Monday 30 June 2014

Abstract art and beginners target language learning.

Sometimes the simplest things inspire! Take  a look at this simple but wonderful book that I have just bought  myself ! I love "Art" and particularly abstract art. 

This week @valleseco  has been sharing ways to make sure that schools can make the time  for primary language learning and has listed and described ways that schools can make time for languages across the curriculum as additional activities:Time for languages.

Simple ideas that many of us already consider and ways that many of us already plan for and use to generate additional language learning.These ideas work just as well where the class teacher delivers the language learning or where the class teacher engages with the languages teacher, be it a visiting teacher or a PPA swap.In these instances there is definitely the scope to add five and ten minute "class teacher ownership " learning opportunities.Why not go cross curricular?

So how do the book at the top of this blog and the article about time allocation link together? Well this book is just one example of how we can create effective cross curricular links with language learning ,.... (and possibly use authentic target language literature as well)

Take a look inside! Go to here 30 cercles and get a taste for this very simple book which could be used in target language learning for five minute additional activities to 

  • practise numbers, (Maths)
  • colours, size, (Maths)
  • commands like "find","touch","draw"  (classroom communication skills)
  • explore famous Art and artists. (Art)
For example : Vassily Kandinsky cercles concentriques 1913

Kasimir Malevitch cercle noir vers 1923

I am certain that primary minds are now buzzing... why not create your own abstract art books with colours or squares or lines?????
Mondrian comes to mine and Kandinsky once again....

Ask the children to create their own group abstract art books with numbers ,colours and shapes from 0-10 or 11-20 or 20-30 and ask them to name their pieces of art too.Each child must take responsibility for two pieces of art in the style of an abstract artist. 

Saturday 28 June 2014

Nouns, definite and indefinite articles and colour card magic tricks

This last week @EWoodruffe and I have been busy training groups of staff at individual school CPD sessions. We worked in one school where the children in Year 4 to Year 6 are moving on in their language learning and the staff were keen to find ways to support their growing inquisitiveness about the grammar of the French language.

As part of the CPD we looked at nouns and how to practise knowledge ,recognition and application of definite and indefinite articles. Here are the games, step by step. You will be able to revisit these games over and over again as the children learn more language and hopefully this will increase the children’s growing confidence in how to use articles before nouns.

All you need  for the games in French are six coloured paper squares to represent le ,la ,un,une, les and des. (If you apply these games to other languages then you will need n amount of different coloured cards to represent the amount of definite and indefinite articles you are practising in that specific target language)
You can reduce the number of coloured cards and still play the games if you r focus is just on definitie and indefinite singular articles or definite and indefinite plural articles.
Each child will need their own sets of these coloured squares too.  

We are making the assumption here that the children already know a series of nouns within a context such as animals. The children also already are aware that in French there are two singular definite articles and a plural definite article and they have had exposure to the indefinite articles too . You can play the games below and go through the steps just to practise definite articles in the singular and plural or to practise the change between definite and indefinite singular articles . It's a mix and match opportunity to practise a grammatical structure :the use of definite articles "the " and indefinite articles "a/some " with nouns in the target language.

Step One
Discuss clearly with the class the noun magic trick the class have become aware of- whether this is different words for" THE"/ how to change "THE to A" in the target language or plural words for "THE and SOME" we have become aware of ….

Reveal an empty table on the flip chart.This table below has four rows and three columns…. because we are looking at the big picture and assuming that the children are ready to practise changing between singular and plural definite and indefinite articles .But why are there four rows?
Well all will be revealed!

First we ask the class to go on a noun class hunt .In this instance we are looking for animal nouns and for three specific animal picture cards concealed on the room . You can  pretend to be explorers with language hunting binoculars and look carefully around the classroom for cards that have been concealed e.g.

“Cherchez le serpent/la souris/les poissons” 

Place the animal pictures in the second row of the table and then remove and replace the cards when you have collected them all with the correct definite article when the class are confident to tell the teacher  the noun  with the correct definite article.

Remember we were playing these games as part of staff CPD and the great thing is to have Emilie our native speaker teacher supporting too. The teachers  loved hearing how Emilie is teaching her own little boy to speak French and always says the noun with the definite article in French when they meet new nouns together.This came about from a question by a teacher about “Well how do children in France learn if it’s le or la?” Thanks Emilie – it’s great to have native  hands on knowledge like that! We thought you may also like to know this and share with your children too.

So in the second row write the definite articles in French after removing the pictures of nouns (le serpent/la souris/les poissons)


In the fourth row place the indefinite articles after  discussing  how you are now looking  “a snake/a mouse/some horses”.
Go on your animal hunt   using our imaginary binoculars…talk about how this time  you aren't  specifically looking for a specific snake etc. 

As we  are no longer looking for a very speicifc snake etc one of the teachers on CPD suggested that we should therefore have more than one picture card of “le serpent” etc so that children could make a random choice not an exact definite choice. Good idea!

Once again place your pictures on the chart,but this time in the third row. 
Remove the pictures and replace the pictures with the correct written indefinite articles 


So why have we got additional rows?
Well now we need to add our magic trick colour coded guide! Take a look!


The colour blocks represent the article below them, green is le , blue is la etc …..

Step Two
Practice your magic trick by checking that if “the teacher” holds up a coloured piece of card the children can respond  by calling out the correct definite or indefinite article

Step Three
Look at a list of known nouns (e.g here our focus has been animals in French) with definite articles, written as a list for the children. 
Call a colour  and the children have to select a noun that they can use to say the correct definite/indefinite article with that noun
e.g. If “blue “ is called in the target language , then the response from children must be a feminine noun ( noun preceded by “la”) but if brown is called in the target language then the children’s response must be a noun in the  plural with the indefinite plural article “ a plural noun of the animal preceded by “des”

Step Four 
Make this a pair game 
Call a colour pair game. Simply ask the children to practise as a game "step three" but this time in pairs.

Step Five  
Show a colour, say a colour and can a child give you a full sentence with a correct article and noun?

Step Six  
Make this a pair or group game 
Simply play step five as a pair or group game .

Step Seven
Ask the children to order their coloured paper squares in any order they wish and to challenge a partner to say animals with the correct definite/ indefinite article in the order that has been arranged with the coloured squares for them by their partner.

Step Eight
Ask the children to play last article standing.
They just select a coloured square and stand up holding the square clearly in front of them. The teacher selects one of his/her coloured cards from a bag and says a noun which has a corresponding definite or indefinite article before it .
If the children are holding the coloured square that corresponds to the definite /indefinite article that the teacher has used,they must sit down. Who will be the last children standing?

Step Nine

Play the game above as a table game.
Make this a pair or group game 

Teachers at the CPD session felt that over time they could confidently grow n their own competent use of definite and indefinite articles by playing and practising the games and steps with their classes- not necessarily all the steps at one time or all the definite and indefinite articles singular and plural at one time.
We felt that over and over again we can come back to these simple games and play some or all of them to reinforce children and teacher knowledge of definite and indefinite articles with nouns. 

Hope you find these steps and simple games useful too!

Friday 27 June 2014

Bi-lingual dictionary wizards- a simple guide

The bi-lingual dictionary:an important key to the target language door!
Help your children to become "bilingual dictionary wizards!

I think it's a really great way to introduce grammar if you liken basic grammar and the tools to support non-native speakers to access target language as "keys to the door" or "magic tricks"
Here's the first really important "key to the door":the bi-lingual dictionary.
Children love bilingual dictionaries as they see them as special and treasure troves of words .
All we need to do is teach them the magic tricks of how to access and use then and then they can become a really                                             useful learning tool in the language classroom.

Magic tricks to know about and try out!
Stage by stage take your class through how to use a bilingual dictionary.The stages here are explained in  black and then the magic tricks are written in red.
Children love exploring bilingual dictionaries and once they see them as important learning tools then they will have the freedom to find the nouns etc they want to say and use rather than use the language you provide them with.

Do the magic tricks work when your children try to prove the stage descriptions?
You are going to need a class set of bilingual dictionaries- preferably one between two to make your "magic tricks" work best! 

  • Stage One
English words are in alphabetical order in the second half of a bi-lingual dictionary.Ask the children to turn to the middle of the book and see where the English words start. Can they tell you the first English word they can find . What letter does it start with? How can they prove it's the start of a list of English words in alphabetical order?
  • Stage Two
Target language words are at the front of the bi-lingual dictionary appear in the alphabetical order of the target language.Ask the children to turn to the front of the book and see where the target language word list starts. Can they tell you the first target language word they can find in this list. What letter does it start with? How can they prove it's the start of a list of target language words in alphabetical order?
  • Stage Three 
If you look up an English word in the bilingual dictionary,the target language word is written next to it.Can they check this for you with some common words you may have already practised in the target language (e.g nouns for animals - cat,dog, horse etc)?
  • Stage Four
If you want to check that the nouns you have found in the target language is correct , then you need to "cross reference" it by looking for the word in the front of the dictionary. Remind the children that these words are in target language alphabetical order- so it may be cat in English but it's gato in Spanish.Can they prove that this is the case, looking up nouns in the English first target language second section and then cross referencing them in the front of the book in the target language- English section and finding the target language word first?
  • Stage Five 
Next to the noun on the right hand side it will indicate whether the word is a noun, verb, adjective, adverb, preposition . In easy learning and child friendly dictionaries it may well say the actual word “noun” etc on the right hand side. In most bi-lingual dictionaries in brackets on the right hand side there will be an abbreviation which tells you that the word you looked up is a noun etc (e.g a noun is indicated by a "n" in brackets) .Can the children check that this works every time. Select some nouns they already know, write them up on the flip chart and ask them to find them in the target language first- English second section of the dictionary and see if they can see the word "noun" or in brackets an "n" after the noun?
  • Stage Six
Take the children on a similar learning journey to find familiar adjectives and verbs See how they can access them from English or access them from the target language section or cross reference the words they find and also find proof that they are verbs and adjectives.
  • Stage Seven
Bilingual dictionaries help us to know more about the words. We want the children to feel confident that they can look up a noun and know whether it's "le chat" or "la souris" in French etc. How do you know whether a noun is in French le or la and in Spanish el or la or in German der,die or das? In easy learning dictionaries the nouns are often written with the correct word for "the" preceding the noun. However there is a simple magic trick! If the dictionary has in brackets after the word an (n..) it's also going to have the letter "m" or "f" in French and Spanish and "m","f" or n" in German.The lettesr represent - masculine,feminine and neuter ....these are not sexual genders, see them as tags /codes that tell the person using the noun if it's masculine we say "le" , if it's feminine we say "la " in French. In Spanish masculine is "el" and feminine is "la" and in German masculine is "der", feminine is "die" and neuter is "das". Can the children find nouns in the dictionary for you and if the word for the is already written next to it can they tell you wherther it's masculine , feminine etc and if the noun has a the abbreviation  for example (nm) or (nf) after it , can the children tell you the noun with the correct le/la ( French) or el/la (Spanish)etc.

How to create bilingual dictionary wizards of your children!

  • Play games with the stages described above.
  • Make sure the games are age and stage of learning the language appropriate
  • Take time out to access bilingual dictionaries and prove and then revisit and prove again the rules . 
  • Create team challenges 
  • Encourage children to explore new nouns and use them in the spoken and written work and not just to rely on the list of animals/ clothes etc you have given them.
This is one of the key ways to help the children to see the importance of the bilingual dictionary as a language learning tool.

Primary Teachers and Bilingual Dictionaries at the ready!
This is a second way to help the children to see the importance of the bilingual dictionary as a language learning tool
I would suggest that in your classroom you should have a class bilingual dictionary for everyone's reference including your own.
As primary teachers remember that you are the facilitators and you are helping the children to try out the magic tricks for themselves. 
You can cross reference words too to make sure that the word you find in Spanish/ French etc really does have the meaning you want to convey and that there isn’t another word that would be better.
When a child asks for a word you don't know or aren't sure about let them see you access a bilingual dictionary to find it out and ask the class to remind you of the rules you have practised. 

Thursday 26 June 2014

Summer celebration messages based upon Bloemenwinkel tradition

Thanks to Carmel @OHaganCarmel !Carmel shared with us this blog post called Traveling with Kids Belgian seaside and a very special Belgian seaside tradition for children.If you have been following some of my recent blog posts you will see that I have been focusing on the beach and the seaside.It's a big part of our Summer SOW. The blog posts so far have been about:

The tradition I love from the article about Belgian seaside is "Bloemenwinkel "

You can read about the tradition in the article linked to the picture to above  in the blog article I referred to at the top of this blog.I love the fact that children pay for the flowers with shells and also that these are made from tissue paper or crepe paper and are sold on the beach to the children who visit.
I think we can  make a wonderful final lesson for Year 3 and Year 4 just before Summer with this idea. 

We will firstly go shell counting.
Simply using shell shaped card templates with numbers on the reverse side and in lots of different colours we will hunt numbers.
Use eight different card colours and divide the cards into groups of eight (eight different colours and random ordered numbers written on the reverse side)

We need as many shell cards and numbers as there are children in the class and we need to use eight different colours of card each time.
We will play the game in groups of eight cards at a time in a random order or selection.
Can the children guess the shell number and if they can they win the shell and if they can't the shell is put back on the board.The children need to say the colour of the shell that they want the teacher to turn over  and guess the number.

Explain the Belgian seaside tradition to the children and share the pictures from the blog article with the children 
Locate the seaside resorts on the Belgian coast.Did the children realise that there was so much seaside in Belgium?Do they know where Belgium is and what languages are spoken there?
Can the children now help you to create your own Bloemenwinkel (flower corner shop)?

Creating the Bloemen

My "bloemen" will be like fortune cookies.There will be one each for every child with a celebration written message chosen and written by another classmate on the flower head,which is  made of a rolled coloured paper strip.

Each child needs a strip of coloured paper and a straw and some selotape.
Each child selects a strip of coloured card that is wide enough to write on and long enough to roll ,so it will fit on one end of a straw- just like miniature versions of the flowers you can see in the picture.
Provide the children with a range of phrases they can select from to write on their strips of coloured card in the target language.
For example:

Have a great holiday !
See you in September
Enjoy the school holidays
Have a good rest!
Enjoy playing in the park!
Enjoy playing with your friends!
Look forward to seeing you at school in September 
It's the school holidays ! Hurrah!
Summer is here!
No school in August 

Make sure your class can understand the phrases.You could practise them as "celebration sayings" with cheers and happy voices - celebrating the fact it's nearly the holidays 

Here are some Bloemenwinkel made by my colleague Joanne Hornby with her Year 4 class.They went outside and put them in a flower bed and drew lots to pick a flower from the bloemenwinkel.Joanne says that the children loved the whole activity and the fact they had something to take home at the end of the year 

Here are the phrases in French:

Passez de bonnes vacances !
Au mois de septembre!
Profitez bien des grandes vacances!
Reposez vous bien!
Amusez vous bien au parc!
Amusez vous bien avec vos amis!
J'ai hâte d'être en septembre!
C'est les grandes vacances! Youpi!
L'été est là !
Pas d'école au mois d'août!

And in German

Schöne Ferien!
 Bis September                      
Genießt die Sommerferien
Erholt euch gut!
Viel Spaß auf dem Spielplatz!
 Viel Spaß mit eueren Freunden!
Ich freue mich schon, wenn ich euch im September wieder sehe.
Es sind Sommerferien! Hurra!
Der Sommer ist da!
Keine Schule im August

And in Spanish
Que tengáis unas buenas vacaciones
Nos vemos en septiembre
disfruta de las vacaciones
que descanséis
disfruta jugando en el parque
disfruta jugando con tus amigos
nos vemos en el colegio en septiembre
son las vacaciones
 hurra el verano ya llegó
no hay colegio en agosto

Ask the children to select two messages and to write them on one side of the coloured paper strip.They need to write it clearly and carefully in the target language so another child can read the message clearly.
  • Now they need to roll the coloured card strips and attach one end to one end of  straw.
  • Collect in the flowers and attach one of the shell cards with the number showing to the base of each flower.
  • Now hand round a bag which has numbered shell cards inside .
  • Each child takes a shell and must say the number and then find the flower with that numbered shell card attached to it .This is his/her flower and s/he can unravel the coloured paper strip and see what his/her celebration saying written message is. 

French Poem writing about a day at the seaside

In my previous blog post  I shared with you how we can paint a picture of a Summers Day using an authentic poem. This is based on a poem abut a quiet Summer's Day . I also suggested that hopefully lots of children will have lively , loud, active Summer's Days perhaps by the seaside and that we could use the original poem about a quiet Summer's Day below to create our own alter-ego poems about a lively Summer's  day at the seaside.

So here we go!

l’ été
se balance
où l’oiseau
se tait.

dans l’air

l’ été
les blés.

(Anne Marie Chapouton)

Step One 
Revisit the poem that as a class you have analysed and used to paint a picture of a peaceful Summer's Day Ask the children to read the poem with you again and to perform the poem as described in the previous blog is the activity again: 

Read the poem for the children again.
The class and yourself are now going to try and create a spoken picture of the poet's descriptions.
  • Ask the children to help you put a backing track to the poem. All the children need to do is repeat over and over again in a whisper the first two lines of the poem "Silence,silence" like it was the breeze wafting through trees. 
  • Read the poem for the class with the children's backing track (whispered quietly) accompanying you as you read aloud.
  • Divide the class in to three. Each third of the class is responsible for the reading of one of the verses of the poem with you , whilst the rest of the class are the backing track.
Step Two 
Ask the class to help you to re-identify the key words in the text and remind yourselves of the pictures that have been painted by the words of the author.
Explain that the children are going to create the "alter-ego" poem to this original poem. Instead of a quiet Summer's day it's going to be a fun , lively ,loud day at the seaside
  • Using bi-lingual dictionaries and working in pairs can the children come up with new verbs that they would like to use in their poem ..if the poem was about children playing at the beach on  a warm Summer's day/ the way the sea moves at the seaside/ the noise people make at the seaside  
  • Ask each pair to share with a second pair the verbs they have found
  • Ask the pairs as they share their verbs to give the English meaning too. 
Step Three 
Give each pair  a version of the table  below.
On the left is the original poem
on the right is the skeleton of their Summer's day at the beach poem.
Can the children working with a partner or in larger groups generate a poem picture of the day at the beach.
Ask them to add verbs to describe :
  • what the  children are doing in the first verse
  • how the sea moves/behaves in the second verse
  • the sound/noise of Summer  at the beach
The children should use the template on the write of the chart to create their own three verse/sentences to describe a day at the beach.

Practise writing the correct verb forms(using verbs they have suggested) with the children so that they feel comfortable with third person singular and plural form of the present tense. You may want to create a temporary post it working wall so children can go to the wall locate the verb they want to use and if necessary take t back to their tables so they can refer to it .


l’ été
se balance
où l’oiseau
se tait.

dans l’air

l’ été
les blés.

(Anne Marie Chapouton)

L’ été

l’ été
se reveille
où les enfants

La mer
sur le sable

l’ été
au bord de
 la mer.

Step Four 
Now the children can write up their new poems and either perform them for the class or create a picture background to their own  handwritten poems  about a Summer's day at the beach .