CPD and food for thought on primary language teaching and learning

So what did we learn yesterday at the conference?(JLN2014)
Well ....

  • First and foremost the importance of networking and working together and having strategic direction to support us.
  • We have networks within networks but they are all held together and moving forward. We are fortunate enough for example to have networks of language learning teachers, networks of subject coordinators, some cluster networks,associate language assistant and teacher networks and schools..... 
  • Teachers need to meet , to share ,to listen , to learn . Yesterday demonstrated this so clearly.Emails this morning say how great it was to go away with practical ideas, to have taken a different look at an area that already exists in school or is a new challenge and to have met familiar faces and new friends.
  • There is a great deal of good practice and knowledge out there around primary language learning that when it comes together in one place can allow everyone to see the bigger picture.
  • The power of social media to share with colleagues who couldn't be at the event but can take a close look at the event and follow the strands of the conference back in school
  • Teachers take ideas and make them their own- again this morning the emails say that teachers are thinking of ways to use Clare's mini-books, are already trying out Julie's phonics ideas, want to share with their class Emilie's two selected APPs for speaking and have practised Joanne's warm up greeting song in French, Spanish and tried to put it in German!
The big picture to take away from the conference:
  • Song ,games and short burst activities keep all the children engaged and allow us to practise and revisit familiar language and build children's language knowledge.
  • Songs are engaging for all ages and stages. It's what,how and why you use them in your lessons that matters.Delivery , joining in and performance bring them to life and make them stay in the memory!   

  • Phonics play a huge role in the development of both children and staff's confidence to be able t work with an unfamiliar target language
  • Phonics should be a shared learning approach throughout KS2 and also in our schools where we teach languages in KS1
  • Phonics is a one of the major keys to unlocking the reading code of a target language and helping to solve the mystery of |"I am no good at languages!"amongst teachers and children
  • Physicality in learning and the use of drama and mime allow children to operate in a target language beyond repetition for repetition's sake
  • Time to try, talk and share is paramount to disseminating good practice 
  • Teachers do focus on reading and writing and should b be encouraged to look for creative ways to read and write and this is not always reading authentic literature or writing the word down
  • Creative written outcomes such as mini books lend themselves to whole class activities ,imaginative use of simple target language sentences and a focus by each individual child on basic grammar

  • Teachers and children love story books that are engaging with great graphics ,well designed, have purpose,link to the learning content and contexts, lead to creative outcomes and can be read again and again!The raffle prizes had purpose below .. as each book links to a context and content that teachers will plan to teach next year and guess what they can share their teaching and learning at a Spring network meeting!

  • APPs can make a difference to children's accuracy in speaking and writing, when they are chosen for a real and specific reason and  the outcome is a quality product that can be shared and revisited. APPs can support teachers to encourage children to maximise potential in  a target language.
  • Using clips that are available to us on the internet to bring a city or a place to life for the children such as Emilie's virtual tour of Paris, add interest and purpose and a deepening understanding of the target language country at an age appropriate level.

Food for thought for myself and maybe for others about the future of primary language teaching and learning and the workforce we need to engage to achieve this.
  • Yesterday at the conference there were colleagues who speak a foreign language well , are native speakers , have a degree in languages,were trained as specialist primary languages teachers, have an interest in languages,are keen to promote languages in their own schools, are improving their own language,identify their own strengths and weaknesses in a foreign language 
  • Each colleague was there because s/he has an identified role in school to deliver effective primary languages. Each of them was engaged, looking for own next steps, found support from colleagues, engaged in healthy debate about best next steps and left the conference with a positive next step in mind.
  • Primary languages is about engaging the whole  community of learners no matter what level or experience they have in language learning and allowing individuals to thrive with as much support as they need to do so.
  • Networks within networks, support for everyone,clear goals and achievable next steps all come to my mind .... helping everyone to feel that they can be part of and contribute to the agenda and providing them with the building blocks to succeed. 

Full circle progress together

I don't think you become a teacher without wanting to share and watch and support people of all ages develop. Teaching languages is in my opinion a joy!

Watching colleagues and schools rise to the challenge of primary foreign languages,succeed and breed success is probably one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. 

I think there are quite a few colleagues out there who would agree with these sentiments. 

Getting ready for our conference next week and reflecting on what we are achieving as a diverse group of schools and individuals , Kate's email popped in to my account and this came to mind....full circle  support and making progress together. 

Meet Kate ! 
I met Kate as she changed career. She had a degree in languages and the ability to speak fluent French and Spanish. Kate decided to become a primary school teacher and her background in English and Drama helped too in making this decision.
At the time I was the languages consultant for Warrington LA , but our paths had crossed before as she had attended the same High School where  had taught French and German, from where I took groups of A Level language students out to the local cluster schools to develop drama and primary language workshops .Like myself Kate had always loved Drama and made the natural links between languages and performance.She wanted to train as a primary teacher with a languages specialism  - but wanted to be sure first .
So for one year in 2006 -7 Kate worked for the Language Assistant Programme in 5 different primary schools in Warrington with myself .To this day I remember her skeleton rap with Year 5 in French and we still use Kate's culture and counting power point! A year later she trained to be a primary school teacher.

Since then our paths have crossed at local support group meetings and at our local conferences. Kate found a job in a school where language had a good profile and an excellent MFL Coordinator Mel Cowap(also with a primary languages specialism PGCE as her training). 

Now meet Mel! 

Mel  encourages staff to participate,has set up a meaningful programme of study filled with wonderful ideas and resources and goes out of her way to find  ways of linking language learning across the curriculum.Just before Kate joined the school I accompanied  a group of Primary Heads to Dijon on a Headteacher to Headteacher link ,set up by the British Council .The school established a link with a primary school and have really pursued this link- important if you want to keep it alive.In the first year they did a playground to playground comparison for example. 
A year ago I sat down with Mel to discuss the visit from French primary children from Dijon to the Warrington Primary school. She had set up a treasure hunt round school for all the Year 5 and 6 French and English children and was in the process of going through letters of application from the Year 6 children to be guides and buddies for the day for the group of visiting Dijon children.  Mel has been on maternity leave this year and Kate has overseen the languages. I love the joined up thinking and the strategic approach to developing languages.Indeed this is a school where all those years ago (between 1998 and 2002) I  took sixth formers to develop hands on drama and languages workshops in French and German!

So now we have come full circle. Kate has a little boy and works part time. She also works with ourselves once again as well ,one afternoon a week. Mel is back at work and will be at our conference with Kate next week! Their passion is most definitely primary languages but they are first and foremost primary classroom practitioners at Broomfields CP School.  

At the weekend I sent out an email to ask my associate colleagues to consider areas of progression in primary language learning . You can read about this here.
Kate's response was about her own Year 4 class  at Broomfields CP that she works with all year round as a primary class teacher job share. She delivers their French language learning too. When I read what she wrote I decided that this was a message for my blog. The children are making progress with the class teacher that they trust.The progress is in place and Mel( the coordinator at the school) has put in to place a system of learning that guides this. Kate has implemented and encouraged the progress this year and the children in her own class are making very good progress.Remember that the progress they make is based around singing , games, drama, story, creative work across all four skills and as e can read the children are making simple progress in their understanding of grammar and their knowledge of France via their link with Dijon!

This is what she says: 

In terms of progress my year 4 class has increased their ability to listen for specific sounds and words, write simple words and phrases on whiteboards, in air writing, in greetings cards and a through writing a letter to a pen friend. Their speaking confidence has grown in terms of transactional language (asking and answering questions) which we use as much as possible throughout the course of the lessons and in terms of picking up new words and phrases.  When meeting new vocabulary and matching the words with their definitions,the children will automatically look for cognates and near cognates and will readily use these technical terms to describe their strategy. 
They will then look out for words already known or which can be worked out, paying attention to any faux amis (false friends) which, as language detectives, they need to be suspicious of! Then, lastly they will use process of elimination. 
At this stage, the children are aware of grammatical rules such as there being more than one word for 'the' in French and that the adjective usually comes after the noun.  
In Year 4 we have also increased our cultural understanding by looking at the city of Dijon, where we have a link primary school and how it compares and contrasts with our own home town. The children have used bilingual dictionaries to look up nouns and adjectives. 
The next steps for these learners will be to revisit and review some key phrases and vocabulary at the start of Year 5 then to move on to new content areas of language.  They are going to listen to more complex words and phrases and have the opportunity to read longer phrases and texts in French.  They will also work on speaking more at length, expressing opinions and will practise short presentations to perform in front of the class. To add to their knowledge of grammar, the children will meet regular (and some irregular) verbs.

And what does this progress look like in practise in the classroom as teaching and learning?

Here is a report from our Network News from February 2014. The school had a primary BEd ITT with primary languages as her focus.She spoke some Italian too and the teacher and the student  linked her knowledge of Italian with French and also German and spent a day at the end of the half term celebrating the languages of the Winter  Olympic Games. Once again it's about team work, sharing and networking. 

Here is the brief report ..

"Co-ordinated by class teacher and MFL teacher Kate Percival and BEd student Jenny Pimlott, the three Year 4 classes at Broomfields took part in a rotation of activities, experiencing German, Italian and French!  

On the first day of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Year 4 were shown videos of what kinds of sports to expect to see and learnt their names in German whilst adding actions, going on to play Simon Says (Max sagt...!) and a splat game against an opponent. They then looked at the kind of useful and non-useful clothing you would take with you to the games and played Quiz Quiz swap with the words in Italian and the pictures of the items.  The children also solved a mystery in French about which sport Marie wished to see in Sochi and each child wrote a sentence in French on their own Olympic gold medal to take home as a souvenir of their day.  They finished by enjoying singing and dancing to J'aime skiier...'.' skiing song! 

It's a long time since 1998 when a foreign languages teacher with her group of sixth formers went into local cluster primary schools for the first time.
It's been for a long time that I have had the honour of working with the Head, Mel and Kate from the school.

It's a long time since Kate first asked could she join the language assistants ' team.

Strikes me it's all about support ,networking and sharing!

What has continued all the time is the support:
  • support I received from line managers to go out and trial primary languages and drama,
  • support the primary heads gave me with the drama project,
  • support I received when I became a languages consultant
  • support that Kate received as she went in to local primary schools to be a language assistants 
  • support of Mel for Kate and Kate for Mel 
  • support for a training teacher, to see and feel what primary languages can really look like 
  • support of a network and the individual links schools and teachers can make with each other 

A year in a network

Our annual conference is next week 17 June and it will be our 11th conference …since 2011 as Janet Lloyd Network and before as Warrington LA. 

We have grown and developed together. There are mini –groups within our community: the “Upskillers, the Spanish teachers, the Co-ordinators, the supportive SLT, the links abroad schools, the whole staff training and trainers, the JLN associate language teachers, the bloggers and tweeters (!!), the transition groups  and the children. 

Have you considered the impact of your commitment and hard work?
How many children learn a primary foreign language locally?
A few weeks ago I worked out that for example on an average Wednesday, 2,000 KS1 and KS2 children in our network learn a primary foreign language! 
A remarkable achievement ,which is very much all down to the network member schools and their commitment to primary language learning. 

We have schools that are enhancing learning, schools that are steadily developing their language learning and schools that are beginning or restarting their language learning. Each school contributes to the whole network and the subject coordinators are definitely key.There are now 90 of you in total!

This year we set up Network News to share within and outside the network, practical and creative approaches to a whole year’s language learning. 

Up to this point it was just the associate language teachers and myself who could watch the whole picture take shape every academic year.

Here is a just a taste of the activities and ideas the  network members have developed to engage their children in purposeful language learning  between September 2013-June 2014…. And I am certain we will do more yet this year and I am looking forward to all the wonderful ideas still to come ,based upon the World Cup, Tour de France  the Commonwealth Games, the beach, the circus, the puppet shows, Summer celebrations etc!
Thanks to all network members!

Subject Coordinators ' CPD
Throughout the year you have met in your mini-groups and kept in touch by email, Twitter and the website. The three Subject Coordinators’ CPD sessions have been hugely successful and informative with 52 schools attending the three sessions over the year.

Local support group twilights 

We have held our regular local support group twilight meetings, this year  about Playground 
Games ,Carnival and our own first Show Tell and Share

So what has happened this year?


Many of us celebrated European Languages Day by launching our learning aspirations revisiting simple language , making and flying kites and investigating international kite festivals such as Berck sur plage 

From KS1 to Year 6 you shared your kite displays!
Thanks to St Elphin's for the original idea !

St Margaret’s CE learned and sang the chorus of “Let’s go fly a kite” in French for a whole school performance!
Other schools held whole school celebration days and parents’ assemblies. 

Alderman Bolton for the second year running invited the parents in to school to try out some language learning.St Lewis' linked up with pupils from the local high school to set up a French market in the school hall and many of you had language investigation days ! 


Rainford CE held Spanish spooky goings on in their language lessons.Lots of you took your children on virtual autumn walks with our colour and sound poems and St Philips Year 5 produced a wonderful display of their own Autumn term poems  

Some of our schools  focused this year on developing  grammar with UKS2  and in October we worked on wizards potions with the verb to have….and the children created their own poems , like this one above from Cinnamon Brow CE.

Schools with links abroad were busy getting their Christmas gifts ready or developing learning projects via Skype.
St Oswald’s involved the whole community in gathering local documents, photos and evidence to share what the area they live in, looked like in a by- gone time and shared this with their Spanish link school for their "My home, your home" project.
We held our first of the three LSGs... and were filmed at Stockton Heath by the BBC!

The creative ways to celebrate Christmas in a target language that you all came up with,were amazing. You can read about them all here on Network News!

 St Bridget ‘s combined their Christmas carol fundraising  with their French language learning, St Ann’s CE Warrington held their annual whole school ”Bûche de Noël  with French instructions session. 
The KS1 children at Bruche CP and Evelyn Street put on their Spanish performances of  Goldilocks and the Three Bears. 
St Elphins created their own versions of the chocolate Spanish clapping game, changed to café au lait and we tried it out at our Associate Network Teacher Christmas party as a Saint Nicolas forfeit! 

So many of you made your own descriptions of Christmas famous characters too ......

Everyone loves the alien family and they arrived in Year 4 as usual during January. Cronton CE  on their first day back were treated to a Roscon de Reyes made by Mr Thomas , 

...and  many of us woke up one morning in January to find out we had been on BBC Breakfast News , filmed during one of our Autumn LSG CPD sessions! 

It’s carnival time! There were monsters and masks and fancy dress . 
Westbrook Old Hall and Plantation CP went to town on monster descriptions and grand monstre vert story, performance and  displays.

Birchwood CE created Arcimboldo fruit faces. 

Dallam created their own Spanish omelettes  as part of their Spanish healthy eating unit !

And Broomfields CP went on a virtual tour to the Winter Olympics practising their French and learning some Italian on the way! At the end of the virtual tour they received their own gold medals too!


Well it was World Book Day followed quickly by Mother’s Day. Emilie’s  Year 4 at Culcheth learned and performed rhymes about the family ,which they made in to raps using Autorap and shared these with a school in Kent!They loved appearing the local press too!


Throughout the year the HODs at University Academy and Birchwood High have been getting to grips with what transition means to them. In April we had a fabulous cluster meeting with the Birchwood cluster to plan for Summer Year 6 and to begin to move one more step forward with what language learning in Autumn Year 7 will look like.

We held our own Show ,Tell and Share in April at Stockton Heath and the simple ideas from eight different schools helped us all to build our own bank of ideas and activities! Thanks to everyone who took part – no matter how nervous you were, you were fantastic!

Easter to end of May

After Easter Latchford CE Year 6 who had  have spent the year getting ready for their trip to Malaga,went and had a great week with their partner school! It was a huge success and as I write the Year 6 from Malaga are here on their return visit.

Twiss Green with Miss Browne have been on a virtual trip to South America and linked their geography with their language learning….

This is just the tip of the iceberg ! 

You have shared and achieved so much this year!
And now we are in June …. And it’s conference time again!
Here’s to another successful academic year ! 

Laying the foundations for future language learning

Laying the foundations for future language learning…… 

Our Show Tell and Share

Yesterday we held our “Show tell and share” network meeting (24 April 2014) in Mandy’s language room at Stockton Heath Primary School, Warrington.

40 primary school colleagues attended the event .Eight colleagues had been invited to share  ideas, or a simple practical sequence of lessons in short 5-10- minute presentations.

It’s important to understand that the colleagues who were brave enough to show, tell and share are primary language practitioners who deliver languages in their own schools every week of the year- one Head teacher, three primary classroom teachers, three teaching assistants and a visiting teacher. 
They represent a cross section of  90 schools in the network and different stages of primary language progress (starting off, moving on and established practice). Most importantly the ideas were practical and replicable and teachers and teaching assistants in the audience  could take ideas for primary language learning back to their  own schools and try them out. 

Illness and monsters

Cathy, from Appleton Thorn CP shared all her creative ways of developing a unit on illness and parts of the body. She stressed the importance of sounds and recognition of the spoken word before showing children the written word. She explained how she feels that this is necessary  to enable all children to make the link smoothly between spoken and written language. Her focus on sounds and patterns and investigating the words helps her children to confidently use the words and find new language they want to say in dictionaries etc. Cathy encouraged us to ask children to look for cognates and near cognates and to link games and practical work with more creative art and design opportunities. 

In this sequence of activities Cathy was using work around fantastical creatures – Frankenstein type monsters to engage the children in learning parts of the body so that they could then develop role plays on familiar everyday matters – going to the doctors and explaining simple illnesses.

E Twinning Project with Spain

Ian from Cronton CE, one of our Knowsley schools, shared how the school had developed an ETwinning project with their new link school in Spain .The school already has an established link with a German school. 

The project was for Year 3 in their first year of Spanish and was based around learning simple weather phrases. Ian’s input was the language element and the coordination with the Spanish school. 

Every day of each week that the project was happening(Autumn 2013), the class TA worked with a different group of 4 children to record in Spanish the temperature, the weather and dressed in clothes appropriate to the weather to create a photo record . 

At the end of each week the group created the class weather report in Spanish plus photos via Pic Collage  and sent this by email to their Spanish school. 

The mail exchange of the Pic Collage reports raised all sorts of interesting points for example what were the Spanish  children doing roasting chestnuts in the playground for a chestnut festival instead of an ordinary school day! Ian’s project show how we are opening the door on new cultures and laying foundations and  interest in  purposeful practical future language learning 

The verb être

Sam from St Philips CE got us thinking about how easily we can integrate work around verbs into our everyday language learning in the primary classroom. She has just run a focus on the verb être  as part of the Y6 children’s work on “Who am I? We loved the video clip she sourced and used  and the simplified rap song she created with the children from the French language in this clip

The children created spider grams of the verbs for example using a sunshine and the beams off a sunshine to show the infinitive of the verb to be and its present tense parts

Sam organised the children in groups of 6 so that they could record themselves introduce one another using the verb être and all its present tense parts.She appeared in all the clips so that the children  could  understand why and how to use “vous êtes” accurately .We were impressed how all the children participated and could use the different parts of the verb! Simple effective use of technology which lays the foundations for future grammatical language learning in KS3. 

(Sam will share more from this project soon on network news )

Mr Potato Head transferable games

Karen from Cinnamon Brow CE talked with us about her work using Mr Potato Head to reinforce familiar language on parts of the body. The activities were obviously transferable and at this point teachers who work alongside visiting teachers were animatedly jotting down ideas they could use to follow up or reinforce language learning. 
For example everyone loved the Mr Potato Head photo shoot that Karen had created (and one teacher said to me “I will get my children to do this”). 

They liked the use  of the same pictures for simple hide and reveal – not high tech but practical and hands on , using A4 envelopes to slowly reveal Mr Potato Head. Karen suggested that the children can play this again afterwards on  their own. Taking the familiar primary “hide and reveal” technique again , Karen shared how she would ask the children to anticipate what missing facial parts there may be on Mr Potato Head in each new game .Simple, effective and activities we could transfer from one  core focus to another and that encourage the participation of all children and understanding ways to make learning fun.

Everyone shares!

Then it was time for us all to share- something that they use in their everyday work as primary practitioners of foreign languages!

I love this photo of Ian and Emma deep in conversation. Emma is a French coordinator
and she was keen to learn as much as possible about E Twinning and next steps for her school!

Human sentences and position of adjectives

Christine from Westbrook Old Hall had taken the time to consider a sequence of five lessons on monsters she delivered in the Autumn term 2013 with Y6

The children in Year 6  revisited their prior knowledge of  body parts, number, colours from previous years in KS2 and discussed and demonstrated their understanding from Y5 of the position of adjectives after the noun .Her focus in Year 6 was to look at the position of adjectives such as grand and petit before the noun  and to encourage the children to speak and write accurately using their knowledge of adjectival agreement.  She used Singing French and the monster song to reinforce prior knowledge and to encourage performance. The children looked at the adjectives grand/petit and the position they appear in French sentences and worked out what was different here to adjectives of colour. 
Christine read Grand Monstre Vert with the children and they investigated  the position of the adjectives in the sentences .

They  played human sentence games ordering 
the words in  French human sentences.The slide  shows how she used a ppt slide to first ask the children to create verbally sentences in French from an English stimulus and then revealed the sentence written correctly on the monster slide.

At this point Emilie,our native speaker visiting teacher- formerly a secondary teacher tweeted ……….

Really nice to hear primary MFL teachers / assistants mentioning grammar & dictionary skills as part of their teaching #showtell

 Town investigations with young learners

Lis from St Ann’s CE and Mandy from Stockton Heath CP talked about the town and how they created their two sequences of lessons based on shops in the town and directions.
What was fascinating was how both of them identified key points to consider – very practical primary points. They considered the experience, maturity and age of their primary learners carefully as they planned the activities.

Firstly that the children need to be guided to think of names of shops as they automatically when talking about a town would say H+M, Tescos  etc and not butchers, cake shop , bakery. 
Lis spent time talking about the town her children know best – Warrington-and then guiding them to talk about the names of the types of shops they had mentioned. Mandy shared with them various maps of French towns and pictures of buildings you would find there so she could  then hold a discussion with the children about which shops they might need to ask for in French. 

Both Lis and Mandy reinforced the cultural differences – how in France you still go to the bakers, butchers etc. Simple discussion maybe... but really important in laying the foundations for future cultural understanding that bridges the gap between what the children have experienced and what we might want them to learn about. Both Lis and Mandy worked with the children on directions and developed physical activities – Lis had a human street and used follow me cards to create role plays. 

Mandy had the children moving to visuals around the room and then she generated with the children a class map and display of a French town. Each child was given a cut out character and had to write a sentence  to give directions to a partner on where to place the cut out character on the  display.

The ideas were simple, effective and   addressed familiar matters  and useful questions and answers laying  the foundations upon which to build more detailed role play and transactional conversations.

Activities which reinforce good practice and language skills

 Last but not least was Jayne @Dewsnip_Jayne, a visiting teacher for JLN. Jayne explained that she was a secondary languages teacher. However over the last three years working as part of the network in 5 primary schools she had found the freedom of the primary classroom a revelation! She has learned so much from her primary colleagues and the children about how children learn a primary foreign language. 

She shared with us her bilingual dictionary work based on Arcimboldo with UKS"2 children.

They investigated what the mystery letters after the words in the dictionary mean (m/f/pl/nm etc) so that they could create their own written and art posters of the Arcimboldo face(link to Jaynes arcimboldo pics) Jayne could see that this would help the children in KS3   language learning. 

Jayne shared her simple game “guess the combination” where from a table of 9 key words e.g. fruits the children guess the combination of three she has secretly written down . Jayne identified that she focused on accurate pronunciation and perhaps without realising this Jayne is once again encouraging good habits before KS3 .

Her puzzle game- simple cut up pictures is easy to replicate and use across all language areas. You need a minimum of two pictures from a core focus or a mixed focus , with a number and colour on the reverse .Children must ask politely for a number and a colour so that  a part  the puzzle can be revealed .Can the children guess and name the item correctly with the definite article or indefinite article?  

The final activity she shared was her work on adjectival agreement when describing a   male or a female and how easily she was able to reinforce this with her mother’s day flowers.  

Working in primary and developing creative primary approaches ,Jayne is reinforcing and encouraging good language skills and knowledge so that KS3 can build upon quality foundations laid in primary foreign language learning.

The overwhelming impression from this event is   that we are making  good  “practical primary progress”. It’s not rocket science and it’s not always all singing and dancing. My colleagues are developing a curriculum in their own schools that is fit for purpose.

In the range of presentations we heard about the four skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing and combinations of these skills to move the children on in their learning in every lesson and consolidate prior knowledge! We were asked to consider culture and links abroad and ways to link language learning to other subject areas in the primary curriculum and colleagues shared how they were encouraging the children to consider the structure and grammar of the language.