language learning – ¡Vámonos! The musings of Lisibo
 

Tag: language learning

Seen on the cover of a notebook on Amazon

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:

Translation – “Also, I have to say thank you. Your enthusiasm for learning and languages is very inspiring and has stayed with me through school, university and until now. I rediscovered the love of languages that you gave me during my internship this year and therefore I’d love your advice.”

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.

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.

Spanish Language Detective certificates 

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!

PS here are my notes too!

My husband often has to travel abroad with his work and, knowing my love of books, has been trained to look put for things I might like to use in the classroom. This last week, as usual, he texted me from the airport to ask about books I might like. Only he wasn’t in Spain or Germany, Switzerland or Austria, countries that speak languages I teach (or love!); he was in Lithuania.However, I am always up for a challenge and when he sent a picture of the front of the book, I decided I liked his choice and said ‘why not?’ I think he fell in love with the covers too as he bought me two.

And so I met Kakė Makė! I couldn’t understand a word of the books, but I immediately loved the bright pictures and quirky character of Kakė Makė that comes through the illustrations.

From the pictures I decided that Kakė Makė ir Netvarkos Nykštukas was about Kakė Makė getting up to mischief, and making an incredible mess, and an elf taking her toys away. Kakė Makė then follows the elf and tries to get the toys back by completing some tasks including a maze and fighting a monster. I also worked out that Kakė Makė is a nickname and the girl’s real name is Kornelija

I’ve since found this video that tells the story in English – and I wasn’t far off! It seems that Kakė Makė translates as GooGoo MooGoo!

And then I looked at Kakė Makė ir didelė Tamsa and concluded that it’s about a shadowy monster that scares Kakė Makė and her friends, and Kakė Makė sets off to find it, capture it in a bag and dispose of it. * What do you think? Here’s a video of the story with no narration!

I think that, as a language teacher, it’s good sometimes to put yourself into the place of a learner who has very limited or no understanding (as was my case) of the language being presented. Not only does it help you to understand the level of panic that can arise when faced with a page of unfamiliar and apparently unintelligible  words, but it also clarifies how you have to rely on all the clues you can find to help you.

  • Pictures – very helpful here
  • Cognates – virtually non existent; I found laberintas and bibliotekininke
  • Punctuation like capital letters for names  – I worked out that Tamsa is the name of the monster and Pipiru is the dog. So some help but not a great deal!
  • Knowledge about stories – there’s usually an opening before a build up to a problem, the problem gets fixed and there’s a conclusion.

I also looked at the text and noticed a couple of things:

  1. Kakė Makė is written Kakėi Makėi a couple of times, both times at the start of a sentence, and once Kakės Makės; what do those suffixes mean? I wonder if it’s to do with subject/object of the sentence? Or possession?
  2. Speech is denoted by – – as in Spanish, and quotations by ,,    ” which I found interesting.
  3. I’m fascinated by the diacritical marks and accents. I want to know how they work! Does it alter the sound of the letters as in French, or the stress pattern as in Spanish? And is Lithuanian like Swedish (which I’m trying to learn on Duolingo)

I’m still not sure how, if at all, I’ll use them in my classroom but I’ve certainly enjoyed ‘reading’ them and exploring the world of Kakė Makė which, judging by my online searches, is quite extensive in Lithuania with product endorsements, themed parties, toys and much more! There’s an app you can download or you can play online (although cleaning her teeth isn’t the most exciting activity ever..) You can even be her friend on Facebook! I’m holding out to meet a Lithuanian speaker to help me read it properly!

*(After working this out, I did resort to GoogleTranslate to find out that the title means Kake Make and Big Darkness so I think I’m on the right lines!)

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On Thursday, I had the privilege – and it really was a privilege – of delivering one of the keynotes at the Primary Languages Network conference in Lymm. It was a day jam packed with ideas and demonstrated the power and value of a community of teachers and learners, bouncing ideas of each other and sharing their light bulb moments. And celebrating those ideas too.

I did my best to sketch note all the sessions, including the Spotlight sessions, and you can see them below. I would recommend that you follow the PLN blog to keep abreast of all the fantastic ideas that spring out of the network (This post was inspired by the day), and even consider joining for further support and inspiration!

Thanks to Janet for inviting me – I had a wonderful day! You can see some of the highlights in the video at the bottom of the post!

Details of my session will follow in the next post!

Keeping it Primary – the wonderful Therese Comfort shared what makes Primary language learning so special, with special stickers from La Petite Souris/El Ratoncito Pérez/ die Zahnfee.

How to identify progressDan Alliot talked about what progress looks like in primary language learning, and challenged us to flip the triangle so it’s not always point first!

Embedding phonics in Language LearningSue Cave challenged us to pronounce Hungarian words using phonics to support us, talking us through the 7 stepping stones to ‘code breaking’ and sharing ideas of how to practice and reinforce phonics in French.

Throughout the day there were Spotlights – shorter presentations of one or two ideas each from PLN associates and also exhibitors. I’ve tried to capture them all in the above – some with more success than others (spot the pig that looks suspiciously like a cow!) Ideas included songs for EDL, games, purposeful writing activities using technology, AR dragons, using actions and creating raps and poems.

 

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IMG_8436On Saturday 27th February, I delivered a workshop at the #ALLMFLSW16 conference in Bristol. I’d been asked by Marie-France Perkins if I could talk about primary languages in the context of the new curriculum which is planned as a continuum from KS2 through KS3 and onto Ks4 and hopefully KS5. I called my session Building Firm Foundations for Strong Buildings, harking back to a talk I did a number of years ago called Bricklaying for Beginners!

Below is my presentation, and under that I’ve written a brief summary of what I said.

I hope you find it useful. If you have any questions, please feel free to comment or send a message via the contact form. 

I began by talking about the importance of foundations, and the role they place in keeping buildings upright and stable. Although they are often unseen, they are the last things that are destroyed by time and erosion; I shared my own experience of primary language learning and how my 4 years of middle school French have stayed with me. We moved on to considering why starting language learning at primary is so important before considering what should be taught/covered at KS2, referencing a survey by Clare Seccombe and also a document compiled by the ESAGMFL group.
Looking directly at the Programmes of Study, we used Rachel Hawkes’ helpful “KS2 and KS3 side by side” document to look at the progression of skills and I shared the document below with participants, acknowledging the source as Rachel’s website.
For me, my most important task as a primary language teacher is to nurture a passion for languages and an excitement about learning and communicating in other languages. That, however, does not mean that it’s all  ‘fun and funky singing, dancing, cutting and sticking ‘ with no substance. There is a clear rationale to what I teach and I shared some ideas linked to each of the four skills as well as grammar.
Listening
  • animal symphonies – clapping the syllables of words to encourage listening and awareness of word patterns
  • using rhymes to listen out for phonics and respond physically
  • using songs as a way of introducing topics e.g. ¿Cuántos años tienes?
  • stories as a way of encouraging listening carefully and responding – ‘safe’ due the familiarity and repetition
  • branching listenings or minimal pairs (slide24)- I first encountered these last year at ILILC in a session by Julie Prince, and I shared two examples from LightBulbLanguages – colours (Spanish)  and jobs (French) Learners listen to a series of words – or phrases – and at each step choose between two alternatives until they arrive at the bottom line and give the number they reached.
Speaking
  • PHONICS! So important! The keystones of the foundations as they enable understanding of the spoken word, pronunciation, enable learners to read effectively and also spell. Rachel Hawkes once more had burning ears!
  • vowels and setting them to DISCO by Ottawan
  • phonic islands and mats, referencing Sounds and Words by Lynne Erler and Julie Prince
  • “stress punching” to demonstrate intonation and stress patterns
  • “Spanish glasses” to read Spanish – chocolate is spelt the same in English and Spanish but pronounced differently (slide 30 ) also false friends like gift and Gift in German.
  • tongue twisters to practice ‘getting your mouth around’ certain sounds
  • using Trapdoors to practice sentences – learners will play long after you’d think they’d be fed up!
  • using board games to practice the question form (I shared a Snakes and ladders board game worksheet from Eurostars with learners asking a question when they land on a square rather than giving an opinion)

Reading

  • using poems like Doña Pitu Piturra that have a rhythm and a rhyme, and a pattern that can be followed – and the example also shows handwriting which fascinates and is worth discussion
  • using Tarsia and dominoes
  • using storybooks isn’t a bad thing – even Y6 like a story, especially if you link it to reading to younger pupils or making something to be shared.
  • books don’t have to be fiction – non fiction is important too. Books on e.g. planets can be accessed as learners have learned the facts in Science and can therefore make deductions about vocabulary etc. Plus there are diagrams and images to support.
  • the importance of making mistakes and discussing WHY you thought something
  • instilling the idea that you don’t need to understand every word, and linking in to literacy skills of comprehension: where will I find the answer? what are my clues? what’s the context? is there a word in the question that helps me?
  • making your own texts using storybird.com – I shared ¿De dónde viene el yak? There are other MFL Storybirds shared on the wikispace both fiction and nonfiction. Well worth a look.
  • dictionaries can be glossaries, picture dictionaries and encyclopaedia/thematic type ones as well as the ‘tradition’ bilingual ones. I shared an activity linked to a colour poem which Y3 had rewritten using a combination of picture dictionaries and bilingual dictionaries.

Writing

  • writing texts from other texts e.g. rewriting stories by substituting nouns and or adjectives (El bicho hambriento), or writing a story in the style of another (rewriting El Nabo Gigante to feature a teacher stuck in the PE cupboard who calls for help to pull him out!)
  • the value of whiteboards and technology to allow for quick correction without committing it to their book – rehearsing and making mistakes
  • giving structures using card, human sentences to physically demonstrate word order e.g. making sentences negative, or the noun-adjective order in Spanish compared to adjective-noun in English
  • scaffolding
  • memorisation – I shared another activity from LightBulbLanguages to demonstrate a way of supporting learners in memorising spellings by giving them the shape of the word

Grammar

  • Grammar is the cement that holds all the bricks together!
  • link it to English – and/or other languages e.g. making plurals
  • using songs is quite effective e.g. ¿Por qué es mi mochila tan pesada? introduces Es+ singular noun and Son+plural noun – learners picked it up without me saying a word!
  • I also shared songs for verbs in Spanish, German and French
  • using parallel texts to compare language
  • making verb spiders or flowers – if you teach South American Spanish you can use a hand!
  • verb drilling isn’t wrong – Y6 quite enjoyed it last year and treated it like a code or game that they conquered as they did it more!IMG_8437

I then talked about the importance of promoting language learning in general and that no one language is an island – let’s celebrate the multilingual nature of our schools and draw out the experiences of our EAL learners. Comparing and contrasting languages is one of the things my learners enjoy more than anything else, and it’s language learning skills that are going to be key for their future success, especially as most of my learners will start a new language at KS3. I briefly highlighted the importance of including culture in whatever you do as languages need a context and it’s jot just about words!

Finally we considered that not all foundations are the same – some are more basic than others i.e. some pupils will arrive at KS3 with less language learning, or perhaps with gaps in the expected knowledge (whatever that may be!) Some may have experienced lots of vocabulary and not much structure, some may have had a very sporadic language input, some may have encountered several languages and some only one. Whatever the experience, and however many ‘cracks’ there may be, my plea was to not destroy what has gone before but repair it, and shore it up.

 

The final part of my presentation (which I admit we don’t reach due to overrunning previous sessions) considered the need for Ks2 and KS3 to communicate. KS2 can’t moan about what happens at KS3 if they don’t tell their secondary colleagues what has been done, and KS3 can’t throw their hands up and say it’s impossible to deal with all these children if they don’t talk to KS2 and give an idea of what would be helpful to them. On p69 of Language Trends survey  it says:

“The need to promote effective transition in languages between Key Stages 2 and 3 is not yet high on the agendas of either primary or secondary schools….the introduction of compulsory language learning has not yet stimulated increased contact between language teachers in state primary and secondary schools.”

That has to change!

My final thought was from an article about building foundations:

“The three most important purposes of foundations are to bear the load of the building, anchor it against natural forces such as earthquakes, and to isolate it from ground moisture.”

I’d categorise those three things as future learning at KS3 and beyond, wavering confidence as ‘it gets a bit serious’ and the ‘rising damp’ of adolescence! Ultimately, we want learners to ride those storms and sit proudly atop their magnificent linguistic skyscrapers, not falling like Humpty Dumpty never to be put together again!

 

 

 

Evernote Snapshot 20151016 104158My session at the wonderful Practical Pedagogies conference centred around the use of technology to enhance Primary Language Learning.

Key points I made included:

  • technology is not  just for the pupils but also for the teacher;
  • it is just one tool we have to use;
  • it is not always the best tool for the job.

I went on to suggest online tools as well as apps that might be useful in a range of contexts and situations.

My presentation is below and there is wiki with links to tutorials, examples and ideas that accompanies it. Feel free to ask questions via the contact form or @lisibo on Twitter.

And thanks to Marisa for sharing her notes (and photographs!) here.

Image from www.dyslexialincs.co.uk

Image from www.dyslexialincs.co.uk

I’ve just completed the final week of the FutureLearn MOOC, Dyslexia and Foreign Language Teaching. A little early but I wanted to get it done as I need to concentrate on report writing 🙁

This week focussed on phonological and orthographic awareness, skills that are needed for successful spelling, reading and comprehension. It underlined the need to move from word level to text level, and the value of shared reading, pre-reading/pre-teaching, and of constant checking of comprehension to avoid gaps in understanding being left unplugged.

Below are my sketch notes. I hope they’re useful!

4.3 - Developing phonological and phonemic awareness (Professor Joanna Nijawska)

4.3 – Developing phonological and phonemic awareness (Professor Joanna Nijawska)

4.6 - Multisensory tasks to teach spelling

4.6 – Multisensory tasks to teach spelling

4.8 - Helping children with reading comprehension difficulties (Professor Kate Cain)

4.8 – Helping children with reading comprehension difficulties (Professor Kate Cain)

4.10 - Developing dyslexic learners' reading skills (Dr Anne Margaret Smith)

4.10 – Developing dyslexic learners’ reading skills (Dr Anne Margaret Smith)

4.11 - Final advice

4.11 – Final advice

Image from www.dyslexialincs.co.uk

Image from www.dyslexialincs.co.uk

I’ve just completed Week 3 of the Dyslexia and Foreign Language Learning course. This week focussed on teaching grammar and vocabulary to learners with dyslexia. Some dyslexic learners explained the techniques that did and didn’t work for them and how their learning environment affects their learning, some language teachers explained how they might teach grammar and vocabulary to dyslexic learners and we were challenged to mind map out learning and also design a task based on our learning so far.

Below are my sketch notes once more. I hope you find them helpful. I shared them in the comments section of the task on mind mapping as I think that sketch notes could be seen as mind maps with pictures. I certainly find them very helpful!

3.2 Dyslexic learners talk about learning strategies.

3.2 Dyslexic learners talk about learning strategies.

3.5 Teaching vocabulary and grammar (Dr Anne Margaret Smith)

3.5 Teaching vocabulary and grammar (Dr Anne Margaret Smith)

3.7 Multi sensory tasks for teaching grammar

3.7 Multi sensory tasks for teaching grammar

3.8 Multi sensory tasks for teaching vocabulary

3.8 Multi sensory tasks for teaching vocabulary

Image from www.dyslexialincs.co.uk

Image from www.dyslexialincs.co.uk

I’m currently doing a MOOC (massive open online course) with FutureLearn called Dyslexia and Foreign Language Teaching. It’s a four week course and is free to do. I know that quite a few people from my PLN, whether on Twitter or Facebook, are doing it too, and the participants represent a range of languages as well as phases.

It’s proving very interesting and I’m discovering that, whilst I do many of the things that are suggested as being helpful, I also do some unhelpful things that I thought would help.

To help me internalise things, I am sketch noting each video I watch and, whilst I have shared them on Twitter and in the Language in Primary Schools Facebook group, I thought at the end of each week I should share them here too.

So, here’s week 1 which started by considering some common assumptions and beliefs before looking at the theoretical concepts and issues related to dyslexia and other specific learning differences (SLD); I prefer differences (UK) instead of difficulties or disorders (US).

1.5 - Students with dyslexia talk about some difficulties that they face

1.5 – Students with dyslexia talk about some difficulties that they face

1.8 - The effect of dyslexia on language learning (Dr Judit Kormos)

1.8 – The effect of dyslexia on language learning (Dr Judit Kormos)

1.10 - The nature of reading difficulties (Professor Kate Cain)

1.10 – The nature of reading difficulties (Professor Kate Cain)

During one of the modules for this week we were asked to use our non dominant hand to copy out a text in 3 minutes, with the lined paper on its side and substituting certain vowels for symbols in order to discover what it might be like for a dyslexic student to write under pressure. Oh, and to stand up too whilst we did it. Below is my attempt. It was very hard and very frustrating!

IMG_4250

 

Week 2 follows soon!

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