From policy to practicality.Primary languages and beyond!

Last week at CPD in London delivered by Lisa StevensSylvie Bartlett Rawlings  and Julie Prince and myself ,we shared with colleagues some effective and creative ways to bring story,cross curricular learning,technology and phonics and literacy in to the primary classroom.
In the room with us were primary and secondary colleagues, all of whom identified with what we had to share and could see pathways forward for their own learning environments! Thank you Lisa,Sylvie and Julie! 
Lisa made Sketch Notes of presentations and here are her Sketch Notes of my presentation.....and below listed in point form are the points I raised.

Policy to Practicality Points to Consider and Reflect Upon.....

  1. What does language learning and thought of it make you feel? How was language learning for you at school? Why should this inform your approach in the primary classroom? 
  2. If you are a secondary languages teacher - how can you make sure that your language teaching practice in the primary classroom is language learning for all and not those who pick it up quickly or in certain way?
  3. If you are a primary specialist teacher then look for all thse wonderful links to literacy that you bring so readily to the classroom.
  4. If secondary linguists and primary non speicialist language teachers talk and share - it will make and does make already in certain instances magic! 
  5. Are languages a bit like driving a car? I learnt in a Fiat Panda and when my father asked me to reverse the Rover off the drive to pop the new Fiat Panda on the drive - I froze! why ? Well I had learnt in a Fiat ~Panda....could I really reverse a different type of car? Of course I could - slowly and stutteringly but safely .... I had learnt to drive a car hadn't I? What a sense  of pride I felt once I had done this! Even to this day I know that I can drive cars- albeit stutteringly at first in a new or strange vehicle!!
  6. Pupils want to move forward .Self efficacy makes learning a "self" perpetuating need as learners achieve and want to learn more and get better.They like feeling successful- that goes withoit saying really! What we need to do is provide the tools so they can be successful.
  7. Self efficacy demands that we listen to what the children want to say and we must consider what age and stage our learners are at and what they can already do.A young child for example wants to tell you that he /she has hurt his/ her knee or his/her head hurts and not that he/she has a temperature or may have a stomach upset! Young children generally want to talk about things that are relevant in their lives: sweets,toys, family and  today and tomorrow and probably not talk about things that have no relevance in their own lives.
  8. The Purpose of Study in the DFE POS  is a powerful paragraph.The opening line about the "liberation from insularity" is our green light to explore the World with the children.It's the WOW factor!Tasting,investigating,meeting,speaking,singing ,dancing, understanding more about the world and moving away from the small world of the child in some instances! Breing the world in to the classroom - virtually or with real experiences and make it age and stage appropriate!
  9. Balance the learning between "Listening,Speaking ,Reading and Writing". Acknowledge that not very many people are purely auditory learners.Sometimes the best primary practitioners are those that have to find lots of ways to facilitate learning of limited language because they themselves have got to re-learn or learn for the first time the language they are teaching- which helps them to understand the needs of the learners very well.
  10. KS1 practitioners are fantastic at seeing the links between basic building  bkocks of sentence building in english and the transfer of these activities to KS2.They all seem to love the Sandcastle Sentence Building that we do with our KS2 Y5/6 learners in the network! It seems to me we all have so much to learn from each others' expertise!
  11. Our young learners told us in a school learning journey programme a few years ago that they wanted to be able to talk to other children their own age and they wanted to hear what they have to say about their lives.This was how they saw being successful in language learning.Age and stage appropriate,this is a wonderful way to engage the language learners of the future! Personal information is still important and we need to provide them with the scaffold of questions and answers and show them how to constrauct dialogues and conversations.
  12. Be imaginative and creative.I have most certainly been asking children to be "language detectives" all my teaching career with what ever stage or age of learner I have been working - indeed with adults too! Make the learning memorable.
  13. Problem solve - not you but facitate problem solving for the children .I know of course  that not all children want to "do drama" (even though I love this approach!) and I advocate providing a very mixed diet of learning.
  14. Encourage reading for pleasure and listening just to listen - don't always look for results and progress ....Maybe it happens without us noticing sometimes?
  15. Link language learning across the curriculum - embed the learning in the curriculum and take time to  share this with the wider community.Are you looking at pirates as a school theme? Well what about going on a treaure hunt in languages and  go on a word treasure hunt as pirates gathering new treasure from their "pirate bilingual treasure chests - the bilingual dictionary".
  16. Take time to meet the demands of "emerging, meeting and exceeding" statements we so often here now.Notice that I am suggesting we take time! Let's make learning accessible to all.Remember languages spiral up and spiral down- like Maths - as a learning process.If you rush it, you will lose some on the way! Share the magic tricks (if you are a linguist) - explain that you don't know every word or you don't know how to say every word or get the gender right every time.Share the tricks of phonics, synthesis , bilingual dictionaries, watching , mimicking, having another go , tryong to use new language in different circumstances, memory skills, jusing our voice machines....language learning skills ( any one remember those?) .If you are a non -specialst then go on a languages learning strategies journey with your children.Give them time to share and discuss these strategies - as this will help them if they swap languages too.(Remember my analogy -the Fiat Panda?)
  17. Plan for progress.In KS1 we look at "education of the ear".In KS2 plan for progress with grammar.Make it one of the most exciting and memorable journeys that children take .I mean -how exciting is it to find out that there is more than one word for "THE"!!! ??? And if you are a languages' expert I believe that with a little help all faciliators of language learning can facilitate  basic understanding of grammar- we just need to hep others! 
  18. Moving on in to Year 7 consider the progress and build on the foundations laid.Talk (perhaps work) with your primary colleagues.Don't knock the building blocks down, but review, reflect and then build upon the language explorations the children have taken part during their primary language learning journey.  

Let's not try to square the circle.One Key stage is different to anothet ,but let's enable each of us to put building blocks in place,so that children can move forward and access joined up thinking that takes our young language learners on a very exciting skill development journey ...becoming a linguist!

 Some of us remember the last time we felt the "language learning train had set off  from the station" ... this time in my opinion we must all keep going on the journey!
I picked a lego train on purpose (left) because we all have something valuable to contribute and we must join up the dots to make progress.  
Linguists like recurring patterns,problem solving, puzzles and communicating with others - so we should be able to do this!

Function machines and the processing and recording of grammar knowledge

One of the best things about working with groups of class teachers is often the links that teachers make with language learning using tools and focuses across the primary curriculum.On the first day back after October half term Emilie and I worked with a start up school  in their first year of rolling out primary French.When we work with schools where languages are new this year,we often hear them ask  "what about the grammar?"

Well today we were considering nouns and I have in the past blogged about ways we can approach breaking down the understanding the function of nouns and how to support children to grasp that in other languages there is more than one word for "The" and"A" (Teachers are often afraid too!) (Here is my blog from June on nouns and definite/indefinite articles or the washing machine grammar device)

Over the last couple of CPD sessions Emilie and I have been asking the teachers to realise that nouns in French have "tags" .
Emilie explains how she is teaching her own little boy French and always introduces new nouns with a tag (un cochon/la tante) never a noun alone!
We make sure that the teachers can see that words "masculine" and "feminine" do not mean " male and "female" and we ask them to visualise pulling nouns out of  "masculine" /"feminine"  tag labelled drawers.The idea of physically opening the drawer and being able to select a noun, take it out and use it seems to work well.Teachers also like the idea of the tag being a "function button" on a virtual drawer.It works.We can quite easily  get the teachers to see the link then between the  le/un  or la/une.We love it when the teachers then feel that they confidently use and also explain nouns over a period of time to young learners. They can see and identify the stages in the process of practising and becoming confident in the use of nouns too! It's a lightbulb moment!  
Today I clarified this with a flow chart .... and then that was the magical moment,when a teacher amongst the staff who enjoys the logical process of maths suggested she would like to add "function machines" to the children's learning journals we had been discussing. She explained that this would help her and the children she teachers and then receives the following year to progress through the stages of learning from beginners, to moving on to advanced! She explained that clear diagrams help her to process and use information and data.Do you know I completely got this! Faced with teaching Year 6 Maths whilst on supply along time ago the class and I created function machines not just to help the children but to help me as the teacher who wasn't an expert to understand how to grasp new mathematical concepts!

And do you know I think that this will work for lots of us - teachers and children in language learning.Hence the robot machine at the top of the page as here is our link to functions and processes.It's also a learning tool that we can pass from year group to year group and even pack in our virtual suitcases at the end of the academic year. 

We then went on to explore how over four years we could build up these function machines on nouns, adjectives and verbs so that in Year 5 or 6 a teacher can ask the children to refer back to their function machines to independently look for and use new language! It gives the teacher in every KS2 year group and especially up in UKS2 a point of reference and support too!

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!  

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. 

Real transition and next steps forward

This is probably a note to self and also a reference blog for a cluster of primary schools and one of their local high schools, who are working together to generate real and purposeful transition.
These are practical points from a real scenario.I think that is important to understand should you read on,as it's a record of what is really happening and can be achieved and a solution for one set of circumstances .Below is a link to a blog which shares links to other possible solutions ....

A real way forward 

Today I have had the pleasure of considering the Year 7 Autumn term and the resources that the secondary department started to use last year.During our shared cluster/dept meeting in spring it became obvious a review would help to maximise the resource.The HOD does not want to just go over old ground and wants to extend and challenge the new Y7 arrivals from KS2 in September but also wants to be secure that all pupils get the same start.I am certain that there are teachers out there who recognise this scenario too. 

Transition does not happen overnight. 
Today though in this transition project the momentum is gathering pace and the primary and secondary schools together are taking over the reins.
Great news!

It's taken us three years and then "some" to get to the point where there is not just dialogue but effective action to address what primary into secondary language learning is beginning to look like.The "then some" are the five or six years prior to this that the y practice local primary schools and myself have been working toward what good primary practice looks like in their individual schools and circumstances (staff, timetable, resources). You will also notice that I wrote "beginning to.." as  things will continue to change and the organic nature of change is important. The last three years have been crucial......

 In these three years there have been: 

  • primary meetings of cluster teachers with myself
  • feedback to the HOD
  • meetings with the secondary staff with myself
  • reviews of progress
  • access to shared learning tools (the High School belong to our network and can access all the webiste materials and resources)
  • shared emails 
  • a "re-look" and changes to the  Autumn Year 7 materials at the High School
  • discussion of materials with HOD and myself 
  • sharing of Year 7 resources with Year 6 teachers
  • year 6 performance and sketch project 
  • year 7 taking the performance and sketch project and creating their own opportunities to develop and extend this
  • shared department and cluster meeting with real examples from KS2 and real examples from Year 7 and 8 that sparked exciting dialogue and real commitment to see the links.
  • a Summer 2014 Year 6 celebration project to be revisited and built upon in Year 7 Autumn first three weeks.... and don't forget the sketches from the sketch and performance project too!

It's not racing ahead. It's small sensible steps.It's not asking KS3 colleagues to approach language learning in a primary manner or to ask KS2 colleagues to set up listening comprehensions "secondary " style. It's been about fitting jigsaw puzzle pieces together and making room for additional pieces of the ever evolving picture..... It's getting exciting.

Reading this it may seem a naive blog but since the mid 1990s I have been working in both primary and secondary language learning. Each has it's own identity.What is required is a scaffold and someone to support the building of the scaffold. Different solutions will be needed for different local challenges and additional rungs and support keep on being required. KS3 does have the challenge of drawing together different primary school approaches etc but this happens or has happened across other subject areas too. 

So my review of Autumn Y7  today tells me that we don't necessarily need to throw the baby out with the bath water.That resources and approaches  in KS3 to meet the new POS requirements can fit alongside good primary practice.

How? Well,as always take simple strategic and achievable steps:

Next academic year KS3 needs to be (and some of this is already happening):

  • Be aware of the contexts and content your KS2 colleagues deliver
  • Understand how primary look at phonology - songs, rhymes, phonics activities
  • Understand be aware of the stories and exposure to text
  • Understand and be aware of primary creative outcomes and the writing that will take place
  • Understand and build upon the learning tools such as games to develop recall, memory , participation, communication

Next academic year KS2 needs to promote(and some of this is already developing):

  • the use of bilingual dictionaries
  • understanding of basic grammar - nouns, adjectives and some common verbs
  • the development of memory and recall
  • quality exposure to the written word
  • offer primary creative learning 
  • provide a platform in year 6 to secondary language learning- through shared learning or reviews of prior knowledge and skills

So today we are at our next point in this evolving journey and what the first term in Year 7 can really look like from September 2014 within this cluster.

I have been able to identify with the HOD at the High School September's next steps:

  • provide all year 7 staff next year with access to a brief resume of prior learning
  • apply the shared knowledge of prior learning sensitively and intelligently to the Y7 Autumn term learning resources (knowledge gained from cluster meetings,emails,access to  JLN SOW)
  • celebrate prior knowledge and skills and look for age appropriate revisiting and consolidation of learning through the spoken and  written word- familiar content in the existing secondary resources with unfamiliar twists! 
  • encourage and support continued use of bilingual dictionaries to create independent learners
  • continue to promote creative outcomes 
  • support the pupils to access secondary style listening comprehensions and to identify and apply skills of listening they have been developing in KS2
  • promote and encourage extended writing in age appropriate ways
  • expect and support the pupils to use prior learning particularly using memory and recall and see the links with new knowledge
  • have confidence to revisit and extend and also to move quickly through areas in which the pupils are very secure

Now we need to see what will happen next and how we will need to tweak , re-adjust and move on again next year!

Transition in a suitcase between year groups

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

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

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

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

Maybe it's your.....

and remember the books you have enjoyed reading too!

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

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

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

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

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

Transition between KS2 and KS3 in languages


Yesterday evening after the @guardian live chat on how to teach the new languages curriculum it was time to take stock and consider all the points raised and discussed.

What do we have to do?

In the new DfE POS teachers of languages are required

at KS2 
to provide the foundation for learning further languages, equipping pupils to study and work in other countries. 

and at KS3 
should build on the foundations of language learning laid at key stage 2, whether pupils continue with the same language or take up a new one. 

Local solutions and different approaches are being generated it appears. 

Keep ourselves informed!

Maybe some of these links will help to inform help to inform the learning journey

What is it looking like out there in the real World?

Well I am sure we can all share examples of transition and good primary practice and this all needs sharing too!

Here are two blog posts about two local developments to try to tackle the local challenges of transition.These are not necessarily solutions for everyone but are ways of setting off on the journey and approaching the demands of keeping continuity and building upon prior successful learning.

One high school is able to have a French learning continuum from Y3 to Y7 and is now holding meetings together with their primary colleagues to understand what the children can do.Simple projects that are easy to manage and deliver have been set up and are supporting developing dialogue about language learned and skills being developed.

The second high school has an alternate year French/Spanish Year 7 learning programme and is looking at transferable skills and links between French and Spanish that allow the pupils to access language. 

What we are learning .....

  • Share models that you create. 
  • Accept that they won't work for everyone
  • Be willing to listen, adopt and adapt 
  • Be willing to trust and have meaningful dialogue
  • It takes time!
  • It takes commitment
  • It's slowly slowly dripping tap...small steps forward and adjustments are required. 
  • Establishing networks both virtual and  face to face keep the dialogue and developments moving forward
  • Remember that when the children move to Year 7 it's a gap of six weeks in language learning but on entering secondary school the children will need time to adjust.
  • When it works, then the teachers on both the primary and secondary side of the fence feel valued and willing to go forward with the next steps.
My current conclusions?

Should we not accept perhaps many roads that lead to Rome! and maybe too this is at the moment necessary?

In our network we have schools starting off, schools who have children who have been learning to speak a new language from Nursery , schools where the children already have languages they speak well as home languages and schools where other priorities have meant that here have been staff changes etc. 

It's certainly challenging but we can address the demand of effective transition if we go step by step and support each other.

KS2 and KS3 making links between language learning

This morning I sat down with the  HOF, Julie Sutcliffe, at University Academy  High School  to plan a link lesson visit to local cluster primary schools. Here is another “work in progress” transition project that JLN are working on.

First a little context , over the last 18 months the High School language staff and I have been considering the links between KS2 and KS3 .The school has access to the JLN SOW JLN SOW. The high school runs an alternate year French Spanish Y7 language learning programme with the option to pick up the second language in Year 8.We are looking for simple solutions to local transition here.

Julie is aware that some of the children are just setting off and other children are writing simple texts in the present tense.Over the next couple of years the children will all begin to work at a similar level

Last academic year Julie and I looked for links between KS2 and KS3 learning by using the SOW as our reference point. All Julie’s main cluster primary schools are working at an early or more advanced stage with this SOW in French or Spanish. We were looking for links – in language , structure and skills..

Julie and I then adapted the current 2013-14 Year 7 first term learning scheme, offering KS2 children the opportunity to share prior learning, access familiar games and songs and use familiar learning tools and approaches. We considered ways of sharing knowledge across the two languages of French and Spanish to bring children up to speed or to allow children to value the knowledge that have gained during their primary language career. Last Summer term we held staff training for the secondary language department to look at prior learning and development of skills.

There was a light bulb moment when we saw a way forward for this high school and its year 7 intake! How often do we as linguists move from French to Spanish to find key words or to understand structure or grammar? As linguists we can promote with the children in Year 7 some of our “tricks of the trade” and how we can reinforce “language linking skills” they may not as yet have realised they possess! We are therefore building on prior language learning and knowledge as the new DfE POS asks KS3 to do! 

The children in Year 7 this year have made the links between the language learning that took place (mainly in French in KS2) and the new language for most of the children in Autumn term Y7 in Spanish. Masculine /feminine nouns- much easier to develop , because there have been similar links made in KS2, foods, animals, days of the week ,months of the year  etc, etc– the children as “language detectives and explorers” are simply making links between prior learning of French and the new language of Spanish. 

The children who have arrived in Year 7 with Spanish are not being held back as the speed with which links are made between French and Spanish is allowing progression to happen quite naturally. I loved an email earlier in the year  from Julie that told me the children just conjugated the verb “tener” because they could already do this in French and they understood why and how!

So what comes next? Well that’s what we have been planning today. Next year the cohort arrive with French and learn French in Year 7 .So Julie’s challenge with this next  year’s academic  cohort is to look more deeply at the skills the children are bringing with them from KS2 and how to build on these in a language they are familiar with already We remind ourselves all the time that we are helping young language learners with competent basic skills become linguists. So what skills of a linguist have the children already developed? 

Reading this on paper or hearing it from me for Julie  is not the same as actually experiencing this. With limited time and finding days that suit primary and secondary, Julie is flipping the languages and trialling the following school visit to two cluster schools,where the children learn French. They are going to explore some text level Spanish… because don’t forget she also needs to promote the Year 8 second language option. After the trial visits she will be better equipped to inform her secondary colleagues about  what to expect of young year 7 language learners who are looking forward to becoming linguists!

The activities are based on this you tube clip ………….

And a  power point word document that one of the associate Spanish JLN teacher uses to help her KS2 classes in Y4 when they learn this song with both the words and pictures to explain the actions and body parts. 

Why have we chosen this?
All the children will have practised the parts of the body in Year 4 as part of the class alien building activities and throughout their language learning with songs such as “Heads, shoulders, knees and toes”. Take look here – Karen the teacher at one of the cluster schools presented her simple ideas about the use of Mr Potato Head to practise parts of the body with Year 4 French.
It is a song that the Year 6 class teachers can then follow up and practise and use as part of their end of year leaving assembly or as part of their World Cup                                             celebrations  and link to the Brazilian Crown making 
                             activities as a Spanish samba style dance!

It also allows Julie to get beyond word level quite quickly , allows her to engage with the primary style of language learning and to promote the liveliness, cross curricular nature  and effectiveness of speaking another language!

Below are the simple steps and activities that Julie will follow when she visit and works with the trial cluster primary year 6 groups .She should meet  approximately 90  children in total in the two schools and will feedback her simple observations to secondary colleagues that are written below in red.We will let you know in a later blog post how she gets on!

1.French – revisit familiar body parts language with a song e.g. Heads, shoulders , knees and toes/ Jean petit qui danse (nb You Tube clip)
Reinforce and practise/ revisit language so all children are comfortable with the key words for transfer activities.
Feedback : knowledge and retention of language
You Tube clips: Jean  petit qui danse / Heads, shoulders , knees and toes
2.Spanish key word cards / French key word cards- matching activity
Promote the skill : finding meaning of new language through second language knowledge
Seeing links  and patterns in words from different languages
Feedback : making links between la familiar and an unfamiliar language
Spanish body part word cards
French body part word cards
3.Finding the key words in the Spanish bilingual dictionary What else can we now find out about these nouns
Use of bilingual dictionary
Recognition of masculine and feminine nouns
Feedback : prior understanding of how to use a bilingual dictionary/are children aware of masculine and feminine nouns and how to use the (m) and (f) to find this out?
Spanish bilingual dictionaries – one between two – provided by high school.
4.Match the written word to the spoken word

Listen ,read, respond activity
Feedback :  listening for key  sounds /word recognition skills
Spanish word cards for children
Teacher to only use spoken word
5. Listen and watch the You Tube clip – which just show the words of the text. Spot the key words and point to the correct part of the body
Identifying and understanding key familiar words in an unfamiliar text.
Feedback : accessing sentence level text to find familiar language.
You Tube clip
6.Add the missing words to a text
Look for cognates / semi cognates in commands within text
Understand text by accessing picture and clue prompts
To feedback  : following a foreign language text and anticipating key language. Exploring unfamiliar text by context  
PPT of song with pictures on IWB – key body parts omitted.
Children have Spanish word cards
7.Perform the song
Recall prior knowledge and familiar language  
Listen, read, respond and join in
You tube clip
8.Leave text and song for follow up by class teacher as part of World Cup/ end of year celebrations
9. Children’s feedback
Children to complete simple slip of paper with 3 points that they have realised/ considered/ explored whilst exploring a new and unfamiliar language about their own language skills
Feedback to secondary colleagues

Paper for children

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.

city running commentary

This half term with Year 5 in French, Spanish and German we will be working on language we may need if we visit the target language country .We will make virtual tours of a famous city and explore the sights and buildings of the cities.

We go to Paris , Sevilla and Berlin.

I have used this idea of a running commentary with KS2, KS3,KS4 and also with adult intermediate learners at primary French Upskilling that we offer as part of our network support.

It can be organised and delivered on a variety of grammatical levels. 

  • To recap familiar nouns
  • To practise adjectives
  • To create a present tense description of a city using the phrase in the target language for  “there is / there are…”
  • To give directions and add prepositions of place to descriptions
  • To talk about a virtual visit you have made etc
Take a look at this famous you tube clip of a tour of Paris: 

Here’s how we will be using this activity with our Year 5 and our intermediate French upskilling group this half term…….

 Stage One
Let your pupils or students watch the clip and enjoy the sights and the sounds.

Stage Two

Now all you need to do is create cards that have the key nouns for the buildings you can see in the clip. 

Here are three French examples

Le pont
Les magasins

With beginners I would use maximum of 10 cards and we would have talked about the cards and what they could mean first. With Year 5 and intermediate adult learners we would look up unfamiliar nouns   in a bilingual dictionary and discuss gender and whether the nouns we can see on the cards are singular or plural.
If you colour code the words they can see the patterns more clearly e.g. green for masculine singular / blue for feminine singular nouns/red for plural nouns/
Ask your learners to familiarise themselves with all the key nouns which they have spread out in front of them on the desk.

Stage Three
Now play the clip again! Can the pupils sort the noun cards into the order they see them or notice them in the video clip?
Here is the Spanish clip we will use:

Stage Four
Ask the pupils to work in pairs and share their order with a second person, comparing their orders. They will need to use the phrase for there is / there are (il y a …../hay……/es gibt …….)
It’s not a case of being right or wrong as they may have missed an item the first time it appears on the screen.

Stage Five

Can the pupils now change the nouns in the descriptions they have created from definite article nouns to indefinite article nouns. 
Share examples they will need – masculine singular/ feminine singular and plural indefinite articles.

Stage Six
Now play it again Sam! 
Here is our German video selection for a tour of Berlin: 

Invite volunteers to create the running commentary for the video clip. 

Turn down the sound and the volunteer just like a tour guide should describe what they can see, using their descriptions and saying the key phrases as they see the items on the screen.

Further Development?

This activity could be an activity that bridges the gap between UKS2 and KS3 because in KS2 we could add adjectives, directions or add prepositions to develop and enhance our descriptions.

And in KS3 there’s the opportunity to use a familiar resource, familiar nouns and a familiar activity to , change tenses  , create dialogues, add adjectives  and intensifiers, create more complex sentences using relative clauses and make comparisons .

Thanks go to Julie Prince too @PrinceLanguages who alerted me to these wonderful city tours to the tune of Happy 
Take a tour round  Paris and Sevilla!

A journey worth the taking: as a little girl I remember my Grandma sharing with me Miss Hilton's suitcase. This was no ordinary suitcase as this was the suitcase of a distant relative who had travelled and had been on "European Tours" at the start of the 20th Century.

I was fascinated by the labels on this suitcase which told me a story of places she had visited.

Yesterday on Twitter I received this tweet below.....  

Next half term with our Year 5 children we will take them as tourists on a journeys around target language (French , German , Spanish) cities and places. 
Using the picture above as a model and referring the children to globes,class atlases  and going on Google Map journeys we will be able to link geography, culture and language learning together to create our own artistic versions of the journeys and the cities and the experiences the class share on their learning journey.

Let's use country maps, zoom in with city maps , take print offs of google map,track where we can visit on Google Maps and add imaginary postcards . We can add items to touch and feel and smell associated with the city e.g.Sevilla - orange blossom.

Reading in the target language is great

Target language books are great !

Reading story books with target language learners was a revelation to myself back in about 1997! At the time my children were young readers themselves and it seemed crazy that I hadn’t made the link myself between the types of colourful , engaging and repetitive stories that they enjoyed and re-read and the type of books that my young target language learners would enjoy and ask to read again and again.

The delight back then on  the Year 6 child’s face when we read la chenille qui fait des trous and the delight again  when the Year 8 child realised I was reading  Max et les maxi-monstres ! This was perhaps a mystery to me at first (although I have always loved children’s books and am also an avid reader of all literature )but then I realised it was because they felt they could understand and follow the whole story . They were revisiting books they had enjoyed in primary schools too! They even felt like competent translators of texts !

Now we work with a comprehensive SOW  from Year 3 to Year 6 and try to integrate target language story books as often as we can .  A tweet this morning from my colleague @EWoodruffe just made me smile. She’s been to  


back home in France and bought some more books that we will be adding to our collection of stories next term. (Somewhat jealous really as love book hunting!)

The network news article from Sam the languages coordinator at St Philips in Warrington caused me to think about how reading crosses boundaries as an effective learning tool and how all children can appreciate books !  Sam  read and used my blog on Vive les livres for  Day 

World Book Day

 and created activities where children looked at and appreciated English language books but the children                                                     

categorised them with French language

Sometimes we use stories that we can sit, watch and  listen to  and appreciate with the children for example   die kleine Raupe Nimmersatt (

die kleine Raupe Nimmersat

 on You tube ) 

 by Eric Carle (actually read in German by the author

Les trois souris peintre s( 

les trois souris peintres on  You Tube ) 

 : The story of three mice who want to be artists read in Fren


The German song retelling the story of Hansel and Gretel (

Hansel und Gretel Lied

 on You Tube)

Behind each story is a learning purpose – so the hungry 

caterpillar is a great

way to revisit days of the week and reinforce foods before making your own diary of a week’s food or your own books of the simplified stories 

The story about the mice allows us to listen for pleasure to watch the moving pictures and to reinforce our practise of colours with the children

And the Hansel and Gretel clip is an excellent tool to look 

for nouns ,

identify verbs and develop the children’s ability to follow 

and comprehend a story . 

Plus there’s the added bonus that they can practise the song 

and join in and perform this at a later date !

Here’s a link to the story books we will select from each half term to support the children’s language learning in French. We have similar plans for Spanish and some German too .

Books used from Y3 to Y6 in French language learning

And here are my   thoughts upon   why these books are appropriate   for the stage of the language learner and his/her development in the target language. These books are the gateway for the children in Year 3 ,4, 5 and 6 to familiar language in unfamiliar contexts , to creative opportunities to re-use language , to memorable stories with humorous twists , to familiar stories that the children haven’t before realised  exist in another languages as well as  English, to other cultures and to non-fiction with facts they really want to know or investigate!  Our learners reactions enable us to see what they find interesting and engaging and encourage us to use text in ever more 

                            creative ways .

We would certainly pinch the phrase from the DfE new POS and call them “great”. 

“great” to support learning , 

“great” to read with the children , 

“great” for independent reading 

“great “ as a platform to develop young language learners knowledge of a new language and its structure . 

The icing on the cake are the “great” traditional target language  stories such as roule galette when we celebrate epiphany in Year 4 les rats des villes et les rats des champs from Fontaine – a great favourite in “our town- your town” focus in year 5 or Astérix BDs we share with the children when we look at funfairs in Spring Year 6.

We start them early with target language books – we follow Uki from KS1 and puppets we make right through to a more grown up and argumentative Uki in Year 6  and we introduce the children to non-fiction too ……

With KS1 we enjoy traditional rhymes ,  tales and familiar stories . Here are my blogs on how we develop creative education of the ear learning opportunities in KS1 with 

shadow puppets and Goldilocks


We are going on a bear hunt in KS1


We love "Mes p’tits docs " 

Our learners enjoy fiction and non- fiction and in the target language,using books created for the target language young audience we can read  and share facts about the target language countries .

From Year 4 onwards we will dip into and share mes p’tits docs – great non-fiction books to support our learning about the bakers and french bread, circus – what a French summer event , la station de ski ( a huge hit with our Y6 children!)

Books open our children’s minds to creativity . 

Take a look at my blog about one of my all time favourite books : Chapeau

chapeau and carnival time

Books allow us to  investigate core language through the engagement of the imagination – a choral performance of une histoire sombre

We can develop a class and group rewriting of key sentences in  il y a un alligator sous mon lit makes learning about rooms in the house so much more exciting! 

We make  creative DT displays based on Aaargh une araignée 

We can work with traditional tales combined with a  more mature investigation of fairy tale characters and fears through ” Même pas peur”  . 

Finally this year we have stepped out into trying to combine music and literature -indeed great music Au carnaval des animaux from Mozart with a great story about these animals going to a fancy dress party – funnily enough called au carnaval des animaux!

And guess what the target language results were great !

Please don’t read anything sarcastic into this above statement . 

We must select the books carefully  , encourage young learners to walk with us through stories , select books for their structure or their creative learning opportunities and then provide children with the supported learning environment to step away from us and explore simple target language audience stories on their own.  

As for me I will still be spending hours of pleasure in target language book shops finding the next great book to use in our language teaching and learning  . 

Must check my diary for when I am next abroad  !