Skittles and speaking activities

I have been busy tweeting with Joe Dale and Erzsi Culshaw this evening as Erzsi has been exploring the use of the Green Screen in her primary language learning classroom.Thanks to the tweets I remembered a photo I took last month - a fantastic backdrop  to engage the learners with culture, participation and performance and this can be with or without a Green Screen!

Last month I was in Basque Spain and was struck by the murals on the walls in some of the villages,depicting the life of the community.
I loved this mural of the villagers watching a game of skittles... and knew that I could create some performance activities based around the mural back here in England!

  • You could import the picture above into your Green Screen APP and use it as a back drop
  • You could post it as an enlarged picture on  your IWB and again have a back drop
  • You could give each table a copy of the photo as a resource to stimulate language activities - brainstorming and adding speech bubbles to different characters.
  • You could ask the class to recreate the scene outside in the playground and play the game and use the target language too!
What language and how can we use the language?
  1. Find and use infinitives of the verbs involved in throwing the ball to the skittles.Put these in the order they are required to actually throw the ball toward the skittles - as commands ( e.g pick up the ball hold the ball,move the arm backwards, throw the ball, hit the skittles!) 
  2. Create a slow motion performance of the throwing action , saying the verbs as commands in time with the slow motion action.
  3. Film children and add the recordings of the commands
  4. Explore the phrases for audience participation- (e.g. Well done! Go on! Throw! Hit the skittle! Fantastic! Great shot! Missed! Bad luck!Try again!)
  5. Take still photos of the children,miming the phrase as a physical action.Import the photos on Chatterpix or Yakit for Kids and add voice overs. 
  6. Using the large picture as a back drop , create the event you can see in the picture and using my 3D Art ideas bring the picture to life and experience the target language,culture and atmosphere of the game!

New Spanish books and the reasons I selected them

So last week I was in France and Spain and I spent sometime looking in book shops (as I always do). Here is my list of books from my last visit to Spain (Barcelona) Spanish books 1  but this time I had a specific shopping list. 

Here are my buys and my reasons why I selected the book(s)!

A book of simple KS1 rhymes
I wanted a book to refresh the rhymes we have been using in KS1 language learning.
This book has 6 traditional rhymes in it-one per half term as a new action rhyme to learn and practise with Year R/ Year 1 

  • a train rhyme (let's change the mode of travel too!)
  • hands and actions (verbs- possibly useful in Y3 and Y4 too!)
  • a rhyme about riding a horse ( we could change the animal here!)
  • a rainy day rhyme (que llueva,que llueva- we can learn and then watch from a clip on You Tube and use on rainy days whenever they hapen!)
  • a rhyme about ducks in the water- great for a lazy summer rhyme with actions!
  • a bedtime rhyme - one for the children to learn and                                                  then teach their parents!

A Colours book for KS2 (beginners to moving on)
We have lots of books aboout colours but i wanted to find a book in spanish that began to unpack adjectival agreement.
Lovely book which has two objects per double page with the spelling similarities or changes using on colour (e.g.fresa roja/bol rojo)
We are going to be able to use this as a model to discuss and then also to create our own booklets about colours and adjectival agreement!

A book to develop and extend vocabulary at word level (Y4)
We seem to have spent some time this hyear developing our yooung learners use of bilingual dictionaries and this very simple book allows us to investigate "opposites" 
I have written a blog post abpouyt a game I think we can create with the children using this book - or the concept of the book. 

A book to develop or reinforce  cafe language and roleplay  about the cafe (KS2)

If you read the blog mentioned at the top of this post you will know that I breally love this series of books.I bought " supermercado" last time!
This time I have bought the cafeteria.
It's got signage , language in speech bubbles , lists and the wonderful pull out roleplay frieze at the back , that makes in to a small cafe.
I think teachers will be able to use this frieze to create or adapt their own role play areas.
I see teachers across KS2 being able to use the book to develop roleplay , performance and signage for their own role play areas!

Links with maths (KS2)
This book packs a punch! I was looking for a book about shapes as we have probably got enough counting and number books and I wanted ot investigate another area of maths through language learning.
  • The book has a lift the flap page at the front with the names of the shapes under the different shaped flaps.(We could cretae our own books like this!)
  • It has double page spreads with a theme - at the port/at the circus /birthdays - so we can revisit thew book over and over again!
  • Each double page spread has simple questions- problems to solve (We could create our own simple problem questions!)
  • Plus there are maths problems such as how many sides/corners fo the shapes have! (We can do some                                                  shape/ sides and corner maths here too!

Year 6 Leavers and writing full sentences
The new DFE POS aspires to language learners writing independently sentences using  nouns, common verbs and adjectives.This book met the criteria I had as a coourful lighthearted book at the end of Year 6 to celebrate what our Y6 can do in the target language and to look forward to the future.
It is a book about roles and jobs in the first person singular describing thje role each character has / does.
Here is my Y6 leavers blog post with ways I think we could use this book  roles and jobs and statements

A book with instructional text to help us be creative and make items for special events (KS2)
I was looking for a book that had clear instuctions and pictures to guide non-specialist/specialist teachers and their classes in the target language as they made special items to celebrate events .
It contains colour,well laid out clear double pages for:
party bags
birthday cakes and candles
christmas cards
butterfly mobiles
summer flowers
witches hats
pirates hats and eye patches 

Books that are just that bit more sophoisticated for UKS2 with links to other areas of the curriculum (UKS2)

I found two great books one about the faarm and one about castles by Usborne!!
What I like about these is there is detail e.g crops, machinery, seasons etc about the farm and in the book below aboit the castle double page spreads on key features of life in a medieval castle- a banquet/ the kitchen / the grand hall / the tower etc
Both books have flaps to lift and ask and answer questions

Celebrating a royal baby with simple fun language learning activities

With the birth of a new royal baby to happen and all the press hype around this in the near future, I decided that it would be something that our children particularly KS1 and Y3 or Y4 would be interested in.

I have popped a couple of ideas down here on ways you might like to celebrate the birth of the baby! (I have focused on a song, a card and a baby layette - so we have listening and joining in, simple copy writing and some DT and writing simple full sentences to describe clothes for a baby).

Celebrating the addition to a family with a silly French song about the family!

Prince George is about to be the big brother.
Here is a song about a "little"  brother and his dummy.
Family nouns are also introduced into the song (maman,papa, cousin,cousine) so you could create a simple family tree too and don't forget to  add the grandma and grandad and perhaps aunts and uncles too!
Could be a great song to practise in class and then sing to the school in a class assembly and guess what ...act it out!

Click on the link above and find the lyrics .

Designing a French layette

Just a bit of fun but what should the clothes for a royal baby look like?
Can the children anticipate the hobbies and interests of the future royal baby and add these to the designs of their clothes?
Will the baby be a footballer, a dancer, a musician etc?
Why not ask the class to design some clothes for the new royal baby .We use the word "layette" too here in England. 
If the children are moving on in their language learning ,can they write simple full sentences about the items they design- noun, verb and adjective?

A card for the baby in French,German and Spanish

And don't forget to write a card to celebrate the birth of the bay.

I love these cards below as I think the balloons are fabulous plus the language is so simple that we can use this in KS1 and Year 3 to make a fabulous display celebrating the birth! 

What about a German lullaby 

Practise , sing and perform!

Clothes for the baby in German

Create a German layette for the baby too just like the French idea above!

A lullaby in Spanish

A Spanish layette

...and for Spanish clothes for your baby layette - 
Take a look at this part of el corte ingles website

ropas del bebe

Spanish books to support language learning contexts and content

Last week in Barcelona I went book shopping for Spanish books (Castillian of course!) to support the schools in our network that teach Spanish.
Here are my finds!
The books were chosen because they will be useful for teachers who use the JLN SOW , follow similar themes or are happy to create their own schedule for learning.

A book to help all teachers and which is available in other target languages too,a book too to let your imagination run wild! Great primary teacher's resource.It's from Usborne!
I liked the way that there were activities for children to do independently but also that there were double page spreads dedicated to specific artist e.g. Gaudi.
One double page spread looks at how we the children could create a range of creatures in the style of the Gaudi lizard from Parc Guell.
The book also has double page spreads on designing your own town or city of the future ,with really useful instructions that a non-specialist teacher with some Spanish knowledge could use tp develop class instructions in the target language.

A fun book to use with children in KS1 and KS2. One simple repetitive question per page - in the style of  "Brown Bear, Brown Bear what can you see?" .I liked it for this reason as it would be a familiar style to KS1 and Year 3 and could be used as a reading to the class activity and a joining in  with the question activity.the green hair you can see on the face can be moved as the there is a space to pop you hand inside the green hair and move it about
In Year 4 and Year 5 we could take the book further,the children could design their own books and write their own full sentence responses with their own characters.The green hair isn't really hair - it becomes an astronaut's moustache,a martian's hair do , a caveman's brain,  a witch's hat trim, and guess what finally " an enormous caterpillar ". The book could then be linked to the hungry caterpillar too .
It would be a great book to use when describing people as a stimulus to using our imaginations and  creating our own simple target language descriptions.

We are always revisiting colour and so I wanted to find a book that was suitable for children who have already met some colours and that incorporated a guessing game too.This book met the requirements. On each page there are three questions about three different items.the children need to read the question , guess the object and then decide on the colour that is going to be revealed.There is a card in an inside sliding sleeve between the pages that you reveal and show the key colour and the three objects that the children should have guessed.
Great book for dictionary work- understand the question, guess the object and remember in the target language or locate in a bilingual dictionary.guess the shared colour of the three items.Finally see if the class is correct by revealing the slide card!  
Could  be a great book to use with Year 4 and Year 5 moving on learners to encourage them to write their own questions about three objects, that are then revealed once someone else has guessed the items.
Could be a great stimulus for lift the flap books or a hide and reveal interactive whiteboard game etc. 

We go shopping several times in the JLN SOW which allows us to practise dialogues etc.I wanted to find a book for out Year 4 classes which was authentic and shared incidental language of signage too in a Spanish food shop.This book about el supermercado fits the bill!
this is a book that  non specialist or specialist could use with a class and with the aid of bilingual dictionary work the class could investigate the signage independently.
On every double page there is a cartoon scenario in the supermarket.There is a statement about the aisle or the area in the shop and the character Clara participates in interactive activities and there are speech bubbles etc with language that might actually be used in the supermarket The signage is great as it share with the reader key items and objects that you would find in a supermarket plus there are examples of shopping lists and signs.
At the end of the book there is a pull out supermarket with detachable characters- great for role play activities or a puppet show! 
Once again the book could be the stimulus for independent writing and creating your own class supermarket role play area with signs etc.

In the Summer term our attention with UKS2 turns to the seaside and with KS1 we develop our sea creature puppet shows.This book meets the needs of both age groups.
Each double page shares items you may need to use to do something linked with the seaside e.g build a sandcastle,look for seashells, go swimming.....
The text is in Spanish cursive handwriting .
On each page an object is concealed and has to be revealed or moved etc.
with KS1 the fun would be in the reading of the book and the revealing or moving of the objects.
With UKS2, once again there is bilingual dictionary work, understanding the question posed on each page and then creating your own questions and guide to the items you need for example to sunbathe, go swimming or to have a picnic on the beach!

I loved this series of stories from Rose Forshall, which I found in the book shop all about "la abuela pirata" and her friends.
I picked this book out from the series not on,y because teachers and children love the context of pirates but also  next year is an Olympic year! 
The text is challenging but the pictures tell the story as the pirates get fit through Olympic sports to get that Olympic gold treasure!
It is humorous and is a great read, may be several pages each time you read it to the class and a discussion of what has taken place.There are a variety of tenses in the text but this wouldn't prevent primary language teachers  from using the book to develop performance and  class simple Spanish story about pirates or other characters (monsters for example ) getting ready for the Olympics 2016!

Above is a great book - that I actually saw one day and went back to buy as I couldn't leave it behind!It fits really well with the Anthony Browne book "mi mama" we sometimes use in our work around describing people. The  book above  is straight forward and describes the qualities of a well loved mum (or carer) .
It would be really useful when trying to look at adjectives or activities to describe people and their personalities .
This is a book to be read to the class by a specialist or confident (target language speaking) teacher either just to enjoy or pages could be acted out and phrases could be used to build examples of how to write extended and interesting sentences. 


Next to the book "te quiero mama" was this wonderful book about "el mejor padre del mundo" .I couldn't leave this book behind either!
Each double page has a text that explains why this Dad is the best Dad in the World and then a full page picture explaining  the text!
This is  a book that could  be read to the class by a specialist or confident (target language speaking) teacher, to stop,unpick the language and explore key words.
It is also a book that could be used as a double page focus to explore a text about specific content - for example Dad and daily routine and helping tie shoe aces, Dad at the seaside building sandcastles. Dad at the school concert, Dad looking after his poorly daughter etcetra.
It is a book that could be picked up used for one double page text and then put down and returned to when the content fits the context that the children are exploring etc.
In my opinion it's a book for UKS2. 

And finally will soon be European Day of Languages (26 September)
I found this book.What a find for Spanish target language work about children from around the World!
It describes the similarities and differences between children  from all over the World- physical descriptions, homes, food ,animals that the children may come in to contact with, and then finally ends with a view of the World as a globe.The final statement reminds us that
"Pero todos tienen los mismos sentmientos.Todoos quieren ser felices y tener amigos ....."

Seeing progress in action!

I want to call this blog post - "you can always learn more!"

It's a post about progress and observations in the primary classroom from a school visit yesterday.

I am certain that many  of you who read this do achieve similar success in classes across the country.I think it's so important to create a written record of your successes to help others.
Firstly the record can celebrate what is taking place. 
Secondly it's a tool by which to share practitioners and learners progress.
Thirdly it is hopefully a fair record of what school are achieving across year groups and across the school academic year in primary language learning.

A little bit of background knowledge to set the scene
If you have followed my blog posts you probably already know that I work alongside a group of really committed and enthusiastic teachers and that we work every academic week of the school year in 37 schools to support the delivery of French ,Spanish and German. Part of my role is to guide and support the teachers and the schools as the project in their individual settings develops.

Yesterday was one of those wonderful days when I went in to a school, to observe a practitioner delivering language learning and to support the school to see how best to support staff and children with their language learning.
Below is an honest account of what was observed - simple language learning content and context that became one of those rare magical moments !Less about the teacher and more about the progress of the language learners

Ana is one of our Spanish native speaker QTS practitioners. She has worked alongside me now for four years and has worked in this specific school for just over two years. Her relationship with children,staff and SLT is excellent. Ana works with a core programme of learning across KS1 and KS2 and is happy to change or adapt learning to suit school needs and special events.
The core programme is in line with the network JLN SOW ,which means staff and especially the language coordinator can access the core language,activities and  resources and develop simple assessment opportunities with Ana.Ana has provided sound files for our SOW ,which help staff to listen again to those core words and structures too. Ana shares medium term planning for all year groups from YR to Y6 with the coordinator and staff.......

............but didn't I say you can always learn more ? !

Yesterday the observations made,were about the balance of the four skills in accordance with the new DfE POS and also about what progress young learners in the school are really making.
The Head and I observed two lessons.In both lessons the class teachers and TAs are always present and encouraged to participate.The school is still working toward what this participation will eventually look like and how the school, Ana and the staff can support different groups of learners.It's a case of positive SLT supported and staff implemented "work in progress".Spanish is now becoming an integral part of the learning curriculum across KS1 and KS2.

A lesson of two halves with Year 4!

Now here is an interesting thing! 
With Y4/5 mixed age class Ana was looking at the family and creating descriptions using familiar language of a new family- our alien family. She was concentrating also on our New Year's resolution to encourage children to apply rules of pronunciation to new language, applying knowledge of prior learning and to look for those semi- cognates and cognates.You may have read the blog post Look! Think! Read The children are in their second year of language learning and it was in the second half of the lesson,after we asked Ana to deliver everything in the target language- instructions , questions to the children and the speaking card game  to "describe people" (a DfE learning objective!) that the lesson came to life! 
Why? Well the children, it seemed to us, became really keen to engage with the learning through Spanish.It was great to see them all sat on the edge of their seats, listening for clues in the language Ana was using,with Ana carefully selecting the key language she used and actions to support what the children had to do e.g "Para" ,"Movea".......With not a word of English spoken the class wanted more!! 
What is important to remember here is that the children work every week with Ana, know her well and are used to her speaking Spanish with her - and she knows what they know too! 

It was this second half of the lesson that was most remarkable as every child was engaged ,some supported by teacher and TA  but all the children were trying to understand what Ana was saying....and the teachers were too!

The Head and I wanted to take this further so ....

A Year 3 lesson to remember!
The Head and I followed Ana to her next class and asked her this time to speak only Spanish from the beginning to the end of the lesson.These were Y3 children who have two years language learning with Ana, behind them. 
Ana wanted to teach the class how to read and write names of animals, some familiar spoken language and some unfamiliar language in preparation for the work on animals they see and find around them.
She asked the children to  put on their Spanish brains and to travel with her in their heads to Spain.From this moment on she explained everything in Spanish.They were Spanish children in a Spanish classroom with a Spanish teacher for the duration of the lesson.

We observed normal routine warm up language- questions and answers  about the date, month, what day was it yesterday or would it be tomorrow,personal information, favourite months, days , weather on the day , etc etc! 
When she asked the children where they lived,she reminded them that they now lived in Spain( all explained in the target language) and my favourite response had to be "Vivo en Real Madrid" !! 
Although most of the children wanted to live in Malaga, Barcelona or Sevilla- all places that Ana will have talked with them about when for example she talks about her home city Sevilla , or Gaudi and colours and Barcelona and Malaga because we have link schools in the city! 

Then  something magical happened..... one of those "goose pimples" teaching and learning moments which you want to keep forever !

Ana asked the children about their favourite animals and The children were able to tell Ana about the sea creatures they liked -pulpo, tiberon etcetra, without prompting ,from their Y2 language learning focus and recalled  farm animals from their Old Macdonald work in Y1 !! 
All the children were busy thinking about what they could say and remember....

From this point onwards we observed the clearly identifiable progress these young learners are making in language learning.
Ana asked children to come to the front and share how they thought these favourite animal words were written .Hands up all around the classroom! "Casi" said Ana as children added too many consonants or forgot that a "h" sound could be a"j" in Spanish! They weren't put off - the whole class wanted to help sort out the spelling! "Pez" was interesting and the child writing self corrected himself .It's not "th" it's "z" he said "because it's like diez"! Definitely a WOW moment!

Ana introduced new animal pictures and asked the children if they already knew the word for the animal and was it un or una....? Could they write the word if they already knew it? And the new animal words - well could they listen, repeat and then decide from prior learning of numbers , colours, etc how to spell for example "caballo" ( amarillo link) , conejo, pajaro (rojo/ jueves link) etcetra.

The children were applying prior learning to new language and making sound -spelling links and confidently coming to the front to volunteer the written word.Meantime the class teacher and TA were observing and  identifying the confidence of hesitant writers, happy to share their clear and exact writing in a different language and the way that the more able learners were being stretched by challenge of the target language.

These young language learners are inquisitive,keen to learn the language and confident that they can succeed.The thoughtful class practise of the pronunciation of "v" for "vaca" ,the additional information offered about the animals e.g.the impromptu spoken language from some of the children with the colour of the animals in the pictures and trying to describe this in a sentence and the links the children could make with their own experiences e.g raton- oh that's like "ratoncito Perez" said one pupil.(Her Spanish friend told her about this story, she added).

And Ana - well Ana was thriving on the engagement of the children and as an experienced primary classroom teacher and practitioner, using only target language, was being guided by the children and drawing the children further in to their application of language learning skills.

This was a lesson not to forget and needed to be recorded.
Progress of 7 year olds with some prior learning in Spanish across listening ,speaking , reading ,writing, culture and grammar.
Thank you so much Ana for a remarkable snapshot! 

What have we learned? 
Well  there is always room for improvement - perhaps more talking partner opportunities  and use of mini whiteboards ...... but truthfully it was the impact of the learning through the target language and the way the children naturally made those sound -spelling links, recalled language with ease and began to want to engage in sentence level activities outside the learning context that have caused Ana,the Head and I to stop and think!

Next steps?

  • To allow staff time to shadow Ana and see this progress in different year groups and the links the children can make between prior learning and new learning.
  • To begin to plan for Spanish learning which can support teachers and TAs with their own everyday learning skills observations of children
  • To plan for as much use of the target language as is sensible and supportive for the young  learners
  • To plan for staff CPD time to discuss what they have observed and what they think are the next achievable steps! 

Fireworks performance poem

Below are the core phrases to the Firework Performance Poem that we have been using in schools in Warrington with our  "moving on" learners (so stage two) to explore a simple poem for grammar, to use reading comprehension skills and to develop a spoken performance and our own written poems.We can use it with beginners but then we explore less of the grammar and focus more on the performance. 

We use colours, three key present tense verbs, and the phrase "there is" or "there are" with the noun for stars.the poem has two verses and repeats the three verbs and the phrase "there are a lot of stars". 

Here is the French version of the poem.:





Zoum, zoum!

Ils glissent

Ils montent

Ils descendent .

Il y a beaucoup d' étoiles!





Zoum, zoum!

Ils glissent

Ils montent

Ils descendent .

Il y a beaucoup d' étoiles!

So as you can see it's a very simple poem, but it leads to some interesting discussion:

  • use of colours as adjectives,but written alone and not next to a noun - however you can ask the children to see what happens when they place them with a noun in the target language - especially of you introduce both a masculine and a feminine noun to describe with a colour.

  • colours that look like the english word but sound slightly different

  • colours we may already have met as nouns to (orange/argent/or)

  • silent letters

  • and final silent letter combinations on the verbs

  • meaning of the verbs because they look like an english word e.g montent- mountain/ glissent ( they often think means glisten but then they can see glide when it's explained too!)

  • using picture and colour context to determine meaning of words we aren't sure of - as this is part of a powerpoint where the stars fly in at the end , the colours are written on the correct colour etcetra

We rearrange the colours into alphabetical order or add new colours using the bilingual dictionary

We use the verb examples to look for own verbs with children who have begin to think about verbs and how to change endings and the pattern here is regular with "er" verbs so it's an achievable task for all the class! 

We change the ending and think of /look for new plural nouns for the final word- as a surprise for own listeners and readers  

And then we prepare our performance - with younger learners it's a class performance with actions and sounds and with older learners then it's a performance with a twist -an added verse of their own.It needs actions and sound of course too!

These activities lead very well in to our physical sentence prompts activities which you can read about here : 

Physical sentence prompts

And the Spanish version  .....? Well here it is :





¡fantástico! ¡ fantástico!



hay muchas estrellas





¡fantástico! ¡ fantástico! 



hay muchas estrellas


Abstract art and beginners target language learning.

Sometimes the simplest things inspire! Take  a look at this simple but wonderful book that I have just bought  myself ! I love "Art" and particularly abstract art. 

Simple ideas that many of us already consider and ways that many of us already plan for and use to generate additional language learning.These ideas work just as well where the class teacher delivers the language learning or where the class teacher engages with the languages teacher, be it a visiting teacher or a PPA swap.In these instances there is definitely the scope to add five and ten minute "class teacher ownership " learning opportunities.Why not go cross curricular?

So how do the book at the top of this blog and the article about time allocation link together? Well this book is just one example of how we can create effective cross curricular links with language learning ,.... (and possibly use authentic target language literature as well)

Take a look inside! Go to here

30 cercles

 and get a taste for this very simple book which could be used in target language learning for five minute additional activities to 

  • practise numbers, (Maths)

  • colours, size, (Maths)

  • commands like "find","touch","draw" (classroom communication skills)

  • explore famous Art and artists. (Art)

For example why not google the paintings mentioned here

Vassily Kandinsky cercles concentriques 1913 (concentric circles)

Kasimir Malevitch cercle noir vers 1923 (black circles)

I am certain that primary minds are now buzzing... why not create your own abstract art books with colours or squares or lines?????

Mondrian comes to mine and Kandinsky once again....

Nouns, definite and indefinite articles and colour card magic tricks

This last week @EWoodruffe and I have been busy training groups of staff at individual school CPD sessions. We worked in one school where the children in Year 4 to Year 6 are moving on in their language learning and the staff were keen to find ways to support their growing inquisitiveness about the grammar of the French language.

As part of the CPD we looked at nouns and how to practise knowledge ,recognition and application of definite and indefinite articles. Here are the games, step by step. You will be able to revisit these games over and over again as the children learn more language and hopefully this will increase the children’s growing confidence in how to use articles before nouns.

All you need  for the games in French are six coloured paper squares to represent le ,la ,un,une, les and des. (If you apply these games to other languages then you will need n amount of different coloured cards to represent the amount of definite and indefinite articles you are practising in that specific target language)
You can reduce the number of coloured cards and still play the games if you r focus is just on definitie and indefinite singular articles or definite and indefinite plural articles.
Each child will need their own sets of these coloured squares too.  

We are making the assumption here that the children already know a series of nouns within a context such as animals. The children also already are aware that in French there are two singular definite articles and a plural definite article and they have had exposure to the indefinite articles too . You can play the games below and go through the steps just to practise definite articles in the singular and plural or to practise the change between definite and indefinite singular articles . It's a mix and match opportunity to practise a grammatical structure :the use of definite articles "the " and indefinite articles "a/some " with nouns in the target language.

Step One
Discuss clearly with the class the noun magic trick the class have become aware of- whether this is different words for" THE"/ how to change "THE to A" in the target language or plural words for "THE and SOME" we have become aware of ….

Reveal an empty table on the flip chart.This table below has four rows and three columns…. because we are looking at the big picture and assuming that the children are ready to practise changing between singular and plural definite and indefinite articles .But why are there four rows?
Well all will be revealed!

First we ask the class to go on a noun class hunt .In this instance we are looking for animal nouns and for three specific animal picture cards concealed on the room . You can  pretend to be explorers with language hunting binoculars and look carefully around the classroom for cards that have been concealed e.g.

“Cherchez le serpent/la souris/les poissons” 

Place the animal pictures in the second row of the table and then remove and replace the cards when you have collected them all with the correct definite article when the class are confident to tell the teacher  the noun  with the correct definite article.

Remember we were playing these games as part of staff CPD and the great thing is to have Emilie our native speaker teacher supporting too. The teachers  loved hearing how Emilie is teaching her own little boy to speak French and always says the noun with the definite article in French when they meet new nouns together.This came about from a question by a teacher about “Well how do children in France learn if it’s le or la?” Thanks Emilie – it’s great to have native  hands on knowledge like that! We thought you may also like to know this and share with your children too.

So in the second row write the definite articles in French after removing the pictures of nouns (le serpent/la souris/les poissons)


In the fourth row place the indefinite articles after  discussing  how you are now looking  “a snake/a mouse/some horses”.
Go on your animal hunt   using our imaginary binoculars…talk about how this time  you aren't  specifically looking for a specific snake etc. 

As we  are no longer looking for a very speicifc snake etc one of the teachers on CPD suggested that we should therefore have more than one picture card of “le serpent” etc so that children could make a random choice not an exact definite choice. Good idea!

Once again place your pictures on the chart,but this time in the third row. 
Remove the pictures and replace the pictures with the correct written indefinite articles 


So why have we got additional rows?
Well now we need to add our magic trick colour coded guide! Take a look!


The colour blocks represent the article below them, green is le , blue is la etc …..

Step Two
Practice your magic trick by checking that if “the teacher” holds up a coloured piece of card the children can respond  by calling out the correct definite or indefinite article

Step Three
Look at a list of known nouns (e.g here our focus has been animals in French) with definite articles, written as a list for the children. 
Call a colour  and the children have to select a noun that they can use to say the correct definite/indefinite article with that noun
e.g. If “blue “ is called in the target language , then the response from children must be a feminine noun ( noun preceded by “la”) but if brown is called in the target language then the children’s response must be a noun in the  plural with the indefinite plural article “ a plural noun of the animal preceded by “des”

Step Four 
Make this a pair game 
Call a colour pair game. Simply ask the children to practise as a game "step three" but this time in pairs.

Step Five  
Show a colour, say a colour and can a child give you a full sentence with a correct article and noun?

Step Six  
Make this a pair or group game 
Simply play step five as a pair or group game .

Step Seven
Ask the children to order their coloured paper squares in any order they wish and to challenge a partner to say animals with the correct definite/ indefinite article in the order that has been arranged with the coloured squares for them by their partner.

Step Eight
Ask the children to play last article standing.
They just select a coloured square and stand up holding the square clearly in front of them. The teacher selects one of his/her coloured cards from a bag and says a noun which has a corresponding definite or indefinite article before it .
If the children are holding the coloured square that corresponds to the definite /indefinite article that the teacher has used,they must sit down. Who will be the last children standing?

Step Nine

Play the game above as a table game.
Make this a pair or group game 

Teachers at the CPD session felt that over time they could confidently grow n their own competent use of definite and indefinite articles by playing and practising the games and steps with their classes- not necessarily all the steps at one time or all the definite and indefinite articles singular and plural at one time.
We felt that over and over again we can come back to these simple games and play some or all of them to reinforce children and teacher knowledge of definite and indefinite articles with nouns. 

Hope you find these steps and simple games useful too!

Bi-lingual dictionary wizards- a simple guide

The bi-lingual dictionary:an important key to the target language door!
Help your children to become "bilingual dictionary wizards!

I think it's a really great way to introduce grammar if you liken basic grammar and the tools to support non-native speakers to access target language as "keys to the door" or "magic tricks"
Here's the first really important "key to the door":the bi-lingual dictionary.
Children love bilingual dictionaries as they see them as special and treasure troves of words .
All we need to do is teach them the magic tricks of how to access and use then and then they can become a really                                             useful learning tool in the language classroom.

Magic tricks to know about and try out!
Stage by stage take your class through how to use a bilingual dictionary.The stages here are explained in  black and then the magic tricks are written in red.
Children love exploring bilingual dictionaries and once they see them as important learning tools then they will have the freedom to find the nouns etc they want to say and use rather than use the language you provide them with.

Do the magic tricks work when your children try to prove the stage descriptions?
You are going to need a class set of bilingual dictionaries- preferably one between two to make your "magic tricks" work best! 

  • Stage One
English words are in alphabetical order in the second half of a bi-lingual dictionary.Ask the children to turn to the middle of the book and see where the English words start. Can they tell you the first English word they can find . What letter does it start with? How can they prove it's the start of a list of English words in alphabetical order?
  • Stage Two
Target language words are at the front of the bi-lingual dictionary appear in the alphabetical order of the target language.Ask the children to turn to the front of the book and see where the target language word list starts. Can they tell you the first target language word they can find in this list. What letter does it start with? How can they prove it's the start of a list of target language words in alphabetical order?
  • Stage Three 
If you look up an English word in the bilingual dictionary,the target language word is written next to it.Can they check this for you with some common words you may have already practised in the target language (e.g nouns for animals - cat,dog, horse etc)?
  • Stage Four
If you want to check that the nouns you have found in the target language is correct , then you need to "cross reference" it by looking for the word in the front of the dictionary. Remind the children that these words are in target language alphabetical order- so it may be cat in English but it's gato in Spanish.Can they prove that this is the case, looking up nouns in the English first target language second section and then cross referencing them in the front of the book in the target language- English section and finding the target language word first?
  • Stage Five 
Next to the noun on the right hand side it will indicate whether the word is a noun, verb, adjective, adverb, preposition . In easy learning and child friendly dictionaries it may well say the actual word “noun” etc on the right hand side. In most bi-lingual dictionaries in brackets on the right hand side there will be an abbreviation which tells you that the word you looked up is a noun etc (e.g a noun is indicated by a "n" in brackets) .Can the children check that this works every time. Select some nouns they already know, write them up on the flip chart and ask them to find them in the target language first- English second section of the dictionary and see if they can see the word "noun" or in brackets an "n" after the noun?
  • Stage Six
Take the children on a similar learning journey to find familiar adjectives and verbs See how they can access them from English or access them from the target language section or cross reference the words they find and also find proof that they are verbs and adjectives.
  • Stage Seven
Bilingual dictionaries help us to know more about the words. We want the children to feel confident that they can look up a noun and know whether it's "le chat" or "la souris" in French etc. How do you know whether a noun is in French le or la and in Spanish el or la or in German der,die or das? In easy learning dictionaries the nouns are often written with the correct word for "the" preceding the noun. However there is a simple magic trick! If the dictionary has in brackets after the word an (n..) it's also going to have the letter "m" or "f" in French and Spanish and "m","f" or n" in German.The lettesr represent - masculine,feminine and neuter ....these are not sexual genders, see them as tags /codes that tell the person using the noun if it's masculine we say "le" , if it's feminine we say "la " in French. In Spanish masculine is "el" and feminine is "la" and in German masculine is "der", feminine is "die" and neuter is "das". Can the children find nouns in the dictionary for you and if the word for the is already written next to it can they tell you wherther it's masculine , feminine etc and if the noun has a the abbreviation  for example (nm) or (nf) after it , can the children tell you the noun with the correct le/la ( French) or el/la (Spanish)etc.

How to create bilingual dictionary wizards of your children!

  • Play games with the stages described above.
  • Make sure the games are age and stage of learning the language appropriate
  • Take time out to access bilingual dictionaries and prove and then revisit and prove again the rules . 
  • Create team challenges 
  • Encourage children to explore new nouns and use them in the spoken and written work and not just to rely on the list of animals/ clothes etc you have given them.
This is one of the key ways to help the children to see the importance of the bilingual dictionary as a language learning tool.

Primary Teachers and Bilingual Dictionaries at the ready!
This is a second way to help the children to see the importance of the bilingual dictionary as a language learning tool
I would suggest that in your classroom you should have a class bilingual dictionary for everyone's reference including your own.
As primary teachers remember that you are the facilitators and you are helping the children to try out the magic tricks for themselves. 
You can cross reference words too to make sure that the word you find in Spanish/ French etc really does have the meaning you want to convey and that there isn’t another word that would be better.
When a child asks for a word you don't know or aren't sure about let them see you access a bilingual dictionary to find it out and ask the class to remind you of the rules you have practised. 

Summer celebration messages based upon Bloemenwinkel tradition

Thanks to Carmel @OHaganCarmel !Carmel shared with us this blog post called Traveling with Kids Belgian seaside and a very special Belgian seaside tradition for children.If you have been following some of my recent blog posts you will see that I have been focusing on the beach and the seaside.It's a big part of our Summer SOW. The blog posts so far have been about:

The tradition I love from the article about Belgian seaside is "Bloemenwinkel "

You can read about the tradition in the article linked to the picture to above  in the blog article I referred to at the top of this blog.I love the fact that children pay for the flowers with shells and also that these are made from tissue paper or crepe paper and are sold on the beach to the children who visit.
I think we can  make a wonderful final lesson for Year 3 and Year 4 just before Summer with this idea. 

We will firstly go shell counting.
Simply using shell shaped card templates with numbers on the reverse side and in lots of different colours we will hunt numbers.
Use eight different card colours and divide the cards into groups of eight (eight different colours and random ordered numbers written on the reverse side)

We need as many shell cards and numbers as there are children in the class and we need to use eight different colours of card each time.
We will play the game in groups of eight cards at a time in a random order or selection.
Can the children guess the shell number and if they can they win the shell and if they can't the shell is put back on the board.The children need to say the colour of the shell that they want the teacher to turn over  and guess the number.

Explain the Belgian seaside tradition to the children and share the pictures from the blog article with the children 
Locate the seaside resorts on the Belgian coast.Did the children realise that there was so much seaside in Belgium?Do they know where Belgium is and what languages are spoken there?
Can the children now help you to create your own Bloemenwinkel (flower corner shop)?

Creating the Bloemen

My "bloemen" will be like fortune cookies.There will be one each for every child with a celebration written message chosen and written by another classmate on the flower head,which is  made of a rolled coloured paper strip.

Each child needs a strip of coloured paper and a straw and some selotape.
Each child selects a strip of coloured card that is wide enough to write on and long enough to roll ,so it will fit on one end of a straw- just like miniature versions of the flowers you can see in the picture.
Provide the children with a range of phrases they can select from to write on their strips of coloured card in the target language.
For example:

Have a great holiday !
See you in September
Enjoy the school holidays
Have a good rest!
Enjoy playing in the park!
Enjoy playing with your friends!
Look forward to seeing you at school in September 
It's the school holidays ! Hurrah!
Summer is here!
No school in August 

Make sure your class can understand the phrases.You could practise them as "celebration sayings" with cheers and happy voices - celebrating the fact it's nearly the holidays 

Here are some Bloemenwinkel made by my colleague Joanne Hornby with her Year 4 class.They went outside and put them in a flower bed and drew lots to pick a flower from the bloemenwinkel.Joanne says that the children loved the whole activity and the fact they had something to take home at the end of the year 

Here are the phrases in French:

Passez de bonnes vacances !
Au mois de septembre!
Profitez bien des grandes vacances!
Reposez vous bien!
Amusez vous bien au parc!
Amusez vous bien avec vos amis!
J'ai hâte d'être en septembre!
C'est les grandes vacances! Youpi!
L'été est là !
Pas d'école au mois d'août!

And in German

Schöne Ferien!
 Bis September                      
Genießt die Sommerferien
Erholt euch gut!
Viel Spaß auf dem Spielplatz!
 Viel Spaß mit eueren Freunden!
Ich freue mich schon, wenn ich euch im September wieder sehe.
Es sind Sommerferien! Hurra!
Der Sommer ist da!
Keine Schule im August

And in Spanish
Que tengáis unas buenas vacaciones
Nos vemos en septiembre
disfruta de las vacaciones
que descanséis
disfruta jugando en el parque
disfruta jugando con tus amigos
nos vemos en el colegio en septiembre
son las vacaciones
 hurra el verano ya llegó
no hay colegio en agosto

Ask the children to select two messages and to write them on one side of the coloured paper strip.They need to write it clearly and carefully in the target language so another child can read the message clearly.
  • Now they need to roll the coloured card strips and attach one end to one end of  straw.
  • Collect in the flowers and attach one of the shell cards with the number showing to the base of each flower.
  • Now hand round a bag which has numbered shell cards inside .
  • Each child takes a shell and must say the number and then find the flower with that numbered shell card attached to it .This is his/her flower and s/he can unravel the coloured paper strip and see what his/her celebration saying written message is. 

Sentence and Calligram Suitcases for the Summer holidays

Take a look at this wonderful Summertime calligram based on a sun hat!It's from the wonderful  site This activity works in any language - you just need to create your own calligram example of the sun hat in the other languages before starting the activities .

We are getting very Summery in our schools at the moment and are beginning to look for calm and sunshine filled activities to take us through to the end of the year.This calligram has made me think of how we can fill our sentence suitcases ready for the Summer holidays

In Year 5 we pack our beach bags for the beach project so the children know words in target languages for sunglasses,flip flops,sun hats,swimming costumes, sun cream, beach ball. We have also practised earlier in the year clothes items  so again we can recall items of clothing for a sunny Summer holiday .
I have added a grammar focus too but if your children are not yet competent with grammar identification of nouns, adjectives and verbs , you could limit the grammar colour coding or omit this altogether. A lot of our Year 5 children can do this or can identify some nouns,adjectives and verbs though.

Step One 
Let's make our holiday list of suitcase nouns. What do we need to pack?

Step Two 
Let's add an adjective to describe each item 

Step Three
Let's take a closer look at the calligram above and colour it in! How?
Each colour should represent a different component of the hat:
  • Red for the indefinite article
  • Green for any adjectives
  • Blue for the nouns
  • Yellow for the verbs

Step Four
Let's zoom in on the reason for packing the item by looking for this information written in the example sun hat calligram.

"pour nous cacher du soleil! 

Let's create reasons for the items we are packing.Why are we packing......? (The first two items below follow a similar pattern and use the same phrase as the sun hat - so that's easy,Can the children help you to identify a pattern and create the reasons why we are taking our flip flops , beach ball and swimming costume? :
  • sunglasses
  • sun cream
  • flip flops
  • beach ball
  • swimming costume
You could reduce the challenge here and et the children match items with reasons,which have been written already on cards (or even add a symbol too to help with comprehension of the reason)

Step Five
Now all we need to do is pack those sentence/calligram suitcases.
  • Create card folder suitcases with the children or create a large display suitcase for all the written work the children produce.
  • Ask the children to write clear sentences  about each of the items above or to select two or three of the items they really want to take with them.
  • Now ask them to colour code their sentences too and add summer time colour to their suitcase sentence packing.
  • Can they now create their own calligrams of the items following the example of the hat above... and don't forget the summertime colour too!

They can now pack their own calligram suitcases! Maybe they can add an item of their own (e.g a book, a CD, a camera ....) 

Greetings and feelings, activities to encourage all staff to get on board

Getting on board with primary languages can seem really challenging and especially when you want everyone on the staff to grow in confidence. This week Emilie, Ana and I are out and about ,delivering staff CPD to every member of staff within a school,practising language and encouraging staff to try out some transferable activities using simple language.

Remember these are start up activities and they will also become favourite activities that can be played for five minutes when teachers have time outside of the language learning allotted time.

Below are some short activities which can help to build staff confidence and also engage young learners using target language feelings and how to ask how someone is feeling.

How are you feeling?
Here are three songs that can easily be adapted so that the teachers and the children can sing along and practise feelings and the question how are you feeling ?

In French

In Spanish

In German

The songs are catchy and teachers and children will love to sing along.The songs lend themselves to adding actions and missing out an agreed different word or phrase but keeping the action every time a verse is sung.

Teachers can then  
  • play charades with feelings and greetings and questions
  • build more detailed dialogues by linking this language with greetings and simple name question and answer
  • play guessing games ,where chldren have to anticipate the next ppt slide or the next picture on the IWB and which emotion or greeting symbol they may see.
  • play pass the message on games ,using different voices or actions
  •  have a register week where the teacher asks the children how they are feeling in the target language.