It’s nearly time for the annual ALL (Association for Language Learning) conference Language World. I first attended Language World in Oxford many many years ago and it’s remained an important date each year ever since.
After a year online in 2021, Language World returns to being face to face this year. Taking place in Sheffield at The Quays Hotel, it promises to be two days of discussion, thought and learning and I for one am really looking forward to it.
This year the theme is Language Learning for Social Justice, and sessions relate to the theme of ensuring that ALL learners have access to high quality language learning opportunities, irrespective of age, gender, socioeconomic (dis)advantage, mother tongue or heritage.
The programme looks really interesting and I’m particularly looking forward to sessions by:
Hannah White 5.1 Use the work you do to support EAL pupils in the Primary Languages classroom to create an inclusive curriculum and improve teaching and learning for EAL pupils throughout your school
Eleanor Chettle Cully 1.3 Isn’t it time we moved beyond ‘diversity’? Practical strategies for decolonising the primary MFL curriculum
Marion Devons 8.2 Don’t take me out! Why children with SEND or EAL should stay in your language lessons and how all children will benefit (I feel passionately about this as you can see here.)
and this really interesting looking session 4.1 Inspiring Young Multilingual Activists through Digital Technology and the Arts
In fact, there are so many session that interest me that it’s quite tricky choosing sometimes!
I’ll be speaking on Friday at 215 about “Literature” 3.4 Using ‘Literature’ to support Primary Language teaching and learning This session will consider what is meant by ‘literature’ before moving on to explore how it can be used in the primary languages classroom as a great way to support language learning. Whether as a way into a topic, to support phonics or prosody, as a sample text to be adapted or as a way to support inclusion and challenge insularity, allowing learners to see themselves in their learning, literature is a powerful tool in our toolbox.
This evening I presented at The Language Show. For the second year running, this was not at Olympia or Earl’s Court, but from the comfort of my dining room. I was joined by a good number of attendees given the timing (1715 of a Friday evening) including at least one who was enjoying their Saturday morning coffee in the States, others enjoying a cup of tea and another with a G&T. Sounded good to me!
My presentation was on the theme of Using ‘literature’ to support primary language teaching and learning and, having looked at the National Curriculum Languages Programme of Study for some context and a dictionary for a definition, I launched into my talk during which I highlighted a number of types of ‘literature’ and the reasons why we might choose that genre, before giving some examples and some ideas of how they can be used to engage, inspire, teach and provoke in the primary language classroom. I shared some sequences of activities as well as referring to a number of posts that explain in greater detail what I wanted to share.
Below are the slides – if you have any questions or just want a comment, please leave it below or tweet me@lisibo
It’s not too late to sign up for Language Show which continues on Saturday and Sunday. Find out more here.
A couple of weeks ago, I saw a post on Instagram asking if anyone else wanted to volunteer for the next TM MFL Icons – 5 minutes or 20 minute presentations. A series of incidents in real life and on social media had put in a bee in my bonnet so I thought – why not? Hence I went online on Saturday morning and talked about the subject of children being withdrawn from (Spanish) lessons for extra English.
I had volunteered for 5 minutes thinking I might not have enough to fill it but I had more than enough because, as usual, once I start, my head fills with more ideas than I originally had. So here is what I said/intended to say!
My title, formulated at speed to encapsulate said bee in my bonnet, is provocative and makes me sound more bolshy than I am; however, I do believe that it’s wrong to ROUTINELY withdraw children from language lessons – in my case Spanish – for extra English/interventions. You hear the argument that these children can’t speak English and they can’t do English so why are they doing another language, and I just think there are lots of reasons why it’s not a good idea to routinely remove them from the Spanish lessons.
First of all, we do a lot of work where everybody is working together, where everybody is repeating things together, what everybody is learning together. There’s safety in that and when you’re struggling, having everybody doing the same thing at the same time can build up your confidence and can give you that little boost that you need to be able to give it a go. I always say to my class that I cannot ask for more if you are doing your best and if you’re still only managing to get 5 out 10 on your own, I can’t make you work any harder than you already are so that support from your peers is really important. It’s important that learners don’t feel “set apart” too. That feeling of comfort and of solidarity with your peers is really important, and not just for those that are low ability or SEND. We get quite a few pupils at one of my schools that come to us because they’ve been putting in housing in our area and they’re with us for a short period of time and then move on somewhere else. It’s important that they quickly feel comfortable and are part the class, and I think the language lesson is a time when they are with their peers, to use a cliche, on a level playing field. I think that’s because of the structure of Spanish lessons where there is a lot of recycling, reiterating, retrieving and going back over stuff that we done before so there is that moment when children think “oh hang on, I can fit into this; I can do this!” One child joined the school towards the end of last year and about three weeks in, his mum approached me in the playground at hometime and said “Oh, YOU’RE Señora Stevens! My child keeps talking about how much he loves your lessons. He’s so happy when he’s in your lesson!” That’s a special feeling and made me think how much he’d have missed if he’d been withdrawn to improve his English!
Secondly I think the level of support offered in language lessons through modelling, scaffolding and lots of rehearsing is important and so beneficial. We do a lot of practising; saying things all together, rehearsing it with a partner, we listen and respond. There’s a lot of that oral rehearsal before we start to read and then we write. We might use whiteboards to practise before we commit it to our book. All this rehearsal is great training and it can be applied in their English learning. All this is also building up their resilience as they make and correct mistakes, and their understanding of how to learn language whether it’s Spanish or whether it’s English.
Learning another language also shows that there is value in speaking languages other than English. Sometimes children who have English as an additional language and/or who speak another language at home feel that they want to hide that and I think it’s important that they know that other people speak different languages. I enjoy making comparisons between languages and bringing other languages into lessons. I have a couple of pupils who speak Italian and routinely share words so we can see similarities and differences. And learners love it when I try words in Urdu, Punjabi and Arabic as I find it hard to mimic their pronunciation. They may speak another language but their skills have value.
There are also many ways in which we are reinforcing and supporting English literacy as we are learning Spanish. When we talk about nouns and adjectives, verbs and so on, we are echoing the vocabulary of their literacy lessons. When I explain that months of the year in Spanish don’t have capital letters, it’s an opportunity to reinforce the rules of capitalisation in English, that we do put a capital letter for months of the year, and that a capital letter is needed at the start of a sentence in Spanish just as we do in English. When we look at word order in Spanish, we compare it to English. When we read aloud or practise conversations, we’re working on prosody (something that is high on the Primary English agenda at the moment) ensuring that we’re using expression to create the ‘music of the language’ In Spanish they helpfully put question marks at either end of the question, and exclamation marks too to enclose the words as a signal that this has to be exclaimed. I liken this to the way English uses speech marks to enclose words spoken – the ¿ ? even echo the 66 99 of ” “!
One of the ‘incidents’ that prompted my idea was a colleague on LiPS being asked to stop teaching French phonics as children were getting confused with their English phonics. There was a long discussion about this, and the prevailing view was that phonics should be taught. For a start they’re one of the pillars of primary language learning, and are vital to successful pronunciation, decoding and writing. A comment that stuck with me was ‘if your one session a week is having a detrimental effect on several years worth of English phonics teaching, you must be doing something very right and perhaps the English phonics teaching could learn something from you!’ Whilst that is playing Devil’s advocate, there is some truth in the support offered by comparing phoneme/grapheme links. As I teach Spanish, there are fewer ‘tricky sounds’ than in French, or English, but by focusing on how phonics are important to us when learning how to say words accurately, we’re drawing attention to the need to use phonics in English too, to ‘sound out’ unfamiliar words. I always talk about using our Spanish glasses when we’re looking at Spanish text, something which really came into its own when I had a native Spanish speaker in class as we talked about how she had to put on her English glasses to read English!
There’s a lot to be said for experiencing success. If children experience success, it builds their confidence. The more confident they feel, the more risks they’ll take. Initial success might be very small but they add up. As we do lots of repetition and work with a limited vocabulary, the ‘answer’ is often repeated in multiple versions so success is more accessible. Plus we take small steps rather than giant leaps which are less scary! In a previous session at TM MFL Icons, Jane talked about the importance of joy and I so agree! I often wonder what it must be like to spend your whole day struggling and striving without that feeling of success and contentment. Success breeds confidence, and if you know that success is attainable, you’re more motivated to make that extra effort. Learners may not experience that success in other areas of the curriculum and by taking children away for all or even part of the lesson, it denies them that opportunity. There are lots of anecdotes on LiPS that support this. From my experience, I’ve had a number of children who have had multiple issues in other areas of the curriculum but have taken to language learning to the extent that I’ve had to explain to the (disbelieving) class teacher that they have achieved some of the same targets as their peers.
I’m not suggesting that language learning and Spanish lessons are some magic panacea to all SEND/EAL/other needs. I have at least one pupil who doesn’t access any part of the lesson due to his specific needs (he accesses very little of the curriculum in general) and there are modifications that can be needed. However, many of these are Quality First teaching strategies and will benefit all – I know that changes I made following a FutureLearn MOOC on Dyslexia and Language Learning have had a positive effect on many of the class. Nor am I saying that Spanish is more important than English or any other subject. It is entirely possible that there is little choice in some cases as to the timing of sessions (due to TA timetables and so on.) However, I would welcome some thought to be given to when interventions are staged and their effect.
Have you got a point of view? Let me know in the comments!
Each day of June there was a simple challenge linking languages and the natural world that could be completed by children (and adults!) of all ages. They included finding the names for flowers in other languages, counting hops, litter picking and eating outside. Some were even be linked to our topics (likes and dislikes, weather and colours)
Throughout June I posted the challenge each morning on Twitter and encouraged the school community to join in, posting my own ‘entry’ each day later on along with any that had been sent in. Some days another member of staff joined in, some days the activity was reflected in the forest school activity completed by the youngest children and some days families sent photos via Twitter or interacted with the post linguistically rather than graphically.
A couple of times I had the ‘luxury’ of unexpected time with classes which meant that we were able to work collaboratively on one of the challenges. Y5 used the website In Different Languages to complete butterfly or caterpillar multilingual art.
Y6 completed the task later in the month so chose one of the prompts and used GoogleTranslate as well as the above website to complete their artwork.
All the interactions were collated on a Padlet. You can see that we were very busy! There’s a column per three days plus a few extras. It’s great to look back on. I’ve just had another look and I’m inspired to find new ways to complete similar activities in the new academic year.
Since the challenge was officially over, there have been a few more interactions on Twitter with participants; it seems I’m not the only one who is fascinated by languages and the ways they interact!
I love being in nature, whether it’s running, walking or just loitering. In recent times, this has become all the more important to me, not least as a way of finding peace and calm in a world that seems to have gone bonkers. I don’t think I’m alone in this either! There seems to be an increasing awareness of the value of being outdoors, partly because it’s been the only way to meet until recently but also due to a new habits formed by being ‘locked down.’ With all this in mind, I was so excited to find a tweet today about #30DaysWildMultilingual.
Every year in June, The Wildlife Trusts run the 30 Days Wild challenge – a challenge to do an activity linked to nature, every day, for the whole month, and Multilingualism in Schools decided, in conjunction with their local Wildlife Trust in Sheffield, that they would like to create a language based challenge aimed both at those learning a language at school and those who are growing up multilingual. Each day of June there is a simple challenge linking languages and the natural world that can be completed by children (and adults!) of all ages. They include finding the names for flowers in other languages, counting hops, litter picking and eating outside. Some can even be linked to our topics (likes and dislikes, weather and colours)
I’m really excited by this and will be sharing it with learners at both my schools as an enrichment activity. I recently asked children what sorts of things they would like to do to make language learning better; challenges, and activities in different languages came up so this is serendipitous. The Multilingualism in Schools Twitter account @LostWor_l_ds will tweet an activity a day using the hashtag #30DaysWild and #30DaysWildMultilingual but you can download all 30 challenges from their website or below, and complete as many as you want, whenever you want!
Even if you aren’t able to join in with all the activities, why not choose one to complete with your learners as a one off lesson? For example, why not use the Cloud spotting task as a way to practise using a bilingual dictionary, or as a way of exploring other languages using Google Translate or online dictionaries?
Or learn a song about nature and take it outside to sing (although we’re allowed to sing inside now, it’s far better outside, especially if this lovely weather continues!)
For me, although I teach Spanish at both my schools, language learning is about languages plural, and it’s vital that ALL languages are seen as important, especially those spoken and/or understood by our school and local communities. I really hope that children will use these challenges to share their own languages and also explore others as well as – or even instead of – expanding their Spanish vocabulary. I’m also looking forward to children getting outside and exploring, appreciating the school grounds as well as their local environment.
There’s more to explore on the LostWor(l)ds website – expect another post in the near future!
If you’re interested in the wildlife aspect particularly, it’s also worth checking out your local Wildlife Trust website for details of events near you. I’ve found that my local one – Birmingham and the Black Country – are planning special events (not language related) for the Big Wild Weekend including a camp out, a quiz and talks from experts.
I once more had the pleasure of presenting at Language World, the annual conference of Association for Language Learning (ALL). My presentation was entitled Take One Book and was the sequel to the presentation I did at PHOrum in November (you can read about it here) this time choosing a book that was originally written in Italian and has no English translation.
I really enjoyed sharing my ideas of how to use ¡Ojo Oso! and was pleasantly surprised that I managed to finish in time and have time for questions. I experimented with using subtitles/captions during my presentation after comments by Helen Simpson on LiPS made me think about accessibility. I need to watch back the recording of my session (which has just been made available for those who registered for the conference but missed the session) to see exactly how accurate they were but I know that when I spoke Spanish they definitely had trouble as they were set to English! For example un agujero became ‘all alcohol’ and una madriguera became ‘mother together.’
Below you can find a PDF of my presentation. I’ve removed the story slides due to copyright but you can find links to versions of the story read online, as well as to where you can purchase a copy.
At the end there is a link to my Pinterest where I collected together materials for the talk, some of which I didn’t use! You can also access it via this QR code.
Perhaps you have ideas that spring to mind? Or you have a book that you could use in a similar way? If you have any comments or questions, do leave a comment below.
Postscript – you can watch the ‘standby/rehearsal’ recording of the session here.
There are 10 books ranging from picture books to chapter books, and after the first 10 slides that show just the covers, the next 10 slides reveal the titles in English as well as the language in which the book is written. You could use this as an extra part of the quiz, awarding bonus points for successfully identifying the language.
Today is International Mother Language Day, declared by UNESCO in 2002 to “to promote the preservation and protection of all languages used by peoples of the world.”
International Mother Language Day recognizes that languages and multilingualism can advance inclusion, and the Sustainable Development Goals’ focus on leaving no one behind. UNESCO believes education, based on the first language or mother tongue, must begin from the early years as early childhood care and education is the foundation of learning.
This year’s observance is a call on policymakers, educators and teachers, parents and families to scale up their commitment to multilingual education, and inclusion in education to advance education recovery in the context of COVID-19. This effort also contributes to the United Nations International Decade of Indigenous Languages (2022-2032), for which UNESCO is the lead agency, and which places multilingualism at the heart of indigenous peoples’ development.
Follow the hashtag #InternationalMotherLanguageDay or #InternationalMotherLanguageDay2021 on Twitter for more celebrations of the day, and think about how you can contribute to the safeguarding the linguistic diversity of our world.
Speaking a language confidently and coherently is an important part of the curriculum in the United Kingdom. However, the impact of Covid-19 has meant that many pupils have had fewer opportunities to speak the languages they are learning. Therefore, the Association for Language Learning, the British Council and the cultural and linguistic bodies in the United Kingdom have combined efforts to devise an exciting event entitled ‘Express Yourself in Lockdown’.
This will be an opportunity to showcase language learners’ enjoyment of a language that they are learning or that is normally used in their home community from home (except for English*!).
Language learners can prepare:
A short poem in the target language (written by themselves or by another author)
A short presentation on any theme e.g. climate change, equality, why I love languages
A short sketch
A short dialogue
This can be a solo or joint performance but should be no longer than 90 seconds in total and should be recorded in landscape mode. The participants will record themselves delivering their performance, however participants who are under-16 should use either PowerPoint slides/Bitmoji/other pictures or video imagery rather than showing their faces.
Teachers can then upload the performances to a teacher or school Twitter, Instagram or YouTube account with the hashtag #CelebrateSpeaking and the language chosen (e.g. #French) by 28 February 2021. [*If your pupil speaks EAL, they may enter in English BUT you must add #EAL so it’s clear!] Don’t forget to tag @Schools_British on Twitter or @BritishCouncil on Instagram when sharing your entry.
At one of my schools, I spent the lesson before the half term break focusing on a poem written by Clare Seccombe from her brilliant new resource Poesía. As well as working on the meaning and using them to further the children’s understanding, I also invited children to read along with me as I read, and then, if they wished, to record it and submit it as part of their Teams Assignment for that week. We’ll see how many I receive!
One young lady at my other school decided to record her rewritten version of The Very Hungry Caterpillar 🐛 – El Monstruo Muy Hambriento – and agreed for me to share it. You can see and hear it below. I was gobsmacked at her accent given that we have been learning remotely since Christmas and she has had no live lessons, just a couple of videos of me reading La Oruga Muy Hambrienta.