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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.

Today I have spent my Saturday in Acapulco. Sadly not in Mexico but the online conference run by ALL.

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.”

Clare Seccombe @valleseco
taking us through the rollercoaster of primary Languages over the last 20+ years and provoking us to look to the future that we owe our learners. www.lightbulblanguages.co.uk
Kate Percival Primary Languages Network offering us an insight into the role of the primary languages coordinator – what do we need to do and how can we best enable that ambitious curriculum?
Vicky Cooke @MsVCooke shared how to bring order out of “chaos” as we plan our ambitious curriculum – what do we want our learners to achieve and how will we help them get there?
Ellie Chettle Cully @ECCMFL gave us advice on how we can facilitate ambitious learning for ALL learners, those with SEND as well as the ‘high flyers’, emphasising that ‘accommodations’ often benefit everyone in the class not just those for whom they are made! https://myprimarylanguagesclassroom.com/
Marie Allen brought the day to a close explaining her model of assessment and clearly explaining the rationale behind and process of ensuring ALL stakeholders (learners, school, OFSTED, secondary colleagues) understand the progress being made.

Notes on my presentation will follow later!


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 slide – the rule was one slide only!

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!

At a loose end on a Saturday morning? Fancy some free CPD? Have a short attention span and prefer your learning in 20 minute or even 5 minute bursts? Well, TM MFL Icons is the thing for you!

Between 10am and 12.30pm today (Saturday 16th October) there will be a live stream of short presentations on a variety of language learning themes. Some of the session titles include:

Labels limit – engaging boys in MFL
Target Language Talk
SEND and MFL – What worked (and didn’t) for us
Making CPD about more than just activities to try. Understanding the ‘why?’


And I’ll be taking 5 minutes around 11.50am to explain this title.


If you’re interested, you can sign up here and follow on Twitter @tmmflicons #TMMFLIcons. Can’t make it this morning? Sign up and you can access the recording!

Interested in other subjects? Have a look at the Teachmeeticons home page to see when you can access CPD in other areas of the curriculum.

Fun in Acapulco starring Ursula and Elvis, or is it our hosts, Sue Cave and Steven Fawkes?

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.

The conference title is An Ambitious Primary Languages Curriculum and features a keynote from Clare Seccombe followed by sessions from Kate Percival, Vicky Cooke, Ellie Chettle-Culley, Marie Allen and someone called Lisa Stevens 😉 If you use Twitter, the hashtag will be #ALLplconf.

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.

Today I had the pleasure of presenting at the Talleres de español in London. It was lovely to see people in real life rather than through a computer screen, and it was definitely worth the trip from Birmingham. As always Instituto Español Vicente Cañada Blanch was buzzing with chat and the food was delicioso. Not many conferences where you are given a glass of wine with lunch, or finish the afternoon dancing or learning about jamón y vino! Thanks to the Consejería de Educación and Junta de Castilla y León for facilitating the day and to Baroness Coussins for her inspiring start to the day. It’s good to know that there’s someone passionate about languages fighting hard and trying to make change in the corridors of power. “Talking about languages in Parliament often feels like wading through treacle. [But it’s about] doors opening and horizons widening. The beauty of languages is that there is a win-win waiting to be claimed.”

As promised here is my presentation. I spoke about Take One Book in Spanish and my presentation is below. In a future edition of TECLA you’ll be able to read a summary of what I said in Spanish (I hope!)

https://www.slideshare.net/lisibo/take-one-book-talleres-de-espaol-2021

All the videos and activities I mentioned in the presentation are bookmarked on a Pinterest page. A warning – Pinterest may be blocked in your school (it is in Birmingham schools) so it may be that you have to access the links at home and save them elsewhere, but this is the easiest way to collate them. And here is the vocabulary for the Tesoro o basura activity.

Feel free to ask questions in the comments below; likewise if you have any ideas of your own that you think would work well.

Postponed from their usual Saturday in June thanks to COVID and travel restrictions, this Saturday (2nd October) sees the annual Talleres de español at Instituto Español Cañada Blanch in London.

The programme will begin with Baroness Coussins speaking about the importance of languages for the future of the UK which will be followed by presentations (predominantly in Spanish) in three strands – primary, secondary and general interest – on a variety of themes including gamification, ICT, culture, history, literature, motivation and projects. Lunch is always delicious and an integral part of the experience, and the day will end with dancing or wine and jamón!

I’ll be presenting straight after Baroness Coussins (no pressure!) and sharing my ideas entitled Take One Book.

The programme is below and you can find details of how to sign up here . I’m looking forward to it; please say ¡hola! if you’re attending!

At this time of year, I’m normally gearing up for my annual ‘weekend away’ at Language World. It’s taken me to York, Lancaster, Leicester, Rugby, Nottingham, London, Newcastle, Manchester, Loughborough and of course, Oxford where Language World and I first ‘met.’ This year, things are a little different as I won’t physically be going anywhere as the conference is coming to me in my home via the wonders of video conferencing. And it can come to you too if you sign up!

Language World is the annual conference and training event of the Association for Language Learning (ALL).
The theme of Language World 2021 is “A rich curriculum for ALL”.

As the blurb on their site says:
“Schools are currently exploring how they can offer rich, exciting education for all their pupils. Ofsted encourages schools to make positive decisions to preserve or develop richness of experience along with breadth and depth of curriculum – for example, giving pupils the opportunity to learn a number of foreign languages and arts subjects, recognising local ambitions.  We look forward to sharing ideas and best practice from among our languages community about these kinds of curricular aspects, and about learning that goes deeper into content, motivates learners of Languages, culture and communication, and is broader than the exam specifications.”


Keynote speakers this year include:

  • President of ALL (2020-22), Kim Bower;
  • Dr. Michael Wardle, Language Lead for OFSTED;
  • international expert on CLIL and Professor of Languages Education and Classroom Learning at university of  Edinburgh, Professor Do Coyle
  • Professor of Applied Linguistics at the UCL Institute of Education, University College London, Professor Li Wei

Im particularly looking forward to hearing from Professor Li Wei on Friday talking about Multilingualism, Language Learning and Social Cognition and then from Jane Driver on Saturday talking about Using CLIL and MFL strategies to maximise the curriculum for EAL learners.

And then there are the talks and presentations from which you can choose. Each session is 30 minutes long with a 20 minute presentation followed by 10 minutes for questions. Easier for concentration but challenging when you’re planning a session and always have too much for 45 minutes…

Some sessions that caught my eye as a primary languages practitioner include:

  • Promoting intercultural understanding through cross curricular and extra-curricular activities in the primary classroom – lots of practical ideas led by Bernadette Clinton and Raquel Tola Rego
  • A recipe for success! Creating a bespoke scheme of work – Clare Seccombe
  • Engaging, enriching, inclusive: ensuring a primary MFL curriculum which delivers for SEND pupils – Eleanor Chettle Cully
  • Celebrate your bilingual learners and promote linguistic diversity in your school with an International Mother Tongue Day project – Hannah White

As usual, I have a problem! The first two are at the same time as each other AND I’m speaking at the same time! And the second two are also concurrent. I’m hoping that with the online nature of the conference we might be able to catch up… but I’m not sure so don’t quote me on it!

Decisions decisions!

Other sessions I’m looking forward to:

  • What does an anti-racist, decolonised MFL curriculum look like?
  • Embedding languages into the curriculum: practical examples from Scotland and Wales
  • Teaching Phonics – Mapping, Method and Moving on

Another innovation this year is that some 30 minute slots split into 3 mini talks and I’m looking forward to many of those too including Dr Judith Rifeser talking about Nurturing intercultural understanding and celebrating pupils’ diverse and multilingual voices through creative projects, Bryn Llewellyn sharing Learning Languages on the Move – Developing Language Vocabulary using Physically Active Learning Approaches, Helen Stokes talking about Making connections between languages with translation skills: for easier transition between KS2 and 3 and How MFL teaching can boost whole school literacy led by Clare Caio.

So much that it’s hard to choose! You might even want to ‘attend’ my session entitled Take One Book in which I’ll explore how to make full use of a storybook (a different one from the one I shared at PHOrum!) You can find further details on the Language World 2021 website and the programme can be found here.

Register here.

I am very much looking forward to a new experience and whilst I’d rather we were meeting together as usual, I’m excited for the new format and will still be wearing LiPS themed clothing and sketchnoting!

Wondering why the LiPS? Check out Languages in Primary Schools group on Facebook!

Find out about my experiences at previous Language Worlds by following the links below!

Reflections on Language World 2008
Absorbing Language Learning 2009
Language World 2010 and various posts following including Raising Global Awareness and Creativity talks as well as sessions by Clare DoddLiz Black Cynthia Martin Oh, and my session – Bricklaying for beginners!
Language World 2011 – my session Entitled to enjoy Primary Languages and many other sessions by Chris HarteJan Lewandowski and Liz Fotheringham
Language World 2014 overview     Session on apps
Language World 2015 in sketchnotes
Language World 2016 in sketchnotes  Session on Sketchnoting
Language World 2017 in sketchnotes
Language World 2018 in sketchnotes My session Using Technology for collaboration 
Sue Cave’s session – Language Detectives Primary Show and Tell
Language World 2019 – The Sketchnotes My session on Supporting learners’ understanding and enjoyment of stories in the primary languages classroom.
I was briefly at Language World 2020 but didn’t blog it as it coincided with a particularly stressful time – including lockdown beginning a few days later!

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