Thursday, 28 June 2012

Moorish Mosaics

This morning was an unusual morning, in that I spent all of it with Year 3.  I've taught them Spanish since they were in Year 1, and they are a cracking little class.  The only problem was that last week they finished the Year 3 Scheme of Work and I needed to find a whole morning's worth (2.5 hours) of things for them to do.

I received via Twitter a brilliant suggestion from Jackie Berry: Islamic patterns which could include some maths symmetry work.  

After some research I found this resource from the V&A and this link about symmetrical patterns at the Alhambra in Granada.  I decided to adapt the V&A resource to work on Moorish Spain and the mosaics in the Alhambra. This would be a perfect fit into the Scheme of Work, as we have just finished making mosaic suns in the style of Gaudí at the end of our "Shapes" unit.

Here's what we did:

1.  We recapped where in the world Spain is and also noticed on the map how close Spain is to North Africa.

2.  We found Granada on a map of Spain.

3.  I described the arrival of the Moors in 711AD and how they stayed in Spain until 1492.  We worked out how long they stayed (781 years) and talked about what a long period of time that is.  We looked at a map of the Moorish occupation in about 1000AD.

4.  We talked about the Moors' legacy, in particular the language.  We noticed several words that we have been using this year that are Arabic in origin.  I explained that when we are learning Spanish, we are essentially learning a mixture of Latin and Arabic.

5.  Continuing the theme of the Moors' legacy, we looked at a photo of the Alhambra with the snowy mountains behind it, and also some photos of the interior.  We noticed how some of the pillars reminded us of the pillars of the market place in Gaudí's Park Guell.

6.  We looked at some samples of the tile mosaics from the Alhambra and discussed the differences between these mosaics and those of Gaudí in Barcelona.  I was amazed by how much the children could remember about Gaudí's mosaics and their insightful comments about the Moorish mosaics.

7.  We noticed that the main difference between the two styles of mosaic was that the Moorish mosaics are very symmetrical, and Gaudí's are more random (for want of a better, more artistic word!)  We practised making symmetrical patterns on the IWB.  I then gave them each one of the triangle sheets from the V&A site and with great gusto they set about making symmetrical patterns:
When I do this again I will draw the mirror lines on the sheet before photocopying. This boy drew his own on and found working out the symmetry much easier.  This kept them occupied for a good half hour.

8.  After break we set about making some much larger scale mosaics.  We noticed that the Moorish mosaics only use black, blue, green and gold on a white background.  We used the irregular hexagon, the eight-pointed star and the octagon from the V&A site.  We invented our own patterns as we couldn't work out how to make the shapes fit together.  I think I might be a bit more adventurous next time!

Here are our finished mosaics:

If you'd like to have a go at this yourself, you can download the resources from MFL Sunderland.  You can read more about my Gaudí unit here.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Poems and songs

Chatting with the other mums and dads during the girls' swimming lessons helps the time to pass more quickly.  Yesterday we discussed our children's whistling prowess, or lack thereof.  One mother said that her two are excellent whistlers now thanks to their whistling along to a certain song by Flo Rida which comes on the car radio a little too often.  Then she added, "I wish they could learn their spellings and times tables that easily."

MFL teachers are never off-duty.  My ears pricked up and my brain started making connections.  

I can still remember, word for word, songs that I learned at school when I was seven, I can sing along with every word of Oklahoma after performing in a school production of it when I was fourteen.  Nearly thirty years later, I could give many more examples.  Rhythm, music and song touch a part of us that mere words do not, and much has been written about the value of teaching language through song to make it memorable and enjoyable.

On 11th June, the Telegraph printed information about the new primary curriculum.  As well as the long-awaited news that MFL in KS2 will be compulsory, there was some detail about what children will be expected to do:

They will ... be expected to understand basic grammar and be acquainted with songs and poems in the language studied.

Many of us use songs in the primary language classroom and have seen how effective they can be.  But how many of us have dabbled in poetry?

There has been much discussion in the press over the last couple of weeks about the value of learning and reciting poetry.  It does have benefits in the language classroom.  Poems provide a model of correct language, as well as being examples of extended texts, something which primary linguists tend not to have as much access to as they should.  Coupled with actions they can be memorable learning experiences in the same way that stories such as Le Navet Enorme are now.  Students will hear the music of the language, can focus on pronunciation and rhyme, and poems can enhance intercultural learning.

As language teachers we are somewhat spoiled for choice for poems and songs in French.  My favourite source is's library of Comptines.  I also like the PetitesTetes selection as they have audio files attached.

It's harder to find examples in Spanish.  El huevo de chocolate has a selection but I haven't found many others.

The following are songs that I have used in the primary classroom:

La chanson de l'alphabet:

Quel âge as-tu?

La canción de las frutas:

El pulpito:

Con mi dedito digo sí

El Arca de Noé

Weather song
View another webinar from Clare Seccombe
Soy una taza

Uno, dos, tres
View another webinar from Clare Seccombe
Diez Gatitos
View another webinar from Clare Seccombe
And others that I don't have links for!

Which poems and songs have you used that you could recommend?  It would be good to get a collection together.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Months rhyme

I am about to start "Telling the time" with Year 5 and Year 6 Spanish, and have been looking at how it links to the KS2 Maths curriculum:

Pupils should be able to:
  • read the time from analogue and digital 12 and 24 hour clocks
  • use units of time - seconds, minutes, hours, days and weeks - and know the relationship between them.
The units of time are my "way in" from the last topic of "Big numbers" as they are themselves big numbers.  And it's a good opportunity to think about what we already know about Time after three years of Spanish learning.

On the subject of numbers and months, and starting to think about Mr Gove's reciting-poetry-in-the-foreign-language thing, I was wondering if there was a rhyme in Spanish like the one we have in English which we use to help us to remember how many days are in each month:

Thirty days hath September,
April, June and November.

All the rest have thirty-one,
Except for February alone,
Which has twenty-eight days clear
And twenty-nine in each leap year.

As always, Twitter came up trumps.  Thanks to @josephiney83, @Marie_Sanako, @teachermrw and @annelimac.  There doesn't appear to be one definitive version!  I thought I'd put them here to save anyone else searching for them.

Treinta días tiene septiembre
Con abril, junio y noviembre.
Veintiocho ó veintinueve tiene febrero
Si es bisiesto,
Y los demás treinta y uno.

Treinta días trae noviembre
Con abril, junio y septiembre,
Los demás treinta y uno,
Menos febrero mocho
Que sólo tiene veintiocho.

Treinta días tiene noviembre
Con abril, junio y septiembre.
Veintiocho sólo uno 
Y los demás treinta y uno.

Treinta días tiene noviembre,
Con abril, junio y septiembre.
De veintiocho sólo febrero, 
Y los demás de treinta y uno.

It also exists in Swedish:

Tretti' dagar har september,
april, juni och november.
Februari tju'åtta alén,
alla de övriga trettioen.

and Italian:
Trenta dì conta novembre
con april, giugno e settembre.
Di ventotto ce n'è uno,
tutti gli altri ne han trentuno.

Another way of remembering how many days are in each month is to use your knuckles.  Wikipedia says it's typically used in France.  I've never used this method but my husband swears by it!

Thursday, 14 June 2012

You say mileage, yo digo kilometraje

I mentioned in my last post that I would be doing a data handling activity using a mileage table with my 3rd year Spaniards.  I thought I'd tell you what we did.

It was another request from my colleague who teaches maths to Y5 and Y6.  The more data handling the better!  Here's how it went:

  • I cut up a sheet of questions for each group and stapled them all together at one end.  I wrote each group's number on the question 10 sheet:
  • Each group (mixed ability, 3 or 4 to a group as for the jigsaw activity) had an A3 copy of the kilometraje table (see below) and a number help sheet.
  • We looked at a simplified mileage table on the board and practised reading numbers from it.  We discussed the fact that in Spain they measure distances in kilometres and not miles, and that it was important to include the unit of measurement when talking about distances.
  • I gave each group the first question.  They had to find the correct number of kilometres on the table and then write that number on the question paper in Spanish in words.  When they thought they had the right answer, a representative from the group brought me their answer.  I sent them back with it if the number of kilometres was incorrect, if there were spelling mistakes or if the word "kilómetros" was missing.  If the answer was correct, I tore off the next question from their group's pile and they took it back to their table to find the next answer.
  • When the time was up (about 20 minutes) the winner was the group that had answered the most questions correctly.
It got off to a bit of a slow start as the children got used to reading the values off the table, writing the big numbers in Spanish and adding "kilómetros" on the end each time.  It was interesting to see that we have spent so long working on the numbers 30 and above that they forgot that the 20s don't work in the same way!  One of the Y5 groups did fantastically well and managed to complete 9 out of the 10 questions, and it got very competitive towards the end!

I did something similar to this with a fast-track Y9 class once.  I introduced them to the typical Health topic questions about drinking, drugs and smoking - "Je fume quatre cigarettes par jour", "Je bois une bière chaque semaine" and so on.  I gave each group a pile of scrap paper and they had to write sentences in this vein that were (a) correct and that (b) no other group had already written.  As they brought their sentences to the front and they were approved, we wrote the group number on and blu-tacked them onto the board.  By the end we had a winner of the competition (I seem to remember there was a small prize involved) but also lots and lots of examples of sentences.

On both occasions the boys in particular responded well to the competitive element, and the girls enjoyed working in groups.  And all I had to do was stand at the front and read sentences.

It took me a long time to make the kilometraje table, so if anyone would like the original Word document to adapt, please let me know.

Kilo Me Traje kilometraje-qus

image of the car by the brilliant @bevevans22

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

A jigsaw for starters

A couple of days ago I was planning a lesson in Spanish on Big Numbers, in particular for big numbers between 30 and 2000.  The main activity was to be a data handling exercise of reading a mileage (kilometrage?!) chart of distances between Spanish cities.  But I wanted a starter that would help the children to revise the numbers after the half term holiday.  I wanted to try something new and so had a look at this Starter Generator from TES Resources.  At the same time I put out a tweet and received an interesting reply:

I really like this idea and I also really liked the jigsaw idea from the TES.  So I  made a jigsaw puzzle which, once completed, displayed the instructions and the questions that the children had to answer.  They had a blank piece of paper to write their answers and a number reference sheet to help them:

Spanish Big Nos Jigsaw

I divided the children into mixed ability groups, the idea being that everyone in the group could contribute in some way.  Even if they weren't sure about the number in Spanish, they could put the jigsaw together or help to work out the answers to the questions.  

The highest score in Year 6 was 6/10.  I wonder how Y5 will do tomorrow?

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Cautiously optimistic

I've written before about the Review of the National Curriculum, the last news of which appeared just before Christmas last year.  Since then we have been waiting for further news, in particular news of the fate of languages at Key Stage 2.

A few weeks ago (during the penultimate week of May) I heard from two reliable sources that further news would be coming at the beginning of June.  I was not surprised by the timing, as it would be half term, and big news about education often seems to come out during holidays when teachers aren't in school.  

Yesterday evening this article  - Foreign languages to be compulsory from age 7 - appeared in the Telegraph (where else?!)  It states that the learning of a foreign language will become a compulsory part of primary education from 2014.

Some of the salient points from the article:

  • A system in which all primary children learn a foreign language from age seven will give pupils a much stronger foundation, which they can build on in secondary school to become fluent.
    I started to learn French when I was 7.  I took O'level, A'level and S'level.  By the time I got to university I was proficient in French, but not fluent.  I was not anywhere near fluent until I returned from my year abroad, at the end of the third year of my degree.  Stating that Year 11s will become fluent is complete pie-in-the-sky, as far as I am concerned, and dangerously misleading.
  • Under the plans, schools would be allowed to decide which language, modern or ancient, their pupils should be taught.
  • Primary teachers will be required to focus on a single language to avoid a piecemeal approach. Personally I am very pleased about this - better to learn a lot of something and be fairly proficient than to learn lots of bits of things and end up knowing nothing.
  • Secondary schools complain, however, that there is little consistency in the knowledge and skills of pupils joining from primary schools.
    The involvement of secondary schools in this new chapter for primary schools will be absolutely crucial.  If they are to build on the foundations that their primary colleagues have built, they will need to be confident that those foundations have been consistent, good quality and in an appropriate language.  Finding a solution that suits all stakeholders will be a huge challenge.

  • By the age of 11, pupils will be expected to speak the language in sentences with appropriate punctuation, express simple ideas with clarity and write phrases and short sentences from memory.
  • They will also be expected to understand basic grammar and be acquainted with songs and poems in the language studied.
    This links very closely to the new proposals for Literacy in KS2, as outlined in this BBC News article.  It speaks of a new emphasis on grammar, spelling, phonics and poems, all in a day's work for MFL, n'est-ce pas?  If a school chooses to teach an ancient language rather than a modern one, they may find the songs and poems part a little challenging!
  • Research also suggests that being a foreign language can help to improve conversation skills and literacy in English, as well as benefit study in other subjects.
    Yes, but there are many teachers and headteachers who still haven't seen the light.  We need to continue to make the most of the cross-curricular nature of MFL.
  • The announcement this week, which will be consulted on over the summer, is not expected to include any additional funding to help schools provide language lessons.
    So we shall await the Big Announcement in a few days time.  I am concerned that the consultation will take place "over the summer" - do they want teachers to be involved in this?
    Additional funding isn't needed necessarily to "help schools provide language lessons" but to train teachers and to put in place suitable schemes of work and materials, as well as to provide the crucially needed support which is now sadly absent from so many local authorities.
So, as I said at the beginning, I am cautiously optimistic.  There is a lot of work to be done in the next two years if this plan is to succeed.  For some primary schools 2014 will be very much business as usual, but for others it's going to be a long, hard climb to get to where they need to be.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

The mind of a man is like a clock

"The mind of man is like a clock that is always running down, and requires to be constantly wound up."  William Hazlitt

The half term holiday is drawing to a close, and, like many other teachers out there, I'm thinking about planning for the last half term of the year.  Fortunately, nearly all of my classes will be a repetitions of lessons that I have taught in the past.  Years 5 and 6 Spanish, however, are the ones that I have to plan and make completely new stuff for, as they are the only ones nearing the end of their third year of formal Spanish learning.  We're just finishing big numbers (we've worked out that we could now count up to 999,999 if we only had the time) and will be seguing from distances between cities in Spain to reading and understanding the timetables for buses between major cities in Spain (request from Y6 teacher who takes them all for maths).  Therefore, teaching them to tell the time in Spanish will be the next step.

So earlier this afternoon, while the girls were watching Annie (Disney version) for the nth time this week, I set to thinking of possible activities for "Telling the Time" and couldn't really think of anything.  Like William Hazlitt said, my mind had run down and needed winding up.  I decided to read back through my previous blogposts to get some ideas.  I use my own blog posts a lot, just like I use MFL Sunderland all the time, mainly because all my resources are on there.

In the hope that it will be useful to someone else, here is my list of ideas for teaching telling the time, in no particular order:

  • use the RecorderPen and flashcards to practise listening and understanding and build up the times
  • Tarsia puzzle, dominoes or follow-me cards with pictures of clocks or digital times on one side and times in words on the other
  • Timetables for data handling
  • Time ballet
  • Worksheet where children read the times and then draw the hands on the clocks (or vice versa)
  • Teacher says a time, children use little clocks with moveable hands to make the time and hold it up
  • Fling the Teacher game
  • Song - I like "Un dos tres ¿qué hora es?"
  • Human lines - give 5 or 6 children a written time, they line up at the front of the room and the rest of the class have to put them in chronological order
  • a game of Blue Numbers
  • a game of Cluedo - columns with es la, son las/number/y cuarto, y media for example.  Teacher thinks of a combination, children have to use the grid to work out that combination.  Teacher can tell them when they have 1 part right or 2 parts right.  Lots of thinking and listening involved.
  • Pin-number writing frame activity to support weaker learners.  Work out times then put them on a blank clock.
  • Small cards of numbers of hours and numbers of minutes etc, teacher says time and children have to hold up the right cards.  Or give cards with the words on, show a clock face and children have to hold up the right words.
  • Higher/lower variation - teacher puts a time on a clock and hides it.  Children have to work together to work out the time that is on it.  Teacher can only say "más temprano" or "más tarde"
I've also had a look around for an online teaching clock for displaying random times for speaking work.  This one from Cambridge University Press is delightful.  Click "open clock" then "show panel" to select the sort of times you want it to show, then click on the cat's paw to change the time.  I also like this one from Sandfields, as there is plenty of scope for changing the settings.

I already have some worksheets that I can use, but may well use some of the online worksheet generators to make some simpler ones quickly and easily:
I'll be putting any resources that I make with my other KS2 Spanish resources.

Do you have any good ways of teaching the time?