Monday, 3 November 2014

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!

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