them now at the end  of Year 5 leave primary next year and enter Year 7 and secondary language learning? 
  • How will we build on this platform for learning?