Setting out our language learning stall for 2014 2015

Today the associate language teachers and assistants met for our CPD Day.Part of our discussions where based upon how we are going to set up effective environments for primary language learning this academic year.

Here are some of the tools,approaches and resources we will begin to implement or use across all year groups in KS2 in the next couple of weeks.

The rights of the language learner
You can access the PDF from Bsmall publishing here.

The rights of the language learner

The poster reminds children about respecting others, taking risks and having a go and allows us to think of some of our own important learning strategies for the year! Brilliant to have in the classroom and to refer to when children are struggling or not sure how to approach a challenge or just as a prompt when required. We are sure that the children will want to add strategies and pictures of their own.

Creating a whole school supportive language learning environment 
We identified the need to support the whole school staff to feel a part of the language learning taking place in school and loved the idea of the " target language postbox"

great to post and share successful activities, questions or requests around language learning.Maybe this blog will help.....

Welcome back! 
We identified how important it is to welcome children back or for the first time into our language learning classes and how we can link this to the idea that all children are going back to school right now across the target language countries. We want to share with the children greetings in the target language pertinent to "returning to school" on the IWB or as individual cards just like these in French:

A memorable learning journey 
If we use individual cards (welcome back) then these can be stuck in to our learning journals. This year we will have learning journals that are personal to the children created along the lines of the one described in the blog below:

We want the children to keep a growing record of the experiences, sights,sounds,smells and creative activities along their language learning journey and individual or class learning journals just like these seem a good way to create a  memorable journey!

Unpacking our suitcases from last academic year 
With some of our children we will be unpacking their virtual language learning suitcases from last academic year to remember and to revisit some of their favourite activities and stories . Take a look at emilie's blog and see the suitcases she packed with her classes...

A child's record of how much they grow in language learning and knowledge across the academic year.

We discussed the elements we see the children developing across a year of language learning (language content , structure ,all 4 skills, links between language and other subjects, cultural knowledge etc). I suggested the " how does your garden grow record" for Year 3 and Year 4 but colleagues felt that this was still a valid and age appropriate activity for UKS2 too! This will be kept in the children's journals or learning logs (see above) and we intend to start these pictures in October.

Exploring culture and celebrating languages through creative and imaginative work.
We discussed  ways this year we will use Art,literature,poetry ,song, music, Drama to explore  both language skills and the culture of the target language country.We are setting off on a " a grand day out"  in the week of the European Day of Languages ( 26 September) with this in mind!

Transition in a suitcase
And at the end of the year we hope to be able to pack those virtual suitcases again with memories , games, creative outcomes ,songs, stories and poems that we want to share at the start of the next new academic year of learning!

Primary Language Learning and practical primary pedagogy using the new POS 2014

Primary Language Learning and Strategic Focus for September 2014 and beyond.
 So this is my final blog of the Summer term and it's all about readiness and starting off on the right foot with primary languages. How can schools build successful strategic teaching and learning focuses for the individual school/ and understand and build toward successful primary language learning embraced by the whole staff within the school?

First a little context to my ramblings ..........
This academic year the JLN subject coordinators and I have spent our coordinator CPD sessions considering how we can prepare , use and move on with the new DfE POS for KS2 primary language learning.

51 colleagues(divided in to two smaller groups ranging from established, building or just starting off schools) and I have met one afternoon per term to discuss the new POS. The new DfE POS is not so "new" now as we have had sight of this for at least 12 months ,certainly 12 months in its completed state). It's the official document from which we must all work in state education and has to support beginners , moving on and established primary and KS3 language learning school programmes.

Who should teach primary languages? 

We discussed delivery and sustainability and came to the conclusion that schools find their own delivery models - in school PPA, visiting teachers, language assistants ,experienced and target language speaking HLTAs,class teachers supported by SOW and sound files etc. all of these have value and should be valued! What is key is that there must be a strategic vision in school, a long term overview, medium term planning and appropriately selected next steps are in place. why? The role of coordinator is a vital one.We felt  that there is staff buy in and a collective feeling that the school values primary language learning when it is an integral part of the whole school learning programme not seen as an "add on "! 

These are our conclusions (from coordinators ,young and old, experienced and new to the role, specialists and non-specialists) and we hope that they may be useful and support our schools and other networks and individual schools and teachers to develop or tweak sustainable and successful language learning models.In our opinion ,after reflection ,the POS may be brief (in amount of paper) but it is not a fluffy document.You need to look for the opportunities within it too! We know there will be other points to be raised and discussed etc but hopefully here are some good starting points!

A school vision 
Firstly we took a look at the "Purpose of Study".The first sentence talks about the "liberation from insularity"
What a phrase. We deliberated..... and then Robert (a wonderful Spanish coordinator) declared it's the "WOW" factor! It's the moment a child speaks a word in the target language for the first time or tells his/her carer/ parent about the facts s/he has learnt in school about the country etc today. For us,it's the conversations we have with target language speakers and the adventures we can have too.We felt that from here we could all begin to tweak, maintain or build our picture of the school vision from Sept 2014 onwards. This picture inspired us!

We identified in the paragraph core focuses for the coordinators and core challenges that needed to be unpicked back at school to create a school vision statement:

  • High quality teaching and learning 
  • Culture
  • Preparation for future language learning
We unpicked the phrase "new ways of thinking and great literature " and with our practical hats on decided that in exploring the culture of the target language we would need to consider why and how festivals, traditions, cultural approaches,story,poems,daily routines occur in the way they do.We felt that the phrase(no longer a learning focus of language learning)"inter-cultural understanding" would still help us to explore with the children new ways of thinking and great literature.

We could see how we may want to explore the simple stories for example next year about WW1 or evacuees during WW1 and WW2 and how therefore we would need to encourage our children to empathise with circumstances and emotions that may be very unfamiliar.

We pondered long and hard over "great literature" and what that word "great " really meant. We talked a lot about all the lovely stories we have been using to colour in the learning in languages that is already taking place. 

We can not throw away our story books such as "grand monstre vert" even if it  is written by an american author nor can we not read "The Hungry Caterpillar" or "Going on a bear hunt" in the target language because they too are by non target language speakers. The children  love these stories and it's the light bulb moments when they realise you can access, buy and read these  stories in other countries and languages that is too precious! We will continue to share rhymes such as itsy bitsy spider in the various target languages with our very young learners too. we already explore authentic poetry and we  know  for example that we have already used poetry Jean de la Fontaine (le rat de ville et le rat de champs) in very much abbreviated form when for instance we have looked at my town your town and my house your house. We look forward to the challenge of simple poetry in the target language and  building on the authentic rhymes, songs and simple poetry we already use  from the target language.We want to offer the children "great " learning experiences and this will involve familiar stories and also new and exciting explorations of authentic and respected literature from the target language! We look forward to this challenge but will always try to work with texts that are learner age and stage of learning appropriate or have age and stage appropriate activities to unpack the text! During our conversations it was very clear that we are about inclusive learning and seeing all children progress in their communication skills.

Making substantial progress,using bi-lingual dictionaries are already part of the school  focus and on the agenda in lots of the schools I work with 

Substantial progress makes language learning more valuable and respected in our opinion.(We aren't just singing a song or repeating numbers 1-10 ... we are going on a learning journey,often revisiting familiar language but also trying to build upon it or use it in a new way).Schools find that long and medium term planning gives them the bigger picture and allows them the opportunities to weave new activities and resources through their language learning year, still ensuring progress in content and skills. 
It seems sensible and good practice to the teachers that they share with the children tools that make learning more accessible and this links so well with phonology and independent use of language. Indeed lots of the co-ordinators identified that some simple staff CPD input about pronunciation,intonation,rules of phonology in  the target language and then very importantly how to use and access the bi-lingual dictionary help staff buy in as well! Stumbling blocks for staff are often not knowing where to access language and sound files, uncertainty about  pronunciation or not knowing how to use a bi-lingual dictionary and as they progress not being sure about which definite article they should be using and how to find this out.Simple in- school teacher led or consultant/trainer led CPD input can allay the fear factor and then all staff can embrace to a certain level language learning!  

Grammar is a challenge not an obstacle for teachers.Once they see how it links to the need to structure sentences accurately to develop competent clear communication skills and they recognise that this is what they are already promoting in literacy then it becomes an exciting challenge.In fact I think it allows primary language learning to become more meaningful and powerful for lots of primary class teachers - it's not just a lot of words or a silly rhyme,but there is point and purpose and sometimes the teachers learn alongside the children and feel more and more confident in their use of language. I have spent a lot of this academic year creating resources and materials to explore grammar  and structure appropriately and creatively with young children and can get very excited about what we really can achieve with the young learners and grammar! Again there is need for staff CPD and there is need for a guiding hand and making those links between literacy and language learning and how they are all part of exploring language and communication,which helps to  remove the fear factor.  

Subject Content 
In considering the subject content,we had to consider also the Aims of the new POS. We found them pivotal to both the school vision, strategic planning and to the meat of the week on week lesson planning.They helped us to look at what we should access and use and how we should plan for teaching and learning activities.We saw opportunities for shared learning tools and resources across KS2 and also shared tools and approaches as pathways in to KS3 and beyond.Really important as we had already identified that we need to lay foundations for KS3 learning and that KS3 should pick up and develop further what primary have achieved.Shared learning tools could mean shared pathways to learning and knowledge of prior learning and how and why this has taken place.

Of course the co-ordinators are first and foremost teachers and so the subject content bullet point list was seen as integral to our subject content discussions on planning and progression.
Firstly we reminded ourselves that we must make sure now right from Year 3 September 2014 that there is appropriate balance of spoken and written language and that we practise with the children  all four skills of listening,speaking ,reading and writing. This may seem like a big change for those of us who remember the early stage focus on listening and speaking,but ask yourself how many children need to see words and physically create words and sentences before they are internalised and can be used independently? (I have poor hearing now at 51! I am not certain I have ever had wonderful hearing but I do love languages and exploring the structure of language and definitely have always needed more than just listening and speaking to access language .)We did feel though that in the early stages there is bound to be more listening and speaking and those that teach languages as KS1 want to continue and see singing , joining in and listening and speaking as integral to that KS1 language learning.We all felt that writing must once again be planned as age and stage appropriate and that we have to find creative ways to write- in the air/ as a game writing with a finger on backs,writing in sand, using IT to record writing, "painting writing" etc.We are keen to remember as we plan for writing next term that scribing with a pen or pencil is often just the final product - what is happening inside the brain is the mechanics of writing and reading and listening are integral to how this all comes together.

The bullet pointed subject content in the POS embraces listening ,speaking ,reading , writing and grammar. Colleagues such as Clare Seccombe and Rachel Hawkes have collated and drawn up really useful lists of the five key elements on their blogs.Those of us who worked with or trained people with the KS2 Framework,know that we need to break down these lists and points into stages of learning to learn how to ....listen, speak , read, write , use structure and we identify the KS2 Framework objectives as the climbing frame upon which to achieve this. Great thing with climbing frames is you can go up,down , over the top, start again from the bottom or take a rest half way up and admire the view! We are going to try to remember that language learning skills spiral up and spiral down (very much like Maths can do) and our learners need to climb at their own best speed.  

So after spending the year in CPD sessions, on email with colleagues,in meetings with local coordinators and SLT,training our local teachers and working with the associate language teachers what do I think currently about primary languages from September 2014 and the new POS? Clare Seccombe (@valleseco) asked us to describe the new POS in one word recently on Twitter and unusually for me it took me quite a while to decide upon my word but then I tweeted "opportunity".Why? We need to take this opportunity and help all the children in KS2 to become confident in their ability(at whatever level) to operate in a new target language.On Twitter recently I received this cartoon from @PatriciaDunn71

Let's try to help all our young learners to explore the skills of language learning ...  "speaking  with increasing confidence,fluency and spontaneity, finding ways of communicating what they want to say ..... and  learning how "to write at varying length ,for different purposes and audiences ". We need to combine this with the "liberation from insularity" and encourage all our children to have the confidence to develop enquiring minds that want to explore "great literature" and also understand different cultures, languages and "ways of thinking" 

Time for a holiday I think - sorry for rambling on!   

The sounds of a "positioning rhyme" in French

A positioning rhyme in French

Why is this necessary?
Last week Emilie and I delivered CPD where the teachers had to listen to words that describe the position of an object in French.
  • The two words sous- under and sur - on caused challenges , as said quickly they sounded quite similar to the untrained ear.
  • En haut (above )was also interesting because of the aspirated sound for "h" and the close connection of "en" and "au" remembering too that the "t" is a silent last letter.
  • Another teacher pointed put that you can't anticipate whether the action required is in front or behind until you hear the second syllable of the words devant (in front) and derrière (behind)
So below are activities that I have been using for many years to practise these key words and the sounds contained within them. 

The positional words and the rhyme
Teach the children the positional language below. Some of the words are similar sounds in the target language and the children will need to listen very carefully .

En haut,devant,derrière
Devant et sous et sur.

Devant, derrière.

En haut , en haut , en haut!

Pass the parcel sous and sur

  • Sit the children in a circle and  play music whilst the children pass an object around the circle. 
  • Pause the music and the child holding the object must listen to you carefully as you ask them to put the object “sous” or “sur” an upturned box that is in the centre of the circle.
  • Each time encourage the rest of the class to show thumbs up or thumbs down as the child places the object on or under the box.
  • Play the game a second time and this time allow the child to the left or right of the child holding the object when the music stops to determine if the object goes “sous” or “sur” the box.

A question of concentration
  • Practise all the key position words
  • Ask the children to stand up and add actions – slowly and carefully as if they were Tai Chi actions.
  • Now put together the rhyme and the actions as a Tai Chi performance.
  • Ask the children to close their eyes and just listen (they can’t then rely on anyone else) and ask them to perform the rhyme.
  • Now muddle up the order of the words- can the children listen and concentrate and perform the correct actions in the correct order.

What’s the sound ?
  • Break the words down into key sounds:

Sous (ou)
Sur  (u)
Devant (ant)
Derrière (ère)
en haut  (en/au)

  • Call a sound .Can the children think of the word and perform the correct action.
  • Place the key sounds as written sounds on the floor as a path of stepping stones- you need six paths so all children can work at the same time.
  • Ask the children to divide themselves into groups of six and to form a line. 
  • Ask the children to move across the stepping stones to read the written sound on each stepping stone and as they step on the stepping stone they must perform the action they associate with the sound e.g ou = sous

The secret treasure hiding journey
You will need space for this activity- the hall or the playground would be best.
  • Ask the children to think of something very precious to put in to a special casket that they can imagine holding.

  • Ask the children to place their precious object in their casket and lock the casket.
  • The teacher should explain that they are going to hear the rhyme several times and they need to go on a secret treasure hiding journey in their imaginations to hide their caskets.
  • Ask the children to move around the room- reaching high, looking under or going under something or climbing on top or placing the casket on top of something imaginary as they make their secret treasure hiding journey in unison with the rhyme.

The progress we are making,an account from the teachers.

We are drawing toward the end of another busy year for our network .It’s time to review progress and see how our children are developing as young language learners. Of the 90 school within the network 32 of the schools are supported by either a visiting teacher or a language assistant teaching from our SOW . It seems pertinent to ask these colleagues what progress looks like to them in their schools across both key stages.

 I have the great pleasure of working with these enthusiastic, passionate and highly committed colleagues every academic week of the year.I asked some of my colleagues to write several sentences on progression they have seen this year ,all with a specific focus across three languages (French, German and Spanish

We meet on a very regular basis to discuss and practise language activities and as a unit of colleagues we have established a sharing and networking community....often pushing each other on!

What is very important here is that the progress described is a true simple reflection of what the children are demonstrating and achieving  at different learning stages.The comments are those of  practitioners who take ideas and put them in to primary practice.

We are certain that many of you will be able to say and identify very similar points.That’s reassuring isn’t it? 

What I identify as I read these comments is that we have gone past simple words and repetition and the learners are becoming interested young linguists,confident that they can listen, speak read and write and therefore communicate in another language! Hurrah! 

Key Stage One Learners: Spanish

Ana (Native Spanish speaker, QTS Primary with Early Years’ specialism). Here's her end of year report on the  specific noticeable progress she sees in KS1 this year. Ana teachers KS1 in 5 of the 6 schools where she also teachers KS2)

Greetings in Reception

In KS1 the main progress I can see is in the children, who  have learned Spanish for a couple of years- so Year 1 and 2 .
  • They are confident.
  • They link and use previous knowledge in new topics.
  • Their minds are open and receptive, they enjoy and don’t feel shy to try.
  • Some of my children in Reception after doing Spanish previously in nursery, can independently say their names, how they feel ,their favourite colour, the weather, days of the week, animals, numbers up to 20, body parts and follow a lesson where I mostly only speak Spanish.
  • These children show how important is to start teaching a foreign language in early years as their little minds are more than ready! 

Year 3 Spanish Beginners 

Joanne (PGCE QTS Primary Teacher with a primary language specialism ,teaches both Spanish and French) Joanne considered  the specific  progress she has seen in her Spanish Year 3 beginner class .She teaches from Year 1 to Year 6 in a local school. This is her end of year report.

Year 3 Superheroes Autumn Display

The Year 3s are just a joy to teach and the progress they have made this year has been impressive.
In their first year of learning Spanish, “my little Language Detectives “have wholeheartedly thrown themselves into their Language learning and have had lots of fun trying out new sound patterns and words.  
They respond to mimes and gestures and they amaze me with the amount of vocabulary they retain and recall and the inquisitive questions they ask. ('If Spanish has an upside down question mark at the start of a question and an upside down exclamation mark at the start, does all punctuation go upside down?' I ran with a flurry to grab a handful of Spanish stories and books so we could put our Detective sombreros on and investigate.)

Silly songs are immensely popular with my Year 3s (particular the fruit song) and the children even ask me for links so they can practice the songs at home. They have been known to come in the following week with an accompanying full on dance routine!

Year 4 Moving on on German

Barbara Foerster ,Year 4 German (native speaker German , TA and language assistant) Barbara works in a local school as a class TA and also as the teacher of German across KS1 and KS2. Barbara’s focus is upon Year 4 children who are moving on from being “beginner” learners.

My current Year 4 class are really good at German. They are very interested in the language and pick up new phrases very easily. 
I am very pleased with the progress they have made over the last few months - moving from simple sentences, e.g. my name is ... I am feeling good, to more complex sentences and phrases, recalling already known language fairly easily.
They are now able to have a  simple conversation and tell the other person about themselves and also ask questions.

Some of the things they are able to say are: their favourite colour,( and what I really like is that using the same phrase for “my favourite” ... they can translate that knowledge to say other favourite things, e.g. favourite pop group, singer, football star or number), where they live, when their birthday is and how old they are.
My aim for next year is to make them become even more independent !

Progress across LKS2 and UKS2 

Catherine (PGCE QTS Primary teacher with a languages specialism).She teaches four schools, French in two schools and Spanish in two schools. I asked her to suggest one specific noticeable skill step forward in each year group from Year 3 to Year 6  in both languages. This is what she has identified:

Across Key Stage 2, I have seen children become more independent learners. 

  • In Y3, children have progressed from repeating words and phrases to holding a conversation with questions and answers. 
  • In Y4, I have seen children become able and confident to write simple sentences in the target language.
  • In Y5, children are becoming confident in using bilingual dictionaries. 
  • In Y6, children have progressed from being able to read sentences in the target language to reading full scripts in the language. 
In general, I have seen children become more engaged and proactive in their own language learning.

What does UKS2 look like this year?

Emilie (native speaker QTS Secondary and Primary French Teacher). She works in 6 schools and across both Key Stages. Emilie was asked to consider the type of progress she is seeing in UKS2 as a platform that can be built upon into Year 7.Here is her report on progress in Years 5/6:

  • In Years 5 and 6 children are beginning to understand and read longer sentences/paragraphs made up of familiar language.
  • They are producing in writing and speaking longer sentences using simple connectives.
  • They have acquired language learning skills such as looking for cognates and strategies to work out new language (i.e using clues, context, etc.)
  • They are familiar with a range of structures including talking about likes, dislikes and preferences.
  • They are becoming more and more confident in speaking and have become very fluent in talking about themselves (name, age, where they live, etc.)

A view from the bridge between Year 6 and Year 7 

Jayne (Secondary and Primary French teacher) teaching French and Spanish in 6 different schools from KS1 to Year 6.Jayne has considered Year 6 children she teaches now and what they can do that she feels does now need to be acknowledged as they enter Year 7

  • Year 6 can remember so much of what they have done before!
  • They are keen to reapply knowledge and show what they can do.
  • In Year 6 they are beginning to extend their knowledge of sentence structure and  are keen to know more about language and grammar and how to use this to communicate.
  • Even in a new context it’s amazing what they can describe and how much new language they can add to their descriptions accurately.
  • They want to plan, prepare and use dictionaries to find what they really want to say!
  • In Year 7 maybe we should n’t hold the children back but let them explore language more independently and apply their language skills even if it’s in a new language rather than spending a long time re-explaining what they have done or what they can learn quite quickly .

So now we are ready to move on to next year and to enjoy working with our schools and young learners and to see where we get to next year ....??!

Seaside special two: Design brief for fantastical sandcastles

Design brief for a fantastical sandcastle
A very simple activity but one our children always love is to set up a competition to design their own sandcastles!
Explain to the children how many sandcastle beach competitions you will find on beaches across Europe in the Summer

There is a slight twist though because as we all know the sea washes away the sandcastles from the day before .
Can a second group or pair take the design brief and recreate the sandcastle design that a first group or pair has written?
How similar are the two designs when the drawings are compared?

What’s very important is that the children can write clear sentences to describe the features of their sandcastles in the target language. This means that the teacher can determine the degree of difficulty – 
  • beginner writers in a target language we would suggest - noun, verb and adjective  and quantity. 
  • moving on writers in a target language  we would expect  adjectives that agree with nouns as well as simple well constructed sentences
  • advanced writers n the basic target language we would expect more detailed information – nouns, quantity, adjectives that agree, prepositions and possibly directional language.

Language Learning and Drama

Language Learning and Drama

Why do I think they link so well together?

I was trained as an English / Drama and MFL teacher in the 1980s. An unusual combination at the time that I have never regretted. My personal passion for theatre comes from my love of literature in all languages and my wonderful AS Level in Theatre Studies many moons ago! I always remember the power of the texts and performances. My A Levels (German, French and English Literature ) were made all the more vibrant by Theatre Studies and a clear message that Antigone wasn’t written in English , that Mother Courage didn’t speak English and that pantomime had its modern day European origins in Italian satire! I wanted to read the texts in their original language to find out more about how they should be interpreted!

Theatre, the Arts and communicating ideas to others through performance and setting up an emotional dialogue have always been a passion of mine. 
As a modern foreign languages’ NQT many years ago I had the good fortune to work with a Performing Arts Department in an inner city  secondary school.The exploration of text and film through performance and the challenge to link language learning to the sequences of learning activities developed was an amazing opportunity. I remember how we focused on a five minute introduction to a film and took it frame by frame…asking the children to describe, anticipate  , translate into dance , Art , music , drama and target language  communication what they could feel and see! The pupils had limited language skills and often in class didn’t see the relevance or point of French and German , but put in this new context they rose to the challenges set them and explored and produced creative performances with language elements. This steep learning curve has informed my language teaching ever since!  

You can probably realise from the statement above that I love to explore theatre and drama on an intellectual level but that through my love of teaching and learning I have seen how “Performing  Arts “ are such a powerful tool to harness in the realms of language learning
Performing Arts embraces Art, Dance, Music, Theatre, mime, Opera, Ballet etc.

We are set the challenge to introduce children to “great” literature so in my opinion we need to provide the children with the tools to explore and bring to life this literature.Drama and dramatic devices and the use of these as parts of language learning can help us provide both a support and a springboard for the children as we do this!   

As a Primary Languages AST sponsored by my secondary school’s Performing Arts Department I was allowed the freedom to explore the beneficial links between drama and language learning- and it’s not all “lovey dovey” as some people may fear! My findings were reinforced when in 2004 I became a Primary Strategy Consultant and worked alongside the primary literacy team to promote the use of role-play and drama in exploring texts with young children.

Drama and dramatic devices promote in language learning:
  • Better and more confident communication skills
  • Deeper and more reactive understanding of text
  •  A purposeful reason to explore how to memorise and recall language
  • An understanding of why intonation and pronunciation matter and how these can enhance character
  • Importance of dialogue and actions
  •  Inclusive participation
  • Platforms upon which to develop independent creative writing
  • Dialogue reinforcement 

In Key Stage One we are already promoting listening and joining in, participating and using actions to convey meaning. Take a look at these blogs (bear explorers, growing sunflowers with numbers  and pirates). The bogs may give you your ideas of ways to use drama and dramatic devices to explore language content.

In Key Stage Two we are looking at ways that we can develop links between drama and grammar to make the learning of grammar creative and physical and to engage the learners in such a way that the application of grammar is a memorable process.(Making a drama out of basic grammar can explain more!).The ideas are easily transportable to KS3 too.Work with a drama teacher can help KS3 MFL colleagues develop some creative reinforcement and performances of grammar points in the target language.

We work with Art (take a look at Matisse and the Cut Outs ) (3D Art Renoir) to explore language content and contexts and generate opportunities to develop creative performances that enhance the children’s language and context understanding.

We encourage children to explore language learning through the use of their bodies to generate creative performances (Here are two examples:  colour mimes and word association  and body parts and movement)

We have created a sequence of simple plays for the children to explore as both reading comprehensions where they need to add the stage directions once they have understood the text and where they also now need to add the performance to communicate the humorous meaning.

We are exploring the use of drama to engage with poetry. Take a look at the blog of a verse from a famous poem by Jacques Prévert to link with our UKS2  café theme drama and mystery in the cafe

Sometimes we take it much further and the use of dramatic devices linked with other ways of exploring the performing arts can generate a whole creative performance using target language text. Take a look here Physical Pop Up Poems

In Key Stage Three and beyond

In Key Stage 3 MFL teachers are required to explore authentic texts …once again drama and the use of dramatic devices can be ways to bring this to life for all learners. Some of the techniques promoted above n the KS2 blogs may help with this. From 1985 to 2002 as a secondary  MFL teacher dramatic devices such as freeze frames, conscience alley, mime, hot seating  all allowed the pupils to explore language learning and content purposefully.

Sketches and the use of drama allow language learning  to be exclusive from an enthusiastic performance of numbers ,names and feelings by Year 7 in a whole year group performance to a  Come Dine With Me sketch with Year 9 disillusioned low ability boys , drama was a means by which everyone could engage.

Finally at the start of this blog post I mentioned Mother Courage and still in my memory is the way my lower sixth were able to engage with Leben des Galilei because of the way we performed key dialogues and monologues….The preparation and though behind the performances led to improved use of German , questions about grammar that cleared up sticky points and an observation and accuracy of pronunciation and intonation…because just like my Drama teacher taught me , they wanted to convey their understanding of the  true meaning of the text!

Hope you enjoy finding your own links between language learning and drama and that you find them really useful effective motivators of young language learners!

Transition in a suitcase between year groups

This half term we are at the end of the year's academic study of the target language across both KS1 and KS2. 
The new DfE POS requires that substantial progress is made ..... we also need to take stock and enjoy what the children have learned and the games, songs, stories and language knowledge they have explored.
In a previous blog I shared how I was supporting a school to put together a cohesive start up programme so that KS1 can enjoy learning alongside KS2 and so that staff have shared strategies and learning tools.Here's the blog 

Transition  happens between all year groups. How effective this transition is supports how effective and successful progression for all the children will be.
As you head back to school for the final Summer half term ...it's time to start packing those target language suitcases and sharing the strategies , learning tools and activities the children have enjoyed with the next class teacher!

Designer Suitcases
Ask the children to help you decide what your target language suitcase for the year's learning should look like?What have they learned this year?What content and contexts have you explored. Create the labels for your suitcase from this content and contexts. Your suitcase may be a folder with notes from the class to the next teacher , a virtual suitcase or a folder kept on the school VLE ...but it needs to look like you have all travelled on a language learning journey together this year- hence the labels!

Packing the suitcase!
Ask the children to share with you the games, songs and stories that have enjoyed this year.Revisit and use again some of the activities and resources and take a class vote on which to put in your class suitcase ready to set off for the next year of language learning.

Maybe it's your.....

and remember the books you have enjoyed reading too!

Don't forget those always useful items!
Discuss with the children the grammar that you may have explored. Add a noun treasure chest (facts about nouns and some key nouns from different content) and an adjective atlas (a picture on which the children can stick or add key adjectives they have met e.g colours/sizes/characteristics).Pop in a listening stick or two - so that the children with their new teacher can play some very familiar listening games and then build on these and move on!

Have you packed your phrase book?
What can the children now ask and say about themselves that means they are moving more toward independence in simple basic dialogue and conversation. Pack an example totem pole -if you made them- or create a cartoon strip or recording of a typical dialogue.
What's a totem pole? Take a look here!

Hurrah off we go! 
Celebrate with the children their success this year.Why not put on a class language exhibition to share with another class or parents what you have done this year?
Now it's time to check what's in the suitcase and pass it on to the next class teacher...so they can unpack the suitcase with the class next year.

When are we there?
Once September arrives then the next class teacher has a reference point that can act as a prompt with the children and the whole class can have great fun unpacking their suitcase and explaining what they already have learned. The suitcase can come out throughout the year when content or contexts are supported by the prior learning.

What does this look like in practise?
Well the wonderful @EWoodruffe has been packing her classes suitcases this July and here is her blog all about this Let's pack our suitcases

Grammar and language learning. Bringing it altogether

Over the last academic year and within our network we have been considering the requirements of the new PoS
One of the key elements that we have begun to address is the need to develop an understanding of how to deliver grammar with our young language learners and how to support all teachers who may be delivering primary languages with this.

In KS2,the new DfE POS expects young learners to..... 

 "understand basic grammar appropriate to the language being studied, including(where relevant): feminine, masculine and neuter forms and the conjugation of high-frequency verbs; key features and patterns of the language; how to apply these, for instance, to build sentences; and how these differ from or are similar to English."

Last week was the first of two Subject Coordinator sessions where we brought together what we have learned about Grammar in the context of the primary learning environment
We want it to be ……..
  • appropriate and part of good primary  teaching and learning practice
  • clear and useful for the age and stage of the learner
  • inclusive and offer all the children the chance  to make progress and move from using words to construction meaningful sentences
  • structure and planned for and have clear links with primary  focuses on structure and grammar in English
  • supportive of their  growing knowledge of grammatical structures and terminology 
  • effective and enable the learners to apply rules to the new target language successfully 
  • creative and active so that the learning is meaningful and memorable.
To this end the Grammar Stepping Stones  created earlier in the academic year can help to guide us toward meaningful and stage appropriate exploration of grammar that the class teacher can deliver or support with. The  Grammar Stepping Stones are written in the voice of the child learner to remind us of the developmental stage these young children are at in their own understanding of how languages function.

So the Grammar Stepping Stones can guide us but how do we support staff who feel lacking in confidence? Well last week in discussion with a young coordinator we discussed a post box system. The  post box means that staff and children can post a question or a perhaps the solution they have come to in target language post box and receive a clear answer from the teacher or teaching assistant in school who has a better understanding of the basic grammar conumdrum they have. This certainly works where the subject coordinator takes time to upskill themselves or has the knowledge already but isn’t teaching in every classroom and year group . This will  also work well where a visiting teacher delivers language learning or the school has an FLA. Not every question and query will happen during direct language teaching and learning. Want to know more then have a look here.

We are finding that the grammar learning journey is creative and exciting and supports and underpins children’s growing understanding of the grammar and structure of English and their other home languages.Have a listen the wizard's potion here 

This is our timetable for Grammar over four years .
It doesn’t mean we don’t touch on the specific areas in other year groups or at different stages but this seems to be developing as our most natural fit.

Year 3 /Stage 1
Year 4 /Stage 2
Year 5 / Stage 3
Year 6/Stage 4  




Verbal phrases

How are we trying to keep it primary, effective and creative?
It’s through games, exploration, meaningful contexts using familiar language and children being language detectives. Children are demonstrating that they are enjoying physically participating and using the visual to find solutions and to show their understanding.
So bringing it so far altogether ….Here are some of the techniques and activities we have used or are trialling this year in the network.Click on the links to read more! 

Treasure chests (also look at the blog post Ready, Steady, Go!)

Advanced adjective fisherman's trawl ( using verbal phrases)
Creating magic with personalities  :Agreement of adjectives when describing a male or a female person

Wizard's potion  (verb- to have)
Cinderella  masked ball (verb- to be )
3D Art  ( the verb- to be called) 
Personal Pronouns.
Personal Pronoun Photo Shoots


Being creative and playing with structure
Simile silhouette sentences

Moving potentially in Year 6 to talk about events that have happened in the past.
Playing with the simple past tense and watching the world go by

I am sure that we will find more ways of working with the grammar we intend to cover and will add to this blog as we go along , however hopefully the activities above will support teachers in developing primary creative approaches to the new focus on structure  of the target language. 

Tour de France Sequence of Lessons

Follow and celebrate the Tour de France 2014 as it travels from Yorkshire through England and across to France 

and around ,up and down and through the country! 

This afternoon we having been discussing the tour de France! Here are a sequence of lessons that I have helped to create based on the resources you can find here 

tour de France links and resources

Below are some ideas for us firstly to use in all target languages: 

A virtual tour of the Tour de France !

A virtual tour from Yorkshire to the finishing line in Paris

Let’s create our own virtual 3D tour and add our own 2D and 3D famous buildings from cities on the way  to the finishing line . Create a 3D tour Eiffel for the finishing line!

Here's a video clip to help us achieve this 

And follow this link to find 

3D tour Eiffel 

to complete your 

own virtual 3D class tour 

Physical Grammar Game


The class need to decide on three symbols to represent nouns, adjectives and verbs. Stand up right for a noun, wiggle your body for an adjective and pump your arms for a verb ( just like you would have symbols in Charades for book, film, musical etc.

Divide your class into “Tour de France t-shirt teams- different coloured t-shirts . No team should be le maillot jaune/la camiseta amarilla or das gelbe Tshirt. This one is for the winners!

Let’s brainstorm nouns, adjectives and verbs that we associate with the tour de France. Can access these in the target language in bilingual dictionaries .

Here are some to start us off  ……….


Cyclist , bike , wheel, tyre, puncture , race ,helmet , t-shirt , shorts ,road ,city ,start, finish ,speed, power….


,fast , fit ,tired, thirsty, determined , exciting, powerful , competitive ,breathless


To push , to pedal ,to race ,to compete, to challenge , to cheer, to watch , to participate, to win , to lose , to pass , to crash, to celebrate

A volunteer  from a team selects a word from a cycle bag and decides if it’s a noun, an adjective or a verb. They must mime this – one point for getting this correct and then they must mime the meaning of the word- one more point for the team if they can guess and say it in the target language. If you play this UKS2 Year 6 or with KS3 with there are two bonus points with UKS2 if they can put the noun or the adjective in to a simple sentence and can any of them create a first person singular present tense statement with a verb (e.g. I push , I pedal, I race etc )? Verbs would b e at the teacher’s discretion – depending on whether they are regular verbs or not in the first instance.

Cyclists on tour- a language recall game!

You will need  

dice ,different coloured

counters for the players and the board,which you can download here 

Simple tour de France and sports vocabulary game

It doesn't just need to be abut sports though ....read on!

Divide your class in to teams of four .How many times around the board can the children race before the end of a designated amount of time – on a countdown timer ? If they land on an odd number they have to pick up a picture card and say the word they see in the target language. If they land on an even number they have to ask a question of another person in the game. They cannot repeat the question that was said by the last player to land on an even number. The winner of the race will own the yellow jersey and will have been around the board the most times or got the farthest around the board before the end of the timed race!

Our own class jerseys!

Take a look


 at the jerseys that are rewarded during the whole race  

Can the class design their own Tour de France jerseys – either on real plain white t-shirts or as card cut outs for a class mobile or display? Each of these t-shirts should have written on them the characteristics of a true sportsman in the target language – either as single words or as simple present tense sentences using the verb “to be”  

Superlative t-shirts

Take a look at how to form the superlative in the target language . a good activity again for Year 6 or KS3 .In your class which characteristics make the best members of the class …. The most organised, the most creative, the tidiest , the most helpful, the kindest. Now can your class help you to design reward t-shirts for the duration of the Tour de France?these can be awarded for the “superlative” people in your class during the Tour de France! Display the t-shirts with their superlative labels for all to see and add the faces of the children who win these t-shirts one by one.

Poster Power Poem Performances! 

Why not create your own Power Poem Performances using posters as stimulus for draft writing of poems which can be short such as a haiku made up of adjectives or verse by verse present tense sentences using a noun verb and adjective to describe elements of the Tour de France. The children  perform the poems and bring the posters to life!

Here's the link to the blog post with the

poster power poem

 lesson guide and below is a poster that inspired me!

And finally for French language learners ….

Food Fest

Let’s go on a Tour de France food fest and take in the regional foods. Let’s have a food-tasting journey and keep an E- journal of the foods we try – photos, sound file comments and short videos of foods we try or foods we find on line. Take a look at this article of 40

Tour de France

 regional recipes 

Mon vélo est blanc

Let’s learn and perform this simple poem for a school assembly. Why not adapt the poem and change the colours.

mon velo est blanc

Or take a break and watch with KS2 children

le petit Nicolas le 


4 KS2 lesson ideas inspired by Matisse at the Tate

Expressing art through the medium of language and performance. Matisse is a great opportunity to revisit and explore colours, emotions and movements in the target language and create our own spoken and written performance galleries in the style of the Matisse cut outs.

Progress and Creativity in Primary Language Learning and the Implications for KS3 

I am very excited about the opportunity to join language learning together between KS2 and KS3 . On Friday I spoke at ALL about the progress and creativity that  is happening in primary language learning and I suggested that in my opinion the implications for KS3 are positive.
Here is the link to my presentation progress and creativity in KS2 and KS3 implications

There will be a period of change and development in my opinion and Year 7 teachers will need to consider the use of AfL and revisiting and exploring prior learning and resources in the first term of Year 7.This will help not just to investigate and assess prior learning but also to celebrate and welcome new pupils into the World of secondary language learning .In my opinion just like children want to meet mathematicians, geographers , historians , artists , scientists , PE experts when they get to secondary schools so they want to meet linguists!

The new POS states that KS2 should “lay the foundations for further foreign language learning at Key Stage 3” and that in early KS3 language teachers  “should build on the foundations of language learning laid at Key Stage 2, whether pupils continue with the same language or take up a new one “.

What is the potential if we see the Summer break between Year 6 and Year 7 as a six week gap rather than a large obstacle? 

On either side of the gap language learning is taking place. Using AfL and  dialogue with other colleagues both in KS2 and KS3 we could explore where the Year 7 children are in their learning when they enter Year 7? Shouldn't it  be more about  about monitoring and observing for a period of time to gain a clear picture of the individual child's ability to operate with and manipulate language and structure than testing and setting?

In all my teaching roles, as a HOD, Key Stage 3, a Key Stage 5 Co-ordinator  and most recently a PL AST and consultant I know that I have always needed to mind the gap with all new classes at whichever stage they are in learning. At the start of a new year diagnostic informal formative assessment of where new learners are at in their learning is so important, isn't it?
By this I don't mean testing , but establishing routines and activities that allow the class teacher to listen , watch, explore and challenge the new language learners. Groupings within the class can be informed over time by this information. 

Dialogue with and between KS2 and KS3 colleagues
 will be key .
The gap is six weeks.
The fix is not necessarily quick but can be at every stage in
the process informative and effective for the specific Year 7 cohort of the academic year.
The picture (right) shows a recent meeting between primary and secondary language teachers.These teachers have been involved in dialogue via email  and indirect coordinator dialogue for three years. Now they are beginning to work together and meet together to  decide next steps forward.They are finding out about and trusting each others approaches and judgements. It takes time but each year the next new cohort of Year 7 have benefited from the transfer of knowledge between theses teachers and the slowly dripping tap implementation of shared approaches to learning and resources. It's definitely not a quick fix but there is now established trust and a developing dialogue between colleagues in both key stages.   .

What does dialogue , sharing and minding the gap mean in practise? 

In KS2 the new POS offers schools a series of aims to guide the curriculum.The following “Aims” help to drive progress in the skills of listening , speaking , reading and writing . 

In KS2 we stage the learning progress  over four years between Year 3 and Year 6 . 
There are opportunities in Year 7 to revisit the learning process in all these skill and language developmental stages and to share and use familiar tools and resources with KS2 to help all the pupils in Year 7 make the transition to young secondary linguists. 

Listening : Understand and respond to the spoken language (KS2)

Listening in KS2 that develops from  listening attentively , to listening for key words to listening for key information in more complex sentences and texts 

A example of a possible shared resource and activity! We are using Listening Sticks  as a tool to listen for single items  , a variety of items , more complex details , through to identifying core language in a more complex text .

Implications for KS3 Y7 Autumn term ?

Why not revisit the skills, staging activities from the simplest to more complex listening challenges using an agreed shared tool and type of activity (e.g .listening sticks game). Why? Well the children will know what is required of them , will listen attentively to new language and will be able to demonstrate through the more complex sentence activities what they can already understand .

Speaking : Speaking with increasing confidence (KS2)

In KS2 the children learn to say single words and phrases and they move on to simple questions and answers. They build personal information dialogues and then they are able to use these dialogues as a platform to develop conversations .

A example of a possible shared resource and activity!Take a look at the totem poles  blog post to see how one resource can  facilitate activities which allow for this development of speaking with increasing confidence not                                 only across KS2 but in to KS3  .

Implications for KS3 Y7 Autumn Term? 
Why not  revisit questions and answers the children know? Allow children to share their own knowledge of questions and answers and to teach each other key phrases.Pair children together who have had different learning experiences , maybe in different languages . Encourage them to apply the skills they have built at KS2 using a familiar prompt resource e.g. the totem pole prompts to set themselves their own learning goals to produce effective interesting conversations 

Reading  Understand and respond to written language from authentic sources (KS2)

In my opinion this is where it gets really interesting! KS2 children are already being taught to be able to apply their phonic knowledge to say ,read and write familiar and unfamiliar words . What a gift for KS3 ! Phoneme – grapheme transfer -what transferable skills across all target language learning .  

KS2 children are also being taught how to use bi-lingual dictionaries to access meaning and to find new words they hear or want to say, read and write .They appreciate the value of the bi-lingual dictionary just like they do the calculator in maths . Again what a gift at KS3 and what transferable skills across all target language learning.

Implications for KS3 Y7 Autumn Term: 

Why not build upon and strengthen  the skills described mentioned above . Make sure all children can access and use bi-lingual dictionaries . Allow them to see how the skills they used in one target language with the bi-lingual dictionary and their understanding and use of  phoneme grapheme transfer are transferable to their new language learning situation . 

Possible shared resources and activities ?Why not revisit familiar texts at appropriate times in Autumn term Y7 and introduce new texts that challenge and interest the young pupils e.g. non-fiction texts , newspaper and magazine articles , sub titles to geographical and historical clips etc? 

Writing .Can write at varying length for different purposes and audiences (KS2 ) .

Examples of  possible shared resources and activities!Take a look at the KS2 writing examples on the power point presentation . We use air writing , smoke signals , creative descriptions such as jungle animal sentences to create shape sentences , messages in a bottle (ppt picture) , draft tweets (ppt picture) to encourage all our young learners to progress confidently from single words and phrases to more complex texts often written from memory .

Implications for KS3 Y7 Autumn Term

Why not embrace the new year 7 pupils ability to use a bi-lingual dictionary as described above?  Pair up the more  experienced dictionary user with a less experienced user . Offer the learners new writing challenges using familiar approaches e.g. the shape sentences , the messages in bottles or the draft tweets and set them new challenges to try to write accurately from memory using familiar language from KS2 . 

Maybe something like the work we are developing based on Who are you? with KS2 Y6 children and the same children when they enter KS3 Y7 this Autumn 2014 could be useful for your own KS2 KS3 transition programme.

And last but definitely not least the challenge of grammar

Our young KS2 learners start asking about nouns and the different words we put before the actual noun from about Spring  Year 3 . We have tried to express the way the young learner sees grammar through our Grammar Stepping Stones on nouns, adjectives an verbs 

Yes this is a work in progress but we are progressing  . 
In the blog post "the verb "to have" and a wizard's potion you can hear and find out how a non-specialist Y6 teacher has been allowing the children to re-explore nouns and  develop their initial understanding of the conjugation of the verb to have in the present tense. We supported the teacher with materials so hat she could develop her own teaching and learning based upon a wizard's potion  

Implications for Y7 Autumn Term 1
Why not use working walls to allow the children to share their drafts and ideas as they  progress through their written activities?
Buddy up children with prior knowledge of verbs with children who need support to understand more about how to apply simple grammatical rules.

Maybe a good place to start in Y7 by setting a personal information writing task and revisiting and practising the verb to be , to have , to be called , to like and  then using working walls to allow all the children to access each other’s rough drafts so that everyone can attempt a piece of present tense writing

So I am excited by the challenges of the new POS.

I think that we can achieve a continuum of effective  language learning. The progress we are now making in KS2 means that there needs to be effective dialogue between Year 6 and Year 7 language teachers. A culture of sharing of types of learning and tools and resources and a two way conduit between language coordinators in KS2 and KS3 needs to be carefully established. The conversations between colleagues can help to  find ways forward to revisit prior learning , challenge and celebrate the new learners in Year 7. Remember these new learners will be very excited to be working with secondary “linguists” .

Plant pot story actions and song

Plant pot story , actions and song 

Last year as part of a JLN  network project during the Spring term I created a series of simple activities to link to KS1 growing things science focus we developed a these materials and the activities below . 
Thanks to Ana Garcia Lavado who drew the pictures and Emilie Woodruffe @EWoodruffe, Barbara and Flora who  provided the target language phrases and Joanne who created the simplest of plant growing songs based on the familiar refrain of Frère Jacques.

Our Learning Objectives 
To understand how a plant grows and the conditions it requires 
To listen and respond to commands in a target language
To practise performing a simple sequence of actions in the target language
To learn a song in the target language 

(As some of our schools have now developed their own vegetable gardens and plots we found real examples from the target  language countries to share with the children .
Here is a project at a school in Limoges , where you can find a chart explaining what they planted and in which month and pictures of the young gardeners planting their vegetable seeds

The Simple Lesson Activities
The activities below are based on  five simple pictures made in to a story that describes how we grow a plant from seed .Here's a plant pot pictures downloadable zip file 

Here is the   French plant pot story

.......and here are the PDF power point plant pot stories  in the other target languages : 

1. Discuss with the children the conditions required to grow a seed or a plant .
2. Look at crops from the target language country . We selected sunflowers in France, water melons in spain , Kohlrabi in Germany and rice in China. Share with the children pictures of these crops and compare the pictures of real crops with art work linked to the crops :  

And shared with them art work that depicted crops as paintings .Here is a goauche after Rufino Tamayo 

And don't forget the all time favourite Van Gogh's  Sunflowers

3. Read the story power point slides to the children . 
Here is a sound file of the reading of the story in Mandarin Chinese Mandarin plant pot story

Give out the pictures from the plant pot picture zip file to five children and ask the class  to help you to reorganise the pictures into the order that you saw them on the ppt story .Move the children holding the pictures into the correct order and then retell the story a second time . 

4. Order the plant pot pictures on the flip chart in the correct order . Ask the children to help you tell the  story this time .Can they help you to create actions for each story slide .

5 . We then shared with the children the simple song to the refrain of Frère Jacques in the target language .It's made up of the sentences on the power point.  For example in French we sang : 

Plante les graines
Arrose les graine 
Brille soleil brille 
Brille soleil brille 
Regarde comme elles poussent 
Regarde comme elles poussent 
Voilà vos fleurs 
Voilà vos fleurs 

Here's the sound file of the Mandarin version Mandarin plant pot song

We asked the children to stand up and listen and join in with the correct actions .
Then we encouraged the children to practise the song with us and try to sing along and join in with the actions
Finally the children were able to perform the song on their own!

You could go on to link this work with previous blogposts