Snapshot of language learning seven.

It's always a delight  to go back to a school I know well and to observe a colleague that I have been working alongside for quite a long time.Meet Joanne Hornby! I first met Joanne as a PGCE Primary ITT at Hope University probably back in 2006-7 and we have worked together ever since.Joanne has been working one and a half days a week teaching Spanish at this local primary school across KS1 and KS2 for four years.Last year I observed her with Year 3 and this year I observed her with one of the two Year 6 classes looking at opinion adjectives to describe and explain sports preferences.When I found out this was the lesson I would be observing ,I very much hoped it woud have a specific activity at the end ....and I wasn't disappointed!

Joanne's lessons always start with a song and today the children in Year 6 started with two simple greetings songs from our PLN SoW .It is Joanne's way of settling the class after lunch and announcing it is time to focus and they did just that! She followed this with personal information questions and answers in a random order and directed to children all around the classroom .The Year 6 children were self correcting, taking what one child said and then adding their own information, giving extended  reasons to their feelings and the whole atmosphere was relaxed and focused at the same time.Some of the children even tried to add a touch of humour - so responses to "How old are you?" were for example "tengo veinte tres ".Joanne picked up on this and asked the child whether if he was " un profesor!! "A professor?" came back the English query and this led to a discussion of the fact this one of those "false friends" that the class needed to be aware of and that the real meaning of the word here was "teacher"!

 Today the focus of the lesson aboiut "expressing opinions" and creating full spoken sentences, ready for next week and their challenge to "write from phrases memory and adapt these to create new sentences to express ideas clearly" about sports.The week after that they would be recording their opinions using a special APP

I was amazed how many sports the children knew too! Joanne rewarded children with house points when she noticed that a child had created a sentence to impress for example "odio karate pero me encanta el rugby".As you might expect with Year 6 the competition for those house points was fierce! To revisit the sports  ,children were given a 60 second partner table tennis speaking challenge , trying to remember more sports nouns than the other player.and then before the choldren began to explore the adjectives they were going to need, the class discussed with Joanne the difference between “¿porqué?” and “porque” and identified the use of stress to intonate the words accurately and convey the different meanings. The use of the "stress" in Spanish carried over in to an investigation of the new adjectives and/or familiar adjectives the children were going to be using to express likes and dislikes and give reasons.

Joanne shared a slide o the screen of adjectives.She asked the children to remind her of strategies for comprehension of the new words and also how to work out how to say the words too.The children  reminded her it was all to do with "los ojos" and "las orejas" and suggested the following strategies......

  •  sound the words and look for familiar letter patterns or for challenging sounds
  • watch out for stresses as you sound them out!
  • look at the word and see if it's a cognate or is there a clue in part of the word or the phrase
  • look at the word and see if you need a bilingual dictionary to solve the meaning

Joanne also reminded the children to remember to put the words in to the context you are working in- so today the words are all to do with liking or disliking sports. Given 60 seconds to discuss what they could see with a partner ,all the class set about discussing the meaning of the words and some got out mini-whiteboards to list their decisions!

When the children came back together againas a whole class,Joanne unpacked with them the meaning and the pronunciation of the words.I noted down some of the ways the children explained  that they had tried to solve the meaning.....

  • aburrido - has something to do with "boring" because i can see "burr" in it!
  • energetico - looks like energetic ,it's almost the same
  • divertido could be different because it's like "diverse" (Joanne reminded the class her of false friends and explained this word actually meant "fun")
  • cansado - we know cansado because we say to you (Joanne) "estoy cansado" or "estoy cansada" when we explain how we are feeling sometimes.
  • bueno para mi salud - I think this is good for my health , because the first word means "good" and the second word means "for" and people say it a lot "good for your health. 

And I joined in the next part as it was great fun !We looked at the use of stress in the words in the list and we "packed a punch" on the letters with a stress.It worked a treat and the children corrected themselves by adding the punching action on the stressed letter.Later in the lesson the children still added the stress in the right place and Joanne walked around and prompted them with  "pack a punch".

The children put the adjective together with the very important but little phrase" porque es" and acted out the  words - one action per syllable with a focus on challenging letter combinations, like “enertico”

An impromptu question led to a class explanation:

Pupil: If we are girls, do we say “a” so forexample porque buena para mi salud”

Joanne: What an excellent language question – a house point! Let’s have a look! Is it you that’s being good or the sport that is good for your health? Talk it through with your partners!

Pupils: It’s your health!

Joanne: so if health is “la “ ,check to see what tag it had before the noun then we say “buena”.Can we check ? Oh it’s …..


Joanne: So it has a ,masculine tag “el” not a feminine tag” la”.So here we say “bueno! “Bueno para mi salud”.Let’s try it with “la gymnasia”. Have a talk with your table!

Pupil : We think it is “Buena” because it is “la gymnasia”

Pupil :Does it matter?

Joanne: Well yes , if we want to be correct we need to make sure that the noun and the adjective “shake hands” - remember how we have made nouns and adjectives agree when we looked at clothes? Why don’t we set this as an additional challenge today! Make sure  adjectives agree with the sports nouns we are talking about!

Time for the table game ,to create sentences about sports preferences and to decide if the sentences the children made, were sense or nonsense! 

First they sorted the cards:

game cards.JPG

....into preferences,nouns and adjectives

Then they took a card of each colour, created their sentences .Some left a gap between the last two cards so that they remembered that very important conjunction and verb "porque es".Then they read out their sentences to their team.Did it make sense or was it nonsensical ?Could they get those 5 points or was it only 3 points?

And finally the part of the lesson that I had been waiting for .I remember how excited Jo had been last year when she trialled this for the first time.She came to one of associate teacher twilights so animated and enthused- she had created a "sports cafe contradiction conversation activity".Today she launched this at the end of the lesson ready to build on it next week!

She set the scene by asking the children to imagine that they were sitting in a cafe discussing sports.She introduced them to the contradiction phrases and added actions."Caramba" and the banging of hands on the table was certainly a favourite! Then she set up a challenge.She challenged the class to contradict her! 

Joanne: íOdio el cricket porque es aburrido!

Pupil 1: íDios mio! Aburrido .Me encanta el cricket porque no es aburrido, es interesante y divertido.Odio la gymnasia porque es aburrido

Pupil 2 ( The class encouraged the  gymnast in the class  to respond) Caramba!Me encanta la gymnasia porque es elegante. Odio el futbol porque no es interesante….”

….. and at this point in the target language, Joanne asked the class to tidy away and practise their phrases during the week ,ready for the big sports café contradiction conversation next lesson!