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We’re on our way – Staffordshire Primary Languages conference: 26th June 2015

Sunday, July 26th, 2015

keep-calm-we-re-on-our-way-10On Friday 26th June I attended the Entrust Primary Languages Conference in Stafford, organised and led by Lorna Harvey. Entitled ‘We’re on our way’, the day began with an excellent keynote from Clare Seccombe aka @valleseco and genius behind LightBulbLanguages.

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Sharing a title with the conference, Clare shared her ideas on the journeys involved in primary language learning – for the child, the teacher and as a nation. I love how Clare can express her ideas so well in images. I’ve tried to capture some of them in my sketch note below.


You can read Clare’s presentation for yourself here – We’re on our way!


There were a number of workshops during the day – I attended one on a cluster of schools who use a ‘language investigators’ approach to language learning in Y1-2 and 3-4 before focussing on one language in Y6. My sketch note is below along with a few images.


IMG_4687Plan for Y1-2 IMG_4688I loved the pizza/paella Italian/Spanish numbers!
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The day was very much a celebration of a project between Stafford and Burgundy, and I’d been asked to speak after lunch about a similar partnership in which I’d been involved, between Birmingham and Barcelona. It was wonderful to prepare my presentation as it sparked so many amazing memories and caused me to reflect on where we’ve gone since the (official) end of the partnership. Below you can see my presentation (although without the video clips I’m afraid) and Clare kindly sketch noted it for me.

We had a brilliant presentation from pupils about their experiences as well as a culinary lesson based on tasting and making mustard. Great fun and with clear language goals too!

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I finished the day by presenting about using technology to enhance language learning. You can see my presentation below and access the notes, tutorials etc here.

Enhancing Primary Language Learning using Technology from Lisa Stevens

A great day – not much tweeting as I was too busy sketching or making mustard as was Clare, but here’s the Storify of the tweets anyway.

A great day – thanks Lorna!

PS Clare’s workshop – Be a crafty language teacher is explained here too!

#ililc5 Show and Tell – El que busca encuentra

Friday, March 6th, 2015

My idea to share at the Show and Tell was based on a post I wrote in August –

El que busca encuentra

The picture I shared is on that post (in two parts) and below I’ve uploaded it as one image. I’ve also shared another couple that don’t have questions.

el que busca

Mujeres célebres

Grandes científicas

Grandes científicas

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Grandes genios de la informática (arriba)

Grandes personajes de terror (abajo) – perhaps for next Halloween?

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Apart from the ideas in the previous blogpost, I was going to suggest that any Where’s Wally?/Où est Charlie?/Wo ist Walter?/¿Dónde está Wally? could be used in a similar way:

1. explain where Wally is using prepositions/positional language.

2. provide descriptions of other characters to be found: could be done as a reading or a listening activity .

3. learners could do the above with a partner, or in small groups

4. learners imagine the life of one of the characters and provide a biography, or put themselves into their shoes and introduce themselves (a little like Janet Lloyd’s ‘In the picture’ activity)

and so on!

(Apologies for taking so long to upload – I’ve suffered severe post -#ililc5 exhaustion this week!)

Modern languages, Modern teaching (MFL Devon)

Friday, February 13th, 2015

Today I’ve been in Devon (where it was raining!!!) speaking at a conference at Newton Abbot College entitled Modern languages, Modern teaching. A great way to start half term!

I gave two presentations today, one on Top Tips for Primary Language Learning and the other on cross curricular language teaching. It was lovely to meet the people in my sessions – thanks for joining in and participating in my songs games and activities.I’m currently trying to upload my presentations to Slideshare as they won’t upload directly here, but until then, here are a few of the video clips I shared today!

Ana y Enrique – Los planetas

This version has pictograms too!

And then there was the soundtrack to our Sumo phonics

And the amusing German tongue twister/ story about Barbara and her rhubarb bar

And if you want to know what it means… http://youtu.be/l3_tRPRt9x8

Hope that’s whetted your appetite. More when I get home as the Internet is straining 😉

Come to #ILILC5!

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

ililc speaker badgeIt’s now February so it’s time for the next instalment of the ICT Links into Languages Conference commonly known at #ILILC. Inexplicably pronounced like a symptom of chicken pox, it is the place to be for language teachers.

With two days of seminars and workshops plus a Saturday evening Show and Tell, there’s plenty for everyone irrespective of  language or phase taught, experience or confidence. Joe Dale will open this year  ‘Capturing the zeitgeist’ with what’s new in the world of technology in MFL and someone called Lisa Stevens is closing the conference ‘Cooking on gas’ (other fuels are available).

I am always very excited to attend ILILC as it’s the only conference I  managed still to attend when I was in Switzerland, I have been to every single one (I think there should be some kind of commemorative badge for us?) and I can literally say ‘been there, got the Tshirt!’ I wonder what colour it will be this year… (orders to @elvisrunner asap!)

If you haven’t already booked, do have a look at the Links into languages SouthEast site to find out more. Too many I’d like to attend, including one whilst I’m presenting (about Twitter) which always happens! You can see the programme and abstracts by scrolling to the bottom of the page (the programme is at the bottom of this post too) and also links to posts from previous years!

I’d especially encourage you to attend if you aren’t going to Language World in Newcastle in March as it is too far away. Several of the sessions will be repeated there so you can get a preview 😉

See you there – for inspiration, discussion, running and cupcakes!

Saturday programme

Sunday programme

ICT Conference 2015 Draft programme with session descriptions


2014 #ililc4

Reflections on #ILILC4  – post event summary!

A beginner’s guide to iPads in the primary language classroom – my presentation, as it says!

Something old, something new – my take on the new KS2 Programmes of Study

2013 #ililc3

I want to break free – my presentation on breaking free from chalk and talk using technology

Let out for good behaviour – my presentation on virtually and actually going outside  the classroom walls

Tools for educators  and El polite pio – Show and Tell

2012 #ililc2

Barça, Barça, Barça! – my presentation about the Comenius Regio project between Birmingham and Barcelona, and the impact on my school

‘Appy learners – my presentation on iPad apps for the language classroom

Das Fliegerlied and The shoe’s on the other foot – Show and Tell

2011 #ililc

Reflections on ILILC 

Tell me a story – my presentation on storytelling including sites

What can eTwinning do for you? – my presentation on international links

Peux-tu marcher comme un canard? – the song/website I shared at the Show and Tell

Pacca Alpaca

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

pacca iconpacca logo

Introducing Pacca Alpaca, a language learning app for little people!

I’ve been working with Anamil Tech on the Spanish dimension of this app and am pleased to say that it is now available in the iTunes and GooglePlay stores where it has already received a review!

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It was lovely to work with Nicole again after the success of The Lingo Show which she created and produced (I did the Spanish on that too!) as I knew that the concept would be fun and interactive.

Pacca is a funny quirky and very inquisitive alpaca who travels on a magical carousel from his home in the Andes to explore, learning languages on the way as well as exploring his new environment. In this first instalment, he pops off to Australia!

Here’s what the ‘blurb’ says:

Pacca Alpaca – Australia!

Pacca Alpaca – Australia is a multilingual app aimed at children aged two to six and designed to encourage them to learn new languages and understand the world around them as they embark on an Australian adventure with Pacca the alpaca.

Pacca’s adventure unfolds in his home in the Andes Mountains, as he spots a new destination from afar and flies off in his magical carousel to investigate. When he lands with a bump in Australia, a local host greets him and takes him on a tour of the country. Along the way, the two play games, meet other animals and learn about shapes, colours and numbers. While they play, children can earn rewards as they complete challenges and learn new words in their chosen language – French, Spanish, Mandarin, Arabic or English.

The app is the first in a series of adventure apps following Pacca and his friends on their travels across the globe, so watch this space for the next installment!

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Things I like about it:

  • Pacca is a lovely character; very friendly and fun
  • you can complete the activities in several languages using the same app
  • there are no advertisements/pop ups/in app purchases
  • the language is clearly spoken by a child (the Spanish voice actor was a delight; a really sweet little girl from Canarias and it was a shame I didn’t actually get to meet her!) which I think is important in an app aimed at little ones
  • it’s fun to play the games and you are rewarded with souvenirs for the carousel
  • all the vocabulary you’ve learned is stored in your suitcase and can be reviewed when you wish
  • you can start again and recollect all the souvenirs when you’ve finished – and in another language if you want
  • there’s a Grown Ups page that explains the educational background and a TopTips document giving ideas of how to use the app too
  • you discover a new country/culture as you learn e.g. aboriginal style artwork is used for the colours, famous landmarks are shown
  • there’s the promise of more adventures to different places!

It’s not a free app – it costs £2.49 – so having it on a class set of iPads would need some negotiation but I’ll definitely add it to my list of apps that I recommend to parents/grandparents who want ideas for engaging children in learning outside of the classroom as well as putting it on my iPad for individual/paired play.

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Mi calendario 2015

Friday, December 19th, 2014

calendarioHaving a number of pupils who don’t celebrate Christmas, and to alleviate ‘Christmas saturation’ I tried to come up with a different activity for the last week of term for my pupils.

Most of WPS have spent the last half term looking at days months and numbers so a calendar sprang to mind. And I recalled making a 3D one years ago…

I couldn’t find the template so I searched online for a dodecahedron net, and then for 2015 calendar tabs in Spanish, and then made my own.


  • dodecahedron net copied onto card – dodecahedron
  • copy of Spanish calendar tabs for 2015 – (you’ll need to reduce it to half size I discovered unless you print it straight from the site in which case it’s the correct size!)calendariolaboral2015
  • scissors
  • glue
  • felt tip pens
  • LOTS of patience!


I gave each child a net on thin card and asked them to decorate each pentagon to form a background. Some chose a pattern, some tried to draw a suitable picture for the month, others just coloured.

Then they cut out the net – I’d made all the bits to cut really obvious by using dashed lines but still children cut off the tabs!

They cut each month out and stuck one month per pentagon onto the net.

Then the fun began! You need to fold all the pentagons inwards, and all the tabs too.

Sticking it all together starts off easy as you make a basket shape with the base but gets more and more fiddly as you have less space to grip and hold flaps so that they bond. My advice is to make sure the you do a tab or two at a time and hold them until they are firmly stuck. The last few joins will be more flimsy as you can’t apply pressure but if you try to leave a pentagon with several flaps, you should be able to just tuck them in and hope for the best!

Here’s my finished example:



I’ve since discovered this preprinted dodecahedron calendar calendario-deca-2015 on the same site – it wasn’t there last week! However, I prefer my version as this has capital letters for the months and days and having battled with children all term to stop ‘correcting’ the date that is written on the board when they copy it into their books, I’m not going down that road!

And there is also a Calendario rombico calendario-rombico-2015 which looks interesting! You need to follow the instructions here to make it!

Whilst the bottom strip on the calendar tabs is not needed, it fits beautifully with the unit we’re studying as we’re in the middle of discussing festivals and dates, and the calendarios will be  great for practising saying the date in Spanish after Christmas break. However, having spent my lunch hour ‘rescuing’  a large pile of them, I don’t want to see another one for a while!




BBC Primary ‘goodies’

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

I’m making a list of useful links that parents might use with their children to practice and reinforce their Spanish, and was struck by how many ‘goodies’ there are provided by the BBC. So I thought I’d share! NB I’ve focussed on Spanish but they all come in a variety of languages – see individual sections)

1. The Lingo Show

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For younger learners (preschool onwards), The Lingo Show started out as a website featuring ‘language bugs’ who teach Lingo a few words in their language. As it was so popular, it became a TV series with episodes featuring  Jargonaise (French), Wèi (Mandarin) and Queso who teaches Spanish, and then a second series featuring the German, Welsh and Urdu bugs was made and broadcast in May 2013.

The website has fun activities as well as links to songs that feature.  Current languages include Mandarin Chinese, Russian, Spanish, German, Sinhala, French, Welsh, English, Italian, Urdu.

Here’s an example of a song featuring Queso from Youtube, and the link to a counting song

2. BBC Primary Languages website

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The ‘old’ Primary Languages website with ‘animales animados’ and Jhonny (sic) and co was great (and you can still access the archived version minus games here) but I was really excited to be involved in ‘revamping’ the site and rebranding it. It was developed when languages were to be compulsory and the KS2 Framework was THE bible of primary language learning, but it still stands in my opinion. This site was written to be accessible to KS2 pupils and is organized in topics. It includes:

  • vocabulary with sound files to help pronunciation;
  • interesting tips and facts about Spanish/French/Mandarin;
  • vocabulary games;
  • videos;
  • songs;
  • links to other helpful resources

There were limitations to the things that could be done e.g. interactivity, ‘free’ writing, games beyond vocabulary recognition level  etc. And I sometimes wonder what happened to other ideas and resources that I saw and wrote that have never appeared on the site – including sentence building games, lesson plans. worksheets  and notes for parents.

I’ve used the site with Y2 recently and they love the songs – they listen as they work and have started singing along. Sometimes they want to see the words and other times they want to watch without. The tunes are excellent – the composer did a good job of making the words fit in English Spanish French and Mandarin to the same tune!

I’ve signposted it to my colleagues as well as a way that they can ‘do their bit’ to reinforce Spanish learning; non-threatening as it’s all there for them.

3. Bitesize (now the home of Learning Zone)

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The ‘repository’ of all the BBC videos used to be the Learning Zone Class clips, but they have moved to Bitesize (actually since I started writing this post!) The Learning Zone is still there in archive form and still works; it just won’t be updated. If you scroll down to Spanish in the Primary section, there are lots of clips of programmes on a variety of subjects:

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However, these videos – and others – are now listed on BBC Bitesize. There are categories for Spanish according to the ‘Key Stage’ system:

KS1 Spanish http://www.bbc.co.uk/education/subjects/zhyb4wx

KS2 Spanish http://www.bbc.co.uk/education/subjects/zxsvr82 

but also for Scotland.

second level (9-12 year olds) Spanish http://www.bbc.co.uk/education/subjects/z72mn39 

(NB there are other languages too  in all the above sections! French, German, Italian, Mandarin)

These two clips come under KS2 School and are from a series called Adventures Abroad; a playground game called Abuelita ¿Qué hora es? that I’ve played with classes, and a programme about primary school routine in Spain that I know has been used and enjoyed by others who found Papo the parrot particularly amusing.

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The Stories poems and songs section is particularly interesting as it includes lots of traditional tales such as The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse, The Sun and the Wind and Frau Holle as well as traditional songs like Old Macdonald and new ones like this one about Don Quijote!

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And that brings me on to…

4. Virtually there

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This is a series of programmes in which a child, Ashleigh, is helped with her Spanish by friends in Spain via video conferencing. It also includes some songs and cultural information. (Also in French and German)

Here’s the trailer…

and here are the episodes:

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Something I’ve noticed is that the clips all have a QR code option for sharing which I like! That means that I can make a display of all the QR codes and then learners can access them whenever they wish (as long as they have an iPad or mobile device!); for example, as an extension/further learning for early finishers.

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I really like Virtually there. Ashleigh isn’t a KS1 child; I’d say she’s nearly secondary age so it would appeal to older KS2 learners and also KS3 beginners. I also like the mix of ‘live’ episodes and songs; the gender song is one of my favourites.

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So, there’s a round up of BBC online ‘stuff’ for primary learners. Hope it’s helpful!

Seasonal poems

Thursday, June 26th, 2014
A journey through seasons by Luiza Vizoli

A journey through seasons by Luiza Vizoli

Having worked on adapting a verse of La Primavera by Antonio Machado last week (see here and here for previous posts about this) , Year 5 were set a new poetic challenge this week.

Whilst I was out of action with my broken ankle, some students from BCU taught my Y5 classes using the QCA SoW unit Las cuatro estaciones as their starting point. They taught about the weather, the months of the year and the seasons, and judging by the recap lesson we had, they were successful in their aim!

This week we reviewed the seasons and thought about how we might write simple poems about them. I suggested we thought of colours as everyone was familiar with at least 5 colours that they could match to a season. I  introduced other adjectives, including reminding them of ones we had used in connection to music (Autumn term) and the planets (Spring term)

I modelled a simple structure, saying we were aiming for something like a Haiku not a sonnet; about half of them understood what I meant!

La primavera es verde y amarilla.

La primavera es bonito y alegre.

Me gusta la primavera.

Having given a sheet with some adjectives on it (including some unsuitable ones for this task like alto and bajo) and access to dictionaries, off they went.

And I was really pleased with some of the results.

Amelia has missed most Spanish lessons since Christmas as she has spent Tuesday afternoons at a local secondary school doing some G&T work.  Today she wrote the poem below in 10 minutes.

photo 5And these children impressed too, especially this one from Sam who finds Spanish tricky at times.
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photo 1

They are simple, yes. But they demonstrate to varying extents that they can

  • write at varying length, for different purposes and audiences, using the variety of grammatical structure that they have learnt
  • broaden their vocabulary and develop their ability to understand new words that are introduced into familiar written material, including through using a dictionary
  • write phrases from memory, and adapt these to create new sentences, to express ideas clearly
  • describe people, places, things and actions … and in writing       (Languages Programmes of Study: Key Stage 2)

Looking forward to next week when we will continue in this vein and present our poems using technology!

Stafford Primary Languages Conference – Tip Top Language Learning

Friday, March 28th, 2014

As promised, my presentation from Stafford last week! A quick whip through some of my favourite activities with a view to inspire and also keep everyone awake after lunch 😉

Links –

Rachel Hawkes’ phonics

Music for Los vocales D.I.S.C.O.


Jo Rhy Jones phonic activities 

Oso Pardo pdf

Boowa et Kwala – Peut tu marchez comme un canard? Fingerpaint song

Padlet.com – for collecting ideas (online post it notes)

Storybird – make up your own stories using illustrators images. MFL Storybird wikispace

I also mentioned Tellagami, Pic collage and Book Creator app. Check out this post for more details!

Again, if I’ve forgotten to upload something that I promised, please let me know!


Something old, something new #ililc4

Sunday, February 16th, 2014

My second session at #ililc4 was entitled Something old, something new and concerned the new 2014 curriculum.

My presentation is below, and I’ll explain briefly what I said as I couldn’t attach the notes without making the Slideshare look ugly!

And there are lots of links ideas and resources at bit.ly/oldlisibo (should have thought out that URL more carefully!)

Something old, something new. from Lisa Stevens

As I explained on the day, when you have to submit your idea so far in advance and aren’t entirely sure how your idea will pan out, it is quite tricky to come up with a witty/apposite title. My choice of Something old Something new was mainly because I envisaged sharing some old ideas and some new ones plus some borrowed from others. However, as I came to think in more detail I began to think more about weddings!

Primary languages have had a bit of a torrid love life, being loved and then rejected by the primary curriculum, nearly getting up the aisle in 2010 but being jilted at the last moment when all was going so well. So I set out to explore the ‘prenuptial agreement’ (or Languages Programmes of Study at KS2), how we can make this ‘marriage’ work, how to convince those that are nervous about married life and how we’ll keep the spark alive.

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So I began by looking at the Programmes of Study, highlighting parts of the  document that I found interesting.

Purpose of study – Intercultural Understanding is still really important – it’s a vital part of language learning. Providing learners with building blocks AND mortar is key if they are to be able to express what they want in the foreign language. And ‘great works of literature’ doesn’t mean Don Quijote de la Mancha, A la recherché du temps perdu or Mein Kampf at Year 3; poetry is great literature and we regularly use an extract tom Machado in Year 5 as stimulus for writing.

Aims – It’s about a balance and variety of things; a breadth of experience that leads to progression. No arguments there!

The lack of detail in the Attainment target section could be seen as a bit disconcerting but doesn’t give much guidance. However, I’m hanging on to my Key Stage 2 Framework which is still a great document; follow that and you can’t go far wrong. Measuring progress in terms of I can statements is also helpful, and there’s been a great discussion on Primary languages forum this week on what we should be looking for in terms of skills progression. (Want to join in? Join the forum or ask to join the Sharing Primary Languages wikispace)

Subject content – I highlighted that whilst it says ‘substantial progress in one language’, this does not mean that looking at other languages is precluded; in fact, I’d positively encourage it as making links between languages  is a vital language learning skill. We discussed how a balance of skills can be achieved when some are more comfortable with speaking activities than the written word which seems more ‘serious’ and permanent. And we mentioned ‘the grammar question’ – it’s not such a bad thing! Nor is looking at languages such as Greek and Latin; very useful for understanding the formation of languages as I discovered on my year abroad at Universitat de les Illes Balears. Finally in this section we thought about laying those foundations for KS3. I referred back to a presentation I’d made at Language World called Bricklaying for Beginners and how bricks need mortar, and how it’s not a wall that needs demolishing at KS3; reinforcing but not knocking down!

I then took each  ‘pupils should be taught to..’ statement and split them into listening, speaking, reading, writing and grammar, suggesting ideas and activities that might meet them.

There are lots of links on the wiki to many of the ideas but here are some comments:

  • ‘joining in’  is very important and builds confidence as does repetition e.g storytelling, reciting rhymes and poems
  • making links between graphemes and phonemes is important to enable increased fluency e.g. listening out for phonemes in songs/rhymes, sorting words, reading with your Spanish/French/German glasses so you view graphemes not as you would in your own language
  • confidence with phonics is vital to teacher and learner; syllables and stress patterns too – hence my pupils’ love of stress punching!  (a post about this and ‘animal symphony’ will follow shortly)
  • books are brilliant – not just fiction though! Non fiction is very popular with boys and also is great for linking to other curricular areas: going back to my analogy, this ‘marriage’ is about give and take! If you can’t find suitable books, make your own as with my Storybird ¿De dónde viene el yak?
  • learners can decode more complex texts without knowing every word if you provide them with the confidence to do so, embed language learning skills and discuss how languages work  from the very start.
  • writing doesn’t have to be in a book; whiteboards, post-it notes, mini books, Padlet, labels, paper chains, posters, your partner’s hand; they all count!
  • structuring and scaffolding is fine – trapdoors are great as starters as is making human sentences and physically rearranging words. The Human Fruit machine with 3+ learners holding a large dice with 6 images of nouns/adjectives/verbs etc on them and spin is a great way of making make random sentences and exploring how you can substitute words in existing sentences to make new ones!
  • I loved grammar at school; I liked the logic of it all and the patterns. So why not exploit that and make verb flowers, grammar songs and raps, dice games and so on. Use highlighters/colour to clarify grammar ( I lived by my red=accusative, green=nominative and blue=dative when learning German) be it nouns, adjectival placement, verb endings/groupings or spelling.
  • Use activities that are used in other areas of the primary curriculum; learners up level sentences in Literacy all the time so why not in the foreign language? Word pyramids starting with a word and extending to a complex sentence at the base? And card sorting activities too.

So that’s the session in a (pretty big) nutshell!

(Written whilst lying flat on my back in pain so please excuse typos!)