Entries RSS Comments RSS

Posts Tagged ‘PLL’

Building firm foundations for strong buildings #ALLMFLSW16

Monday, February 29th, 2016

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. 

Firm foundations for strong buildings – the importance of Primary Language Learning. from Lisa Stevens
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.
  • 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.
  • 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)


  • 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 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 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!




Key Stage 2 Modern Foreign Languages Consultation

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

Hurrah! In the last week, the following press release has been issued.  It looks like Primary language learning is going to be made statutory. At least that’s the ‘intention’.

On 6 July 2012 the Rt. Hon. Michael Gove MP, Secretary of State for Education, launched a public consultation on the Government’s proposal to make languages a compulsory subject at Key Stage 2 in maintained schools from September 2014. The consultation closed on 28 September 2012.

The vast majority of respondents agreed with the Government’s intention to introduce foreign languages at Key Stage 2. That consultation provided the Government with an opportunity to reflect on and reconsider its initial views in relation to specifying the choice of language at Key Stage 2.

Having carefully considered the responses to the consultation, as well as a range of relevant factors, the Government has confirmed its intention to make the study of a foreign language compulsory at Key Stage 2 and now seeks views on:

  • The draft of the Order necessary to make foreign languages a statutory subject at Key Stage 2 from September 2014.
  • A new proposal that requires primary schools teach one or more of French, German, Italian, Mandarin, Spanish or a classical language (Latin or Ancient Greek) to pupils at Key Stage 2. Schools would, of course, be free to teach other languages in addition if they wish to do so.

You can access the REPORT and the DOCUMENT as well as a SUMMARY of the consultation.

The report on the initial consultation makes encouraging reading with a high level of support for languages at KS2, and the responses obviously had the desired effect (as far as i’m concerned anyway!)

It seems that rather than dictating that schools focus on one language solely, the proposal allows for learners to experience more than one language (including languages not on the list of 7 as long as they do one of those too). That’s good, as is that fact that 1/5 of people mentioned the KS2 Framework as important – I still believe that it’s key to the success of PLL as it has a broad view of language learning as being far more than “learning a load of words”. There is still concern over KS2/KS3 transition – a thorny issue that we’ve got to get right! – and also concern over the damage that the ‘hiatus’ of the last few years may have done with loss of funding, loss of expert support and loss of impetus.

I’d encourage anyone with an interest in Primary Language Learning to respond to the two questions posed –

1. Do you have any comments on the draft Order attached at Annex 1? (i.e. that language learning should be made statutory at KS2)

2. Do you agree with the Government’s proposal to require primary schools to teach one or more of French, German, Italian, Mandarin, Spanish or a classical language (Latin or Ancient Greek) at Key Stage 2?  Please explain the reasons for your answer.

You can download the consultation response form from the website, or fill it on online.

You have until 16th December to respond. However, why not do it NOW so you don’t forget? ;o)

Los oficios – Jobs activities

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

I had a bit of time today as my youngest was ill so decided to make some simple resources to go with my previous post about Nubeluz and their song Quiero ser…

I used Tools for educators, a great online worksheet/puzzle/resource maker about which I have previously written.

So, here you have –

vocabulary sheet    jobs vocabulary

a labelling worksheet   job labelling

a set of bingo cards (10 different cards in total)  Jobs bingo

a boardgame 

A very versatile site which is really useful to a pretty average drawer like me! And resources such as the board game and the bongo cards can be used for multiple languages so could be used in literacy as well as Spanosh/French/German etc.

My one issue is that there is a distinct lack of women in the library of job images!

You can make wordsearches which are fun but not my favourite activity in the classroom as well as crosswords and mazes. ANd there’s a new ‘guest tool’ which I will be investigating called Comic Strip Maker that allows you to make dialogues between the Anime style people on the pages.

Modern Foreign Languages – Now you’re talking (TES 4/11/11)

Friday, November 4th, 2011

Following on from a mentions here and here and a short review, I had my first article published in The TES today! So exciting!

Here’s the link to the article as it appeared. The original text is below – doesn’t look like it was edited much, a fact about which I am very chuffed!

I emailed Whitehouse Common immediately and told them – and within minutes it was on the school website.

Lots of lovely tweets too – thanks to @valleseco whose tweet was the first I knew of publication, and @bellaale @IrisConnect @davidErogers @matttodd1 @NajmC @suzibewell @whcps @bootleian @bgflnews @chrisfullerisms @TaskMagic @dughall and anyone else who’s tweeted it since I wrote this post!

Hope this won’t be my last article…

Me gusta / Je t’aime / Ich mag / ???

What do learners like doing in MFL? Lisa Stevens ponders this and reflects on activities that her primary school pupils have enjoyed.

When I think back to my best experiences as a learner, they were memorable because they captured my attention and imagination. And it seems that many other learners have a similar experience.

I asked my pupils aged 3-11 what they enjoyed about learning languages, and they came up with many ideas. A class I taught in Reception who are now in Year 3 always want to play a memory game involving painted toenails because a member of their class holds the school record for the game (he was 4 when he set it!), and a Year 6 group remember retelling the story of El Nabo Gigante (The Enormous Turnip) when they were in Year 2 with silly hats and actions.

These were one off examples – when I asked a group of year 6s, they were more general, listing singing, rhymes and chanting as a favourite activity because they don’t do that in other lessons. They also said that they could better remember things that they had learned this way as they recalled the tune or the rhythm as well as the words. Towards the end of Year 6 we do a unit on a Spanish café and one activity involved rewriting a song about ordering in a café to the tune of The Twelve Days of Christmas. The task involved recalling vocabulary but was more then that as learners had to consider whether the rhythm of the words they were suggesting fitted the tune, making them concentrate on stress patterns and syllables. It also offered the opportunity to be imaginative as each group wanted to be the most original and perhaps funniest.

This type of creative task, using language in ‘unusual’ ways, is popular in other year groups too. In response to the story ¡Fuera de aquí Horrible Monstruo Verde! (Go away Big Green Monster), Year 3 used 2D shapes from their Maths lessons to create faces, feature by feature with a photograph taken at each stage. They then to wrote their own (simplified) version of the story saying hello to each new facial feature then telling it to go away using the photographs to create a comic strip. The sense of achievement – “I wrote a story in Spanish!” – was echoed in Year 5 when they rewrote a section of a famous Spanish poem, La Primavera by Antonio Machado, then went on to write their own poems about seasons in Spanish. Many of them were unsure about writing poems in English let alone Spanish, and here the language learning fitted well with their Literacy lessons. Year 4 were equally proud of their work in Healthy Heroes week, creating Superheroes Saludables (Healthy Superheroes), and building on their previous learning about sport and food in Spanish to create a clean living hero and unhealthy enemies. They did something no other class had done and, in a theme week, that holds great sway.

What do all these activities have in common? They were all led by the learners, all involved independence and imagination, and they all involved a challenge. The learners enjoyed themselves, feeling a sense of achievement when they’d finished, and I enjoyed ‘teaching’ them as each learner was able to stamp their individuality on the task.

Lisa is a Primary Language educator and consultant.  She is PLL and International coordinator at Whitehouse Common Primary School, and works with her LA (Birmingham) as a Language Coach supporting schools with their language provision. She is an Apple Education Mentor, an eTwinning Ambassador and BGfL MFL Curriculum Associate, and is on the Spanish Committee of ALL. 

(I know – that’s not all strictly accurate, but it was when I wrote the post!)


AQA – Creative and motivational language learning in the primary classroom. Part 2

Sunday, October 17th, 2010

On Tuesday I was in sunny (yes, it was sunny!) Manchester, delivering my AQA course.

Apart from the problems with the internet, I believe a good day was had by all – lunch was once more a highlight!

Rather than repeat all the links, can I refer you to my last post where you will find all the ‘new’ links about PLL, and also some recommendations from other delegates of sites and learning materials that they’ve found useful.

I forgot last week to put a link to a resource listing many many games and quick activities for the PLL classroom, so here it is.

Literacy and PLL in tandem – resources for free!

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

It seems that some people are just incapable of getting *completely* into holiday mode and just can’t stop themselves from working!

Jo Rhys Jones is one of these mad people and over the last week or so she’s been populating her wonderful Talkabout Primary MFL NING with resources that she’s developed for a project to celebrate National Children’s Book Week.

So far she’s shared resources for the books

Bon appetit Monsieur Lapin

Je m’habille et je te croque…!

Je ne veux pas aller au lit

La gallina hambrienta

Lots of stuff there that can be used straight away or translated into Spanish, French, German or whatever other language you fancy.  You can also take the ideas and use in English literacy.

I like Jo’s idea that this type of thing can be used as a transition project with KS3 working on materials to present to KS2 and KS1.

Feel free to add to Jo’s ideas – I know she’d be really pleased if you did – and share them back again.

And if you’re involved in ANY way in language learning with primary aged kids and aren’t a member of Talkabout Primary MFL, make sure you join.  You’re missing out on so much!!

Games and activities for Primary Foreign languages.

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

Via my Google Reader, I was led to the following book published on Scribd.

Over 300 pages of games and activities for use in the PLL classroom.  What’s more, there are all mapped to the KS2 Framework objectives and helpfully split into sections for specific vocabulary areas, counting, literacy and language learning.  Plus there are sections of vocabulary in Spanish French and German to support those who are less fluent.

Looks a brilliant resource to enhance the learning of languages at primary – and I’m sure there are a few secondary pupils who wouldn’t mind a nostalgic game of Duck duck goose once in a while?
Games and Activities for Primary Foreign Languages

PS I am checking re copyright as the author is not the one who uploaded it!

Inspiration for Motivation – Top Tips for PLL

Sunday, July 11th, 2010

Here is the Slidecast of my second presentation from Brighton.

Apologies for the audio cutting out before the end – no idea what happened there!  Perhaps the iRiver overheated!

Apologies to @wizenedcrone for forgetting her real name – it’s Fiona Joyce!!!

And the German site I mentioned was called GenkiGerman.

Inspiration for Motivation – You and Youtube

Saturday, July 10th, 2010

Two weeks after the event I’ve finally got around to editing and synching the audio of my presentations from the Linguascope Conference in Brighton.

Here’s the first one – You and Youtube about the use of Youtube and other online video / slideshow sites in the language classroom.

Things that make my pupils smile #MFLSAT

Saturday, July 10th, 2010

I normally make Slideshares of my presentations and add the audio for Slidecasts.

However, the lovely @eyebeams was UStreaming the MFL Show and Tell from Nottingham today so I’m able to embed the video of my presentation!

Hope you find it useful.  Although my pupils are primary aged and some of the ideas are very ‘primary centric’, I think that there are many things that secondary colleagues can take and adapt to their situations.  teh fun doesn’t have to stop at the end of KS2, you know ;o)