At the end of July, my husband and I popped off for a short break in Copenhagen in celebration of our silver wedding anniversary. We had a lovely time exploring and sightseeing, and as usual at various points my ‘teacher brain’ or as I prefer to call it ‘lifelong learner thinking’ engaged and I was struck with thoughts and ideas for the classroom.
Firstly I really struggled with not being able to communicate in Danish. I really didn’t need to as everyone spoke English but it made me feel bad not being able to speak. I found that I could understand to a certain extent if things were written thanks to having done some Swedish on Duolingo, plus managing find some similarities at times with German and/or English, but understanding speech was very problematic and speaking more so! My son (who’s studied Swedish for the last two years at Uni) and my husband (who works with Swedes and Danes) tell me that part of the problem is that people ‘swallow’ consonants in spoken Danish making it harder to understand than Swedish. However, I did persevere with my trying to understand and had some success.
And, as usual, I couldn’t leave without a book for my collection. I had a good look and decided that whilst I’d love a storybook, my level of understanding wasn’t high enough yet, so I settled on a simple word book.
Min første bog om Farver is a board book all about colours. Each page has a different colour until the last page which has a rainbow colours. I can see the likeness of farver and Farbe in German. Some colours look – but don’t sound! – like English (pink, orange), some are like French (brun) and others wouldn’t be recognisable to me without the images – sort is black and hvid is white. The last page is about rainbow colours which again reminds me of German Regnbuens farver although I wouldn’t have guessed that er flotte meant ‘are great.’
I’m looking forward to using this when I next look at colours in Spanish as children this year have enjoyed all the comparative exercises we’ve done with multiple languages, finding similarities and differences.
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.
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!
A couple of months ago, Clodagh from ALL contacted me and said that Teach Primary were looking for someone to write a primary languages lesson plan for their magazine, and would I be interested? I said yes and last week, the new edition came out, complete with my lesson on p76-77.
It’s a lesson that I used on World Book Day 2016 when my school went with a Roald Dahl theme. Whilst I teach Spanish, and the resources are therefore in Spanish, it’s an idea that could easily be done in French, German, or any other of the 58 languages into which Dahl’s work has been translated!
You can access the lesson and resources here on TeachWire .
And if you’ve come to my website via Teach Primary, welcome! There are lots of other ideas for lessons here, including more for World Book Day here.
At the Language Show last week, I discovered Educandy on the Linguascope stand. A free interactive activity making site and app, Richard who was running the stand assured me it was really simple to use – and he was right! I’ve just had a go at creating an activity in each of the types:Words – input a list of words and play Anagrams, Hangman or Wordsearch.
Matching Pairs – input pairs of words and play Noughts and Crosses, Crossword, Match up and Memory.
Quiz – input questions, the correct answer and three red herrings for a Multiple Choice quiz.
Below are quizzes I have created (each took about 3 minutes) around adjectives ready for Y6 next week. Once created, quizzes can be accessed via a code that you can give pupils to input here, by URL, or by embedding them in a site (as I have here.) You can also export your activities to use on similar sites e.g. Quizlet, and import from those sites too.
I’d encourage you to have a look at the site and try for yourself. It’s free after all so what do you have to lose but a few minutes of your time.
I’ve just got back form London and the Language Show at Kensington Olympia. A lovely couple of days catching up with people, finding out about university courses and qualifications for Stevens Junior, visiting stands and learning from others – and then some more catching up with people!
Below are sketchnotes of the seminars I attended – minus the EU one as I only attended half of it! I was travelling light and using my mini notebook plus a limited palette of black pen and six coloured highlighters so apologies that they are a little more squashed and monotone than normal!
Joe Dale’s session on Using tecnology. Sadly had to leave early as I was in pain! You can access Joe’s whole presentation here
Wendy Adeniji talking Mastery at GCSE.
The Show and Tell was full of great ideas that I quickly tried to note down. Didn’t catch all names I’m afraid! Do tell me and I’ll add them.
The lovely Catherine Cheater sharing about The Primary French Project. A great resource – that’s free! – and a wonderful presentation.
The Primary Show and Tell was also amazing, packed with great ideas about word classification, poetry, story telling, heritage language teaching and facilitating pupil understanding through framing.
Thanks to Russel Tarr for capturing me telling a story!
My session at #PracPed18 was entitled Tell me a story! You can find the Slideshare below.
In it, I shared some ideas about the use of stories and books in the languages classroom. Beginning by discussing why you would use stories, we moved on to choosing books, and then some ideas of how you could use stories in the classroom to enhance language learning. Finally we talked about how to write your own stories; this part was a little shortened so I have added some notes below. You’ll also find links to some helpful posts and bookmarks below. I hope those that attended found the session helpful, and those that didn’t feel able to ask questions! Please feel free to leave a comment on the post if you have questions or comments!
Thanks for your participation and questions. Photo credit – Russel Tarr
Slide 18 – I skipped this one in my presentation as time was flying. This week, Merriam Webster shared a “time machine’ dictionary that tells you the words that were put into the dictionary during the year of your birth. I wrote a story using just nouns from my birth year, shared via tweet. This gave me the idea of giving children a list of words and challenging them to write a story with those words. A good way for more advanced pupils to practice verbs. I will share further when I have developed that thought!
Rewriting a familiar story. Photo credit – Russel Tarr
GPS – grammar punctuation and spelling
PSHE – Personal, Social and Health Education
ICU – Intercultural Understanding
Key Stage 1 – children aged 5-7
Key Stage 2 – children aged 7-11 (languages are a compulsory part of the curriculum in English state schools)
I was happy to be asked to present at the annual University of Chichester MFL Conference last week, and as I noted in a previous post, thoroughly enjoyed the positive and inspiring sessions I attended.
The second session was entitled Tell me a story! and concerned the use of stories and books in the languages classroom.
The presentation is below to view. You’ll also find the links to some helpful posts and bookmarks below. I hope those that attended found the session helpful. Please feel free to leave a comment on the post if you have questions or comments!
This year at Language World I was invited to present some ideas for using technology for collaboration in language learning. I teach primary so the focus was on that age group but there are many ideas and tools that are equally applicable for young and old! In spite of some technical hitches and running out of time as there was so much to share, the ideas were well received and I hope that this will serve as a reminder/update for those who attended, and a snapshot for those who didn’t.
Below is my presentation. Whilst all the links work, the videos don’t I’m afraid but you’ll find some below to give you a taster.
One of the sessions I attended at Language World was given by Sue Cave. Entitled Language Detectives, it shared a project that Sue and a colleague had devised, originally for a day long workshop for more able primary linguists, based around children using their detective skills to decode unknown languages. Sue described it as ‘a morning of training in preparation for an afternoon trying to thwart a multilingual gang of criminals.’
The session referred to and worked on the Language Learning Skills (LLS) and Knowledge about Language (KAL) strands of the KS2 Framework (NB is still a very useful document!) We discovered that gesture is important but that it works best in conjunction with words, eye contact and prior knowledge, and I discovered that I’m not as good as charades as I thought I was. (Sorry Vicky!) We also discovered that knowledge of word classes as well as how to use a bilingual dictionary are skills that a good detective needs, and that listening to the sounds and intonation of a language is also helpful.
Having undergone our (very swift!) training, we used our skills to thwart the gang who spoke Spanish, Welsh, German and Italian, stopping them before they stole a valuable item!
Sue has very generously shared not her presentation but all the resources on her excellent website on the Sharing Good Practice section (scroll to the bottom)
One idea (of the many!) that I particularly liked was the Language Detective certificates that Sue gives out when a child makes a discovery about language and shares it with the class. Sue has generously shared her certificates in the Teaching and Learning section of the Sharing Good Practice page. As I teach Spanish not French, I’ve made some of my own that you can download from the link below.
Thanks for an inspiring session Sue, I know I’m not the only one who went away with my mind buzzing!
And thanks to Yvonne too for my ‘lucky dip’ magnifying glasses that fit the theme perfectly and will be put to sue immediately!