language learning skills

Going back, to get to the future!

Strange title I know - "going back,to get to the future" but this is a possible learning opportunity with Year 6 during this final Summer half term !

I am very excited about the work some of my colleagues will be undertaking this half term with their Year 6 language learners! 

Some of my local colleagues have decided this half term to work with their Year 6 classes to explore other target languages - 

  • to excite and enthuse  Year 6 learners with a new language 
  • to see how language learning skills  are transferable and can help access a new language
  • to help our young language learners realise that they are now ready for secondary school and KS3 language learning and maybe a new language challenge!
  • to encourage our young learners as they leave primary to see that they are at the start of a very exciting language learning journey not necessarily stuck in one foreign language!

Take a look at this message from our Janet Lloyd Network Facebook page from @Deprezprez on 31 May this year !

Looking forward to starting to teach Spanish to my Year 6s at Burtonwood CP and Locking Stumps CP this half-term after many years learning French!! Will be a great challenge for them and interest after the SATs come down!

In my opinion learning a language involves risk taking and involves the transfer of both prior learning and skills.
We all need to be able to make mistakes and feel that we can try again and certainly be able to overcome the feeling that if it's not perfect use of language then there is no communication! 
Primary language learners need to be able to take risks, make mistakes,have another go and try to improve!

The experiment is a sort of "blast from the past" for myself really!
In  1995 I began working as a primary languages teacher with Year 6 children in a local primary school.The children were in a feeder school to a language college where half the children would learn French and half the children would learn German in KS3 Y7. I decided to teach half a term of French followed by half a term of German througout the school academic year.The same content and activities were used in both  half terms but in alternate languages.So many of the children thought German was more fun and that it was easier and at first as a Germanist I was very excited about this .I had obviously created lots of "German" language  enthusiasts...then I realised what was actually happening.The young language learners were relaxed during the second half term as we re-applied skills and participated in  very similar activities from the first half term.  In my opinion they were relaxed and learned effectively because they had already practised the language learning skills in French!

Let's go back to when I started teaching in 1985... maybe a similar thing was happening there too? 
Our "top sets" learned a second foreign language and were called the "accelerated language learning group" because they started their second foreign language in their third year at high school.
"Mmm?"I ask myself as I look back , maybe other children could have achieved this too? Should we have identified more clearly the skills that we were practising with all our language learners? Just a thought!

And if we go right back in to my past..... why am I a Germanist? Well,I learned French as my first foreign language alongside Latin and then two years later- German. I thought I was better at German- but was I? 
Maybe I  applied skills effectively that I had already practised in French and this helped me to access German more quickly (memory,recall, listening,speaking, reading aloud confidently,using a bilingual dctionary etc)?  This was probably on reflection proven at University ,but I didn't realise this at the time.It was expected that we studied Dutch or Swedish for two years whilst studying German and within those two years we  reached A Level standard in the language. I love drama and reading texts such as  Miss Julie by Strindberg in Swedish was a delight and that has always stayed with me! Did I realise at the time that I was using transferable skills?

It seems to me that skills help make you more confident to try to communicate in another language.In the last couple of years I have had to begin to understand and communicate at a limited level in Spanish and I find my understanding of the transferable language learning skills so useful and so powerful! 

And why do I believe that this is for more then just the "linguistically" able?Well the truth is that I am a "trained" not "true" linguist!
Yes I love languages and exploring languages and helping others to do the same! 
My first love is being able to communicate and be creative with language and text! 
On reflection I have become very adept at transfering skills and analysing language and looking for grammatical and structural patterns.

So this half term is maybe less of a great experiment and more of a great celebration! 

The Year 6 learners are about to start the next stage in their great  language learning adventure. We hope our activities this half term will help our young learners see the links between languages and how the mystery of language learning, isn't really an unsolvable mystery and that language learning skills and tools are transferable life long powerful assets!

The experiment does demand that the children trust us,are confident and excited about exploring a new language/culture and  want to see how the practise of language learning skills during their primary career can be used to access language a new language.

Skills? Well are a few for starters!

  • listening and responding in a new language
  • looking and listening for similarities between languages to aid comprehension, 
  • knowing how to listen to and practise the sounds of the new language
  • accessing bilingual dictionaries to find the words to aid comprehesnion and comminication
  • trying to accurately copy the sound and the spelling of new language
It also demands that the teacher is confident enough in some cases to say "I am the facilitator" not the expert- let's explore this new language together.Let's consider the skills and tools we have been developing and let's step out in to a new language and see if we can communicate at a simple level in this language". Life skills I think that could be invaluable to all concerned! 

Who knows what language someone may need to understand or speak during the course of their own lifetimes!

Different ways to get started with new content and add interest and challenge

A colleague has just contacted me to ask for ways that we might engage young learners when introducing new content.....

Here are some of my initial thoughts, 

Engaging with our senses

  • Make the activity touchy feely - what's in the bag/ magic sack/ under the blanket / cloth etc?
  • Add an element of sensory challenge - don't look! Just smell or taste - what could it be?
  • Hearing the item before seeing it- does it rattle,squeak,clatter  etcetra?

Be detectives! 

  • Solve the scenario - what collection/ group/ family / situation might all the new items you are introducing belong to (e.g a weather report/ a zoo/ a jungle/ a restaurant etc).Give them pictures of possible scenarios from which to pick (e.g a zoo and a jungle or a cafe and a restaurant)
  • What's the link- in which order should the new items be ordered? Introduce the items in a specific order - can the class spot the link
  • Ask the class to watch and practise carefully the new items and then on tables set up their own "solve the link" problems for the rest of the class.Let the class create link problems for the rest of the class to solve e.g.  one table can pout three of the items in size order - can the rest of the class spot the link and place the other items in to the size order so that the link is completed.Or another group might put some of the items in alphabetical order - can the rest of the class spot and solve the link
  • Conceal all the items under a sheet- so that it looks like a landscape.Introduce the items as a word and a picture , Can volunteers come to the front and spot the items from  its shape under the blanket?
  • Introduce more than one of an item ... maybe specific colours. Can they help you count up the items?
  • Play hide and seek with the items ....just where is that new item?Who can find it first- maybe the pictures are blu-tacked around the room or are wrapped up and need to be unwrapped.Maybe volunteers are holding the possible items or pictures you want to share.
  • Finding the matching parts.Cut your pictures in half and share one half of the picture - now who is holding or where is the matching half to complete the picture of the food,animal,clothes item etc

Learn together

  • Don't just share the words, ask the children to work in groups to initially find possible words that we might need if we want to talk about animals, clothes , foods etc.Take feedback and see which of the words they have found match the words you want to share in the lesson.Make a list of the other words for additional language later in the focus.
  • Listen to the words first on sound files and ask the children to spot the written word on a flip chart or on cards in front of them.Can they help you to decide how to say the words by listening carefully to the sound files?
  • Reveal a new word or phrase in the target language and ask the children to share in English any fascinating facts they may know about the item - e.g weather (hurricanes/ storms/droughts etc) or animals ( speed of animals/ largest and smallest /habitats etc).Add some fascinating facts of your own- to break up the repetitiveness of practising new words and to add a new dimension to the learning

Set up a challenge!

  • Be first to spot the longest word
  • Be first to spot the shortest word
  • Be first to remember all the words that start with a vowel
  • Be first to spot the words with two syllables
  • Be first to spot all the  masculine words / all the feminine words/ all the plural words
  • Be first to remember all the phrases using the same verb

Make a noise!

Make learning the sound of the words and the phrases fascinating

  • Give words and phrases a beat or a rhythm .Ask the children to identify the words/ phrases just by their beat or rhythm.Make it a pair activity
  • Make the words silent - just repeated in silence in your head
  • Add radio control - loud or quiet responses
  • Silly voices
  • Put the new words in to a nonsense rhyme and add to the rhyme as you add new language.
  • Create an English story interspersed appropriately with the new phrases  and words and  ask the children to see if they can retell the story to each other.

Getting language learning right in school,is a delight!

I am currently undertaking a routine series of observations of the language assistants and teachers who work alongside me in our primary schools  delivering primary language learning on a weekly basis.It is such a rewarding and pleasurable opportunity to see what is really taking place in schools.

Today I was with my colleague Janet W and her Year 5  French beginners in a local St Helens' school.Two days ago I was with Ana in a Warrington school,observing Spanish .

This series of blogs is an additional support mechanism for these colleagues,as they can't be in each others classroom and as a team  we meet once per half term for a twilight CPD,So you can hopefully see that these blogs (with a cup of tea and a biscuit back at home) offer them an insight in to each others classrooms and schools. 

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 very 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.

My observations below are about what I saw and experienced in a local school today and the Year 5 French lesson.The whole school ethos to language learning and the attitude and progress of the children in the class sprang pout immediately!This is our first year of working with the school. Today I felt like the "cat who got the cream" as the learning was a delight to experience !

Why was it a delight?

The actual lesson is probably a lesson you can all recognise.It was a well planned and paced lesson ,started with a new greetings song which contained lots of familar basic  language.Interestingly the children began to join in straight away and had no problem with singing and reading the words from the screen accurately.The class enjoyed practising questions and answers about themselves and this led to practising a less familiar question and answer (about age).Today the class wre introduced to the aliens- just like Ana's year 4  yesterday The Year 5  children today  are having a combination of year 3 and 4 learning to accelerate their content knowledge but keep the skills level of early learners.The introduction of the alien pictures is always great fun and there are opportunities to look for cognates and semi cognates plus grammatical links between nouns languages.The pair games to practise the new nouns and the new  question "Qui est-ce?" are  rounded off with a simple plenary to check the children have internalised key language.

So what made this lesson so "delightful" was the whole school positive attitude and focus upon learning to communicate in another language.It makes the learning of a language an integral, regular part of the children's learning and the school day.Therefore the participation and concentration and success is in my opinion very high.

Here are some of the factors I observed today that contribute to how I think the school is "getting language learning right".
  • The school has a history of interest in international links,with an established and thriving link with China.As you walk through the school there is evidence in displays of links with China,children's work and information for parents.  
  • SLT are committed to making language learning and communication an integral part of the school learning curriculum.They plan alongside us for progress and to make sure that it's primary language learning that suits all their learners needs.
  • The children have previously learned some German and the school is committed to a quality language learning experience for all KS2 in French
  • The school has set up effective liaison between the school language coordinator and the language deliverer (Janet W).
  • Teachers and TAs are present and take an active part in the lesson, supporting Janet W, learning new language alongside the children and supporting children where necessary.The teacher and  TA participated in the pair work games  and sang the greetings song and prompted children to recall key responses to personal information questions and answers etc.
  • The teacher and TA saw and made links between the new focus the children started today on the "family and family trees" with their Science project- (growing up).
  • Janet W is an excellent deliverer of the target language and although she has only just started to work as part of our team ,she has been delivering primary languages as a teaching assistant in a local school.She has an understanding of pace,rapport with staff and children, using the primary classroom space and the understanding of working in a primary language learning context.
  • There were natural pauses and opportunities for assessment for learning and a final plenary check of learning that had taken place.
  • Children loved the alien family and delighted in creating "alien voices" for the characters as they learned the members of the family.One pair really enjoyed changing the game to make "Darlek voices" too.
  • All the children loved the pair activities -guessing games, based on the question "Qui est- ce?" with the aliens."Ooh it's like Cluedo!" was one enthusiastic comment
  • All the children participated well in the pair game and I saw the reaction from the children that you see when the children like the resource they are using, (colour laminated pictures of the aliens) holding them like precious playing cards.
  • A link  was made  between local primary schools as it was explained that the grandma and grandad alien were created by Barrowhall CP Year 4 in Warrington .Now Parish CE Year 5  want to create additional family members and this got them thinking even as they walked out to the classroom.The teachers cleverly  popped it on the agenda for circle time too- so French language will be used later in the week and new words will be looked for!
  • And the aliens ?Well this is the first of several appearances throughout the next couple of years of language learning. We have used these characters for several years now and they never fail to delight the children (and the teachers)! Today I saw what an engaging focus this  is for primary UKS2 children.Yes it's the family, yes we are learning words but this is la famille extra-terrestre ! Wow and just how did the children engage with the fact this was an extra terrestrial family! 

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! 

Easter Egg Trail and beyond. (Moving on learners) Adapting an Epiphany idea !

In December ready for Epiphany I wrote the blog post "Pass the galette or the roscon de reyes", It has proved to be very popular and I have really enjoyed looking at people's ideas and ways of adapting the activity to suit their own learners.A delight!

You can read the original blog and ideas here galette or roscon de reyes

All these shared wonderful ideas made me think a bit more about ways to adapt the activity.You see I think it's important to revisit and reuse familiar activities to allow the children to explore the language in more details.

So here are my notes to self!

Easter time 

Let's create an Easter Egg trail with the same type of activities, in the shape of an Easter egg maybe or one of those wonderful "Easter egg" clocks I always wanted as a child.This is a circular clock with each small egg representing one of the numbers on the face of the clock (so twelve eggs in total).

The treasure hunt idea  would work wonderfully in German trying to look for the Osterhase or in French looking for the bells from Rome that fly the eggs in to the gardens!

Handing the activity over to the learners 

I do think it is so important that we remember that the actiivities are purposeful and about encouraging the learners to play the games and do the activities so that they either learn something new or consolidate prior learning. 

To this end I think that this would be a great activity to ask the children in UKS2 to engage in the making process equipped with the principles of the learning activities e.g. recognising and using sounds and letter strings and revisiting familiar language.

The UKS2 children can then make a gift galette/ rosocn de reyes/Easter egg trail etc for their younger LKS2 classes .Cutting, sticking and glueing- yes- but also thinking through links between phonemes and graphemes and remembering previous learned language!

Thanks to everyone who has made me think through the potential  of these ideas a little bit more!

And should you want to use ready made templates then thanks to Sue Cave,she has shared here phonics galette template in smart notebook on this page of Sharing Primary Languages

Look,think,link and read!

As we progress with our language learners and they become more competent in the target language we meet new challenges with the children.

One of these challenges is to revisit and address the need to make those important links between sounds we can identify and know in words.We need to remind our learners that are moving on to apply the strategies we have practised as games in our learning of the  phonics of the language as they reapply this knowledge independently in new word(and truthfully also in familiar words that we may not have seen for a while).In truth the strategy below will be very familiar to primary KS1 class teachers.

As I write this, I am thinking of all our learners not just the children that quickly pick up and understand the language as in my opinion we are trying to help as many young learners as possible learn the "tricks of our trade". In my opinion we need to make the stepping stone strategies explicit and give the children key prompts to be successful. Hence the challenge for the associate teachers after Christmas of holding "Look!Think!Link! "moments  with our young learners in KS2.

We are going to plan for and apply our "Look!Think!Link!" moments from the start of next term. I think this will become a prompt or a pause to say stop and think before you read out loud  for the children.

  1. What can you see written down?
  2. How many words?  
  3. Which words have you seen before?

  1. Can you break the words down in to letter groups that you know how to pronounce?
  2. Can you think of a word you are confident in saying which contains the letter string you are not certain about? (Say this word silently in your head and listen for the sound pattern you need for the word(s) you can see in front of you)

  1. Can you transfer the sound to the new word(s) and rehearse the word as a silent word in your head 
  2. Now can you read it out loud clearly and more confidently? 

KS2 to KS3 language learning.Beginning to make sense of the many windows on this World

To be able to look for practical ways forward in how we build and disseminate the possible constructive and effective links between primary and secondary languages is both an exciting and also challenging opportunity.   

I love this picture below.It makes such a statement!It tells me about building blocks and layers and colour and diversity and different shapes and sizes all coming together and all having windows on the world.I think this translates well as a a visual depiction of how we are trying to bring KS2 and KS3 together as windows of opportunity on the world of language learning

"Aren't there many windows on the same language learning World!"

As I write,I am in Germany- getting the "language buzz".Why? Well, German is my foreign language and I love the language with a passion.It's the reason that I continue to speak French and that I can try to access Spanish and generally love languages.It wasn't the first foreign language I learnt, but all those skills I continued to practise in French were so much more easily accessible when I was learning German.I  relaxed in to the second foreign language and my learning was accelerated.
Even now at 52,I am still learning the skills of communication and still enjoy puzzling out the structure of language.When you are in the actual country you are reminded how you don't always have to be absolutely accurate to be understood,how you can rephrase or say something again,how it's okay to make a mistake,how there are always new words or phrases to take on board and first and foremost how very important it is that you feel confident when communicating.

This year as part of our DfE funded Warrington Teaching Schools Alliance project I have the great opportunity to work with Jo Gierl. Jo has been a HOD in one of our local high schools for several years and now teaches German and French from KS3 to KS5.She has two young bi-lingual children and already on a personal level see the bigger picture of the value of language learning from an early age. 

We are very fortunate that Jo now works as an associate primary languages teacher within our network too - one afternoon a week in KS2.
Jo's first challenge was to start a blog diary of her observations this academic year(2104-2015) as she explores the language world of KS1 and KS2 and also as she disseminates her findings to her own department and then meets and shares with other local HODs and their colleagues..Jo's blog already has me hooked From Primary to Secondary.

What is so very real and refreshing about her observations are that she is looking at primary language learning as it really is happening - not on special occasions but  as it is really happening and planned for on that day in the week she visits the schools.Jo is able to look at the learning she has read about and heard me speak about for herself . She is seeing the different approaches to the same big picture in 3D....

To help Jo when she works with her KS3 colleagues it will be important that she can share concrete examples. so over the last couple of weeks Jo has observed French,Spanish and German primary language learning here in Warrington.
Here are some of Jo's observations so far that are beginning to colour in the bigger picture for her of what language skills Year 6 children can already use or are developing.

Two weeks ago she observed @joanne_hornby delivering Spanish in a local primary school. 

"Pupils knew how to use the bi-lingual dictionary, a skill we teach in Year 7 as many children have never come across them in previous years. 
Cross-curricular links and further dictionary skills were made via Roald Dahl’s book titles in Spanish and the children had to recognise words and use the dictionaries to find out the English book titles. Pictures of the Spanish books were shown and the children were commenting on how front covers differed in Spanish compared with their English counterparts."

The following day,she observed @EWoodruffe as she taught primary French.I love the fact that watching KS1 was a revelation to Jo in this blog but here are some very specific comments about what she saw in Year 6.

" This was a full-on lesson…their previous knowledge ensured a prompt start to greetings and general conversational questions. A physical warm up conducted in French, demonstrated by Emilie ensured they were all up and participating, followed by a game of tennis, whereby the questions were batted out and a speedy whole class response was expected in return! When it came to the introduction of school subjects, they knew of cognates, pronunciation rules, grammatical terminology and ways to decipher meanings".

This week Jo has observed German with our very own Barbara Foerster:

"They were asked to match likes and dislike questions with their answers and most pupils were aware of looking for correlating words and patterns in the language. Connectives “und” and “aber” were slipped in and pupils were extending sentences within minutes. Negation was looked at “nicht” and “keine” readily identified by pupils. My partner had a super accent, mimicking that of Barbara and was so confident speaking to me in German"

Jo is beginning to see the bigger picture.She has identified in the snippets of her observations that I have copied and pasted above -taken from her blogposts -that the Year 6 children,who we would describe as "moving on " learners(not beginners) have developed skills that can not be ignored in secondary language learning.

Our big challenge this year is to see how we can take the diverse and language rich learning of KS2 languages and support KS3. Jo and I hope to explore and look for the "real" links between KS2 and KS3 language learning in our own local settings and then to share our observations and  potential ways forward.
Yes we will need to ask children to learn the same or a different language at the start of KS3, but we need to plan for ways forward that mean children will be able to return to another coloured seat -if they have changed languages or select a completely new seat and try a new language challenge.The option to explore other languages too and move to the other coloured seats successfully needs to become the success story of KS3!  

Language Learning Tools to Share

This year I have the very exciting opportunity to support local high schools as they work through what primary progress in language learning means to their own MFL departments in KS3.I am going to be helped to achieve this by a wonderful colleague, who has just started to tweet and who will keep a running record of how she is able to use these tools in her own KS3 language learning classroom @JoBeeG73 
(As I am meeting with the teacher on Wednesday I thought I needed to put down in my blog what I mean by  "Language Learning Tools to Share").

I see these as "shared approaches to learning a language ,which can put the learner at ease and allow the learner to scaffold their own progress as they recall and use familiar techniques and possibly language and upon which they can  build and explore new and more challenging language you may start off with simple word recall and mve to phrase, sentence and text etc or perhaps you have started with simple questions and answers but you want the children to build in conversational asides or to listen as a thrid party and report back in the third person 

Here are some shared learning tools we know are working well.
By this I mean tools/ resources/ prompts/ ways of recording language and revisiting language  that allow children to use familiar approaches and  activities to explore more challenging use of language in listening , speaking , reading and writing.

...and here is a new tool that I think the learners and teachers will enjoy trying out this year

Changing Faces and Creative Popart Challenge

This evening on my Pinterest board janet's language learning  this pinned item from a few months ago caught my attention! 

Changing faces 
This Popart picture is made up of the faces of Tintin and it caught my eye immediately - as it could be such a great shared language learning tool across UKS2 and then into Y7!

With young learners who are beginners in the target language we can play Quiz Quiz Swap / partner or group guessing games/ create our own written Art work replacing the image of the hair with a written target language phrase etc

With young learners who are moving on in their learning we can give Tintin a personality based on each picture - emotions, names, age, likes and dislikes etc 
We can bring the pictures out again in a different lesson and  revisit,recall and build upon knowledge of sentence structure.

And what about practising those common present tense verbs to describe someone or something? We can practise first to third person verb changes,develop conversations rather than dialogues and generate new Popart challenges for other pupils in the class or add voices and sound via QRs and Yakit!

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!

Text tracking language learning tools

At the start of this academic year I am looking for more  transferable tools to support language learning and to build bridges between year groups and across Key Stages. 

Thanks to Twitter this morning I saw this tweet from @Primary_Ed “Ideas for students to annotate text as they read”  and it reminded me very much of primary school classroom Literacy and Maths working wall annotations and it got me thinking about how we can adapt this already familiar tool for primary languages and beyond into secondary languages……! First take a look at the picture:

For my purposes I am going to call my applications of the  idea  “Text tracking tools”

1. Modern Day Hieroglyphics

We need to remember that in the first instance we are teaching key language understanding with young primary language learners so  let’s ask the children to annotate the text with their own hieroglyphics to share the meaning of the words visually – so for example the simple text

“Ich sehe eine grüne Katze” (I see a green cat)

could have above the key language the drawings of  an eye (ich sehe) a green cat (eine grüne Katze).

Imagine how creative the children could be with a description of presents in a Christmas sack , a witch’s potion, directions to visit different places in the town ….etc, etc ?
It could very easily be a drag and drop activity on the IWB for a whole class reading activity too!

We could ask the children to add “honesty spots” ! Simple coloured spots above the drawings that denote where the children had to use a bi-lingual dictionary to ascertain meanings etc. A skill we need to encourage not deter so the “ honesty spot” needs to have a positive spin!

2. Running commentaries

With our more advanced primary language learners and certainly in Year 7 and beyond we can use and add to the annotation  “codes” in the Twitter picture at the start of the blog.
It will work in my opinion in KS2 especially with our moving on and advanced Y4,5 and 6 learners to allow them to share with us how much they can not only  decode but also comprehend and appreciate of the texts using and revisiting familiar target language themes  in different text types( stories, songs, menus, postcards, letters, poems, rhymes, instructions, posters, emails).

3. Structure running commentaries

Finally with our more advanced learners why not ask the children to annotate the text to indicate where they find an adjective, a verb , a noun, a pronoun, a definite article etc….All you and the class need are agreed symbols for each structure that they can identify . Send them on structure hunts in the texts you give them as individuals, pairs and groups. 

4.AfL opportunities
Looking at individual children’s annotated texts will also allow us as teachers to see where there are gaps in knowledge or just how much the children understand and also how they can empathise with the text and spot the funny bits (a green cat !!!) etc.
This transferable learning tool can start in Spring Year 3 and run right through a young linguists language learning career. 
For Jo, up in  Year 7, it’s will be a  familiar  learning tool for the children which she can adapt as a series of reading  games and activities and a tool which could allow her as class teacher to see what the children do understand in a target language when they arrive in school. 

Sound Pathway Codes, a shared learning tool

Today I am working with a group of coordinators and some of their secondary colleagues at a High School in Southport.We are looking at the new DfE POS and shared learning tools and how to make progress across 7 years of language learning.

"Phonology" as it is referred to in the new DfE POS will be one of our focuses and how this fits in to a sequence of learning plays how we can build progression in to the children's developing understanding of phonics in the target language and the links between sound and spelling.

Phonics as a focus isn't  new ! Obviously!It's a feature of all KS1 teaching and learning in the main language of the schools and in communication skills and learning to read and write.It has always been a part of the primary language learning that has taken place in this country and certainly as part of the KS2  Framework skills and learning objectives.Indeed above you can see an example of a French phonics fan from TTS.

A month ago we held our conference #JLN2014 and the wonderful Julie Prince spoke about phonics and teaching /learning activities  in the target language based upon the book she wrote with Dr Lynne Erler "Sounds and Words" .

Inspired by Julie's ideas I have created the activity below called "sound pathway code" to  take these ideas just that little bit further to see how we can make progress and share learning tools that can be revisited at KS3 particularly in Y7 .

Sound Pathway Code

  • Select your content 

I have selected colours,as it's part of a sequence of activities to practise the 4 skills and to create word rainbows for the classroom.

  • Now create sound pathway codes . Here's are some I made earlier!Basically you need to decide how many different words you wish to use per code,divide your strip in to the same number of sections and add the key symbol to represent the word. Here it was easy because I just filled in the  boxes with the specific colour 

  • Now create you sound stepping stones. 

Once again very easy .They are pieces of white card with the key sound written as a grapheme or letter string in the target language on one side of the white cards.(We are working with French target language colours here by the way!)

  • As a hidden prompt add a small picture ( or in this case "dot" on the reverse of the card that represents the word the grapheme or letter string comes from).Do not tell or remind the class about this!

  • Ask the class to work in groups of four and to a sound code card.Each child in the group needs a different sound code card.
  • Ask the children to place their sound stepping stones on the table with the written letter string or grapheme face up.They must not turn over the cards and see the picture clues! 
  • Each child must take it in turns to look at the symbol prompts on his/her sound pathway code card, locate the correct grapheme or letter string,reorganise the stepping stones in to the order they require to create a spoken pathway from one end of their sound pathway code card strip to the other. 
  • They can check their sound code pathways after each child has achieved their sound code pathway by turning over the cards and seeing if they have selected the correct card for their symbols and in the correct order.For example the first sound stepping stone to match the yellow square on my sound pathway code card is ......

and when at the end of my sound code pathway I turn over the cards I can see that I selected "au" because it's in the target ;language word "jaune" and when I turn over the sound stepping stone card, I was correct as I can see a small yellow dot!

Let's add challenge
The activity above would be an activity for early learners and could also be revisited again and again later in the children's learning to reinforce sound letter links and phoneme grapheme transfer.
But now let's see if we can add challenge that encourages and offer me AfL to demonstrate progress.I played this game on Tuesday this week and it was really well received!

  • Create and distribute the sound pathway codes and the sound stepping stones as above but omit two sound stepping stones per group. do not tell the children you have done this .Let them figure this out .
  • In my game the players began to realise that two colours I had selected "rouge" and "blanc" didn't have a stepping stone that fitted the word! The players at first thought there was a mistake and then the penny began to drop! Each group had the same or similar problems!
  • I could see who realised this immediately,who could tell me the problem  of the missing stones and who could suggest ways to resolve the problem by suggesting letter strings or graphemes for two new blank sound stepping stones so that they could complete their sound code pathway walks.   

Next step?
Well next step for me would be to ask the children to create their own sound pathway codes and sound stepping stones with a "twist" as above  for another group to use.The process of creating the game would mean that they need to :
  • think about the sound and spelling of the words
  • identify key letter strings or graphemes
  • write the key letter strings or graphemes on the stepping stones
  • play a new game with familiar language prepared by other classmates and puzzle out the challenges of the new game!