Wednesday, 11 June 2014

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 

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