Early in October I took part in the Talleres de español at Instituto Español Vicente Cañada Blanch in Portobello, London. It was quite a treat to attend and participate in a face to face conference, and I thoroughly enjoyed the day in spite of the pouring rain and general exhaustion!
My presentation was entitled Take One Book, considering how one book can be used as the inspiration and impetus for a wide variety of activities in the primary language classroom. You can read a little about it and view my slides in a previous post.
When I was asked to speak, the organisers asked if I would be willing to write up my talk for publication in a special edition of TECLA, the Consejería magazine. I agreed and the magazine has just been published. I am really proud to be part of such a prestigious publication, and hope that it is well received and useful to readers.
Below is the first page and you can download the whole article below that.
Other contributions include an interview with Baroness Coussins, an article on using important artists as the vehicle for Spanish learning, and a report on using MFL projects to build bridges at QKA in Peterborough where 52 languages are spoken by the school community. The full list of articles is below. I’m looking forward to reading through the articles over the holidays when I have time to digest.
A few weeks ago I presented at The Language Show Live. My subject was Using ‘literature’ to support Pirmary Language teaching and learning. You can read all about it here.
At the time, people could only access the session if they had bought a ticket (although I shared my slides in the post above!) The good news is that anyone who wants to catch it can now watch the video via The Language Show channel on Youtube. In fact, you can watch any of the presentations – and there were many!
The list of presentations is available here and by clicking on the link at the end of the description, you can view a recording in most cases. I’ll be catching up on several as I missed the majority of the week preparing for a school visit to Austria!
My presentation is below. And if you fancy sharing your favourite tipple and/or snack for watching conference presentations, please feel free to leave a comment below.
BTW I had a glass of Grüner Veltliner at the end 😉 🥂 If you fancy sharing your favourite tipple and/or snack for watching conference presentations, please feel free to leave a comment below. 🤣
A couple of weeks ago, I saw a post on Instagram asking if anyone else wanted to volunteer for the next TM MFL Icons – 5 minutes or 20 minute presentations. A series of incidents in real life and on social media had put in a bee in my bonnet so I thought – why not? Hence I went online on Saturday morning and talked about the subject of children being withdrawn from (Spanish) lessons for extra English.
I had volunteered for 5 minutes thinking I might not have enough to fill it but I had more than enough because, as usual, once I start, my head fills with more ideas than I originally had. So here is what I said/intended to say!
My title, formulated at speed to encapsulate said bee in my bonnet, is provocative and makes me sound more bolshy than I am; however, I do believe that it’s wrong to ROUTINELY withdraw children from language lessons – in my case Spanish – for extra English/interventions. You hear the argument that these children can’t speak English and they can’t do English so why are they doing another language, and I just think there are lots of reasons why it’s not a good idea to routinely remove them from the Spanish lessons.
First of all, we do a lot of work where everybody is working together, where everybody is repeating things together, what everybody is learning together. There’s safety in that and when you’re struggling, having everybody doing the same thing at the same time can build up your confidence and can give you that little boost that you need to be able to give it a go. I always say to my class that I cannot ask for more if you are doing your best and if you’re still only managing to get 5 out 10 on your own, I can’t make you work any harder than you already are so that support from your peers is really important. It’s important that learners don’t feel “set apart” too. That feeling of comfort and of solidarity with your peers is really important, and not just for those that are low ability or SEND. We get quite a few pupils at one of my schools that come to us because they’ve been putting in housing in our area and they’re with us for a short period of time and then move on somewhere else. It’s important that they quickly feel comfortable and are part the class, and I think the language lesson is a time when they are with their peers, to use a cliche, on a level playing field. I think that’s because of the structure of Spanish lessons where there is a lot of recycling, reiterating, retrieving and going back over stuff that we done before so there is that moment when children think “oh hang on, I can fit into this; I can do this!” One child joined the school towards the end of last year and about three weeks in, his mum approached me in the playground at hometime and said “Oh, YOU’RE Señora Stevens! My child keeps talking about how much he loves your lessons. He’s so happy when he’s in your lesson!” That’s a special feeling and made me think how much he’d have missed if he’d been withdrawn to improve his English!
Secondly I think the level of support offered in language lessons through modelling, scaffolding and lots of rehearsing is important and so beneficial. We do a lot of practising; saying things all together, rehearsing it with a partner, we listen and respond. There’s a lot of that oral rehearsal before we start to read and then we write. We might use whiteboards to practise before we commit it to our book. All this rehearsal is great training and it can be applied in their English learning. All this is also building up their resilience as they make and correct mistakes, and their understanding of how to learn language whether it’s Spanish or whether it’s English.
Learning another language also shows that there is value in speaking languages other than English. Sometimes children who have English as an additional language and/or who speak another language at home feel that they want to hide that and I think it’s important that they know that other people speak different languages. I enjoy making comparisons between languages and bringing other languages into lessons. I have a couple of pupils who speak Italian and routinely share words so we can see similarities and differences. And learners love it when I try words in Urdu, Punjabi and Arabic as I find it hard to mimic their pronunciation. They may speak another language but their skills have value.
There are also many ways in which we are reinforcing and supporting English literacy as we are learning Spanish. When we talk about nouns and adjectives, verbs and so on, we are echoing the vocabulary of their literacy lessons. When I explain that months of the year in Spanish don’t have capital letters, it’s an opportunity to reinforce the rules of capitalisation in English, that we do put a capital letter for months of the year, and that a capital letter is needed at the start of a sentence in Spanish just as we do in English. When we look at word order in Spanish, we compare it to English. When we read aloud or practise conversations, we’re working on prosody (something that is high on the Primary English agenda at the moment) ensuring that we’re using expression to create the ‘music of the language’ In Spanish they helpfully put question marks at either end of the question, and exclamation marks too to enclose the words as a signal that this has to be exclaimed. I liken this to the way English uses speech marks to enclose words spoken – the ¿ ? even echo the 66 99 of ” “!
One of the ‘incidents’ that prompted my idea was a colleague on LiPS being asked to stop teaching French phonics as children were getting confused with their English phonics. There was a long discussion about this, and the prevailing view was that phonics should be taught. For a start they’re one of the pillars of primary language learning, and are vital to successful pronunciation, decoding and writing. A comment that stuck with me was ‘if your one session a week is having a detrimental effect on several years worth of English phonics teaching, you must be doing something very right and perhaps the English phonics teaching could learn something from you!’ Whilst that is playing Devil’s advocate, there is some truth in the support offered by comparing phoneme/grapheme links. As I teach Spanish, there are fewer ‘tricky sounds’ than in French, or English, but by focusing on how phonics are important to us when learning how to say words accurately, we’re drawing attention to the need to use phonics in English too, to ‘sound out’ unfamiliar words. I always talk about using our Spanish glasses when we’re looking at Spanish text, something which really came into its own when I had a native Spanish speaker in class as we talked about how she had to put on her English glasses to read English!
There’s a lot to be said for experiencing success. If children experience success, it builds their confidence. The more confident they feel, the more risks they’ll take. Initial success might be very small but they add up. As we do lots of repetition and work with a limited vocabulary, the ‘answer’ is often repeated in multiple versions so success is more accessible. Plus we take small steps rather than giant leaps which are less scary! In a previous session at TM MFL Icons, Jane talked about the importance of joy and I so agree! I often wonder what it must be like to spend your whole day struggling and striving without that feeling of success and contentment. Success breeds confidence, and if you know that success is attainable, you’re more motivated to make that extra effort. Learners may not experience that success in other areas of the curriculum and by taking children away for all or even part of the lesson, it denies them that opportunity. There are lots of anecdotes on LiPS that support this. From my experience, I’ve had a number of children who have had multiple issues in other areas of the curriculum but have taken to language learning to the extent that I’ve had to explain to the (disbelieving) class teacher that they have achieved some of the same targets as their peers.
I’m not suggesting that language learning and Spanish lessons are some magic panacea to all SEND/EAL/other needs. I have at least one pupil who doesn’t access any part of the lesson due to his specific needs (he accesses very little of the curriculum in general) and there are modifications that can be needed. However, many of these are Quality First teaching strategies and will benefit all – I know that changes I made following a FutureLearn MOOC on Dyslexia and Language Learning have had a positive effect on many of the class. Nor am I saying that Spanish is more important than English or any other subject. It is entirely possible that there is little choice in some cases as to the timing of sessions (due to TA timetables and so on.) However, I would welcome some thought to be given to when interventions are staged and their effect.
Have you got a point of view? Let me know in the comments!
I once more had the pleasure of presenting at Language World, the annual conference of Association for Language Learning (ALL). My presentation was entitled Take One Book and was the sequel to the presentation I did at PHOrum in November (you can read about it here) this time choosing a book that was originally written in Italian and has no English translation.
I really enjoyed sharing my ideas of how to use ¡Ojo Oso! and was pleasantly surprised that I managed to finish in time and have time for questions. I experimented with using subtitles/captions during my presentation after comments by Helen Simpson on LiPS made me think about accessibility. I need to watch back the recording of my session (which has just been made available for those who registered for the conference but missed the session) to see exactly how accurate they were but I know that when I spoke Spanish they definitely had trouble as they were set to English! For example un agujero became ‘all alcohol’ and una madriguera became ‘mother together.’
Below you can find a PDF of my presentation. I’ve removed the story slides due to copyright but you can find links to versions of the story read online, as well as to where you can purchase a copy.
At the end there is a link to my Pinterest where I collected together materials for the talk, some of which I didn’t use! You can also access it via this QR code.
Perhaps you have ideas that spring to mind? Or you have a book that you could use in a similar way? If you have any comments or questions, do leave a comment below.
Postscript – you can watch the ‘standby/rehearsal’ recording of the session here.
The last (for now!) of the poems that have caught my eye from the anthology Los Mejores Versos de Gloria Fuertes that I purchased from Little Linguist
This one is entitled Paisajes para que los pintes and was chosen once more for simplicity of structure, but also because it immediately sparked ideas in my mind.
Each ‘estrofa’ decribes a very simple image with the basic structure Arriba (top) Abajo (bottom) En medio (in the middle) In the first couple of estrofas this is made explicit but after that, the pattern has been established so the prepositions are omitted although the structure remains.
I immediately saw a pairs game – can you match the image to the description?
And then I thought of back to back dictation where two children sit back to back and one describes a picture that the other then draws. In ‘times of COVID’ this could be done as an activity on a recorded or live lesson, or as a whole class activity once we’re back to school. It could be one of the descriptions from the poem or one of their own.
Which brings us to rewriting the poem – so easy to do by simply substituting nouns. 1. Los pájaros arriba, Los campos abajo, y, en medio, la cuidad.
2. En el cielo, las nubes En el corral, la oveja y, en medio, la granja.
3. Arriba, el sol Abajo, el mar; En medio de la playa, la palmera.
You could make it harder by challenging children to make the lines rhyme – you might find Rimar.io or Woxicon helpful! It could lead to some fun, unpredictable pictures and is a good activity for dictionary skills too! You could extend the poems by adding adjectives too:
Arriba, las nubes blancos, Abajo, un hombre en zancos. En medio del colegio, toca un arpegio.
I can see this as a lovely way to celebrate learning too as it would be easy for children to illustrate their poems then record them, creating a class anthology either as video, stored online or printed out using QR codes to access the audio.
Can you see ways to use this poem too? Please share them in the comments!
Now to do some work as half term is nearly over and I have pupils awaiting their next lesson!
Translation: Landscapes for you to paint. The sun above, The clouds below And, in the middle of the wheat, A scarecrow.
The sun above, The sea below And, in the middle of the sea, A boat.
The meadow, The mountain And, in the middle, the cane.
The snow, The cold And, in the middle, The river.
The cloud, The sea And, in the middle, The squid.
The jungle, The palm And, in the middle, The panther.
The sky, The plain And, in the middle, The aeroplane.
The church above, The town below And, in the tower, The bell and the cat.
The next in a series of posts about poems from the anthology Los Mejores versos de Gloria Fuertes is En un país mágico, a poem in two parts about a magical world and unusual friendships.
I liked this poem as it’s very simple with a repeated structure: [noun1] amigo de [noun2] with noun2 being an unlikely amigo for noun 1. So we have cat and mouse, robber and police, wolf and lamb, witch and child, but also yolk and white, bee and flower, black and white, rich and poor.
I also liked the poem for the message of friendship, that we could all live together in harmony and peace. as the last verse says:
Esto sucedía en un país mágico donde todos se reían y nadie se enfadaba. This happened in a magical world where everyone laughed and nobody got angry.
Wouldn’t that be a good world in which to live?
What could you do with the poem?
Read it and enjoy it – the rhythms and rhymes, and the message too.
Act it out as a play (at the end of Primera Parte, the curtain falls and there is applause!)
Look at pronunciation – the j and the use of accents.
Use the image to help children find the meaning of the poem.
Explore the interesting vocabulary – el ‘poli’, la bellota, el tiesto (I had to use the picture for that one) You may need to explain the relationship between a pig and an acorn!
Look at masculine and feminine – why is la gata amiga de la rata but el gato amigo del ratón? And likewise, la gata amiga de la rata but el gato amigo del ratón?
Challenge children to find new pairings that could be friends to rewrite the poem: El frío, amigo del calor. El Sol, amigo de la Luna. La radio, amiga del video.
What would you do? Please share your ideas in the comments!
Approximate translation: IN A MAGICAL COUNTRY First part: The cat, Friend of the rat. The cat, Friend of the mouse The witch, Friend of the little girl. The ‘bobby’, Friend of the robber. The wolf, Friend of the lamb. The flowerpot, Friend of the balcony. The egg white, Friend of the yolk. The bee, Friend of the flower. (Applause! Applause! And the curtain falls)
Second part The enemy, Friend of the enemy. The white, Friend of the black. The black, Friend of the white. The pig, Friend of the acorn. The rich, Friend of the poor. The ball, Friend of the boot. The umbrella, Friend of the drop. This happened In a magical country Where everyone laughed And nobody got cross And everyone loved each other.
I was overjoyed to be asked to present at the inaugural PHOrum meeting for members of the Association for Language Learning last Wednesday evening (get well soon Susanne x). My presentation was entitled Take One Book and can be viewed below along with links to some of the resources and ideas I shared.
You can find out more about the Take One Book by going to their website. A helpful literacy idea with amazing resources! https://www.takeonebook.org
There are multiple versions of the story being read online in Spanish online – this is one and here’s another one that are read in both Spanish and English, and this one has the bilingual text but just Spanish narration.
Joining in with a story video featuring Nigel Pearson sharing the book in German (Wo ist meine Katze?) https://vimeo.com/123422432 Well worth watching this masterclass in engaging a class in a story! If you want to story as written in the book in German here’s a video of it being read
I’ve written another lesson plan in the latest issue of Teach Primary. This one is based around the book Veo Veo by Antonio Rubio and Oscar Villán.
You may have read my previous post a couple of years ago on the subject. It’s a really simple board book about two ‘media lunas’ or half moons that go for a walk to the park and play I spy. They spy a series of random objects in unexpected combinations. This lesson plan expands on some of the ideas and adds some new ones.
I love a bargain, and am also a great fan of recycling so I am particularly pleased with a new pile of German children’s books!
Some were purchased via LiPS, one was found in an Oxfam shop in Bath, and the other three were a Christmas gift from my son who is currently studying in Germany and found them in an Oxfam shop there.
So here they are!
This lovely book is all about four legged friends playing Hide and Seek (Verstecken spielen) It has a touchy feely cover and features cute dogs a cat and a rabbit. I like the simplicity and repetition of the text as well as the animal noises. A fun book that would be great to read to FKS/KS1.
Ohren wackeln, Beine zappeln is another cute board book featuring animals. This time it has holes in each page in which you insert your fingers to make the ears (Ohren) or legs (Beine) of the animals. Each page has two lines of text and is written in rhyme – great to read aloud and practice your pronunciation as well as spotting the verbs. And of course, good for finger wiggling!
This a short board book is from the Disney Babies series and is all about baby Goofy going to bed. It’s written in prose and features Pluto as well as Goofy. Very cute!
Two books from the same series here! Kennst du das? – Do you know that? Each is a word book with bright photographs to illustrate the meanings. They include ‘usual’ words such as Pferd, Hase, Katze, Tiger and Elephant, but also more unusual animals – Streifenhörnchen, Rotfeuerfisch and Wandelnde Blätter and vocabulary – Zange (pliers) Reißverschluss (zip) and Qualle (jellyfish) It also indulges my love of looking at German words, ‘literally translating’ and seeing language links: Dreirad = three wheels = tricycle Nacktschnecke = naked snail = slug Stinktier = smelly animal = skunk Fledermaus = flying mouse = bat Nashorn = nose horn = rhino Flusspferd = river horse = hippo
Finally a board book with sliding windows (Schiebefenster) to learn numbers 1-10. The windows slide to show either the numeral or a number of objects so could be used for numbers and then extended to use the vocabulary pictured, in singular and plural forms. Perhaps older learners could have a look in a dictionary for the words whilst others will begin to recognise the correct item from three after several readings.
I was really surprised to find this book in an Oxfam shop in Bath, and even more surprised when I realised that the buttons still worked! I like reading books based on series that we watch in English as it’s possible to compare names and ket features in the other language. For example, Ryder and Chase have the same names in both languages and the PupPad in German is called the Pfot-o-fon (Paws ‘phone) I’m looking forward to sharing this book with the little ones at school. And I don’t think the enchantment of this book is limited to little ones..
So these are my new German books. What do you think? It’s a bit of a shame that I don’t teach German on a day to day basis but reading them aloud is great fun! A reminder that there is a catalogue of my (ever growing!) collection of German children’s books here, and there is also a French list and several for Spanish – fiction, nonfiction, rhymes poems and songs, plus an ‘other languages‘ list too!