ELL RSG – ¡Vámonos!

Category: ELL RSG

On Tuesday I took part in an LSG entitled Seasonal Activities at the Martineau Centre in Birmingham.

As promised, here is my story El pequeño petirrojo, and the translation into French Le petit rouge gorge

Here’s a previous presentation about Christmas activities that you might find useful as well.

Hot on the heels of CILT’s Primary Language Show, Birmingham’s ELL RSG meeting at the Martineau Centre in Harborne on 9th March was led by Helen Leigh from Worcestershire LA and was full of ideas for five to ten minute language activities that can be done in the classroom. Whilst the recommendation of one hour per week language learning has been understood as a discrete lesson by some, the ideal is that the hour is spread throughout the week. Not only because an hour is a loooong time to maintain attention and energy, but also because little and often fits well into the already packed primary curriculum. Helen suggested the term ‘language exposure’ too as a good way of viewing it.

The session was jampacked wth ideas which Helen related to the KS2 Framework.

Here are some exmaples –

O3.3 – perform simple communicative tasks using single words, phrases and short sentences
‘Snail stories’ – can be done in many languages as so simple! Un escargot (actions draw s – drive a car – point GO!)
Un escargot….deux escargots…..bonjour….bonjour…… kiss kiss……au revoir…au revoir
Un caracol…… dos caracoles…..hola…….hola……..kiss kiss……. adiós…..adiós
could add to it by asking how you are, name etc

Brain gym –
a)letters and number – using the chart (right), say the alphabet whilst lifting arms and legs as indicated by the number as below –
1- right hand and left leg
2- left hand and right leg
3- both hands

Kids could make up their own versions, have a competition to see how fast they can do it correctly? It also fits the idea of Daily Physical Activity. See also Take Ten en français / en español.

b. colours – Dr Kawashima-like stroop test – as a timed test perhaps, or inter table competition?

Another idea was a Mexican wave of word cards and/ or pictures?

O3.2 to recognise and respond to sound patterns and words O4.3 to listen for sounds, rhyme and rhythm

eg Une poule sur un mur (see here for song mp3)
focus on ‘ou’ sound – touch your head when you hear the sound.
then ‘u’ sound

Helen then used pictures of Marge and Homer Simpson, breaking the sad news that they were splitting up and had to split their belongings, to demonstrate an activity with phoneme. Homer was in a house labelled ou and Marge in one labelled u – the task was to divide all the things in the home. eg Marge got la jupe, Homer la tortue, Marge le mur etc

Dans la forêt lointaine
is a good song to use for reinfrcing the phoneme ou – pupils stand up and sit down each time your hear ‘ou’
This also covers ICU as traditional song. Helen reiterated that it is not necessary to understand every word.

A simple activity – two pupils compete to splat the number, animated on PPT to pop up and down. Make it harder by asking pupils to splat multiples of 3 for example.

L4.1 to read and understand a range of familair written phrases
O5.1 to prepare and practse a simple conversation, reusing familiar vocabulary and structures in new contexts

Fishing rods – hook a fish – on the back of the fish is a number – the team that gets the number closest to x that wins.
Add them orally! Alternatively, make it harder by allowing the use of all operations to reach a more difficult number.

Helen also showed an idea using an alphabet mat – give two people a word to spell out by ‘dancing’ on the letters. their partners cmpete to write the word phrase down.

Another idea was to ask questions with three possible answers. Someone is sent out. whilst they are outside, the group decide on the correct answers. When they return, the person has to get all three right or start again. This allows the class to practise the question form which the part they often struggle to learn.

Above is a slide about a game of Cluedo that could be played with the class – involves colours, classroom objects and rooms, and pupils repeat the same vocabulary over and over until someone gets the correct answer. And a bit of blood and gore always go down well ;o)

O3.4 listen attentively and understand instructions, everyday classroom language and praise words

Helen then showed us some magic! Dice that changed colour, books that lose colours and regain colours, disappearing things, psychic displays – all the usual stuff!
We made up a spell about colours –

couleur couleur où va tu? couleur couleur aparu

and all the disappeared colours appear again – clever book from Internet (and an idea from

Joe Brown!)

We then had a look at the story Je m’habille et… je te croc! all about a wolf who gets dressed then comes to eat us! Helen had found a Powerpoint in French already prepared – there are lots more great ideas on the site too!

The final activities involved the Months of the year – firstly, using a mgaic bag – everyone wrote their birth month on a slip of paper and put them in a bag. Helen then got someone to choose a month and wrote the month that she thought it would be on a magic board. of course she was right as there was a secret compartment n the bag! The other activity involved betting on the month that disappears forst from the board, then, once they’ve all gone, which comes back? The disappearing involves pupils copywriting on a whiteboard, and reappearing involves recall.

Loads of ideas!! Thanks Helen x
pass the bomb!

Joe Brown, was the keynote speaker at the Birmingham Primary Languages Conference. Joe is a Primary Language Teaching Adviser at CILT explained his experience and background as a Primary School teacher, teaching abroad (in bilingual German school) and in Inner city London. Joe used an exercise with the following greetings to highlight how many languages were spoken by the pupils at the school where he teaches. He talked about the opportunity that this offered to show respect to others by learning how to greet these children in their own language, giving value to the home language and also the possible discussion of forms of greeting (tu et vous; tu y usted) How many languages can you identify?




Bom dia

Guten Tag












Joe was definite that PLL is NOT just about speaking and listening – there are five strands in the KS2 Framework and all are as important. There is fun in PLL but there is also rigour.
He highlighted the QCA scheme of work, pointing out that it is specifically designed for the KS2 Framework and is freely downloadable or can be purchased for £15.

Joe asserted that every child is interested in language learning – every one can be intrigued by the idea of different languages, giving successful experiences to those who may have struggled in other areas of the curriculum. We want to harness this enthusiasm, embedding language into the curriculum and making sure that language lessons stay as among pupils’ favourite lessons. Joe commented that, in his experience, this enthusiasm is particularly well maintained where there is dialogue between primary and secondary, and where PLL has the support of the Headteacher.

Joe reported on the spread of languages chosen for PLL – 91% doing French, 25% Spanish and 12% doing German. He also pointed to HLTAs playing a big role in some areas.

When pupils re asked about PLL, three words are heard a lot – Joe offered some ideas as to why:

DIFFERENT – incorporating learning styles

EXCITING – working with and extending the children’s interests

FUN – children and teachers see learning experience as motivating

Joe used the following song to discuss how we decode language using KAL and LLS. How did we work out the meaning? What comments might children make? Can actions help us? How co
uld this become a month’s work? Could this cover all five strands of the Framework? For example – intercultural understanding in discussing songs from other countries about the weather. The only clues he gave were in the form of an action for each line.

¡Qué llueva! ¡Qué llueva!

La virgin de la cueva,

Los pájaritos cantan,

Las nubes se levantan,

¡Qué si! ¡Qué no !

Que caiga un chaparrón,

Con azúcar y limón.

Joe then highlighted more resources that are available including the NACELL site and the ELL forum, the various Grids for Learning including East Riding (schemes of work) and Northumberland (interactive stories with resources) and the Training Zone

Joe offered some ideas of brain breaks – using actions like stretch, turn, dance, and then adding adverbs or perhaps negatives. Why not do brain breaks in Spanish? Such activities cover Framework objectives and count towards the recommended time allowance.

Finally Joe highlighted an often forgotten part of the Framework – part 3 which has 8 sections giving guidance on more general matters such as inclusion, progression, assessment, making links, transition. Under inclusion the Framework addresses self esteem, involving parents, social skills such as body language etc.

Joe concluded by offering some ideas on the question – What does good PL look like?

He demonstrated in a whistle stop 10 minutes that, from small beginnings, a unit of QCA can be extended to an end result that can be celebrated.

  • Teach body parts
  • Simon says (listening activity as well as a game)
  • Look at word and point to it
  • Phonemes
  • Apple pie/Sausages/Squeak piggy squeak/Your majesty to practice vocabulary
  • Look at graphemes / orthography – accents / use of gender – engaging children in the written word
  • Tongue twisters – eg Poquito a poquito Paquito empaca poquitas copitas en pocos paquetes.
  • Colours
  • Comparing colours in different languages – not sticking to the language you’re learning
  • Cross curricular – practice using grid references along the corridor up the stairs using numbers and colours for axes
  • Beetle with body parts and colours to produce monsters
  • Talk about the monsters they have created. Using 1st or 3rd person
  • Portraits – look at painters eg Picasso
  • Produce a portrait of self for display labeled in language in simple words then sentences.

A summary of Joe’s Key messages
Framework available
There are 5 strands
Training Zone is there to support
Nacell is there to support
QCA SOW is available and builds on KS2 Framework and 5 strands.
Small steps – giving a broad base of knowledge and enthusiasm for language on which secondary colleagues can build.

It’s taken me longer than I expected, but here’s the rest of the input from the Birmingham ELL RSG on November 20th – Let’s get active! – giving ideas on activities for the PLL classroom that get the kids actively involved in learning language.

I’ve already blogged about some games and a song – Jean Petit qui danse – that were suggested by Sara Vallis and also shared my input on using parachutes and also some action songs such as Le fermier dans son pré and El granjero (you’ll find the files in my Box of Goodies on the right hand side of the blog.)

So, all that’s left is to tell you what the ‘experts’ (i.e. the advisors!) said!

Paul Nutt – whose exact title currently eludes me and Google ;o) – started the session by reading us a passage in French about hobbies and pasttimes. It was in the form of a letter and was not a simple text, but the activities he suggested made it accessible to younger learners who had some understanding of French.

The first activity involved us being split into groups and each group being given the name of a pasttime. Our task was to listen for our activity (my group had ‘le rugby’)and stand up each time it was mentioned, with everyone standing up for ‘les passetemps’.

The next time we listened we were given cards with the vocabulary items written on them. Our task was to hold up the appropriate word when we heard it. To make things a little more complicated, we rotated the person who held up the card so sometimes there were a number of hands grabbing for cards!

Following on from this, we were challenged to put the words into alphabetical order against the other teams.

By this time, we had heard the text and the vocabulary items a number of times, and our next task was to write as many of the hobbies and pasttimes in English as we could recall -the cards were taken away at this point so no cheating was allowed :o(

The final part of the activity involved different cards, this time with phrases as well as vocabulary items, from which we were challenged to make sentences. For example,
From here, we discussed how the activity might go, with pupils being encouraged to substitute pasttimes and opinions, add qualifiers and connectives, give reasons for opinions etc.

This seemed a good idea and I actually tried it out the next day with Year 6 – I read a passage of personal identification information and I challenged them in mixed ability groups of 4 to put the text into the correct order whilst listening. I know that listening is the skill about which they have the most hang ups – even more than with speaking- so I was interested to see how they did. It proved a success and we took it on to the next stage when we discussed how we might use the activity to inform our own writing. The pupils suggested annotating the slips and substituting numbers, sports, names etc to personalise the passage. Here are some photos of their ideas.

Rona Heald – Comenius West Midlands Regional Manager – shared some activities for the hall and playground.
She began with a song about measuring –

Un kilomètre à pied,
ça use, ça use.

Un kilomètre à pied,

ça use les souliers.

The song continues with ‘deux kilomètre’ etc .
It’s very easy to learn and is sung whilst marching around in a line. Rona suggested using it with instructions as to HOW the pupils should march and sing – marchez…lentement, sur place, accroupis, au galop, à quatre pattes, les mains en l’air, en faissent sauter une crêpe… et… changez de direction.
This reminded me of a session I attended at the Primary Language Show last year about linking ELL with Physical development in Foundation Stage – suggested activities included jumping the rope where the leader holds up two coloured cards and calls a colour then the pupils jump to the correct side to indicate answer, and walking the line where the class walk around a line on the floor whilst singing a song – the above would be a good choice!

Rona went on to present different ways of playing hopscotch from around the world. The names themselves were an education – La Marelle (France) El Muñeco (Spain) Tempelhuepfen(German) Hinkelbann (Netherlands – I think!) Rayuela (Argentina). We were also treated to a discussion of another variation called Escargot or La Marelle ronde’ where the squares are in a spiral and players hop on one foot to the centre and back.
Hopscotch has minimal language content so the suggestion was to perhaps put a picture in each square and to win it, you have to name the item, or put it into a sentence. Also players should count the squares as they hop, not necessarily starting at 1 but perhaps 8 or count in 2s etc., or even r

ecite the alphabet.

Another activity which we tried was La llamada de los animales – the call of the animals. Four children are given a picture of a Mummy animal eg frog, elephant, cat, dog, and they go to stand in a corner of the room. The rest of the class are given a card with one of the animals on it – they are the babies and they need to find their Mummy. As they approach one of the Mummies, they emit the sound of the animal and if it’s their Mummy, they reply. To extend the (very minimal unless you’re teaching animal calls!) languaeg, you could give the pupils lines to use such as ‘I’m a little …. and I’m looking for my Mummy..’ or ‘Come and sit down’ or @sorry, I’m not your Mummy’.

There were many more ideas for games such as Lupo mangia fruta – the fruit eating wolf, and Alto ahí, a Spanish variation on Dodgeball. Many can be found on iEARN Children’s Folk Games, ‘a result of an international networking project run in I*earn Kidscan Conference
during September 1998- April 1999.‘ There are lots of games, rhymes, songs, tonguetwisters and customs in a wide variety of languages – well worth a look!

The next RSG is on 22nd January and I’m really looking forward to it as Oscar Stringer is coming to tell us all about animation – I’m already sold on the educational possibilites so I can’t wait for others to discover its potential too.

I blogged last week about the ELL RSG meeting last Tuesday, and my contributions on the subject of parachute games and songs and rhymes that can be used for active learning. However, other people offered ideas too and I was reminded of one of them when I received an email via MFL resources Yahoo group.

One contributor was Sara Vallis from City Road School in Birmingham shared some ideas from a course she had attended in Besançon.
FlySwat and Lamb Darts – also known as Lamb Slam – where two people compete to be the first to swat or slam the appropriate item of vocabulary on the board. Perhaps not one for the IWB!
Chair OXO where you physically play Noughts and Crosses with vocabulary items to be named or questions to be answered on each chair before the square is ‘won’ and the team representative can occupy the chair. I liked this alternative to OXO on the board with pictures as I usually play it.
Hot/cold – Hide the teddy somewhere in the room whilst one person is outside, then the volunteer returns and has to find the teddy, guided by the rest of the class repeating a word or phrase loudly(for hot) or quietly(for cold) depending on how close the seeker is to finding the teddy. You could use any vocabulary or phrase; you could even use it to practise opposites with two words being used eg grande for hot and pequeño for cold.

Sara also suggested a song in French to practise body parts – as an alternative to Heads Shoulders Knees and Toes! Jean Petit qui danse is a sweet little song about a man who dances with various parts of his body. Sara used a downloadable track to show us how the song went, and yesterday I recieved an email in which MarieFrance Perkins mentioned the same song –

“When revising the body this is the song that I always with my students, they love it. I have now found it on Youtube. A good one to get out of breath and tire them out!!!”
Here’s the video –

I’ll blog about what Paul Nutt and Rona Heald said a little later!

Today’s ELL RSG in Birmingham is entitled Let’s get active! and I’m presenting ideas for activities using Songs and Rhymes , and also Parachutes.

I’ve uploaded my presentations to My Box of Goodies (see right) along with some of the materials I’m using. I’ve done this so that people that were at the RSG can download them but also to give access to those that weren’t there – I’m not averse to sharing! I’m also conscious that giving people handouts is lovely but they often get filed away and forgotten – hopefully by encouraging people to be proactive and download the materials they are more likely to use them. And if they don’t want them, I’ve not caused the death of another small forest ;o)

A couple of links –
the parachute stuff is heavily inspired by the work of Daryl Bailey and co at Hove Park School – have a look at their website
You can download their parachute materials in Spanish, French and German from there!
And the materials for Le fermier dans son pré are available from Maternelle de Moustache
by clicking on F. There are lots of other materials there too for stories and songs as well as craft activities.

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