Sunday, 14 February 2016

Good memories?

Last month I was working on colours with my Year 3 (age 7-8) Spaniards.  They have been learning and using the colours since Year 1, but this was the first time we had used them in writing.  Inspired by Bartolomé Bermejo from our recent Take One Picture project, they created characters using first names and colours, a bit like these ones:

When marking their work, I noticed more than a few spelling errors, nearly always of the colour words, despite the children having had the correct spellings on their reference sheets.

The Key Stage 2 Curriculum for Languages requires children to "write phrases from memory, and adapt these to create new sentences".  I have to confess that this particular objective has always bothered me.  My Year 6 children are good at putting sentences together, often complex ones, but have the support of the materials and examples in their exercise books.  They will be writing words from memory but not necessarily phrases.  In any case, it was clear from Year 3's work that we needed to spend some time working on memorisation strategies, to help them with their spellings of colours in the short term, and with other language areas in the long term.

I already had some ideas, from Heather Rendall, and posted on the Languages in Primary Schools Facebook group to see if anyone had other tried and tested ideas.

The ideas I had to start off were:

  • Air writing - children spell out the words in the air using their finger as the pencil
  • Writing on backs - children write the words on their partner's back
  • Word shapes - children work out the word from the shape of its letters
  • Using small cut out letters to make words
  • Worksheet with short, simple activities to practise writing and understanding the words
Very many thanks to Fatima, Vicky, Jenny, Lou, Katie, Annabel, Louise, Joanna, Sylvie, Nathalie and Sue for the following:
  • Spell the word out and children tell you the word you have chosen
  • Children write the word on their forearm, spelling it out to their partner
  • Anagrams and crosswords
  • Practise word sequences and use a "pause button", or delay, before the children repeat it back to you.  The children therefore rehearse in their head during the pause.  This is like "don't repeat until I click my fingers" when presenting and practising new vocabulary.
  • Use the musical memory by using song or rhythm to help the words or spelling to go in
  • Show words with vowels or consonants missing, and the children have to replace them
  • Print the word on a large piece of paper and hold it up for as many seconds as there are letters in the word.  The children can't write while the card is in the air and use that time to memorise the word.  When you put the word down, the children write it on their whiteboard.  As an alternative you could use the fade-out animation on PowerPoint.
  • Hangman
  • Show a word on the board.  The children look at it for, say, 30 seconds.  Then take away some of the letters and the children have to say which letters are missing.  Then take all the letters away and ask the children to spell the whole word.
  • Running dictation
  •  Pair game: children have a set of word cards.  Partner A takes a card away, and, to get it, Partner B needs to spell the word correctly, either speaking or writing.
  • Examine the combination of sounds and silent letters that make up the word as this gives the children more ownership of the spelling
I had a go at some of these strategies with Year 3.  First of all,  I gave them a Post-It each and we did a quick test where they had to write the colour words.  Then their partners marked them while I wrote the answers on the board.  The aim was to see if the memorisation activities that we did would help them to improve their score at the end of the lesson.
  • First of all we looked at the words on the whiteboard and wrote them in the air together, saying the letters out loud in English as we did so.
  • Next I gave them each a small card with the colours on, and they used this to help them to write the words on their forearms with their fingers, spelling it out for their partners.
  • Then we looked at colour words with either the vowels or the consonants missing.  The children had to tell me which word it was and which letters were missing.
  • We looked at the word shapes of the colours to see if we could identify them.  We spelled the letters out as they were filled in.
  • Finally we did a multiple choice quiz using ClassPOPs.
  • (All the resources I used are here.)
At the end of the lesson I handed out more Post-Its and we did another test, making sure that the previous test and the colour cards were hidden.  One child achieved full marks on both tests.  Of the remaining 28 children, 24 improved their score.

I asked the class which activities they had found most useful, and there appeared to be a pretty even split between the five activities.  

So a promising start, and something I think I will try again with different year groups and different language.