Saturday, 31 January 2015

What's in the box?


Isabelle Jones revealed to me the delights of Pinterest at #ililc4 last year.  Digging around on it is a good way to spend a cold and rainy Saturday afternoon.  I've been using it enough now for Pinterest to start suggesting things for me.  I always seek out the pins that say "Picked for you", as I know that they will reveal some unexpected treats.  As I have a minibook board on Pinterest, many of the pins that are picked for me are to do with foldables, and today there was a link to an origami box.

My husband and my 11 year old daughter are both keen on origami, but I have never had the patience for it, despite the many minibooks!  I often get to a certain point with the folding, and then can't do the next step and abandon it.  However, my daughter has made a lot of these little boxes, and so I thought I would give it a go.  You can see my box at the top of this post.

While I was making it I had some ideas for how little boxes could be used in language lessons:

  1. Tell the children the name of the object that is in the box.  They have to use adjectives to guess what colour, size or shape the object is.
  2. Children list what they think is inside the box.  They can use the dictionary to find the words they need.
  3. Children decide what they think is inside the box and describe it as thoroughly as they can.
  4.  Inspired by the book Not a Box, children say what other things the box could be used for.  They could stick extra pieces onto their own box to make it look like something else.
  5. Tell the children that the box is a treasure box.  They say what treasures they think are inside.  Alternatively they could make some treasures for their own boxes or bring some treasures from home so that they can describe them to classmates.
  6. Children use simple opinions to express what they think is or isn't in the box.  "A mon avis, il y a un chien bleu, mais il n'y a pas de chat noir."

The box inspires activities which range from word level, therefore suitable for Year 3, to complex sentence level for Year 6.  The activities also tick quite a lot of the boxes (no pun intended!) of the Key Stage 2 Languages Curriculum, for example:


  • communicate and understand ideas, facts and feelings in speaking and writing
  • express opinions
  • describe things orally and in writing
  • key features and patterns of the language (use of adjectives in particular)
  • use a dictionary




Friday, 30 January 2015

Un triangle, un carré et un rond

I thought I would share with you a series of lessons that I am just completing.  I have designed them to introduce the children to the dictionaries, and, just as importantly, to introduce them to the concept of nouns and gender.  All these, of course, are things specified by the new Programme of Study.

It all started when I found the book un triangle by Néjib in Montréal last summer.  I mentioned the idea that I had for it in a previous blogpost.

We began by learning the names in French of ten classroom objects, and also did some activities to highlight some of the phonemes in those words.  (You can find the resources here.)  Then we found out what gender is all about in French, and how we can spot it when we meet a new word (resources).  Next I showed them our new French dictionaries, and we did a series of short worksheets to help us to get used to using the dictionaries (resources).

Next, we read un triangle for the first time.  We talked about what the word on each page meant, and looked for the cut-out triangle in each picture.  We also worked out if each word was masculine or feminine, and the children told me how they knew the words' genders.  We also looked at the colours that Néjib uses - only blue, red, yellow and white.

I showed the children pictures of the other two books that Néjib has written in the same series. They are called un carré and un rond.  We talked about what we might expect to see inside them.

I issued the children with the challenge of making their own version of un carré.  Because we were going to use folded minibooks, they would have to think of seven things which are square or which have squares as part of them.  They would have to list the words in their exercise books and then use the dictionaries to find out how to say the words in French.  Very importantly, they would also have to make a note of whether the word was masculine or feminine.

What came next was lots of hard thinking about square things!  One of the (solid gold) Year 4 TAs said she thought it was a good activity as it was really making them think hard as well as be creative.  If somebody was really stuck, I showed them how they could open up the dictionary at a random page and look at all the words there to see if any would suit.  We found some unexpected words this way.

Once the children had their list of seven words, I checked them, and they made their minibooks.  On the front cover they wrote the title un carré.  Then on each of the seven pages they drew a picture of their "square word" and wrote the French word, preceded by un or une as appropriate.  This is why they needed to know the gender of the word.  They enjoyed colouring their pictures using only blue, red, yellow and white.  The camion at the top of this post is one of my examples, and here are some sample pages from Year 4:




Those who have finished asked if they could start a book for un rond.  And they are determined to do their own un triangle after that.  I have now purchased un carré and un rond as well, and I'll show them to the children when they have finished their own books.  I think a lot of the children have had better ideas than Néjib, so it'll be interesting to see what they think!



Friday, 23 January 2015

Teaching Languages with 100 objects


This morning I had a look through the links included in the always-useful email newsletter from Global Dimension.  One of them was a link to an article about the British Museum's Teaching History in 100 Objects project.

My Year 3 daughter began Key Stage 2 in September with Britain from the Stone Age to the Iron Age, and for that part of the new History curriculum the following objects are suggested:


Would it be possible to use a similar approach for teaching languages?  Are there 100 objects that could be used for enriching the teaching of languages in Key Stage 2?

I propose that the objects would have to have some kind of cultural significance, that they would somehow "matter" to the country or countries whose language is being taught.  And I also propose that there doesn't have to be a list of 100.  A smaller list may be just as suitable.

Since I read the article I've been inputting data and so a list of possible objects has been quietly fermenting at the back of my mind.  So far all I have come up with are objects for Spanish.  For example, clothes, such as a flamenco dress and some typical clothes from South American countries, to help with work on using and agreeing adjectives correctly.  The cultural element of national costume is also introduced, along with what people in those countries actually wear!  For sports, a Jai Alai basket could be used.

What do you think? Can you think of any objects that could be used in this way?

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Parking cars in Spanish


I got this idea from a picture I saw on Pinterest recently.  It's a pair activity for children to use to help each other to practise new vocabulary.  While the versions I have made so far are aimed at Key Stage 2, I think it would be equally suitable for Key Stage 1.

So how does it work?  One partner does the speaking while the second does the listening.  The second has a little car (one of the cars included with the resource or a real toy car) which they have to brmm to the parking space that their partner tells them.  The above image shows how it would work with Spanish numbers from 1 to 10.  Partner 1 says "cuatro" and partner 2 brmms their car to parking space number 4.

So far I have made versions for Spanish numbers 1 to 10, Spanish numbers 11 to 20 and Spanish colours.  I think it could also be used to build up sentences, with each of the parking spaces having one element of the sentence in it.  It could be used with one little car, going to one parking space at a time, or an element of competition could be introduced with the numbered cars, each partner having five cars each.



I will be uploading these resources and similar ones in French to Light Bulb Languages very soon.  Keep an eye on the LBL Blog to find out when they are there.

UPDATE:  Links to the resources are here

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Spanish Minibooks for Primary learners


Introducing my new book, Spanish Minibooks for Primary learners.  It contains 94 minibooks which introduce new language and provide reading texts and opportunities for writing.  They go from simple word level, suitable for Year 3, to more complex texts for Year 6.   They tie in with my scheme of work for Key Stage 2 Spanish but would also be useful for Key Stage 3 beginners.  Also provided are an overview of the minibooks, instructions for how to fold them and a comprehensive glossary of vocabulary.

You can purchase the book for £18.99 through my Sellfy store and download a sample from my website.  I am now working on a similar publication in French.