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Top ten tips for Primary Language Learning

Thursday, August 27th, 2015

If you’ve read the July edition of UKEDmagazine you may have read my article entitled Top ten tips for Primary Language Learning. If you haven’t, you can read the unedited version below or the official version at this link

Top ten tips for Primary Language Learning

A wide variety of people teach languages in Primary schools, probably more than in any other ‘subject’. Whether you’re a class teacher with or without language skills, a reluctant language coordinator or a visiting language specialist (to name but a few possibilities) here are my top ten tips for primary language teaching and learning.

  1. Phonics are vital

It doesn’t matter which language you teach, making the correct sounds of that language is key. Working on phonics from the start builds a strong foundation on which learners can build, enabling them to see new words and say them accurately. Have a look at Rachel Hawkes’ website where there are links to free resources covering French Spanish German and Italian. http://www.rachelhawkes.com/Resources/Phonics/Phonics.php

 

  1. Songs and rhymes motivate and teach

A good way to increase confidence in reading and speaking the language is by sharing songs, poems and rhymes. This is also a good way to reinforce phonic knowledge and explore the rhythms of the language. Mama Lisa has songs and rhymes in many languages, often with a sound file giving the correct pronunciation and a translation into English so you know what you’re saying! There are also many songs and rhymes on Youtube on channels such as Basho and Friends or by searching for the artist such as Alain le lait

 

  1. Dramatic stories

Using stories – in translation or original language – is another great tool for language learning as they are familiar and often very repetitive. My favourites include Oso pardo, ¿qué ves?, Le navet enorme and Kleiner weisser Fisch as they lend themselves to acting out (even Y6 like acting!) and are easy for learners to adapt into their own stories. For example, Y5 invented stories based on Le navet enorme that included a child who didn’t want to get in the bath and had to be pulled to the bathroom, a teacher stuck in the PE cupboard and a car that broke down and needed to be pushed.

 

  1. Technology has its place

There are many opportunities for using technology to enhance language learning such as recording, reviewing and refining speaking activities using Audacity or an app like VoiceRecordPro, or performing speeches and role plays using Tellagami, YakitKids, or Puppet Pals.  BookCreator app is an excellent tool for creating multimedia books including text, sound, video, hyperlinks, doodles and pictures; incredibly easy to use and suitable for young children as well as those who are less confident with technology. And why not use Build Your Wildself or Switchzoo to create hybrid animals then describe them in the language.

 

  1. Share!

Using technology is also a great way to enable sharing of the great things that go on in language learning. Whether it is via the school website or VLE, tweeted or shared on a class/school blog, celebrating language learning gives it status and also provides an audience and a purpose for learning. Additionally, learners are able to take their learning home with them digitally; the excitement of pupils when we made our first podcast nine or ten years ago was great. “I’m on my Gran’s iPod!” was my favourite comment.

 

  1. Use anything you can get your hands on

The primary classroom is full of things that can be used and adapted for language learning. Number fans are great for counting and also giving feedback with numbered images for example. Mini whiteboards allow learners to write and correct without committing it to paper as well as drawing images to show understanding of vocabulary or instructions. Unifix cubes can be used for ordering ideas or vocabulary and cushions make great impromptu puppets for speaking or islands for phoneme sorting!

 

  1. Grammar isn’t a dirty word

Primary learners are very familiar with grammatical terms and enjoy comparing the grammar of other languages, making links and finding differences. Sorting words into boxes according to gender, making human sentences to explore word order and creating verb flowers or spiders are just some ways of making grammar fun and memorable.

 

  1. Integrate language learning into the curriculum

Language learning shouldn’t be seen as a standalone but, as much as possible, integrated into the primary curriculum. As there is no prescribed content in the KS2 PoS, it’s possible to teach the skills through whatever topic if you use a little imagination. And where full integration is tricky or where a specialist delivers the lesson, a class teacher can always build language into routines such as PE warmups, lining up, the register and so on, even if their knowledge of the language is limited.

 

  1. Make links

Don’t just make cross curricular links, but also cross country and cross cultural links. Making contact with children that speak the language you’re learning is very motivating and gives a real purpose to learning. It also increases learners’ understanding of other cultures as well as considering their own in new ways. The British Council SchoolsOnline is a good place to start the search for partners.

 

  1. Celebrate all languages

Most of all, celebrate all languages. Many learners already speak more than one language which is a valuable skill. Encourage them to share how to say things in their languages; comparing and contrasting numbers or colours in a variety of languages is a fun activity as learners try to group similar words together.

This article first appeared in the July 2015 Edition of UKEdMagazine

If you’d like to read more of the magazine that includes other articles about language learning including one of target language by @reebekwylie and Progress in MFL by @jakehuntonMFL the links are below.

You can buy a printed copy of the magazine by clicking here, or

Freely read online by clicking Here

El pequeño petirrojo (2.0)

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 21.40.17It’s nearly Christmas again so out comes my favourite story – El Pequeño Petirrojo.

Checking back, my previous posts have lost all the links/content so it’s worth sharing again I think. Added to that, this year there are new ideas and added fun!

El Pequeño Petirrojo is the Spanish translation of Little Robin Red Vest by Jan Fearnley (read here by Emilia Fox) I first discovered it whilst watching The Tweenies with my boys and then on a Spanish Tweenies video La Nochebuena that my parents bought me back from Spain in 2004(ish) In this particular episode, Santi Claws, as Jake calls him, picks up the Tweenies from their houses on Christmas Eve and takes them to the North Pole where he tells them the story.

It’s the story of a little robin who washes and irons his seven warm vests the week before Christmas. Each day he puts on a different coloured one and goes out into the cold, only to meet another animal who complains of being cold. And each day, he gives away his vest to the other animal, until he is left on Christmas Eve with no vests left, cold and alone! The story ends happily though as Father Christmas comes along and takes the robin to the North Pole where Mother Christmas knits him a very special red vest that will always keep warm.

I immediately saw the potential of this story in my classroom. I taught Kindergarten to Year 6 at the time and could see how it could be used with all these age groups. Initially, I downloaded clipart pictures of the animals and made flashcards, then drew different coloured vests. I laminated them all and told the story with these, moving the vests from robin to rabbit, mole, frog etc. It’s a great story as you can count the vests over and over, discuss the colour of the next vest and guess the next animal. It’s good for repetition – the refrain ‘Tengo frío’ is soon taken up by even the youngest children, who also like to join in with Gracias (good manners!) and it encourages concentration and memorisation as the children try to recall what happens next. And there’s the ‘moral’ element too – the robin showed the true spirit of Christmas by giving selflessly to help others, and was rewarded with his very special red vest.

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 21.41.15A few years after I started telling the story, I made a Powerpoint with animations and sound files. I was helped at the time by the lovely Bev Evans who shared one of her many talents by making me the coloured vests clipart. She sadly died this year so this Christmas it was particularly poignant as I opened the file and started telling the story.

I began collecting the animals that are in the story a few years ago but never got a full set, and they were merely props; I still relied on my trusty laminated vest and animal flashcards. I had a two year break from using the story whilst in Switzerland and last year still didn’t have a full set of animals.IMG_0270

Years ago, Jackie Berry, a fellow primary language teacher from ‘down south’, made me very jealous when she shared pictures of a little knitted robin and vests that someone had made her. And this year, Jackie moved to France and decided to sell her primary resource collection. I was more than happy to give a new home to the vests and robin. In fact, I was ecstatic. And, spurred on by now having vests, I completed my animal collection.IMG_0278

Additionally I recently purchased some PE bibs with mesh pockets into which you can put cards.

So this year we moved on to El Pequeño Petirrojo 2.0!

In one classroom the projector was broken so I couldn’t show the presentation so went straight for the trusty flashcards and laminated vests to present the story. In the other class, I started with the presentation.

The second ‘reading’ of the story involved 10 children acting it out as I read the story and the class joined in with the repeated parts. Each actor (7 animals, the robin and Father and Mother Christmas) had a bib with their character card in the pocket. Additionally all the animals had a cuddly version of themself to hold, whilst the ‘pequeño petirrojo (PP)’ had his vests and Mamá Noel had a red vest which they both promptly put in their bib pocket too.

IMG_0279We put a washing line across the IWB and pegged up the vests as the class counted them, and then each day, PP removed the appropriate vest and put it on the knitted robin. The PP then skipped across the classroom as everyone chorused ‘La la la la la’, meeting an animal on the way. They greeted each other before the animal said ¡Tengo frío!, a refrain that was chorused by the class as well. Some recalled ¿Me puede ayudar? as well. PP replied ¡Aquí tiene! whilst removing the vest from the knitted robin and handing it to the animal. The animal responded ¡Gracias¡ and put it on their cuddly. Again, the class joined in with the repeated sections.
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This pattern continued until Nochebuena when PP finds him/herself without a vest and cold. Great acting from my PPs who looked suitably glum and then brightened up as Papá Noel ‘flew in’ on his sleigh; one Papá Noel started humming Jingle Bells which was a great touch! They ‘flew off’ to the North Pole where Mamá Noel produced the red vest from her bib pocket and presented it to PP who said ¡Gracias!

IMG_0280Everyone really enjoyed it and all wanted to join in. We didn’t have time but next week we’ll revisit the story with new actors. And I loved it too as everyone, irrespective of their ability, was able to join in.

 

I made some simple worksheets to accompany the story:

just pictures (line drawings) el pequeño petirrojo pix only

pictures (line drawings) with names in Spanish  el pequeño petirrojo

pictures (line drawings) with a sentence saying what colour vest each animal is wearing el pequeño petirrojo sentence colour

colour sentences to label the colouring sheet labels el pequeño petirrojo

 

And here’s the Powerpoint. El pequeño petirrojo final

You can also find it on Slideshare where it’s been viewed 2,670 times! (There’s a French version too!)

 

I’m looking forward to sharing it with Year 2 at WCPS next week, and rerunning it with Y3 at WPS on Wednesday morning.

 

 

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!)

Favourite books for PLL – ¿De qué color es Elmo? / Descubre y aprende los colores con Fido / Harold y el lápiz morado

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

*This is one of a series of posts about some of my favourite story books for Primary Language Learning*

One of my favourite occupations in Spain or France – and now Switzerland/Germany – is sitting on the floor of bookshops, supermarkets and any other likely looking shop, poring over children’s books. I could – and often do – spend hours searching for gems that I can use in the classroom. I consequently have a large collection of books but many are either out of print or “don’t exist” in searches as I bought them in supermarkets. De quelle couleur est ta culotte (shared earlier this week) is one such out of print book – you can get it but it costs a week’s wages! Two of today’s books belong to another category – they ‘exist’ (obviously as I have copies!) but can’t be found for love nor money! However, I’m still going to share them as the ideas can be used with other books of a similar vein, or with homemade presentations instead of a commercial book.

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I found ¿De qué color es Elmo? in a shop in Benalmadena about eight years ago and it instantly became a favourite, particularly with Nursery/Reception. The book poses the question ¿De qué color es Elmo?  and each double page spread offers a suggestion as to his colour on the left hand page with the response on the right hand page indicating that another character is that colour as well as an object in the picture, before finally suggesting the correct colour on the final page!

Image 10The book is popular for a number of reasons

It’s repetitive – it’s easy to respond to the question with a loud ¡NO! however old you may be! Or join in with the suggested colour when I pause ¿Es Elmo….? by looking at the colour of the writing!

Sesame Street is always a winner as the characters are so friendly. Many younger learners don’t know the English names for all characters but they do know Elmo! And those that recognise Big Bird are quite happy to accept that he’s called Paco Pico, or that Grover is called Coco!

The pictures are clear and interesting. Once we’re familiar with the book we look for other objects in the pictures that are the colour suggested. For example, the house – la casa – is suggested on this page. Then we turn the page and look in other pictures. And then we start looking around the room for more ideas. Sometimes we play “Traeme algo ….” – this worked really well when the age of my pupils spanned 1 – 3 years as the little ones were happy looking and pointing whilst the older ones needed a bit more challenge! As a follow on activity we might build up a collage of images in the different colours, like mini mood boards with a character at the centre of each. Older learners might label them.

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Someone recently said on a forum that they didn’t like little books as not everyone can see them in a class situation and that is true (although it’s a good way of staying warm as everyone squishes up close…) However, there is a very limited supply of big books, particularly in other languages. To get around this problem, I photographed each double page and blew it up to A3 size and laminated it, making my own ‘big book’. If I had had a projector in the room, I’d have simply projected the images from my computer onto it, straight from the photogallery  (the quick answer) or in a presentation (the longer lasting solution!) Lots of classrooms have visualisers now so why not use that to show the book? (Alex shares here how you can use a USB webcam as a  really cheap visualiser!)

As I said, I bought this book years ago along with another called ¿Qué oye Epi?, a lovely story about what Epi (Ernie!) can hear as he sits by his window. Unfortunately that book went missing and I can’t replace it. Fortunately I had ‘blown it up’ into a display so can hopefully find where that is (I’m a bit of a hoarder!) and use it again.

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Another book I have that is good for very little ones is Descubre y aprende los colores con Fido. I found this in a discount bookshop in Spain along with Descubre y aprende los números con Fido for 2,95€. I’m sure that there are many equivalent books out there!

Each double page focuses on a colour – verde, azul, rojo, amarillo and marrón (not an obvious choice for me but it works!) – and has a number of things to do.

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  • three examples of e.g. brown things (adjective after noun isn’t something I’d point out but sometimes a bright spark points it out for me!)
  • ‘point to the colour’ on the colour grid
  • turn the wheel to find the e.g. brown object
  • other labelled items that ‘go with’ the object on the wheel – in this case, things in the garden around Fido’s kennel.

This book works best with small groups of children or as a book for independent learning although you could use a visualiser to share it with a whole class, inviting individuals to point/turn the wheel whilst everyone else watches on the screen.

 

Image 7My final book (for now as I haven’t found them all yet!) on the subject of colour is Harold y el lápiz morado. Harold is a little boy (in a onesie!)  who decides one night, after much thought, to go for a walk in the moonlight. But there’s no moon… so he draws one with his purple crayon. And then he draws the path and the adventure begins as the purple crayon brings Harold’s thoughts to life.

Image 6Whilst it has lots of words in it and I wouldn’t necessarily read it all to the class in one go, I love the idea of “taking a line for a walk” (not quite in the same way as Paul Klee!) guided by your imagination! Added to that, it’s very visual as the drawings are clear you can follow what’s happening without understanding every ward. So I’d read it as an experience of listening to a story in Spanish, deciphering meaning from pictures, gestures and tone of voice. And then we might take our own lines for walks to see where they might take us! Perhaps we might even take it in turns to add an image to the story that could then be narrated in Spanish by the teacher (or that convenient native speaker in my class!)

Harold y el lápiz morado is available from Abebooks and Amazon

 

Favourite books for PLL – De quelle couleur est ta culotte?

Friday, August 16th, 2013

*This is one of a series of posts about some of my favourite story books for Primary Language Learning*

 

When I first started teaching Primary languages, I went on a course run by LFEE in Salignac for French teachers (thoroughly recommend it – I worked hard but had the time of my life and rediscovered a love of French that I’d lost when I was made to start from scratch at secondary school.)  During my time there we went on a trip to Souillac and several of us spent a while in a bookshop looking for suitable books to use in our classrooms. And this was the one we all loved.

IMG_0037De quelle couleur est ta culotte? is a lift the flap book that poses the title question to a series of animals.

Each animal has a name that rhymes with its species e.g Lucie le Brebis, Mumu la Tortue and Émile le Crocodile

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and you lift the flap to find the answer:

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At the end there’s a big surprise as Armand l’elephant is a little forgetful…

I’ve used this story with EYFS – and younger in fact. They love the animals, recalling their names, and the colour of their pants. And everyone giggles hysterically in mock horror as the surprise is revealed – because we are, of course, surprised every time we read it ;o) I ask questions e.g. Valentine a la culotte rouge ou bleu?   Qui a la culotte rose? De quelle couleur est la culotte de Aimee? offering choices if needed and then we read it again with choral responses as we lift the flaps; sometimes a particularly confident child will want to ask the question too although it’s more usual to just say the name of the animal. When I shared it in Reception, we drew a washing line of pants and coloured them in for the animals. I’d probably make it into a game now, either on the IWB with a race to match the animals and pants, or as a team game with images of the animals and coloured underwear. And I’d also look to make the story our own, perhaps not about pants this time but about another item of clothing: De quelle couleur sont tes chaussettes? perhaps or a teddy bear: De quelle couleur est ton nounours? or even change it a little and ask Comment est ton chapeau? which could be answered with adjectives other than colour.

I used to teach Kindergarten at the (Catholic!) school with children from 18 months to 3 years, and was sharing this book with them when an inspector arrived. My momentary fear that the inspector wouldn’t share my love of the book, and that of the Kindergarten head who had a great sense of humour, was unfounded as she was giggling along with all the children and said she thoroughly enjoyed the French lesson!

I’ve found a sound file of someone reading the story too! De quelle couleur est ta culotte? sound file

 

Favourite books for PLL – Das ist ein Buch/Wo ist mein Hut?

Friday, August 16th, 2013

*This is one of a series of posts about some of my favourite story books for Primary Language Learning*

Moving to Switzerland added German books to my book case where previously there had only been French and Spanish. Not very many as books are exorbitantly priced  (I mostly borrowed them from the library) but some.

I love books. I am indeed a bookaholic and whilst I am very fond of my technology (and this series will feature ebooks), I’m not sure I’ll ever stop preferring the smell and feel of a ‘proper’ book to swiping an electronic device. So I had to purchase this book –

IMG_0041Esel (Donkey) asks Was hast du denn da?

Affe (Monkey) replies Das ist ein Buch.

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Esel has obviously not seen a book before and wonders if it texts, needs wifi or Tweets; Affe patiently replies Nein, das ist ein Buch until he decides that it would be best to let Esel read the book …

I love Das ist ein Buch because I’m Monkey when most people think that I’d be Donkey. I also like the ‘there’s more to life than swiping and tweeting and making noise’ message.

I think this would be a great story to share with a class, certainly the “Das ist ein Buch” refrain would soon be picked up, and the language is quite easy to decipher with clues from the pictures supported by actions from the reader. And it lends itself to adaptations with the scaffold “Kannst du…+ verb?”  with other things that a book might be able to do.

Below is an animated telling of the book and the whole book appears one one sheet here.

My second book is Wo ist mein hut

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“Mein Hut ist weg. Ich will ihn zurück” says Bär. He patiently asks the other animals if they have seen his hat but noone has until the deer asks a good question that jogs his memory!

I like this book as it is again repetitive with Bär asking each animal “Hast du meinen Hut gesehen?” and thanking them politely when they haven’t “Schon gut. Trotzdem vielen dank” so lends itself well to class reading. It could also be developed into a game where learners hide an object whilst one of the class is outside for them to discover on their return (good question practice) or in small groups with cards, with question Hast du ……… gesehen? and reply Nein, ich habe……. nicht gesehen if they don’t have the card or Ja, es ist hier if they do. You could easily substitute the verb for gestohlen (stolen) gegessen (eaten) versteckt (hidden)and so on.

 

So that’s two of my favourite German books – others include the Lieselotte series about a mischievous cow, and all the Pixi Bücher that you can buy very cheaply wherever you see the stand below as well as in supermarkets. I’ll post again with my favourite ebooks another time!

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Favourite books for Primary Language Learning

Friday, August 16th, 2013

Image 2As I am virtually housebound (that’s ‘nearly completely’ not  ‘housebound in a virtual world’!) I’m looking for things to occupy my time so decided embark on a blog series. I then concluded that I could kill two birds with one stone by cataloguing my books (especially as I’m being reunited with many of them out of storage!) and blogging about them. And I woke this morning to see that Clare has blogged about her favourite French and Spanish books so it seems that now is a good time to share!

So. over the next few weeks, I’ll share some of my favourite story books and try to share how I use them or might use them in the classroom. It’ll take that long as a)I have lots of books b)some are still in storage.

First post is coming right up after this one!

Calling all young language learners!

Saturday, April 6th, 2013

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If you teach children aged between 6 and 11, why not encourage them to enter the bSmall Little Linguist competition.

As the bSmall website explains;

We would like you to write and illustrate a short story in a foreign language on any subject you like. We will pick two winners from the entries and publish the winning stories as e-books on our website. Each winner will also receive a b Small library worth £100 for your home or your school.

The story should be no more than four pages and you can use lots of illustrations to help tell your story. You must write your story in one of the following four languages:

– French
– German
– Italian
– Spanish

The website offers two templates for the stories, a comic book and an illustrated story book, and there’s a list of words to help as well.

There are two categories – 6-9 year olds and 9-11 year olds, and you can write a collaborative story with classmates (hence the overlap in age categories) The story can be about anything, and the closing date is June 1st with winners announced on July 1st. Entries can be sent via post or electronically, accompanied by an entry form.

Find out more on the bSmall website and happy story writing!

 

 

Planet WizZ

Saturday, December 8th, 2012

Today in Waterstones in Coventry, Maria Alexander aka @IamMariaAlex has been holding a book signing for her first book – very exciting! Entitled Welcome to Planet WizZ, it is the first of a series of books ‘Teaching children Spanish the WizZ way‘, and Maria kindly let me have a pre-launch look!

Planet WizZ is ‘a mysterious little planet..that never stays still and keeps whizzing among the other planets.’ The planet is inhabited by wizzes, including Marrón and Naranja who are twins and the ‘stars’ of the story, along with Señor VerdeRojo who runs the only school on WizZ. Spanish is the official language on Planet WizZ and, whilst the book is written in English, there are Spanish phrases in the text besides the characters names. Each chapter (five in this book) has a theme in the form of a question e.g. ¿Qué hay en tu mochila? ¿Cuántos años tienes? ¿Cuándo es tu cumpleaños? and within the chapter, relevant vocabulary is used which is then listed at the end of the chapter.

I enjoyed the story – the characters are amusing and you quickly get to know their personalities and traits. The Spanish does not detract from the story by which I mean that the story doesn’t seem stilted as you switch reading between the two languages, and there aren’t too many new words introduced in each chapter. All the Spanish is highlighted in bold so it’s clear to the reader when the Spanish is coming, and the characters’ names are also written in the colour of their name (as I wrote the names above!) I loved the graphics – simple but very amusing and appealing. (I think all teachers could do with 5 eyes like Señor VerdeRojo) And I particularly liked the little bits of incidental ICU that appear as you read such as information about Spanish speaking countries, and also the ‘valuable lessons’ that the characters often learn by the end of the chapter! The page of vocabulary at the end of the chapter promises sound files for the pronunciation of each item on www.planetwizz.com – you can currently register for future updates and I sure that this will follow soon along with other supporting resources as soon as website glitches are sorted out.

Whilst the books are aimed at 6-9 year olds, as Maria says in this lovely interview by one of her pupils, Ellie, they can equally be used by older beginners as a starting point as the themes such as numbers and the alphabet, are ones you usually meet at the start of language learning.

The interview also talks about how some of the proceeds from the book will got to M.A.M.A., an organisation that uses art and music to make the world a better place!

According to the Bablake newsroom you can buy the book, priced £6.99, from Waterstones in Coventry (where Maria will be signing more copies  during late night shopping on Wednesday 19th), WHSmiths, independent retailers and on Amazon (although it says currently unavailable, they’ll have more copies very soon)and the Book Repository.

This is billed as the first of many Spanish books, and there’ll be more languages too…(see below!)

Good luck Maria! Looks great!

 

GrowStoryGrow competition

Monday, May 16th, 2011

GrowStoryGrow, a story-telling website for learning languages, is holding a story writing competition.

Open to children aged 9-11, the winner will have their story translated into different languages, animated and publish

ed online with their name and school. The story can be written in any language so taking part will benefit general literacy as well as language learning.

The deadline is 30th June 2011 and the winner will be announced on 11th July.

The winning entry will be showcased at the London Language Show.