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?