This Tuesday (27th June) I’ll be speaking at the L.E.A.D. TSA Hub Online Primary Languages event. Jo Darley has put together a really interesting programme covering learner autonomy, linguistic thinking, “quality first” teaching for all, literature and culture, and the value of supporting and celebrating languages through global communication.
I’m really excited to be taking part. My presentation will be about the benefits of international links and global communication in the primary classroom. As a primary languages teacher, it will be heavily influenced by the impact of my young linguists but also refer to the effect on the whole school.
It’s a full day, online conference starting at 915 and running until 330. You can join live for the whole day, pop in as you can, or watch it all back later with the recording being available for 30 days after the event. As I’ll be teaching all day (until my session) I’ll be doing the latter!
There are still tickets available at this link if you’re interested. If you’re planning on attending, let me know so I can give you a shout out!
Since I last wrote a post, I’ve presented three times about international links!
In November I was pleased to speak, along with Vicky Gough of the British Council, to the ALL Portsmouth Primary Hub about Making international links to motivate our young linguists and celebrate their achievements. My contribution was summarised as: Lisa took us on a whistle-stop tour of the many different projects she has been involved in over the past twelve years or so. What shone through was the positive impact these experiences have had on all involved – pupils, teaching and school staff and parents. Senior management have increasingly recognised the value of these projects and prioritised them within school planning. Comments from pupils and colleagues, and more formal statements from school leaders, provide testimony to their success.
In December I was invited to deliver a keynote at TMMFLIcons entitled International links and developing young linguists. I knew that 15 minutes was tight to say all that I wanted so I summarised the benefits/outcomes on the 3rd slide!
Even so, I still struggled to fit in everything I wanted to say so I wrote a summary of my points to share. You can download and read it below! If you want to see what was said and catch up with the recording, have a look at the @tmmflicons Twitter feed
And a couple of weeks ago, I spoke at Language World in Sheffield. Once more I packed in as much as I could into the time allocated, and still had more to say as I am passionate about sharing my experiences but also about the incredible value of international links and the impact it’s had on our school community.
After a bit of editing, I’m happy to share my presentation but I’m afraid that the file is too big to upload; you can however view it here or, if you attended Language World 2023, on the conference website.
I am really passionate about the international dimension, the power of links between schools around the world and the beauty of collaborating. Yes, it sometimes leaves me exhausted juggling and negotiating so that everything is done but it’s so worth it to see the impact on the staff, school, community and, of course, the pupils. Whilst some opportunities are no longer available to us and I still mourn for their loss, it’s not going to stop me. There are still ways to make links and work in collaboration with others and I will continue to search for more!
There’s a list in the summary document but a few to highlight: If you are looking for a school for collaborations such as penpals or exchanges, particularly a French one, you can try Match My School. The British Council has School Connect and also Partner Finding tools to help you find links and help them grow. And the Global Schools Alliance helps create, maintain and develop links with schools all over the world.
It’s also worth exploiting any links you have as a school community, and also looking to see if your town/city has a twin TownTwinning.
On Saturday I was once more at InstitutoVicente Cañada Blanch in London for the annual Talleres de español run by the Consejería de Educacción. It had only been 9 months since I was last there as the 2021 edition was postponed thanks to the C word and I was once more privileged to be asked to speak. More of that later!
The day started with a keynote to get you thinking by Crista Hazell who talked about The Joy of Language Learning.
My tweets at the time summarise the bits I particularly liked:
Following this, I attended a marvellously active and fun session led by Eva Rodríguez Moya entitled «JugaÑol: el poder del juego como herramienta de aprendizaje» during which she shared a number of ideas and techniques that are used in her classroom to enable learners to recall and use Spanish as the language of communication. I loved the energy and pace of the delivery as well as the great ideas, and it was good to see that others use gesture as a key way of embedding vocabulary and structures. I will certainly be using “Hola Año x” with my classes – a simple way to keep the class on their toes. I recommend you check out Eva’s presentation when it’s available!
My presentation was entitled A few of our favourite things and highlighted as many of the things that my pupils say they enjoy as I could fit into my time slot! As is often the case, I had far more to say than there was time to share, and below you can find my slides (minus a couple that can’t be shared which unfortunately means you can’t see the videos of my class retelling El Nabo Enorme or reciting Doña Pito Piturra)
I did manage to share that I see myself not a Spanish teacher but as a languages teacher and that whilst the language in which my pupils should have made ‘substantial progress’ by the end of Y6 is Spanish, I am also teaching them how to be language learners which is just as important if not more so. What i ran out of time to share was the range of things that we do to celebrate languages as well as our amazing Erasmus+ project that is just coming to an end. Perhaps I can share that next time… hint hint 😉 You can see the slides anyway.
If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment. I’d be happy to answer!
Thanks to the rail strike I couldn’t stay for the afternoon sessions but I did enjoy a lovely lunch and a good chat with lots of enthusiastic joyful people. at the end of the day, I shared the tweet below which I feel summed up my experience. Here’s to the rainbow unicorns! 🌈🦄
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. 🤣
This evening I presented at The Language Show. For the second year running, this was not at Olympia or Earl’s Court, but from the comfort of my dining room. I was joined by a good number of attendees given the timing (1715 of a Friday evening) including at least one who was enjoying their Saturday morning coffee in the States, others enjoying a cup of tea and another with a G&T. Sounded good to me!
My presentation was on the theme of Using ‘literature’ to support primary language teaching and learning and, having looked at the National Curriculum Languages Programme of Study for some context and a dictionary for a definition, I launched into my talk during which I highlighted a number of types of ‘literature’ and the reasons why we might choose that genre, before giving some examples and some ideas of how they can be used to engage, inspire, teach and provoke in the primary language classroom. I shared some sequences of activities as well as referring to a number of posts that explain in greater detail what I wanted to share.
Below are the slides – if you have any questions or just want a comment, please leave it below or tweet me@lisibo
It’s not too late to sign up for Language Show which continues on Saturday and Sunday. Find out more here.
My trip to Acapulco today was very exciting. Perhaps not as exciting as a trip to actual Acapulco but I was spared the looong flight as it was able to attend the ALL Primary Languages Conference online from the comfort of my own dining room!
As part of the day I delivered a presentation entitled Not another worksheet Miss! a compilation of activities for ambitious primary language learners, whatever their age or ability. I whipped through as many as I possibly could in the time given but as usual I had far more to say that time allowed.
As I said at the time, these activities are not all mine, and I acknowledge my debt to the language community for sharing their ideas, particularly members of LiPS and my professional learning networks on social media. Ideas form over time and sometimes I honestly can’t recall what triggers an idea so whilst I have tried to give credit where it’s due, if I have failed, I apologise. Here’s a document that includes links to resources as I don’t think Slideshare is clickable!
I promised to fill in the gaps I left particularly towards the end with the last section. Slides 37-45 contain links to posts on this website that explain what I would’ve said in detail so I’ll focus on the final ‘sequence’ that I didn’t have a chance to explain.
As it’s easier, I’ve made a short video explaining what I wanted to say. Hope you find it helpful. UPDATE – Here’s the link as I’m having trouble embedding it and it’s getting late!
If you have any comments, questions or want to add your own activities, please feel free to comment below.
Between 9am and 3pm, there were 6 presentations all on the theme of An Ambitious Primary Language Curriculum for all.
I’ve shared previously (and done whole training sessions about) how I find sketchnoting really helpful to aid listening to, processing and also retaining what is said during sessions, and today I decided to get out my pens and paper to record the day.
Obviously I couldn’t sketchnote and present at the same time (I’m clever but not that clever!) so there are only 5 in my collection but I hope that you find them helpful.
If you signed up for the conference, you will receive a link to watch the recordings. If you didn’t, this will hopefully give you a taste! It was an excellent way to spend a Saturday although I’m now going for a run to help me further process my thoughts.
My overriding thought – well, it’s actually Clare Seccombe’s thought but I’m SO with her on this!
“We owe it to the children to get this [an ambitious primary languages curriculum] right – they can’t be ambitious if we are not ambitious on their behalf for a cracking languages curriculum that really works.”
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!
Following on from the success of last year’s event , it’s time for the second (online) ALL Primary Languages Conference. Colloquially (and rather romantically) known as Acapulco, this event on Saturday 6th November promises to be another memorable event.
I’m really looking forward to a quality few hours of ideas and inspiration and hope that you can join too.
If you’re a member of ALL or a trainee student it only costs £5 otherwise the cost is £25. How do you become a member of ALL? Find out here! Heads up – you can join as a primary school for £50 which is less than an individual!
The programme is viewable here and you can register here.