Thursday, 14 August 2014

Spanish and French Challenge Cards

Nearly every resource that I have made since 2002 can be found on Light Bulb Languages (formerly MFL Sunderland) where they are, and always have been, all available for free.  Sharing, as I have mentioned before, is my thing.

A wise Twitter friend once said to me, "You won't ever get rich by giving all your resources away for free," and that is very true.  Now that I work for myself I have to think about where the pennies are going to come from.

Last term I started to put together a set of Spanish Challenge Cards for my classes, mainly to have something to give to those children who finish work first and want something else to do.  Thinking up all the activities, finding all the language and pictures and putting the cards together took a long time, and so I decided that rather than add these to Light Bulb Languages I would make them available for sale.  I looked into various different ways of having them printed and wondered how I would work out the orders and the postage and so on (my web building capabilities don't run that far!).  Then I became aware of a website that would allow me to sell them electronically in PDF format.

You can find all the information about the Spansish and French Challenge Cards, which are suitable for Key Stage 2 and lower Key Stage 3, on my website.  Each set of 50 cards is only £8.99, and you can download the answers and the overview for free.  I hope you like them.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

New French books!

If you follow me on Twitter you'll more than likely be aware that I have recently returned from a fortnight in Canada.  To be more precise, I have returned from a week in Toronto and a week in Montréal.  It was the first time that I have been to a French-speaking place outside of Europe, and it was a very interesting experience.

Needless to say, I couldn't prevent myself from switching into teacher-mode every time there was a bookshop or stationery shop nearby.  I went into most of the branches of Indigo and Chapters that I encountered, and the shop at the Musée des Beaux Arts in Montréal proved to be a rich source of inspiration.

So here are the books I bought, and how I think you could use them:

Un triangle by Néjib

This book is written in very simple French (single words, so suitable for Year 3) and is part of a series which also includes Un rond and Un carré.

The cover and each page has a triangle cut out of it, and the triangle becomes part of the illustration of the French words.  For example, here the triangle becomes the skirt of une fille.  On other pages it becomes the ear of un chat and the summit of un montagne.

This book would make a good introduction to nouns, articles, gender and dictionary use.  Children could create their own pictures using one of the shapes and find the word they need to label their picture in the dictionary.

Cat Says Meow by Michael Arndt

This book is written in English, again using very simple language.  The most striking part of it is the illustrations.  Each animal mentioned is illustrated using the letters in the sound it makes.  Hence the cat is illustrated by M E O W and the frog by C R O A K.  What really impresses me is that the letters are in the right order each time.

This is a variation on the calligram theme.  Perhaps children could illustrate sports in the same way, or hobbies, or even other nouns.

Canada en mots by Per-Henrik Gürth

Another simply written book, definitely suitable for Year 3.  Each of the pages illustrates something typically Canadian.  Children could research aspects of another French-speaking country and create their own intercultural book along these lines.

Quand les zéros deviennent héros by Mireille Messier

I'm particularly pleased with this find as it is so good for phonics and the sound-spelling link.  It shows clearly the difference that just one letter can make.

It uses the word puzzles that I'm sure we all know from our childhood, where you have to get from one word to another by changing one letter each time.  On this page, for example, "Le jour se transforme en soir".   It would be a great book to read aloud with children, and would suit Year 3 or Year 4 as it is written in sentences.  If you can find some more examples of this kind of puzzle, children could illustrate their own.

Monstres en vrac by Elise Gravel

This book is a delight, and I find the words and illustrations very appealing.  I think the text would be more suitable for Key Stage 3, but there is still a lot of pleasure to be had in the names of the monsters and the labels on the pictures.  Elise Gravel is an author and illustrator from Montréal, and I think that her books deserve a closer look.  The last two pages of the book set the reader the task of drawing their own monster, using only paper, pencils and imagination.  The reader is then encouraged to describe their monster, give it a name, say what its good and bad points are, what its favourite activities are, what it likes to eat, what its bad habits are and what tricks they would teach it.  If you are a Key Stage 3 teacher faced with a Year 7 with mixed KS2 experience, here is one way in to "doing the usual in an unusual way".

Hope you see something you like there!

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Sunderland Primary Hub

As you may have heard, ALL (the Association for Language Learning) has set up a network of Primary Hubs to support primary teachers and schools as they introduce the new curriculum for statutory KS2 languages.

I am delighted to say that the Sunderland Hub will be hosted by the school where I have taught Spanish for 5 years, and that we have scheduled the first meeting for next Wednesday 9th July, 4pm-5pm.  I have sent flyers to all schools in the local authority, but if you haven't seen it and would like to come along, please contact me via Light Bulb Languages and I'll send you more information.

Please help to spread the word!  Secondary teachers are more than welcome too.

If you would like to know more about the Hubs and about the work that ALL is doing to support Primary Languages, please go to their website.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Time for Languages

One notable omission from the new Programme of Study for KS2 Languages is the amount of time that primary schools should be allocating to the teaching of a language.  The children need to make "substantial progress" by the end of Year 6, so how much time will they need, ideally, to enable them to reach such a point?

Let's have a look first at what people are already doing.  The most recent Language Trends survey says:

The DfE says:

The Key Stage 2 Framework for Languages, still such a useful document, makes this recommendation, which is the same as the recommendation made by CILT pre-2010:

The conclusion we can draw, therefore, is that children in KS2 should have access to language teaching for an hour a week.  It may be possible to timetable an hour's block, for example if the children are taught by a visiting teacher as part of the PPA arrangements.  For many schools, however, the school day is already jam-packed, and finding that amount of time is difficult.  An alternative would be to timetable a 30 to 40 minute lesson each week, and then to make up the hour with shorter sessions on the other days of the week.

Children can spend 5 or 10 minutes of timetabled time each day practising and reinforcing the language to which they were introduced in their language lesson.  They could also learn new language which ties in with other curriculum subjects.  This gives schools the opportunity to make the new language part of the everyday life of the school and not just something that happens within the confines of the languages classroom.  Children and their teachers can use the language in different contexts and reinforce their understanding and skills.

Here are some suggestions for using that short space of time each day:

  • Use registration to practise the language.  Children could answer their names with a greeting in the new language, answer with a new word or phrase that they have learned, or answer a question that their teacher asks.
  • Children play playground and skipping games and do clapping rhymes from the target-language country or countries.  Older children can also engage younger ones in short conversations with the support of colleagues.
  • Begin or end a session with some question and answer speaking work.
  • Start maths lessons with a mental maths starter in the new language, some counting in 10s or some number fan work.
  • Start PE lessons with a warm-up in the new language.  Lots of ideas here and here.  Don't forget the brilliance of Take 10.
  • Use Art to introduce colours and artists from the target-language speaking countries.
  • Learn a song in the new language for performance in class or assembly, or practise a song that the children have been learning in their language lessons.  There are lots more ideas for music here.
  • Practise basic questions in pairs or with puppets.
  • Learn the words in the new language for things you have been doing in other subjects.  For example, this work on mini-beasts.
  • Show and discuss video clips about the country or countries where the language is spoken.  Many opportunities for intercultural understanding will present themselves throughout the week.  I recommend the Intercultural Understanding strand of the KS2 Framework for loads of ideas.

Friday, 27 June 2014

What does "substantial progress" look like?

The new Programme of Study for KS2 Languages requires children to have made "substantial progress in one language" by the time they reach the end of Year 6.  But what is substantial progress?  What will KS2 children have to do, and what should KS3 teachers expect their new Year 7s to have done?  I have been going through the Programme of Study document in order to make a bit more sense of it, and have arranged it by skill.  The numbers in brackets relate to notes below, where I have made some suggestions for interpreting the wording of the original PoS.  All non-spam comments welcome!

  • listen attentively to spoken language and show understanding by joining in and responding
  • appreciate stories, songs, poems and rhymes in the language
  • understand spoken language from a variety of authentic sources (1)
  • understand ideas, facts and feelings (2)
  • understand familiar and routine language
  • ask and answer questions
  • express opinions
  • respond to others’ opinions
  • seek clarification and help
  • engage in conversations
  • describe people, places, things and actions orally (3)
  • communicate ideas, facts and feelings (2)
  • speak in sentences, using familiar vocabulary, phrases and basic language structures
  • present ideas and information orally to a range of audiences (4)
  • respond to spoken language from a variety of authentic sources (1)
  • speak with increasing confidence, fluency and spontaneity
  • develop strategies to help them to say what they want to say
  • develop accurate pronunciation and intonation so that others understand when they are reading aloud or using familiar words and phrases
  • speak with accurate pronunciation and intonation
  • explore the patterns and sounds of language through songs and rhymes and link the spelling, sound and meaning of words
  • read carefully and show understanding of words, phrases and simple writing
  • appreciate stories, songs, poems and rhymes in the language
  • develop their ability to understand new words that are introduced into familiar written material
  • understand written language from a variety of authentic sources (5)
  • discover and develop an appreciation of a range of writing in the language studied
  • understand ideas, facts and feelings in writing (2)
  • understand writing about familiar and routine matters
  • write at varying length, for different purposes and audiences, using the variety of grammatical structures that they have learnt (4)
  • write phrases from memory, and adapt these to create new sentences, to express ideas clearly
  • describe people, places, things and actions in writing
  • gender (masculine, feminine, neuter forms) and therefore nouns, indefinite articles, definite articles and plural forms
  • conjugation of high-frequency verbs (6)
  • key features and patterns of the language (7)
Language-learning skills
  • explore how the patterns, grammar and words of the new language are different from or similar to English
  • develop strategies to understand new words, including through using a dictionary

(1)  Authentic sources for listening and speaking: Songs, appropriate videos online such as YouTube, audio or video recordings by children in a partner school in the target language country or countries, reputable commercially available audio and video recordings

(2)  Ideas: about pictures, music and poetry?
      Facts: saying your name, saying your age, describing yourself, talking about your family, saying what the weather is like, saying the date, talking about your town, talking about your school and its timetable, healthy eating, talking about the planets, giving the prices of things
      Feelings: Saying how you feel, giving your opinions of things and reasons for those opinions, likes and dislikes

(3)  People: self, parts of the body, family members, friends, famous people, historical figures
      Places: home, school, town, countries
      Things: in the classroom, school subjects, animals, food and drink, colours, seasons
      Actions: sports, hobbies, going to places, directions

(4) A range of audiences: partner, group of classmates, own class, another class in own school, rest of school in assembly, parents, school community via newsletter, website, blog etc., children in a neighbouring school, children in partner school in another country

(5) Authentic sources for reading: children's story and non-fiction books, poems, texts from the internet, magazines, newspapers, publicity material from shops etc., adverts, leaflets, posters, letters and emails from children in schools in another country

(6) Conjugation of high-frequency verbs: to be, to have, to go, to do/make, to want, to be able.  Probably also conjugation of common regular verbs.  Realistically mostly focusing on singular people.

(7) Key features and patterns of the language: written accents and other orthographical marks such as the upside-down question mark in Spanish, word order, adjectival agreement, verb conjugations, rules for pluralisation, phonic rules, rules for capitalisation, use of apostrophes, rhythm and intonation