Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Apoyo Soutien Unterstützung SUPPORT

Primary languages has hit the headlines again today, following the publication of the 2013/2014 Language Trends Survey.  As usual, it's doom and gloom.  According to the BBC, 23% of schools will not have a teacher more highly qualified than GCSE level, and teachers feel "ill-equipped" to teach statutory languages come September this year.  Add to the mix this article from today's Independent (with a misleading headline) that highlights some of the difficulties presented by the transition from Key Stage 2 to Key Stage 3.  Thank goodness for the appearance on BBC Breakfast of Catherine Cheater, the voice of reason seeing the positive side and mentioning some of the support that is already out there waiting for primary teachers to access it.

You'll already know that I am very positive about primary languages and that I am determined that it should succeed.  I know that there are a number of schools where teachers are apprehensive not only about teaching the language, but about how they are going to fit it in to their already busy days.  I also know that there are a number of head teachers effectively burying their heads in the sand, not taking proactive steps to ensure that effective teaching will be in place in September.

There is already a huge amount of support available, much of it free.  How do we get the message across to schools about this support and where it is?  Here is the free support that I know about.  Please, if you know of anything else, let me know and I will add it to the list.

Social media

Twitter, especially the PrimaryLanguages UKlist.


Primary Languages forum coordinated by CfBT (email forum).  Email education@cfbt.com to join


¡Vámonos!  Lisa Stevens’s blog, with an emphasis on Spanish and using technology.

Janet Lloyd Network  All sorts of useful links, information and resources, plus Janet's blog Primary Language Learning Today.

Devon Primary Languages  Lots of resources and information

Bonjour Madame  Emilie Woodroffe’s blog, with practical ideas for the classroom

Zapatito Inglés  Erzsi Culshaw's blog, with lots of practical ideas for Spanish

Spanish Playground  Good for Spanish resources and ideas

Madame Belle Feuille  Shannon Wiebe is a French immersion teacher in Canada.  Lots of good ideas here, especially for teaching French to very little ones.

Zen Kyo Maestro  Jeremy Dean is a British teacher living and working in Spain.  This blog is particularly good for intercultural understanding.

On the web

Getting Started with Primary French project - from the Institut Français, ALL and the Network for Languages, written by Catherine Cheater.

GermanPhonology section (not as comprehensive as French and Spanish) 

MFL Sunderland  Schemes of work and lots of resources for Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 French and Spanish
Plus sound files to help teachers with pronunciation and upskilling podcasts for French.

West Sussex Grid for Learning   Schemes of work and a large selection of excellent resources for French and Spanish

MFL Hampshire Wiki   Especially good for intercultural links

East Riding  Key Stage 2 resources from the East Riding of Yorkshire

Languages Online Australia  Download the interactive game makers for fun IWB and computer-based activities for your students.  They also have plenty of ready-made activities for many different languages.

Northern Ireland Curriculum  Resources with sound for French, Spanish and German

Hertfordshire Grid for Learning   Resources and the Primary Languages Toolkit

Languagenut  Interactive resources and scheme of work for Key Stage 2 in ten different languages

Teaching Ideas  Good ideas for games and activities in the languages classroom

EuroClubSchools  Excellent for Intercultural Understanding in French, Spanish and Italian

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Je pièce un pied ballon allumette

I'm a bit of a dictionary geek.  I collect old dictionaries (the picture above is from one of them) and I have been known to read Little Bob for pleasure.  It's all to do with my fascination with words.  I also collect books about words.

I am very pleased that the new curriculum for Key Stage 2 Languages makes explicit mention of dictionary skills:

"Pupils should be taught to.....broaden their vocabulary and develop their ability to understand new words that are introduced into familiar written material, including through using a dictionary"

Bilingual dictionaries can be the language learner's best friend, or, if used badly, their worst enemy.  I taught Key Stages 3 and 4 for 14 years, and have seen more than my fair share of examples of dictionaries being used badly.  The title of this post is one of my all-time favourites (have you worked it out yet?!) and there are plenty more howlers, if you fancy a chuckle, on this TES thread.  A dictionary is only as good as the person using it, so we owe it to our primary language learners to teach them how to use their bilingual dictionaries effectively.

The children to whom I teach Spanish often see me using WordReference.com to check vocabulary, spellings and genders, but they actually start to learn to use a proper paper dictionary in Year 3, when we do our "things in your pencil case, nouns and gender" unit.  Last week I was after a short whole-class activity to help Year 3 to practise using their dictionaries.  The #MFLTwitterati came up with some great ideas, so I thought I would share them here with you, along with the many links that I have for dictionary use.

1.  How many things from a certain category can they find in a minute?  Try red things, foods, animals beginning with c, etc..  From Nieves Sadullah

2.  Say a word, the children look it up and then put the dictionary open at the right page on their heads so that you can check their answer.  Year 3 loved this one - it made us giggle!  This idea also from Nieves.

3.  Sylvie Bartlett-Rawlings suggests giving a short list of words to find in a limited time, like these lists.

4.  Play 'Stop the Bus': give a letter of the alphabet, and get the children to find a certain kind of word beginning with that letter, for example a food beginning with p.  Then they shout "Stop the bus!" when they have found it. Thanks to Terri Dunne for this one.

5.  Jo Rhys Jones suggests races to put words into alphabetical order, and playing Musketeers:  choose a noun to look up -"Un!" - place the dictionary on the table - "Deux!" - then hold it in the air Musketeer-style - "Trois!" - and after "A l'attaque!" race to find the word.

Free resources to go with the Oxford Learner's Spanish Dictionary

Free resources for the Collins First Time Spanish dictionary

Diccionario SMS - Spanish text abbreviation list

Spanish rhyming dictionary - with links to other languages too

Internet Picture Dictionary - Spanish

Spanish picture dictionary

Diccionario de María Moliner - monolingual Spanish dictionary

Diccionario de sinónimos

Lisa Stevens's blogpost about teaching dictionary skills in Spanish

Free resources for Oxford children's French dictionaries

Free resources for the Collins First Time French dictionary

Synonymes - French dictionary of synonyms and antonyms

French slang dictionary

Internet Picture Dictionary - French

Dictionnaire des rimes

Some more dictionary teaching ideas

Ideas for teaching dictionary skills that can be transferred from English

* Je pièce un pied ballon allumette = I play a football match.  Of course.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Digging deep

While browsing for something else on Pinterest yesterday, I came across this idea for extending independent writing.  Like many things that I find, it's not MFL-specific, but is an idea that can be readily adapted.

My Year 6 Spaniards have been working on my En mi pueblo unit since September.  Over the last couple of weeks we have been making sentences using one of the persons of the verb ir, a place in town and a transport, for example Va al mercado en coche.  Last week I introduced the notion of putting names in front of the verb forms to add more detail (in particular to overcome the ambiguity of va).  The final part of this unit, before we move on to Then and Now, is a piece of independent writing to show who goes where and how.  They are getting good at adding negatives, connectives and opinions, but I also want them to bring in other language that they learned in Year 3, Year 4 and Year 5 to extend and enrich their writing, and I am going to use the Pinterest idea to model it for them.

I made this worksheet completely from scratch in Publisher.  Here it is in that format for if you would like to adapt it, and the PDF version:

The PDF will appear in time on MFL Sunderland.  The idea is that you use the the different spades to help you to dig deeper in different ways, or a combination of all three to dig really deep and write a really good sentence.

In the past, mainly with GCSE students, I have had competitions to write the longest sentence, given a short starter, and have also played sentence tennis, where students take it in turns to say a word to build up a sentence until one of them gets stuck and can't add another word.  I'd be interested to hear your ways of getting students to dig deep.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

The Diorama

This is one I found online and pinned on my mini-book Pinterest board.  Mini-books with a 3D effect always go down well with the children, particularly the Triaramas.  This is a variation on that theme, and is easy to display on the wall.

I have created my own template which gives the maximum space for drawing and writing.  Please feel free to download it.

All you need to do is to print it out and draw and write on it what you want.  You'll see that I have some space left over as I ran out of things to write!  There really is a lot of space.

Then cut along the solid lines and fold along the dotted lines:

Then just stick the side triangles together to complete the diorama.  I've paper-clipped mine so that I can store it flat in my folder-of-many-mini-books.