Monday, 20 April 2015

Story Towers

My Year 6 Spaniards are coming to the end of our "Then and Now" unit, which finishes with an extended piece of writing describing a place now and in the past.  I asked them before the Easter holidays if they had any ideas for how we could present this writing.  One of the girls suggested a cube, another two doors which open to see the two pictures.  They also suggested a leaflet or an advert.  All good ideas.

During the holidays I saw this on Pinterest and thought it might work, especially as it is a variation on the theme of a cube.  This afternoon I purchased some blank postcards from (Poundland £1 for 50) and made the trial run that you can see above.

To slot the cards together I measured 2cm in from the corner and cut a 2cm slot.  I found it was more stable if both cards have a slot.

I'm sure there are possibilities for decorating the inside as well, which would disguise the "Postcard".

Thursday, 16 April 2015

How should we assess KS2 Languages?

It's a question often asked, and a question to which there is no simple and straightforward answer.  Unfortunately, as the image above suggests, there is no magic wand that can be waved to say "this is what we should all do".  What we can do, though, is to look into some of the background and at some useful documents, and investigate what practising teachers really do.  This will stimulate discussion about what is most suitable for each teacher's individual setting and will inform them of the information that we need to record and why.  This is a discussion that should be held by secondary teachers as well as primary, if we are to ensure a successful 7-14 continuum.

I put together the information that follows for the most recent meeting of the Sunderland ALL Primary Languages Hub, and I thought it would be useful to share it more widely.

First of all, the new Programme of Study for KS2 Languages does not specify the exact level that children should reach by the end of Year 6.  However, the professional opinion is that this level should be A1 on the Common European Framework (CEF).  So when we are designing our schemes of work we need to bear this level in mind. This is the "substantial progress" to which the Programme of Study refers.  Fortunately the KS2 Framework for Languages is targeted at the same level and so continues to be of great help and support.

We also need to consider what secondary teachers are looking for in their new Year 7 students.  I asked secondary languages teachers on Twitter what they wanted their new KS3 students to have done in KS2.    Here are the answers in descending order of popularity:

- Phonics
- Present tense of high-frequency verbs
- Understanding of different parts of speech
- Ability to put sentences together, using connectives
- Ability to adapt sentences
- Knowledge about Language (KAL), Language Learning Skills (LLS), from the KS2 Framework
- A love of language and a willingness to have a go

It was clear from some responses that many secondary teachers are not familiar with the new KS2 requirements.  Those who are familiar with the new programme of study for KS2 appear to be those who are actively involved in teaching it.

I also asked what information they would like to have about the Year 6s coming to them.  Here are the responses:

-          Which language have they studied ?
-          How long have they studied it for ?
-          How frequent and how long are their lessons ?
-          What have they covered ?
-          Balance of skills
-          What activities do they enjoy ?
-          Basic assessment of individuals’ competence

It is important that, in this time of no levels and of different schools assessing in different ways, that we give this information to secondary schools in a format that can be easily understood and therefore used.  Secondary colleagues at the Hub meeting said that “I can” statements were the most helpful.

The topic of assessment has been discussed frequently and at length by the members of the Languages in Primary Schools Facebook group.  I have made a note of some of the methods that people have mentioned:

       Post-its – used to record self-assessment and peer assessment quickly and easily
       I can statements. Children can stick a copy in their books and also record their achievement on them.  The statements will also inform planning and help with objectives for the lesson.
       Photograph evidence – if children do some writing on their mini whiteboard, take a picture to keep for evidence.
       Children self-assess using a red-amber-green method.  This shows their view of their own competence in a certain area.  They could also use smiley faces.
       Teachers use the iDoceo app (iPad only) to record quickly and easily who can do what.
       Take brief notes about who can do what.  Lessons are usually too short and there are too many children to write a lot down.
       It may be possible to fit Languages assessment in to the same structure as the other subjects.  However do we know, for example, what the emerging, expecting and excelling levels are for each year group?!

Sue Cave has produced a tool which breaks down each of the statements in the Programme of Study into four progressive levels.  It's well worth a look.

Another document that is well worth a read is from the Expert Subject Advisory Group for Languages.  It is a very comprehensive and very useful overview.  This link takes you to the pdf document.  

So, as I said, no definite answers, but hopefully some useful information. 

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Writing in Key Stage 2 Languages

The grey shading took ages, and, having done it, I'm glad I scanned it without first!

Still learning.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Language World 2015

Ever since #ililc5 I had been looking forward to Language World (#LW2015) for several reasons.  First, it was held at Newcastle University, only 8 miles from my house.  It made such a refreshing change to be able to hop on the Tyne and Wear Metro to get to a top-class conference, rather than have to make a trek of several hours.  Secondly, I was looking forward to catching up with old friends and meeting new ones.  Thirdly, it was an opportunity to find out new things and refresh my knowledge of things that maybe I had forgotten.  And finally, as you may have read here before, it was an opportunity to practise live Sketchnoting.

Here are the sketchnotes of the talks that I attended.  Those with multiple pages I have stitched together using  If you go to the ALL website, you can download many of the presentations from the conference.  I gave my presentation Be a crafty Languages teacher, which you can find here.

1.  Bertram Richter - Planning for progress at Key Stage 2

2.  Vicky Cooke - Teaching reading in Key Stage 2: leading learners towards independence

3.  Bernadette Holmes - Interculturalism and the power of three

4. Louise Courtney - Primary to Secondary Transition in French: Insights from research

5.  Rachel Hawkes - ALL Connect

6.  Wendy Adeniji - How can your teaching be consistently good or outstanding?

7.  Nadine Chadier - It's all about the code

8.  Carol Hughes - 25 ideas for creativity from Language World

9.  Rachel Hawkes - Memory and Thought: why we can't have one without the other

10.  Steven Fawkes - Now we are 25

See you in Rugby next year!

Friday, 20 March 2015

Craft and creativity

Below you will find the Slideshare of the presentation "Be a crafty Languages teacher" that I gave at #ililc5 on February 28th and at Language World on 20th March.

I thought a lot about the meaning of the word creativity while researching and writing this presentation.  The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that there is no one simple definition.  I believe that there are four types of creativity at play in the Languages classroom.

1.  Creativity in the curriculum:  Creativity in education, generally speaking, is about letting children be inventive and be discoverers.  It’s about imaginative thinking and behaving which is purposeful and directed towards achieving an objective.  When children are creative in this sense, they question and challenge, they explore ideas, they make connections and they reflect critically on ideas, actions and outcomes.  This kind of creativity can improve children’s self-esteem, motivation and achievement while developing the talent of the individual and developing skills for their adult lives.  This kind of creativity is perhaps not always possible in the primary languages classroom because of time constraints and the necessary amount of teacher input. 

Creative teaching methods:  There is no one-size-fits-all method for language teaching.  We often adapt our methodology to the children that we have in front of us, to their likes, dislikes and interests, incorporating things that they like to engage and motivate them, to make the learning more relevant.  We often devise creative and imaginative ways of presenting the language, and new contexts in which to put it.   These more imaginative approaches are a way of reaching out to the very diverse cognitive and emotional needs of the children in the room.  These creative teaching methods probably make language learning a very different experience to the one you yourself had at school.

Creative use of language: Creative use of language relates to using pre-learned vocabulary and structures, and adapting them to create something new and original, and often personal. Language use is a creative act.  We transform our thoughts into language that can be heard or seen.  Indeed the new Programme of Study for Key Stage 2 requires children to “write phrases from memory, and adapt these to create new sentences”.  The word “create” suggests something new and original, but it is also a recreation and redefinition.  It is this stage that we strive for our learners to reach.  We want them to use what they know, and adapt it to say what they want to say.  In the early stages of language learning, in KS2, language use is often reproduction and practice.  Language is governed by rules but there is still great scope for creativity and originality.
“Creativity lies in the ability to construct meaningful language from the building blocks available and to express ideas using the resources available”  Margaret Anne Clarke,
University of Portsmouth

Craft and creativity: There is certainly a place for artistic creativity in the languages classroom.  Designing and making things motivates children and often, if we choose the activity carefully, gives them a window onto the culture of the country or countries whose language they are learning.  It has to be said that many see this kind of creativity as the “bells and whistles” approach, as time-wasting activities which take up time that could be better spent on listening and reading, for example.  We need to strike the right balance of activities.  Craft activities cater for different learning styles in the classroom.
Of course in the primary context, creativity of this kind is an ideal opportunity for cross-curricular work.  The new Programme of Study for KS2 Art and Design says “A high-quality art and design education should engage, inspire and challenge pupils, equipping them with the knowledge and skills to experiment, invent and create their own works of art, craft and design."  No part of the Programme of Study says that this creative work has to be produced in a dedicated art and design lesson, or that it can’t incorporate aspects of other subjects.
The craft shouldn’t be the end of the learning cycle in the languages lesson – they should ideally be able to use the product in a meaningful way.
Artistic creativity will motivate children and will inspire linguistic creativity. Artistic and “crafty” creativity like this breeds linguistic creativity, and motivates children to be more creative all round.  Artistic creativity also allows an audience for the work.  It can be shared with the wider school community and it also makes for great displays!