Monday, 11 January 2010

Are you sitting comfortably ?

Then I'll begin !

Every so often TES Connect sends me emails with things they want me to look at. I usually give them a cursory glance before deleting them (I've often heard it before on Twitter!) However, one of the links they sent me today was this one, which immediately caught my eye as I had just been having another look at the fantastic MFL Storybird Wiki set up by Fiona Joyce.

So the 30th January-6th February is
National Storytelling Week. An ideal opportunity to try out some new ideas and some new stories.

There are Storybird stories to try - there are lots on the Wiki now and I'm just one of many who have already
blogged about it. There are also ready-made big books available from places like Little Linguist. Something else worth considering is getting a translation of an English story book and comparing the two. We are big Sandra Boynton fans in my house and I'm eagerly awaiting the delivery of the Spanish version of "Moo, Baa, La La La" ("Muu, Beee, ¡Así fue!") I'd also recommend Elmer the Elephant and Rainbow Fish. The lovely Suzi Bewell recently showed me "Hooray for Fish" by Lucy Cousins, the author of Maisy Mouse, alongside its French translation "Drôles de Poissons", and described some of the activities for which they can be used.

Recently I've been reading up about Storytelling in the MFL classroom. Here are some of my notes. I hope they will be useful to you as well.

What can you do with stories ?
• Opportunities for experiencing rhyme, active methods, physical responses
• Pupils can react to sounds, words, phrases with a physical response
• Act out parts of the story
• Provide sound effects, missing words or phrases, or a refrain
• Stories provide a good model of pronunciation and sustained language. Pupils have to listen and concentrate
• High frequency words and phrases can be learned through stories
• Read story to the class, then pronounce and repeat certain words, reading from word cards
• Read story to pupils, they join in saying some key sentences and words while performing actions and sound effects. Children can gradually take over the storytelling.
• When introducing the story, use word flashcards of the things they’ll have to say and actions they’ll have to perform during the story
• Perform certain action for a certain group of words (e.g. months) or point to something in the room when you hear it
• Offers opportunities to listen, imagine, predict, comment, participate, express opinions, access longer texts without necessarily having to understand every word.
• Introducing a new story – identify key vocab (not just nouns) and limit the vocab to about 6 words or phrases.
• Decide on your objective: identify by listening? Pronounce accurately ? identify by sight ? read aloud ? write the words ?
• Involve children in the story from the start with actions and gestures, choral repetition of language, complete repeated sentences, hold up a card when you hear a certain thing

Follow-up activities:
• Make a model of one of the characters
• Learn a song with movements based on the story
• Write a description of one of the characters
• Pupils write their own stories inspired by the original
• Match words and pictures from the story
• Listen and draw
• Sequencing
• Making sentences from the story using word cards
• Drama
• Mini books

KS2 Framework:
• Y3 Literacy: “As children listen to sounds, words and phrases, they repeat and chorus, learning accurate pronunciation……They enjoy reading a few familiar words and phrases aloud and begin to write letters and familiar words.”
• Y4 Literacy: “Children develop their reading skills and learn to understand familiar written phrases in clear, printed script. They link listening and reading, by reading short familiar stories, songs and poems while listening to them at the same time. They write familiar words and phrases using a model and begin to experiment with building short phrases from memory.”
• Y5 Literacy: “Children….develop their reading skills by re-reading a range of short texts.”
• Y6 Literacy: “Children read a variety of longer texts from different text types. They read aloud with confidence and enjoyment, and also enjoy reading short texts independently.”
• KAL: “As they increase their understanding of the rules of sounds, spellings and grammar, they should begin to apply these rules when creating new language, both spoken and written.”
• LLS: Children plan and prepare themselves for a language activity – “How do you recall vocabulary in order to sing a song/join in a story/create sentences? How do you find key information in a new sentence or text ?
• LLS: Children use knowledge of English or other languages to help learning and understanding – “Listen and look for words that are similar and different in other languages. “
• LLS: Children pick out key words when listening
• LLS: Children learn a short poem, rhyme or story by heart
• Suggested activities: O3.1, O3.2, L3.1, O4.1, O4.2, L4.2, IU4.3, O5.3, O5.4, L5.1, L5.2, O6.1, O6.2, O6.3, L6.1, L6.2, L6.3, L6.4, IU6.3
• Dictionary skills

My favourite thing about stories in the foreign language is that they enable students to hear extended language. They get to immerse themselves in the rhythm, sounds and music of the language without necessarily having to understand every word. Especially important when so much of their work will be at a word or sentence level.
How are you going to celebrate National Storytelling Week ?

Thursday, 7 January 2010

World Cup Calligrams

Combining ideas for bringing the World Cup into your classroom and my love of calligrams:

I found a football colouring sheet and lightened the lines to pale grey using PaintShop Pro. Braver people could draw their own in pencil ! Then I filled in each section with words about England and being English. These are the images that you can see on the slides.

Suggestions for using this in the classroom:

  • Show pupils the images and ask them to read what is written in each section. Why have these words been chosen ? This makes them think about their own country and the things that typify it - community cohesion !
  • Pupils then research another of the World Cup countries, finding out similar information.
  • Pupils either draw their own footballer or find a suitable colouring sheet and represent their findings as a calligram. It's even better if they use the country's national colours.
  • For a MFL twist, pupils can present their findings in their foreign language or even in the country's language !

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

My journey through the open fields of KS2 Assessment

Many things drew me away from the secondary classroom and into the primary one. One of them was assessment. A necessary evil when I first started teaching 15 years ago, it became an all-encompassing sine qua non of my daily working life. Yes, I saw the point of it, and yes, I think AfL is a good thing. But sub levels ? Numbers on a database now appear to count for more than a professional's gut feeling. The grass was definitely greener on the PMFL side. It's not yet formally assessed and Ofsted won't formally inspect it until 2014.

So in September I started primary language teaching. Just teaching. Not assessing. Or not assessing formally and endlessly in any case. It was very refreshing, and I felt like a proper teacher again.

However, after three quarters of a term of this golden, halcyon phase, I realised that the time had come to look into the A-word and what I should be doing in the primary languages context. Partly because my line manager at the LA wants me to investigate it, partly because the headteacher at my school wants the children to have a record of what they have done in Spanish and how well they have done it, and partly because of my own professional curiosity and conscience.

I spent some considerable time reading up on the subject. If you need to do the same, I'd recommend that you look here:

By the time I had read my way through these and more, and made copious notes, I had a fair idea of what I wanted to do, not only for the Y6s for the purposes of their transition, but also for the rest of KS2.

Here are some of my conclusions:

Assessment in KS2 needs to be manageable (not too much of it) and above all useful. It needs to be useful to the pupil, to the teacher, to the parents and to the teachers at the secondary schools.

Some people favour using the Languages Ladder levels, but these mean nothing to me or to the majority of practitioners in my LA, so I prefer KS2 Framework objectives integrated with National Curriculum levels. This will be more meaningful to the children, as they are familiar with levels through their other curriculum subjects, and also to the secondary teachers who will one day inherit my pupils.

I very much like the European Junior Language Portfolio, especially its layout and "can do" statements. But I think that it doesn't quite go deeply enough into the subject for me.

In the last week of last term I took the bull by the horns and presented my KS2s with their first assessment record sheet:

We had learnt numbers in batches throughout the term, and this was an attempt to bring all that knowledge together. The top half of the sheet deals with the knowledge gained, and the bottom half of the sheet looks at the skills that pupils have gained by learning these numbers:

Preparing this second half of the sheet was a real eye-opener for me. I had no idea that we had covered so much in just one term. We had some interesting discussions in the classroom about each box, what it meant, and what we had done to address each one. It gave me a good idea of what had gone down well (playing "¿Más o menos?" and "Which card?") and what we need to do more (Practising new words with a friend).

I have used the traffic-light system of recording for two reasons: (1) my pupils are already familiar with it from elsewhere in their curriulum and (2) there's no writing for Y3 and Y4 to worry about, so they can just concentrate on thinking hard about what colour light they will give themselves.

Tomorrow I will be starting my second term as a primary teacher, and am planning to move onward and upward with the assessment, fine-tuning the process as I go. I am still not happy, for example, with the layout (there is no space left for Intercultural Understanding !) The assessment that I have already done has focussed my planning, and I have incorporated some of the objectives into my lesson plans. I fear that for some pupils there is still some way to go with "I can listen carefully and give a clear, sensible answer"........

So that is my journey so far. I would be very interested to hear peoples' thoughts.