Giving content a purpose

On Thursday last week I was training subject coordinators.Several of the coordinators were new to the role and  a conversation  sprang up between some of them based upon an informal comment:"So what language do you teach?".This wasn't a discussion about which target language to teach rather about the substance and content the school teaches. The picture at the top of the blog post is full of colour and wonderful spices and ingredients, schools want to offer this colour and variety in their teaching.They need a recipe that works to start them off and then to develop their own variations and approaches that work.


My recipe includes language learning skills linked to the DFE POS Learning Objectives, phonics and exploring patterns of letters and sounds,exploring and  learning how to build sentences and a growing knowledge of structure and components of a simple sentence, use of  bilingual dictionaries and sound files to help independence. Teachers and children also need content upon which to hang their learning hats!   

We were looking at the DFE POS.It would have been easy to say "Well  follow the DFE POS and the learning objectives" but would that have been fair? Well , the objectives address  the skills we are developing.These skills should help our young learners can move more easily from one foreign language to another in ther future education, careers and lives. so yes it is important that we follow the learning objectives.In doing so we need to unpack the stages the learner must go through to become competent and to achieve success in each of the learning objectives. In the group were teachers, whose schools are developing a creative curriculum. So where does a history focus or  an Art focus fit in with language learning? Well we have seen in our own network how linking language learning to a cross curricular focus sparks children and teachers' enthusiasm and interest and gives the language learning vibrant purpose. Both the DFE POS learning objectives and linking language learning across the curriculum or building this in to part of the whole school learning approach offers purpose and creates a place for language learning in the primary curriculum.What we mustn't forget is that teachers and children need to start somewhere and they  need purposeful content to make their learning grow.Hence the picture of planting seeds below.

Over the last 20 years or so I have been engaged in primary language teaching.I was a secondary teacher at the start and found myself falling in to the trap of bringing the secindary curriculum down to primary.Soon found this wasn't necessarily appropriate.However some fo the basic language has remained - core language we call it- numbers, colours, days of the week, months, gteetings, farewells, polite requests, likes , dislikes, personal information. Its relevance remains of course!.This core content gives teachers with limited language knowledge a starting point,We go on to teach key focuses  and as an experienced primary teacher I know that we can diversify and lock in to another area of the curriculum or focus on  a language learning skill etcetra.What I also know is that by keeping core content, teachers with limited language knowledge feel the teaching and learning is accessible .In turn their children feel they are progressing in communicating  about every day matters (but in another language!).From the core content and simple focuses more exciting and cross curricular learning oppprtunities can grow.Maybe the focus has been on simple weather phrases but next the children and teacher can explore extreme weather conditions.Maybe the children and teachers are focusing on colours and but later in the year can revisit colours and explore a famous painting.Running throughout  are the development of learning skills and the  development  of language learning skills. In my opinion it is about nurturing this successful progression and offering guidance and support.  

Here is a look at how we do this with our VLE !