The latest edition of Teach Primary magazine has been out for a couple of weeks and features a MFL focus section between pages 140 – 153. There’s an article about the relevance of language learning in Brexit-era Britain, another on a language awareness model of Primary language learning and one from Clare Seccombe on Putting Pen to Paper (writing) in the primary languages classroom as well as a couple of pages of ‘Partner Content’ from Primary Languages Network and Language Angels about why you should use their schemes. Oh, and as you can see above, there’s also an article by me about storytelling! It’s on purple paper (my favourite colour) and I even got a ‘trail’ on the front page!) You can read it above.
I’m going to have to take out a subscription as I have to keep begging copies from friends, and don’t know I’ve been published until someone congratulates me.
Just before we broke up for the summer, I asked the 2019 Language Leaders* team at my school for their thoughts on language learning. To help them, I posed some questions. I’ve already shared this on the school website but thought others might be interested in their responses.
Why did you volunteer to be a Language Leader?
I volunteered to be a Language Leader because I love learning languages; when I go on holiday I like showing off how I know how to speak the language. (RM)
I wanted to find out more about languages as they’re fun. (PS)
I volunteered as a Language Leader because I like learning how other people communicate. (AT)
I wanted to represent the school. (IH)
I thought it would be fun! (JS/SLG)
I volunteered because languages make me happy. (RS)
I wanted to explore the different languages and how to speak them (JJ)
I volunteered because I like to learn languages (AK)
I volunteered because I wanted to try something new (LD)
What do you like about languages?
I like speaking languages – it makes me feel proud! (GG)
It makes countries different (LD)
I like how other people talk and I don’t understand them. (AT)
I like that if you learn a language, you can communicate and understand people that speak other languages. (LE)
I like the sounds you make and how you spell words in other languages (JJ)
I like that different countries have different ways of communicating. (RM)
When I speak languages it makes me feel….. (RS)
It’s fun to learn! (IH/NH)
I like that everyone’s language is unique (PS)
I find them interesting, (JS/SLG)
When you go on holiday you can speak that language. (AK)
What do you find hard? What do you do when it’s hard?
When it’s hard, I practice what to say and find someone who already speaks that language to help. (JJ)
When it’s hard I just practice! (IH)
I find remembering the language hard. (LE)
Phonics and pronunciation can be tricky! (LD)
I sometimes find pronouncing words hard but I don’t give up as I have an open mindset. (GG)
When I find it hard I do some chants to help me remember (PS)
Sometimes I find writing hard so I ask for help. (SLG)
As a Language Leader I find it hard to choose the award winners! (AK)
I found writing my application letter for Language Leader hard! (NH)
Do you know any languages other than English? How did you learn them?
I know Arabic, Urdu Spanish and a bit of French! (IH)
I know Punjabi and Spanish – Punjabi from home and Spanish from school. (GG)
I know Hindi as my family speak it at home but I sometimes feel embarrassed speaking it in front of my friends. (RM)
I know how to introduce myself in French. (AT)
I know some Italian as we go on holiday there (LD)
My parents speak Tamil and I listen to them (JJ)
I know Urdu because I speak it at home (RS)
I know some Italian as my grandma was born in Italy (AK)
Do you enjoy learning Spanish?
A resounding yes!
I love Spanish – especially with Señora Stevens! I like that it has masculine and feminine! (RM)
I enjoy Spanish because my family go on holiday to Spain some years. (AT)
I like Spanish; I like how you have masculine and feminine and can explore how to decide which gender nouns have. (JJ)
I find learning Spanish with the great Señora Stevens really fun and interesting. (PS)
What would make language learning even better for you?
I could practice harder! (IH)
I’d like to learn some useful questions for the future; for example, how to ask for a cupcake in Italian. (AT)
I’d like to learn another language! (JS)
To do more mindmaps and diagrams to help me remember words (SLG)
I’d like to learn more languages and the differences between them. (LE)
Comparing more languages – for example hello is Vanakam in Tamil and Hola in Spanish (JJ)
I’d like to learn some gymnastics words as I love gymnastics (AK)
I think visiting the country would be a great idea! (LD)
If once a week we could read a story in a different language in assembly (PS)
I love the honesty of the answers they gave (I did tell them that I would be sharing their responses!) Having read their ideas, I’ve bought some new books and asked for more assemblies (I already do more than my share!), and will be experimenting with new ways of learning and recording vocabulary.
*Language Leaders at my school support and promote language learning of all sorts. Children write a letter of application and then the previous year’s team help me to choose. It’s normally a child per class but this year we went for a team across LKS2 and UKS2, predominantly formed of Y4 and 5s. The original team (four years ago) wrote their own “job description” which I’ve added for some context.
Just back from a family holiday in Italy where I once more had to struggle with not being able to communicate as I wished. I understood quite a bit thanks to Spanish and, to a lesser extent, French, but couldn’t formulate sufficiently coherent sentences to say what I wanted to communicate most of the time, thus resorting to a few words and a gesture with a pleading smile. In fact, I found that German was more helpful at times for the first part of the holidays as we were in Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol and often people didn’t speak English but understood German. Added to my ‘angst’ was the fact that all my attempts at Italian were met with replies in English, particularly in Bologna – I guess they thought they were being helpful but I was trying hard and it was a little disheartening!
However, I was in my element when I found the bookshops! My poor family tolerated me dragging them into at least four on our wanderings without moaning although I actually think they were glad of the air conditioning and a rest! I had my eye on a children’s book shop in the Piazza Maggiore but it was sadly shut when we returned to Bologna for holidays! Chiuso per Ferie was a phrase we learned very quickly! Nonetheless I still found others and treated myself to three books – I could have bought far more but as I don’t teach Italian, I was restrained and really thought hard about my choices.
Tu (non) sei piccolo is a bilingual book with the Italian in large type and the English a little smaller below. It’s a really simple book about some bears who are arguing about being big or small. What I particularly liked, apart from the bilingualism, was the repetition for the verb to be in 1st and 2nd person singular (I and you) and 2nd and 3rd person plural (you and they) as this gave me a good idea about how the verb ‘works.’ Additionally, the same two adjectives are used which meant that I could draw some conclusions about the behaviour of adjectives – much like panino/panini and cappuccino/cappuccini! It’s amusing too and I liked the illustrations of the different bears. It would be easy to adapt by changing the adjective and/or animal.
I chose Mio! Mio! Mio! as it’s also very repetitive and easy to understand. The little frog finds an egg and claims it as his own – Mio! But all the other animals say it’s theirs until it ends up hitting the elephant on the head – then nobody wants it and frog at last can have it. Then it hatches… I enjoyed comparing animal names with the Spanish – l’elefante, l’aquila, il serpente – and discover a new one that none of my translating apps could work out – il varano which is a monitor lizard! The grammar was also similar – è mio! / ¡es mío! for it’s mine ; è suo! / ¡es suyo! meaning it’s his; I saw a similarity between chi for who and qui in French, and Allora te lo restituisco was easy to decode as I’ve give it back to you with the link to restitution. Finally, it also tickled me that it featured ‘un uovo’ as the boys were asked every morning if they’d like one in our wonderful B&B (if you’re ever going to the Dolomites, I can thoroughly recommend Agriturismo Florandonole )
My final choice recognises the wonders of Italian food and drink. Non piangere, cipolla (Don’t cry onion) is a book of poems and verse organised in alphabetical order starting with Acqua and ending with Uva. These poems will need more concentration (and a dictionary!) to translate but I can get the gist of many of them. A couple of my favourites are below.
I’ve enjoyed reading all these books aloud, trying out my Italian pronunciation (which still needs work) and listening to how they sound. I’m looking forward to reading them ever more accurately, and also to understanding a little more as I reread them.
At the end of July, my husband and I popped off for a short break in Copenhagen in celebration of our silver wedding anniversary. We had a lovely time exploring and sightseeing, and as usual at various points my ‘teacher brain’ or as I prefer to call it ‘lifelong learner thinking’ engaged and I was struck with thoughts and ideas for the classroom.
Firstly I really struggled with not being able to communicate in Danish. I really didn’t need to as everyone spoke English but it made me feel bad not being able to speak. I found that I could understand to a certain extent if things were written thanks to having done some Swedish on Duolingo, plus managing find some similarities at times with German and/or English, but understanding speech was very problematic and speaking more so! My son (who’s studied Swedish for the last two years at Uni) and my husband (who works with Swedes and Danes) tell me that part of the problem is that people ‘swallow’ consonants in spoken Danish making it harder to understand than Swedish. However, I did persevere with my trying to understand and had some success.
And, as usual, I couldn’t leave without a book for my collection. I had a good look and decided that whilst I’d love a storybook, my level of understanding wasn’t high enough yet, so I settled on a simple word book.
Min første bog om Farver is a board book all about colours. Each page has a different colour until the last page which has a rainbow colours. I can see the likeness of farver and Farbe in German. Some colours look – but don’t sound! – like English (pink, orange), some are like French (brun) and others wouldn’t be recognisable to me without the images – sort is black and hvid is white. The last page is about rainbow colours which again reminds me of German Regnbuens farver although I wouldn’t have guessed that er flotte meant ‘are great.’
I’m looking forward to using this when I next look at colours in Spanish as children this year have enjoyed all the comparative exercises we’ve done with multiple languages, finding similarities and differences.
Have you seen the latest issue of Teach Primary? If you have you might have noticed that I’ve been writing again. This month I’ve provided a lesson plan and resources that link languages (in my case Spanish) with the music of Saint Saëns and specifically the Carnival of the Animals.
For those that have been in primary language teaching for a fair few years might recognise that this lesson is inspired by the QCA Scheme of Work which I used as my starting point before adding my own ideas and twists.
If you don’t have a subscription to the magazine, you can download the lesson and resources for free from Teachwire here I’ve added the lesson plan below.
In case you didn’t know, the Champion League Final this evening is being held in Madrid. And that set me thinking about the series Mi Madrid that I wrote for BBC Schools Radio last year. One of the 10 episodes ¡Hala Madrid! is all about football, albeit ‘el derbi madrileño’ between Atlético de Madrid and Real Madrid. I love football and it was a joy to write. I particularly enjoyed writing the story in which the Madrid football stadiums argue about who is the best. You can hear it told here and read the (bilingual) transcript here El Estadio Metropolitano will be the stage for tonight’s game and hopefully will see an amazing game, won by the best team! #YNWA
Wish I could claim credit for writing the songs for Mi Madrid as they’re amazing! I’m really glad that the BBC has now made videos for each of them as it makes them even more useful. I sometimes choose one to play whilst kids complete an activity as a timer, or as a way of gaining attention.
I was talking to someone this week that I’ve known since my late teens about ambitions that we had then and whether they’ve been realised. Whilst they had a long list of aspirations including to write a book, travel the world and win awards for their writing (all achieved), I really only had two ambitions that didn’t seem as exciting – to be a mum, and to be a teacher. Ambitions achieved? Well, yes. I am mum to two boys and I like to think they’re turning out OK, and I am a teacher.
But I didn’t want to be just any teacher. I wanted to be a teacher like Mrs Head, Mrs Corden and Señora Sánchez- Richardson; unforgettable teachers who are etched in my mind, who nurtured and encouraged my fascination with learning and with finding out about the world beyond our town and country, and who inspired me to be a teacher too. I literally followed in the footsteps of the latter as I took over from her as Head of Spanish when she retired, but have I ever managed to make such an impact on a child’s life as she made on mine?
I love my job and have done since I moved to primary but it hasn’t always been like that. At one point, realising my ambition to teach, and to teach Spanish, was destroying my life and that of my young children, and that’s when I left secondary teaching. [NB I am not saying that secondary is bad and primary blissful but I always wanted to be a middle school teacher who taught Spanish and was ‘forced’ into secondary teaching as the closest way forward.] I look back on those days and wonder if I managed to make a difference to any of my pupils as I was a walking stress factory. I know I did though as I’ve since met a pupil who remembered how she’d made my life a living nightmare when I first started as Head of Spanish and told me that she admired my determination to get her to succeed when she was throwing all my efforts back in my face. One of my pupils from those days contacted me (via a teaching friend) when he finished his GCSEs to tell me that he’d done well and to thank me for teaching him French. I’d only done it for a year in Y8, and only two lessons a week although I did love teaching his class. We’re still in contact, and when he wanted to start learning Spanish, he asked for my help.
What about since I moved to primary? I’ve loved it but that doesn’t equate to inspiring anyone. Perhaps I should just be glad that I like going to work, that I have fun and that I’m doing what I love to do. Does it matter if I’m making a specific difference to anyone’s life? Well it does to me. My overarching aim is to encourage children to explore languages, to enjoy learning them and to want to carry on when they leave. The vast majority move to secondary schools where they will learn French or German rather than Spanish (at least at first) so it’s important to me that they leave with the will to ‘start again’ but also the understanding – and belief – that those years of Spanish were not wasted.
So do I make a difference? Past pupils quite often say ¡hola! when they see me so I can’t have made a hugely negative impression on most of them! I love going to ‘prize giving’ evenings for my boys not just to celebrate their achievements but to ‘check up’ on old pupils, and I’m especially proud when they have won prizes for languages (happens quite often!) Former pupils send me messages with younger siblings or even turn up at school to tell me how they’ve doing with languages or have done at GCSE, and some proudly tell me that they’re continuing with language learning. A former pupil asking to do work experience at one school this year specified that she was particularly interested in languages (of course I jumped at the opportunity!) Another former pupil volunteered as a sixth former, first through his school scheme in Y12 and then in his free time, delivering Spanish in KS1, and is now a student teacher with a language specialism. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not claiming that it’s all my influence that makes this happen; I know that these young people have had excellent language teachers at secondary level too, but I’d like to think that I started them on their way…
And it’s not just the ‘high fliers’ that I’d like to think have been influenced. A Y6 at my other school last year bought me a huge bunch of flowers and wrote me a note about how much he’d enjoyed Spanish and how he’d miss me – a child who is not a natural linguist but who listened and tried his best, always with a smile. I hope he remembers his experiences if languages are quite the same for him in the future.
I started by recalling a conversation I had with a friend. That was one of two reasons I started this post, the other catalyst being a message on LinkedIn from another former pupil who has now completed his engineering degree and is completing a Masters whilst spending a year in industry. During his internship he’s decided to take up Spanish again and wanted to ask my advice as Duolingo is great but he felt he lacked listening and speaking practice. He’d written the whole message in Spanish (and I don’t think he’d completely GoogleTranslated it either!) which touched me, but what he wrote in the second half of the message made me cry:
So I guess I’ve made a difference to those young people, however big or small. And they’re the ones I know about. As I said earlier, Señora Sánchez-Richardson knew I became a Spanish teacher but she doesn’t know about my career since 2000. Mrs Corden died whilst I was at secondary school but I went to her funeral and made sure that her children knew the influence she had on me. I last saw Mrs Head when I was 10 so she probably doesn’t know how much they influenced me, and she certainly knows nothing of my teaching career as I was Lisa Efford then.
The point of this post is not to say ‘look at me, I’m brilliant’ but to serve as a reminder of two things. Firstly, ambitions are great but who knows as teenager where life might lead you. I’ve done far more than I could ever imagine then including keynoting conferences, writing websites, radio series, magazine articles and textbook materials, running a marathon and completing triathlons and living in Switzerland. And secondly, we might not know the influence we have at the time, and we may never know, but it happens. Teaching can be a ‘thankless’ task, sometimes quite literally. I don’t get piles of presents at the end of the year as a class teacher might do, but it makes any thanks I do receive all the more special. And actually, as much as I love (dark) chocolate and smelly candles, I’d swap them all for a message like the one above.
I teach Spanish at two primary schools and we predominantly follow the Light Bulb Languages scheme of work. Year 4 are about to start the latter part of Unit 8 Descubrimos los animales. In it, they learn the names of parts of the body, comparing the words in a variety of languages, and then talk about animals, culminating in making and describing ‘strange animals.’ As a bridge between the two, we look at El Bicho de la Fruta, but I was on the look out for another story that might accompany this as Y4 love a story. And I’ve found two!
1. Un Bicho Extraño
I was first made aware of this book via Jesús from the Consejería de Educación in London who spoke about it at a session I attended. It is the story of Un Bicho Extraño (A Strange Creature) who we discover bit by bit. The ‘story’ is written in a single phrase per page. Well, two phrases as you can see from below as the ‘bicho’ is revealed and then disappears as you turn the book around.
Jesús shared materials that have been prepared by a working party to enable teachers to use this text as the basis for a series of lessons. Lots of ideas and resources that are ready to be used. I intend to choose some of the activities, particularly the Pictionary activity and the materials that support descriptions of the Un zoológico de bichos raros as they go well with the scheme. It would make a good analogue alternative to using the website Switchzoo.com to create hybrid animals. (Gutted that BuiLD YouR WiLD SelF is no longer available!)
To present the story I could read the book as it is (There is also a video of the book being read here) or I could try to do as the teacher in this clip has done, building the ‘bicho’ live as I tell the story. This would be a good introduction to pupils creating their own bicho and presenting it.
2. El Carnaval de los Animales
The second book was a recent purchase as I was writing an article for Teach Primary on integrating languages and music into a series of lessons (harking back to the QCA scheme of work!) I saw the title and it took me back to lessons I used to do based around Saint Saens music. Except the book isn’t just a carnival of animals as we know it.
All the animals have been invited to the carnival – but fancy dress is obligatory. How will the animals disguise themselves? The book is very amusing as animals decide how to disguise themselves, mostly as other animals but not always, and present themselves in their new forms. It’s a fun book to read as it is, and you could play games with it.
For example, can you identify the animal and the disguise? ¿Qué animal es? ¿Y el disfraz?
And this would be a simple way to make more ‘strange animals’ as pupils attempt to disguise their animal as something else. A fun activity that could be extended beyond animals for the adventurous. I like the range of interesting animals that are introduced in the story – it’s not often that you get to teach mapache or ornitorrinco, and I’ve never heard the word bogavente* before but I know it’d be a hit with Y4.
I’ll let you know how we get on with these books and how much or little we get to do with them. If you have any ideas of similar texts, do leave a message in the comments, or contact me via Twitter @lisibo.
You all know the famous wolf from the fairy tales that scares everyone, eats sheep and grandmas, and chases little pigs out of their homes. But do you REALLY know him? What if he wasn’t like that at all?
This book is all about that wolf but reveals another truth – that el lobo de los cuentos doesn’t actually enjoy being bad. What happens when he decides to do exactly the opposite of what is expected from him? He says hello to Caperucita Roja, he gets chased by the cerditos and instead of scaring the cabritillos, he swaps recipes with their Mum.
In the context of this change of character, el lobo discusses emotions and feelings with his fellow characters and discovers empathy. The book finishes with some activities to help children discover and explore their emotions with some cut outs to use just like el lobo does in the story.
It’s a short story and I think it’s great as it shows a different side to the traditional stories – why should the wolf always be the baddie?- but also has important messages about our feelings and emotions. Most importantly I think it explores how we can get stuck in a pattern of behaviour that we don’t like, and that it is possible to break the cycle. I think the pictures in the book help this message get across to children as the characters are all depicted as small children in masks playing the parts.
As a great fan of Eric Carle books, I was very excited to find some bilingual Spanish-English flashcards when I was browsing online. I ordered them in November, and they finally arrived last week! Well worth the wait however, and I thought I’d share some ideas I’ve had for using them. I’m sure you’ll have your own thoughts; please share them via the comments below!
There are 50 cards in the pack featuring words from some of Eric Carle’s books including The Very Hungry Caterpillar / La Oruga Muy Hambrienta and Brown bear, What do you see? /Oso Pardo ¿qué ves? Each card is double sided with the word in English and an image on one side, and the word in Spanish (complete with definite article) and the same image on the other. It’s easy to distinguish the Spanish side from the English as the word is white in a coloured strip on the Spanish side, but in colour on the English side.
Learning vocabulary *Learn new words by studying the cards and then testing yourself on the Spanish. *Pupils could work in pairs and take it in turns to say the word in Spanish. *Show the image and say the word.
Name the book *Show a card – which story does it come from? You could start with one card and add another if necessary. perhaps you could award 3 points if the book is guessed after 1 card, decreasing the points the more cards are seen. *True or false – when looking at a particular story, show a card; is it in the story? Hay un una abeja en Oso Pardo ¿qué ves? ¿Verdad o mentira?
Sort the cards *By gender – this is fairly easy as the Spanish word is accompanied by the definite article, but ‘los globos’ may throw a spanner in the works for some. *Animate and inanimate / ¿animado o inanimado? – could lead to an interesting discussion about whether a leaf is alive or not! Is it dead the second it leaves the tree? *Manmade or natural / ¿artificial o natural?– not quite the same as the above! *By story – I can find images from The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Artist who Painted a Blue Horse, Brown Bear, The Busy Ladybird, From Head to Toes, and there are others that I can’t identify (I think they’re from an ABC or colour book that I don’t have!) *by colour – of the image, or of the ‘word strip’ *words with an accent – reviewing why Spanish words have accents is always useful. *by phoneme – jirafa, oveja, pájaro, abeja, naranja, hoja would make a group for example.
Make up a sentence/story *choose two or three cards and try to make a sentence in Spanish La jirafa pone la araña en la nube would be an example using the cards above. *alternatively choose more cards, six perhaps, and try to make up a sequence of sentences or even a short story. This would be a fun activity for Y6 who’ve learned how to manipulate verbs and are ready for a challenge preKS3!
So these are just a few ideas I’ve noted down quickly that come to mind. Some can be done with a whole class, but most I envisage being done by pairs or small groups of children. I’ll let you know if I think of any more ideas, and I’m sure the children will soon devise their own games to play!