The latest edition of Teach Primary magazine has been out for a couple of weeks and features a MFL focus section between pages 140 – 153. There’s an article about the relevance of language learning in Brexit-era Britain, another on a language awareness model of Primary language learning and one from Clare Seccombe on Putting Pen to Paper (writing) in the primary languages classroom as well as a couple of pages of ‘Partner Content’ from Primary Languages Network and Language Angels about why you should use their schemes. Oh, and as you can see above, there’s also an article by me about storytelling! It’s on purple paper (my favourite colour) and I even got a ‘trail’ on the front page!) You can read it above.
I’m going to have to take out a subscription as I have to keep begging copies from friends, and don’t know I’ve been published until someone congratulates me.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I was asked to present an idea at the Primary Spanish Show and Tell at Language World in Hinckley last week.
The idea of the Show and Tell is that there are a variety of ideas presented, and on this occasion my fellow presenters were Anne Poole, who presented some fun games that can be played in any language, and Jesús Hernández from the Consejería de Educación who, accompanied by his trusty guitar, presented a few songs as well as activities to accompany a couple of posters that we were all gifted. Jesús also shared news of a new ‘revista’ for Primary Spanish that will be published by the Consejería with ideas like the ones that Jesús shared.
My part of the session focused on how we celebrated World Book Day this year at Whitehouse Common. You can see my part of the presentation below – the whole presentation will be available soon on the ALL website.
As you know, there’s hundreds if not thousands of sites offering Spanish resources, but we love yours! Which is exactly why you were chosen – you give great tips and tricks to teachers, allowing them to find new ways to spread their knowledge and passion – this is why we wanted to share it with our audience.
¡Vámonos! is an enchanting and enlightening collection of blog posts sharing teachers experiences and expertise, telling tales of techniques tried and regaling us with how they worked and failed, as well as ways to think about things differently, so as best to become better teachers.
And I’m especially grateful to Tutorful for going to the trouble of explaining to readers why my latest post is about Lithuanian not Spanish!
Have a read for yourself and see if you find a gem that could help you!