Have you seen the latest issue of Teach Primary? If you have you might have noticed that I’ve been writing again. This month I’ve provided a lesson plan and resources that link languages (in my case Spanish) with the music of Saint Saëns and specifically the Carnival of the Animals.
For those that have been in primary language teaching for a fair few years might recognise that this lesson is inspired by the QCA Scheme of Work which I used as my starting point before adding my own ideas and twists.
If you don’t have a subscription to the magazine, you can download the lesson and resources for free from Teachwire here I’ve added the lesson plan below.
In case you didn’t know, the Champion League Final this evening is being held in Madrid. And that set me thinking about the series Mi Madrid that I wrote for BBC Schools Radio last year. One of the 10 episodes ¡Hala Madrid! is all about football, albeit ‘el derbi madrileño’ between Atlético de Madrid and Real Madrid. I love football and it was a joy to write. I particularly enjoyed writing the story in which the Madrid football stadiums argue about who is the best. You can hear it told here and read the (bilingual) transcript here El Estadio Metropolitano will be the stage for tonight’s game and hopefully will see an amazing game, won by the best team! #YNWA
Wish I could claim credit for writing the songs for Mi Madrid as they’re amazing! I’m really glad that the BBC has now made videos for each of them as it makes them even more useful. I sometimes choose one to play whilst kids complete an activity as a timer, or as a way of gaining attention.
I was talking to someone this week that I’ve known since my late teens about ambitions that we had then and whether they’ve been realised. Whilst they had a long list of aspirations including to write a book, travel the world and win awards for their writing (all achieved), I really only had two ambitions that didn’t seem as exciting – to be a mum, and to be a teacher. Ambitions achieved? Well, yes. I am mum to two boys and I like to think they’re turning out OK, and I am a teacher.
But I didn’t want to be just any teacher. I wanted to be a teacher like Mrs Head, Mrs Corden and Señora Sánchez- Richardson; unforgettable teachers who are etched in my mind, who nurtured and encouraged my fascination with learning and with finding out about the world beyond our town and country, and who inspired me to be a teacher too. I literally followed in the footsteps of the latter as I took over from her as Head of Spanish when she retired, but have I ever managed to make such an impact on a child’s life as she made on mine?
I love my job and have done since I moved to primary but it hasn’t always been like that. At one point, realising my ambition to teach, and to teach Spanish, was destroying my life and that of my young children, and that’s when I left secondary teaching. [NB I am not saying that secondary is bad and primary blissful but I always wanted to be a middle school teacher who taught Spanish and was ‘forced’ into secondary teaching as the closest way forward.] I look back on those days and wonder if I managed to make a difference to any of my pupils as I was a walking stress factory. I know I did though as I’ve since met a pupil who remembered how she’d made my life a living nightmare when I first started as Head of Spanish and told me that she admired my determination to get her to succeed when she was throwing all my efforts back in my face. One of my pupils from those days contacted me (via a teaching friend) when he finished his GCSEs to tell me that he’d done well and to thank me for teaching him French. I’d only done it for a year in Y8, and only two lessons a week although I did love teaching his class. We’re still in contact, and when he wanted to start learning Spanish, he asked for my help.
What about since I moved to primary? I’ve loved it but that doesn’t equate to inspiring anyone. Perhaps I should just be glad that I like going to work, that I have fun and that I’m doing what I love to do. Does it matter if I’m making a specific difference to anyone’s life? Well it does to me. My overarching aim is to encourage children to explore languages, to enjoy learning them and to want to carry on when they leave. The vast majority move to secondary schools where they will learn French or German rather than Spanish (at least at first) so it’s important to me that they leave with the will to ‘start again’ but also the understanding – and belief – that those years of Spanish were not wasted.
So do I make a difference? Past pupils quite often say ¡hola! when they see me so I can’t have made a hugely negative impression on most of them! I love going to ‘prize giving’ evenings for my boys not just to celebrate their achievements but to ‘check up’ on old pupils, and I’m especially proud when they have won prizes for languages (happens quite often!) Former pupils send me messages with younger siblings or even turn up at school to tell me how they’ve doing with languages or have done at GCSE, and some proudly tell me that they’re continuing with language learning. A former pupil asking to do work experience at one school this year specified that she was particularly interested in languages (of course I jumped at the opportunity!) Another former pupil volunteered as a sixth former, first through his school scheme in Y12 and then in his free time, delivering Spanish in KS1, and is now a student teacher with a language specialism. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not claiming that it’s all my influence that makes this happen; I know that these young people have had excellent language teachers at secondary level too, but I’d like to think that I started them on their way…
And it’s not just the ‘high fliers’ that I’d like to think have been influenced. A Y6 at my other school last year bought me a huge bunch of flowers and wrote me a note about how much he’d enjoyed Spanish and how he’d miss me – a child who is not a natural linguist but who listened and tried his best, always with a smile. I hope he remembers his experiences if languages are quite the same for him in the future.
I started by recalling a conversation I had with a friend. That was one of two reasons I started this post, the other catalyst being a message on LinkedIn from another former pupil who has now completed his engineering degree and is completing a Masters whilst spending a year in industry. During his internship he’s decided to take up Spanish again and wanted to ask my advice as Duolingo is great but he felt he lacked listening and speaking practice. He’d written the whole message in Spanish (and I don’t think he’d completely GoogleTranslated it either!) which touched me, but what he wrote in the second half of the message made me cry:
So I guess I’ve made a difference to those young people, however big or small. And they’re the ones I know about. As I said earlier, Señora Sánchez-Richardson knew I became a Spanish teacher but she doesn’t know about my career since 2000. Mrs Corden died whilst I was at secondary school but I went to her funeral and made sure that her children knew the influence she had on me. I last saw Mrs Head when I was 10 so she probably doesn’t know how much they influenced me, and she certainly knows nothing of my teaching career as I was Lisa Efford then.
The point of this post is not to say ‘look at me, I’m brilliant’ but to serve as a reminder of two things. Firstly, ambitions are great but who knows as teenager where life might lead you. I’ve done far more than I could ever imagine then including keynoting conferences, writing websites, radio series, magazine articles and textbook materials, running a marathon and completing triathlons and living in Switzerland. And secondly, we might not know the influence we have at the time, and we may never know, but it happens. Teaching can be a ‘thankless’ task, sometimes quite literally. I don’t get piles of presents at the end of the year as a class teacher might do, but it makes any thanks I do receive all the more special. And actually, as much as I love (dark) chocolate and smelly candles, I’d swap them all for a message like the one above.
I teach Spanish at two primary schools and we predominantly follow the Light Bulb Languages scheme of work. Year 4 are about to start the latter part of Unit 8 Descubrimos los animales. In it, they learn the names of parts of the body, comparing the words in a variety of languages, and then talk about animals, culminating in making and describing ‘strange animals.’ As a bridge between the two, we look at El Bicho de la Fruta, but I was on the look out for another story that might accompany this as Y4 love a story. And I’ve found two!
1. Un Bicho Extraño
I was first made aware of this book via Jesús from the Consejería de Educación in London who spoke about it at a session I attended. It is the story of Un Bicho Extraño (A Strange Creature) who we discover bit by bit. The ‘story’ is written in a single phrase per page. Well, two phrases as you can see from below as the ‘bicho’ is revealed and then disappears as you turn the book around.
Jesús shared materials that have been prepared by a working party to enable teachers to use this text as the basis for a series of lessons. Lots of ideas and resources that are ready to be used. I intend to choose some of the activities, particularly the Pictionary activity and the materials that support descriptions of the Un zoológico de bichos raros as they go well with the scheme. It would make a good analogue alternative to using the website Switchzoo.com to create hybrid animals. (Gutted that BuiLD YouR WiLD SelF is no longer available!)
To present the story I could read the book as it is (There is also a video of the book being read here) or I could try to do as the teacher in this clip has done, building the ‘bicho’ live as I tell the story. This would be a good introduction to pupils creating their own bicho and presenting it.
2. El Carnaval de los Animales
The second book was a recent purchase as I was writing an article for Teach Primary on integrating languages and music into a series of lessons (harking back to the QCA scheme of work!) I saw the title and it took me back to lessons I used to do based around Saint Saens music. Except the book isn’t just a carnival of animals as we know it.
All the animals have been invited to the carnival – but fancy dress is obligatory. How will the animals disguise themselves? The book is very amusing as animals decide how to disguise themselves, mostly as other animals but not always, and present themselves in their new forms. It’s a fun book to read as it is, and you could play games with it.
For example, can you identify the animal and the disguise? ¿Qué animal es? ¿Y el disfraz?
And this would be a simple way to make more ‘strange animals’ as pupils attempt to disguise their animal as something else. A fun activity that could be extended beyond animals for the adventurous. I like the range of interesting animals that are introduced in the story – it’s not often that you get to teach mapache or ornitorrinco, and I’ve never heard the word bogavente* before but I know it’d be a hit with Y4.
I’ll let you know how we get on with these books and how much or little we get to do with them. If you have any ideas of similar texts, do leave a message in the comments, or contact me via Twitter @lisibo.
You all know the famous wolf from the fairy tales that scares everyone, eats sheep and grandmas, and chases little pigs out of their homes. But do you REALLY know him? What if he wasn’t like that at all?
This book is all about that wolf but reveals another truth – that el lobo de los cuentos doesn’t actually enjoy being bad. What happens when he decides to do exactly the opposite of what is expected from him? He says hello to Caperucita Roja, he gets chased by the cerditos and instead of scaring the cabritillos, he swaps recipes with their Mum.
In the context of this change of character, el lobo discusses emotions and feelings with his fellow characters and discovers empathy. The book finishes with some activities to help children discover and explore their emotions with some cut outs to use just like el lobo does in the story.
It’s a short story and I think it’s great as it shows a different side to the traditional stories – why should the wolf always be the baddie?- but also has important messages about our feelings and emotions. Most importantly I think it explores how we can get stuck in a pattern of behaviour that we don’t like, and that it is possible to break the cycle. I think the pictures in the book help this message get across to children as the characters are all depicted as small children in masks playing the parts.
As a great fan of Eric Carle books, I was very excited to find some bilingual Spanish-English flashcards when I was browsing online. I ordered them in November, and they finally arrived last week! Well worth the wait however, and I thought I’d share some ideas I’ve had for using them. I’m sure you’ll have your own thoughts; please share them via the comments below!
There are 50 cards in the pack featuring words from some of Eric Carle’s books including The Very Hungry Caterpillar / La Oruga Muy Hambrienta and Brown bear, What do you see? /Oso Pardo ¿qué ves? Each card is double sided with the word in English and an image on one side, and the word in Spanish (complete with definite article) and the same image on the other. It’s easy to distinguish the Spanish side from the English as the word is white in a coloured strip on the Spanish side, but in colour on the English side.
Learning vocabulary *Learn new words by studying the cards and then testing yourself on the Spanish. *Pupils could work in pairs and take it in turns to say the word in Spanish. *Show the image and say the word.
Name the book *Show a card – which story does it come from? You could start with one card and add another if necessary. perhaps you could award 3 points if the book is guessed after 1 card, decreasing the points the more cards are seen. *True or false – when looking at a particular story, show a card; is it in the story? Hay un una abeja en Oso Pardo ¿qué ves? ¿Verdad o mentira?
Sort the cards *By gender – this is fairly easy as the Spanish word is accompanied by the definite article, but ‘los globos’ may throw a spanner in the works for some. *Animate and inanimate / ¿animado o inanimado? – could lead to an interesting discussion about whether a leaf is alive or not! Is it dead the second it leaves the tree? *Manmade or natural / ¿artificial o natural?– not quite the same as the above! *By story – I can find images from The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Artist who Painted a Blue Horse, Brown Bear, The Busy Ladybird, From Head to Toes, and there are others that I can’t identify (I think they’re from an ABC or colour book that I don’t have!) *by colour – of the image, or of the ‘word strip’ *words with an accent – reviewing why Spanish words have accents is always useful. *by phoneme – jirafa, oveja, pájaro, abeja, naranja, hoja would make a group for example.
Make up a sentence/story *choose two or three cards and try to make a sentence in Spanish La jirafa pone la araña en la nube would be an example using the cards above. *alternatively choose more cards, six perhaps, and try to make up a sequence of sentences or even a short story. This would be a fun activity for Y6 who’ve learned how to manipulate verbs and are ready for a challenge preKS3!
So these are just a few ideas I’ve noted down quickly that come to mind. Some can be done with a whole class, but most I envisage being done by pairs or small groups of children. I’ll let you know if I think of any more ideas, and I’m sure the children will soon devise their own games to play!
It seems a long time since Language World 2019 (it is three weeks I guess) so I apologise for the delay in uploading my presentation here; I’ve had a few website issues.
However, here it is, and below are some notes that you may find helpful in recalling what I said, or trying to decipher the slides! You’ll also find below Clare Seccombe’s lovely sketchnote of the session which summarises what I said as well!
Pictocuentos Pictotraductor Pictoaplicaciones Unfortunately I haven’t managed to find an equivalent for French or German. WidgetOnline is a subscription website that allows you to make visual stories similar to the Pictoaplicaciones suite but in English, or other languages with an add on pack.
I wanted to share more about using Makaton and to highlight that there are a number of free as well as reasonably priced resource packs that can be downloaded from Makaton.org I got the materials to accompany my retelling of Dear Zoo/ Querido Zoo from there and then translated them/applied them to the Spanish story. And there’s an article on Using Makaton in Storytelling that you might find interesting.
Finally, I had a pile of books to share but completely forgot with the pressure of time so here are screenshots from a couple. Firstly, Don Quijote de la Mancha which has the 2 USPs of being an authentic Spanish text, and also being written in Spanish ‘handwriting’, and El Pájaro, el Monoy la Serpiente en la Selva which is a charming story about living and working together.
If you have any comments or questions, please leave them below, or you can contact me via social media!
This last weekend I have attended the annual ALL conference, Language World, in Loughborough. It’s been as inspiring and thought provoking as usual and it’s been lovely to see friends old and new. Given the current political atmosphere, and the issues facing languages in particular, it was great to find that a spirit of optimism prevailed and that there was a resolve to ride the storm together and come out the other side stronger amongst speaking and delegates alike.
Once more I was asked to be ‘official Sketchnoter’ which basically involves sketchnoting (which I’d do anyway!) but in real time to be posted as soon as the session was completed on a display board outside the main conference room as well as on Twitter. A little more intense and stressful than doing it in my notebook and tidying it up and making it pretty later! Still, I enjoy the challenge and it was again good to eavesdrop on people admiring the sketchnote display without knowing I’d done them.
Below are links to all of my sketchnotes in PDF form plus one containing them all at the end. Hope you find them helpful!
This is the third in a series of three posts about Julia Donaldson books that I have recently purchased in Spanish.
Lo que Escuchó la Mariquita is the Spanish version of What the Ladybird heard and is a ‘farmyard thriller; a crime set on a farm‘ according to Julia Donaldson, the author. In it, two robbers, Hugo el Zurdo and Len el Largo plot to steal the prize cow from under the farmer’s nose. But they hadn’t reckoned on the very tiny, very quiet ladybird.
One night the ladybird hears the thieves plotting and relays the story to the animals who all make a loud hullabaloo – and then they hear the plan which make use of all their noisiness! Will they outsmart Hugo el Zurdo and Len el Largo? I’ll leave you to find out! It’s a great story and I love the rhyme and rhythm of the text.
How would I use this story? I’d probably read it much the way that Julia Donaldson does in the video below – but in Spanish! The story is a wonderful opportunity to work on animal vocabulary as well as the always popular topic of animal sounds. It always amuses children that animals ‘speak Spanish’ too and make slightly – or sometimes very – different noises in Spanish. You could even sort the sounds into groups according to how similar they are. You could use puppets or masks to involve individuals in retelling the story or even a set of fingerpuppets or finger scribbles for each child to join in physically, or even use actions (my latest obsession with Makaton would come in handy here!) Nonetheless with little preparation of that kind, it’s easy to encourage learners to join in with some noises and sound effects!
Follow up activities might include vocabulary matching at word level, some simple substitution sentences with animal and sound [La vaca] dice [Muu] or [El perro elegante] dijo [Cuac] or even some simple descriptions La vaca es bonita y premiada. Es blanca y negra con manchas grises. Tiene un cabestro azul y un premio rojo. La vaca dice Muu. Alternatively you could ask comprehension questions with Sí/No Verdad/Mentira responses, or at a higher level, require a response in a phrase or sentence. And finally, how about making a map of the farmyard and giving directions around it in Spanish, or making it into a game and guiding a blindfolded classmate using only animal noises (but don’t try and confuse them like the animals in the book!) There are lots of art ideas that go with this book – you can see one below.
Looking for ideas of how to use the book, I found lots of ideas for using the English version What the Ladybird heard. I’ve collected them together on a Pinterest board. It included the video below of Julia Donaldson and her husband singing a song based on the story – anyone fancy writing a Spanish version?
This is the second in a series of three posts about books by Julia Donaldson that I have recently purchased in Spanish.
Las tres cartas del Oso is a very simple board book with flaps. It has two short sentences per page and colourful illustrations by Axel Scheffler. Oso writes three letters and sets out to deliver them. We follow him, counting the letters as we go and trying to guess to whom they are addressed by the home in which they live. Are we correct? Opening the flaps gives us the answer! But why has Oso written to Ardilla, Rana and Topo? All will be revealed as the book concludes with cake!
I bought this book to read to FKS/KS1 as it is very simple and also short. It reinforces counting to 3 and also could be used to introduce the names of some animals. I’d introduce the animal words before the story, with images to support, and then display them so that children can choose from the ‘gallery’ which animal they think the letter should go to. We could act out delivering the letters too, and reading them. And, as the purpose of the letters is revealed to be Oso’s birthday, it would be a good opportunity to talk Spanish birthday songs and traditions.
A couple of traditions that I like that are quirky – instead of being given ‘the bumps’ and being thrown in the air, children in Spain have their ear ‘pulled’ the number of times that corresponds to their birthday. And in Mexico, I’ve discovered that they have the tradition below: