March 2009 – ¡Vámonos!

Month: March 2009

Today I attended The International School Award – Celebration of Excellence at Birmingham’s ICC. Lots of people attending came from schools that had achieved the Full award three times and there were prizes for them this afternoon. One school is unique in having achieved it four times in the 10 year history of the ISA.

There were lots of inspiring speakers, from schools, from management, from national organisations and even from the BBC. Here are some of the thoughts I managed to get down!

David Garner from QCA spoke about the International Dimension in the context of the new curriculum, sharing how it is deeply entwined and embedded into both the secondary and primary context.
He spoke of the challenge to develop the new curriculum- see slide below, and of how the 2020 vision following the Gilbert Review aims to do so. He introduced Naomi Moris, one of the Prime Misister’s Global Fellows who, along with other Fellows, went to China for 6 weeks – 2 weeks looking at cultural aspects of life, 2 weeks spent in a business and 2 weeks in education and completing a project. Her observation was –

I noted that we were all exactly the same, but whilst we are complacent, they (the Chinese with whom she came into contact) are striving to achieve the best.’

Another observation that David brought to us came from an African teacher on a reciprocal visit, highlighting a difference in priorities –

‘When you came to us, you are an honoured guest. When I visit you, I am a resource’

We want to develop young people who fit the criteria on the right – how will we do it? David commented on how a project in India impressed visitors who commented that it was resource poor, activity rich – in our country, so often the reverse is true.

David also shared some new publications from QCA entitled

  • The Global Dimension
  • Sustainable Development
  • Community Cohesion in action (to follow next year)

John Phillips , Assocaite Head, Hillside High School, Sefton
shared that the ISA is all about children. And demonstrated it by bringing some of the pupils to share their experiences.

‘Working internationally, if it ever was an add on, isn’t anymore. Kids only get one chance at school, and it’s up to us to ‘drip feed’ changes lives. We have opportunities now that 50 years ago weren’t given kids and teachers are empowered now.’

and then developed into their own At Hillside High School, international links started with European Studies project 1986-1992 and developed into their own project – Czech Mates before in 1997 Comenius emerged followed two years later in 1999 by ISA.
One pupil reported on a Performing Arts project involving cookery, dancing, art; another
young lady talked about a poster / banner collaboration between Sefton and Slovakia – using Skype and Adobe Photoshop. A young man talked of an international maths seminar – held in Sefton with several nations represented, solving maths problems together. And Danny Murphy – not the footballer!- reported on radio days, a four hour show that went out over the Internet to many countries – it was lots of work but great fun.

Audrey Nicholson, International Coordinator at Carlton Digby School
Carlton Digby is a small special school in Nottinghamshire and two of its pupils, Luana and Mia delivered the presentation beautifully with details of their activities such as China Day, raising money for a water pump at a school in Uganda, visits from other countries. ‘We had lots of fun!’ was the phrase that jumped out at me, especially as they taught us a song (see photo) with signs!

Ann Suthern, International Coordinator, Durham Trinity School
Ann talked about the 183 pupils at special school and gave us ideas of projects they had done – touching and feeling ingredients, matching shoes to people and a number of partner schools taking a photo of the view from their window at a set time on a set day – and then comparing and contrasting them

Kevin McCabe, Executive Headteacher, Birmingham City Council
Kevin spoke very charismatically about the profound effect of the International dimension and specifically the ISA on teaching and learning, and how in his experience it has helped improve standards as well as the lives of the kids with whom he was working.

‘The ISA is all about shared experiences between teachers and pupils. It is not given to individuals but to teams of committed people.’

For Kevin, the ISA
has been the encouragement of giving kids things with which to be engaged. The first contact from partner schools inspired an overnight improvement in writing as the careful, neat handwriting of their correspondents led to them taking extra care in an attempt to emulate it. The letters they wrote were not seen as work, and the pupils were motivated by communication with their peers. Kevin left us with a piece of advice he was given before going to India-

‘smell it, live it, eat it and then know that your life will never be the same again.’

Paul Keogh MBE, described by Feargal Keane later in the afternoon as ‘the Peter Kay of language teaching’ is Head of Languages and AST at King James’s, Knaresborough, North Yorkshire. He woke us all up after lunch with braingym in French, the alphabet march and airwriting with hands, noses and bottoms! Very amusing!
He was followed by Maggie Semple OBE, Chief Executive, The Experience Corps Ltd

Maggie talked about how at home as a child she had an international environment (her parents are from British Guyana )but at school not. Education saw people who were different as a deficit – lost to learning.
Maggie related the story of Mrs Jefferys, one of her primary school teachers who tried to make her feel part of the class by using Anansi stories and getting Maggie to read. She;d made assumptins that weren’t correct but her intentions were good. It wouldn’t happen today – teacher wanted to include but went the wrong way about it. Over the years, language and action has evolved.

Her next anecdote came from the opening of the Wallace and Gromit exhibition. As the doors opened, it was the adults who ran through the exhibition not the kids. ADULTS playing – going back to themselves and enjoying playing. Maggie believes that the ISA has enabled us to play again – to do fun things like drawing with our backsides!!
Finally, Maggie talked of how people used to find it hard to get a handle on her- nowadays she is less likely to find comments in playgrounds about differences. She was recently in a museum about to start a PDA search. The kids had done it first and interacted with one another about their learning. Maggie asked a child how to cheat and fnish quickly to which the child said ‘but why would you want to cheat? It’s about learning!’ Through the ISA we’ve allowed kids to be honest about what they do and think.

Really thought provoking!

Feargal Keane, BBC Special Correspondent
I’d been really looking forward to hearing Feargal Keane speak – and he didn’t disappoint! He started by praising all the schools represented for boosting the moral capital of their schools and for ‘not being in it for the money.’
He then read a poem, All of these people by Michael Lumley that he had carried around in all warzones that raises the question – who can bring peace to people who are not civilised?
Feargal spoke of an idea of interdependence – of homes, communities and a world where people recognise their dependence on each other not just for money or food, but a mutual dependence where we recognise and see shared humanity and grasp it in every way we can, putting the ideal of that poem into practical effect..

He commented that there is a virus of fear at large in society; news items are full of fear, the
power of media leads to conspiracy theories which kids believe. And if kids are not taught to question orthodoxy and what is in front of them, they won’t be able to take responsible decisions. (At the same time he did acknowledge that this needs to be balanced with need for authority and discipline in schools!) Feargal said that he is worried by negative views of young people in the media, the constant stereotyping of them as yobs as if you tell people enough times, they’ll believe it. He suggested that there is a need for a greater willingness to listen to voice of the young people – what do they have to say? – as he spoke passionately of his experiences in South Africa and of contact with a Cameroon pygmy village.

Feargal Keane is well known for his coverage of the Rwandan genocide, and it is obviously something about which he will always speak with great passion. He pointed out that one reason it happened was because the education system was corrupted- for example, Tutsis made to stand up throughout history lesson whilst Hutus were told that Tutsis were evil. The genocide was described as ‘claustrophobic airless hell’ with a million killed in 100 days.

Feargal then told us the story of Valentina who hid and survived under bodies of her parents for weeks after the neighbours killed her parents and her brother . She had been severely wounded and was very very ill, but alive – just. Three years later, he went back to find that she had survived. A video was made of the story for the BBC, and that video caused many many schools to contribute to set up a fund for her education. She was sent to High School and two years ago Valentina came to London to speak at genocide memorial day and made a confident speech. She is now at University in USA, speaks fluent english and is doing medical studies to give back to her community.

Feargal’s point was that people who sent that money made all the difference in the world to that child. You can’t change the world on your own but we have a human obligation to make the attempt and reach out to one individual to make a connection. No man is an island – we are all part of the main. Politicians move on becasue another thing cmes along demanding their attention, but we have to keep on at it. As educators, we have a social responsibility – the need to enable kids to make informed decisions – to illustrate this, Feargal gave the example of one of his teachers, Jerome Kelly who gave 2 lessons RE and 3 of philospophy instead of the 5 of RE he was supposed to teach.
Feargal summed up his thoughts by saying

‘People are people because of other people.
We are who we are through our relati

onships and interactions through others.’

I think that is the message I’d like to conclude on, but a small postscript. Following on from this, there was a presentation for schools that had achieved the ISA three times. And one of my abiding memories of the day will the girl from Carlton Digby school ( i think it was Luana!) who, rather than settling for the sedate walk and handshake favoured by others, was so excited that she ran across the platform, launched herself at Feargal Keane and threw her arms around him. And he didn’t seem at all phased! a lovey moment!

I’m a great fan of Pocoyo – just a shame that Stephen Fry doesn’t do the voiceover for the Spanish version. In the following video, Pocoyo encourages us to join in with La Hora del Planeta.

Tomorrow from 8.30-9.30pm is Earth Hour – when we are encouraged to switch off the lights and vote for the Earth.

A cute clip with a worthwhile message that little things – and little people! – can make a big difference.

Following on from my 30 minutes on the International Dimension on Tuesday, the assembled group were treated to a session led by Pam Haezewindt, HMI, on inspecting Primary Languages.

Here are some of the points, comments and observations that she made.

Subjects are not inspected as separate entities in setion 5 (whole school) inspections but
issues arising from the school SEF and preinspection briefing may be investigated, so PMFL may be visited to probe generic points eg behaviour.

Pam pointed us towards the following document which can be downloaded from the OFSTED website using the number quoted.

The changing landscape of languages
(An evaluation of language learning 2004/7)
July 2008
report – ref no. 070053
(Also details some generic findings from whole school inspections – at least a 3rd of all inspections mentioned MFL in some way.)

Some comments from the report –

‘The French language pervades the school’

‘A pilot scheme to teach Spanish in y3 and 4 broadens horizons, builds self esteem and adds to pupil enjoyment’

‘Recently introduced Spanish lessons have spurred on pupils’ interest i another langauge and this is having a good effect upon their understanding of letter sounds in Spanish as well as English.’

Subject inspections are carried out as part of the survey inspections OFSTED is required to do. These are inspected according to the headings of section 5 schedule but each subject also selects an issue to look at in more detail.
In languages, the current subject issue is ‘progress toward entitlement in KS2’

Evidence collected -2005-7
In half the schools the effectiveness of the introduction of languaegs and progress towards good
enthusiastic pupils enthusiastic teachers

Improvement needed in –

  • sound spelling links
  • ICT use by pupils
  • assessment
  • monitoring
  • reliance on external providers
  • liaison with secondary schools

One third of schools identified were not visited because they had not begun languages, or, significantly, had begun but stopped due to staff leaving.
These schools have all been telephoned this term and only two have not now introduced a language.

2007-8 – what has changed?
This is most recent report

The context –

  • mostly language spoken to Y3 and or 4
  • if provided in y5 and 6, mainly similar to Y3 and 4
  • few schools with progressions from Y3-6 – it’s early days
  • the large majority teach French, 30-40 minutes a week, plus some extra provision.

  • Effectiveness is good or better in 2/3 schools
  • Achievement and provision were graded good or better in 2/3 of schools
  • Personal development nearly always at least good, and outstanding in 1/5
  • almost all schools fostered excitement


  • listening skills good
  • speaking skills developing well
  • Pupils will respond with confidence and enthusisasm to instructions and questions
  • teachers use a variety of mean to help students pronounce well
  • in some schools KAL and ICU developing well (still some way to go) – some still 4 skills not 5 strands
  • teaching and learning good overall
  • senior leaders commiteed
  • self evaluation good

Areas still to improve and develop

  • sound spelling links
  • reading from early in learning
  • writing (some reluctance, wishing to leave until Y6?)
  • building on pupils’ own languages
  • teacher confidence to build the language into everyday teaching and learning contexts
  • time (some schools managing to find 50 minutes a week)
  • self, peer, continuous and summative assessment
  • working with secondary schools (what happens to all these pupils who have been learning languages for years)

In 2008-9 the key issues under consideration are entitlement and curriculum models.

The process of a primary subject visit is as follows-

  • phone calls to school (2 weeks notice)
  • pre-visit letter
  • timetable in school
  • visit (no requirement for subject SEF) – talk to staff, coordinator, pupils (you can choose to certain extent), observation (can be from 1 to 4 lessons!)
  • oral feedback
  • written feedback = post visit letter – no headings in letter so no ‘outstanding’ ‘satisfactory’ etc

The Rose Review – Interim report
A language is to become compulsory in primary schools from September 2011. (Not to be confused with 2010 deadline for entitlement!) The children who are currently in Reception will be the cohort with compulsory entitlement.
Languages currently sit within the area for learning; ‘English, communications and modern languages’
Current debate about which and how many languages is ongoing.
Do respond to the next consultation

I found all this information really useful and hope that it will be useful to others too.

Just caught this headline as I was checking my Yahoo! mail this morning – and just loved the ‘snapshot’ of the article under the headline –

Going to the article to investigate further, it refers to the Rose Report’s recommendations about an increased use and understanding of technology for Primary school pupils, and a separate recommendation about history and the ability to opt to not teach World War 2 and the Victorians.

And Jim Knight is quoted as saying-

“Sir Jim Rose’s report has not been completed let alone published yet – but we are already getting stories about dropping this or removing that from the curriculum.

“The bottom line is that we are working with experts to free up the curriculum in a way that teachers have asked us to do but British history has, and always will be, a core part of education in this country.

“Of course pupils in primary school will learn about major periods including the Romans, the Tudors and the Victorians and will be taught to understand a broad chronology of major events in this country and the wider world.

So, Twitter isn’t replacing History – phew! However, I am pleased that it is being considered as a useful tool to be used in the Primary classroom. I’ve used it successfully a number of times, in RE and in Spanish and have always found the children to be very inquisitive about it and excited at the immediacy of the results. So would be good to have it ‘accepted’ rather than me using it ‘on the sly!’

‘Super Sub Stevens’ was called up as a last minute replacement today at a Comenius West Midlands conference for PMFL leaders entitled ‘What does a good one look like?

Hope all those that attended enjoyed th day. I was only there for the afternoon, but really valued the input by Pam Haezewindt of HMI on OFSTED inspections (blog post to follow!)

As promised, below is my presentation on The International Dimension. If you pop back in a day or so, you’ll be able to listen to the audio at the same time as I intend to make a Slidecast. (You can also listen to the audio on my podcast, Lisibo talks.)

I’ve also embedded a video of the hands from one of our International projects, Hands across the World.

View more presentations from lisibo.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment or email me and I’ll try my best to help!

I’m a great one for writing songs and little ditties to help children (and those slightly older!) learn languages. We’ve had Diez animales to the tune of Ten green bottles, Hace sol y hace calor to Half a pound of Tuppeny Rice and ¿Quieres un helado? to a random (very annoying!) tune I composed myself.

It seems that some of my songwriting (dis)ability has been passed on in the genes as my eldest was inspired to song by Tottenham beating Chelsea on Saturday. Odd, as he is a Man Utd. fan , but his Dad and little brother are Spurs fans so I guess it is explicable. Very catchy, I have to say.

Strange that you weren’t inspired to song by last week’s match against Liverpool – now what was the score, Isaac? Oh yes – Man Utd 1 – Liverpool 4 :o)

Mi calendario


I had a most bizarre conversation at the Primary Language Show a fortnight ago. There I was with Jo Rhys-Jones eyeing up the new puppets on the Little Linguist stand when one of the staff exclaimed – ‘Oh, Lisa! Did you win the calendar in Birmingham?’ I replied that I did indeed – as part of the Birmingham Primary Language Conference in November! I’d almost forgotten as I had never received said calendar.

Catherine (I believe it was!) responded that she was very sorry I hadn’t received it yet – they (Little Linguist) knew that there were two winners but had no idea who had won. Apparently, they found out from my blogpost about the conference – how cool!

So, as I have now received said calendar,(see above) I wanted to say thank you to Catherine and all at Little Linguist for their detective skills, for recognising me in Liverpool and for reading my blog.

And 3CT thank you too as they have now got a calendar just like 3DS to help them with their current unit of wrk which is all about….dates!

Great excitement last week when a parcel arrived from Devon, with a courtesy slip from Devon Education Services.

Our copy of TAKE TEN EN ESPAÑOL has arrived!

As you may recall, I was asked to help out along with some of the pupils at Whitehouse Common Primary School where I teach. The kids have been eagerly awaiting the finished product and are very excited to see how it’s all turned out.

As the blurb on the DES site says ..

Take 10 en espanol is a resource that helps primary school children practise their Spanish in a fun way whilst taking part in short tasks of daily physical activity. In doing so it brings together two major educational initiatives and offers the potential to significantly improve children’s learning potential. A follow up to Take 10 en francais, Take 10 en espanol has all the features plus extra dance section with Salsa and Flamenco.

I’ll be using a song from it with Year3 on Thursday – San Fermin. Happens to fit the topic we’re doing – and serendiptously, it’s one of the ones that WCPS dance on the video!

If you want to get a copy, check out the DES site! You can buy just the book , just the CD/DVD or the whole pack (which is what I would do!)

Hot on the heels of CILT’s Primary Language Show, Birmingham’s ELL RSG meeting at the Martineau Centre in Harborne on 9th March was led by Helen Leigh from Worcestershire LA and was full of ideas for five to ten minute language activities that can be done in the classroom. Whilst the recommendation of one hour per week language learning has been understood as a discrete lesson by some, the ideal is that the hour is spread throughout the week. Not only because an hour is a loooong time to maintain attention and energy, but also because little and often fits well into the already packed primary curriculum. Helen suggested the term ‘language exposure’ too as a good way of viewing it.

The session was jampacked wth ideas which Helen related to the KS2 Framework.

Here are some exmaples –

O3.3 – perform simple communicative tasks using single words, phrases and short sentences
‘Snail stories’ – can be done in many languages as so simple! Un escargot (actions draw s – drive a car – point GO!)
Un escargot….deux escargots…..bonjour….bonjour…… kiss kiss……au revoir…au revoir
Un caracol…… dos caracoles…..hola…….hola……..kiss kiss……. adiós…..adiós
could add to it by asking how you are, name etc

Brain gym –
a)letters and number – using the chart (right), say the alphabet whilst lifting arms and legs as indicated by the number as below –
1- right hand and left leg
2- left hand and right leg
3- both hands

Kids could make up their own versions, have a competition to see how fast they can do it correctly? It also fits the idea of Daily Physical Activity. See also Take Ten en français / en español.

b. colours – Dr Kawashima-like stroop test – as a timed test perhaps, or inter table competition?

Another idea was a Mexican wave of word cards and/ or pictures?

O3.2 to recognise and respond to sound patterns and words O4.3 to listen for sounds, rhyme and rhythm

eg Une poule sur un mur (see here for song mp3)
focus on ‘ou’ sound – touch your head when you hear the sound.
then ‘u’ sound

Helen then used pictures of Marge and Homer Simpson, breaking the sad news that they were splitting up and had to split their belongings, to demonstrate an activity with phoneme. Homer was in a house labelled ou and Marge in one labelled u – the task was to divide all the things in the home. eg Marge got la jupe, Homer la tortue, Marge le mur etc

Dans la forêt lointaine
is a good song to use for reinfrcing the phoneme ou – pupils stand up and sit down each time your hear ‘ou’
This also covers ICU as traditional song. Helen reiterated that it is not necessary to understand every word.

A simple activity – two pupils compete to splat the number, animated on PPT to pop up and down. Make it harder by asking pupils to splat multiples of 3 for example.

L4.1 to read and understand a range of familair written phrases
O5.1 to prepare and practse a simple conversation, reusing familiar vocabulary and structures in new contexts

Fishing rods – hook a fish – on the back of the fish is a number – the team that gets the number closest to x that wins.
Add them orally! Alternatively, make it harder by allowing the use of all operations to reach a more difficult number.

Helen also showed an idea using an alphabet mat – give two people a word to spell out by ‘dancing’ on the letters. their partners cmpete to write the word phrase down.

Another idea was to ask questions with three possible answers. Someone is sent out. whilst they are outside, the group decide on the correct answers. When they return, the person has to get all three right or start again. This allows the class to practise the question form which the part they often struggle to learn.

Above is a slide about a game of Cluedo that could be played with the class – involves colours, classroom objects and rooms, and pupils repeat the same vocabulary over and over until someone gets the correct answer. And a bit of blood and gore always go down well ;o)

O3.4 listen attentively and understand instructions, everyday classroom language and praise words

Helen then showed us some magic! Dice that changed colour, books that lose colours and regain colours, disappearing things, psychic displays – all the usual stuff!
We made up a spell about colours –

couleur couleur où va tu? couleur couleur aparu

and all the disappeared colours appear again – clever book from Internet (and an idea from

Joe Brown!)

We then had a look at the story Je m’habille et… je te croc! all about a wolf who gets dressed then comes to eat us! Helen had found a Powerpoint in French already prepared – there are lots more great ideas on the site too!

The final activities involved the Months of the year – firstly, using a mgaic bag – everyone wrote their birth month on a slip of paper and put them in a bag. Helen then got someone to choose a month and wrote the month that she thought it would be on a magic board. of course she was right as there was a secret compartment n the bag! The other activity involved betting on the month that disappears forst from the board, then, once they’ve all gone, which comes back? The disappearing involves pupils copywriting on a whiteboard, and reappearing involves recall.

Loads of ideas!! Thanks Helen x
pass the bomb!

This time last week I was starting my second afternoon of speaking at Primary Language Show in Liverpool. In three weeks time, I’ll be listening to, well, I can’t decide! It could be Rachel Hawkes, it could be Alex Blagona on wikis and it could be Pippa talking about a cross curricular French / Tudors project.

As usual, Language World, the annual conference of the Association of Language Learning (ALL), is packed full of great sessions. Spread over two days – Friday 3rd and Saturday 4th April – and taking place at Leicester University this year, the conference as always has something for everyone.
From trainees to PhDs, from Primary languages to Further education – all will find something to satisfy their needs. There’s a primary strand this year which is great and special rates for Primary teachers – whoop whoop!

And the opportunities for meeting new people and networking are great too.

I love Language World because there are always sessions that really challenge my brain, something that doesn’t always happen in CPD.

Why not have a look at the ALL site, download the PDF and check it out for yourself.

I’m speaking on ‘Absorbing ideas for Primary languages’ so it would be lovely to see you there. if not, I’ll publish my presentation and resources here, and of course, add the audio to Lisibo talks!

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