Friday, 25 April 2014

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.


  1. Show and tell is one of the best developments ever in CPD, and great to see these examples. We won't all agree on everything, but this is not a problem.

    With this in mind, I always teach the spoken and written forms of words together, so that I can bring out and explain patterns, and use all channels of communication to promote understanding. Cathy, like many other teachers, presents the sounds first. Which is better? Is there any way of finding out?

  2. Another great way to
    Language Learning
    is to pick up an audio book that you know well from reading in your own language, but the audio book is in the language you wish to learn. Listening, repeating the way words sound, copy catting. This is not only fun, but I have learned two languages this way.