March 1, 2008 – ¡Vámonos!
 

Day: March 1, 2008

The ABC of QCA was presented by Sue Colepio – originally a secondary teacher now in Primary Language teaching and Heidi Gallagher, a Yr 6 class teacher for 2 days and is an PLL AST and Comenius KS2 consultant in East Riding.

The QCA schemes are one way of meeting the goals of the KS2 framework, taking the wider Primary curriculum as a starting point – what’s great is that many of the activities are inspired by things that are already done in Primary and it draws on things kids enjoy. Each unit has three sections – presentation (flashcards, puppets etc), practice (songs rhymes and games to consolidate) and production stages (the QCA scheme seems to recommend a final product to celebrate the things that have been done eg displays, assemblies, presentations to the class, exchange class projects).

Heidi focussed on activities for Four friends / Les quatre amis Unit 5 of QCA – aimed at Year 3, towards end of year. She pointed out that the QCA scheme could be an intimidating document for the reluctant or less confident class teacher, and suggested that a couple of activities be taken from the plans in the first instance and then more built in for the subsequent years.

The unit starts with looking at the story – Heidi would introduce animal names first but that’s a matter of debate – is this too near the topic based approach we’re being encouraged to get away from? Would it be better to introduce story first and allow pupils to pick out the relevant vocabulary ?

Heidi the used the activity montrez-moi ….– as informal assessment – pupils show the card that matches word she says. Also thumbs up, heads down – Pouces – with each child putting their head on the desk and holding up a thumb. Four kids are chosen to represent the animals then they squeeze a thumb- the pupils whose thumbs were squeezed then guess which animal squeezed them. I think this would work better if played like ‘squeak piggy squeak’ with all the class shutting their eyes and one child making an animal noise for the guesser to identify – animal and child’s name.

Classroom language can be linked – using the same four animals, each row or table or child receives an animal image and then instructions are given to the specific animals :
e.g. les moutons, levez-vous
les lapins, asseyez-vous
les souris, regardez-moi

The phonic focus for this unit is ‘ch’ in French (often there is one being reinforced) – makes sound ‘sh’ in French –and the action to accompany is finger to mouth. You could use le manuel phonique (French version of the Jolly Phonics scheme)

The story was presented by Heidi in a Smartboard flipchart, using the background in the resource bank alongside free downloadable animations. As it is read, the activity is to focus on phonics – put finger on lips everytime you hear the ‘ch’ . there’s lots of repetition in the story of phrase such as ‘c’est qui?’ ‘ X voit la belle pomme rouge’ and ‘ j’aime bien manger la belle pomme rouge.’ We did it with the text on the screen but the point was made that it’s best to do the activity without the text so it really is listening activity, then clone the page and add text for later activities. Here’s the link to a downloadable version in Powerpoint – seems to have sound embedded too!

The next activity might be to build a word bank of examples that pupils know already that may have appeared previously e.g. bouche, cache-cache, cheveux or that have appeared in the story / unit e.g. cheval, champs, chercher – perhaps have laminated posters for each phoneme – grapheme link so vocabulary can be added with Post-It or board marker as a reminder – also allows it to be an ongoing activity.

Another activity might be looking at how the animals move – galope, sautille, court, trotinne. Or possibly Répétez si c’est vrai – can be done with thumbs, or lollysticks or on IWB with correct answer hidden under a shape

This unit reinforces a previous phoneme – ‘on’(finger on nose to make pig nose) e.g. mouton, marron.

Another activity to reinforce phoneme – look at word then cover – can you write it? What phonemes can you hear? Will that help you? Perhaps show the picture and pupils say and write the word on a flashboard. This allows instant assessment as you can see who has it, who needs more help etc.

Sue took over, showing us Juan, her little man who shows her linguistic skills – English as her head, French as her body as she has studied and lived there, German and Spanish as her arms as she teaches them and Italian as her feet as it’s hard work to talk to her husband’s family. A lovely activity that could equally be done by pupils and even with cultures with which you / they associate.

Asking us to suspend belief and become Year 3, Sue aimed to look at the three sections of the units, suggesting ways of introducing then practicing and exploiting in a final production. She taught us some greetings in Spanish, using repetition and song. Focusing on silent ‘h??

? in Spanish with the example of Hola, we looked at hospital, hamster, hotel, suggesting from the model how we might pronounce these words. We quickly swapped to German, using Hallo and Auf Wiedersehen with actions like Peekaboo (peek out from hands for Hallo and hiding for Auf Wiedersehen), practicing the ‘au’ phoneme with a mirror and then playing Cabbages – I know the game as Squeak Piggy Squeak! Pupils disguise their voice and a blindfolded volunteer has to guess who it was – a good, fun game to practice vocabulary.

She showed us a clip from Early Start German that introduces Wie geht’s? Gut, Sehr gut, Nicht gut, then we improvised a dialogue from our new language.

I would have liked to have seen some ideas for taking the units away from the suggested activities, but it was interesting, as someone who teaches Spanish, to see how the French units work.

After an early start to get to Manchester for the Primary Language Show, I didn’t check my BBC News email alert as usual so was slightly puzzled by José Picardo’s Tweet –

Having checked it out, I’ll tell you, José, and anyone else who’s interested in my opinion!

The post is called ‘Primary Schools ‘have got worse – I don’t like the title – designed for maximum impact obviously! Primary schools ‘have got worse’ – compared to when?? The kernel of the article is that the various bodies reviewing the primary curriculum will report that whilst results in tests are higher, this is due to the increased focus on literacy and numeracy at the expense of others areas of the curriculum.

“While test scores have risen since the mid 1990s, this has been

achieved at the expense of children’s entitlement to a broad and

balanced curriculum and by the diversion of considerable teaching time

to test preparation.”

I would agree that there is a huge emphasis on literacy and numeracy in schools – basically because that’s how the school is judged by many. League tables report on SATs results, not the exciting visit from a local artist, or the afternoon spent lying in the school grounds counting mini beasts.

Year 2 and 6 at school are dominated by SATs – booster classes, practice papers and all – and the rest of the school is affected too as the ICT suite is out of action as an extra classroom. (Not such as big problem this year as we have laptop trolleys in KS2, but KS1 and Foundation are affected)

And we have assessment week for the whole school several times a year during which pupils are under pressure to raise their levels in literacy and numeracy.

I recall being working hard in numeracy and literacy at middle school – lots of mental arithmetic, and tricky spellings, and the like. But I also recall spending whole days painting huge pictures of the Victorians, or a week of working independently on personal topics – I did one about Scandanavia and on another occasion, Sign Language and Braille. Perhaps I have a rosy view of my school days – I did like school- and have forgotten how much time we spent on different sections. We had a test every year – we all went into the hall and did three tests but it wasn’t pressurised, nor had we been ‘hothoused’ to pass them, and we didn’t have SATs.

The LibDem Education spokesman David Laws said “Young children should follow a broad and balanced curriculum. Too much time in primary schools is now spent on test preparation. Creativity is at risk of being squeezed out of our classrooms.”

I’ve blogged before about my wish for creativity, and creative subversion in the primary curriculum, and I don’t think that being a good school with high levels of literacy and numeracy should exclude a creative approach to teaching and learning.

At the Primary Language Show, I’ve heard about several cross curricular projects involving languages, and all have reported increased levels in basic skills as well as the kids having a marvellous time, doing unforgettable things that have blown their minds. I’ll try and find the time to blog about as many as I can (hopefully others will too, eh Joe and Jo??) as I really think school is about more than stuffing minds with facts and coaching kids to pass exams.

What do you think?

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