Thursday, 22 March 2012

Handling Spanish data

Two weeks ago I reached the "weather" section of my Olympics scheme of work with Year 5 and Year 6, having already done a lot of work on sports and sporting equipment.  We learned ten weather phrases and a song (with actions!) to help us to remember them.  Last week I gave the children an outline map of Spain and a copy of the weather symbols.  They had to cut out the symbols, stick them onto the map and then write the corresponding weather-forecasting sentences like "En el norte hace sol."  While Year 6 were finishing theirs, their teacher came in to the room, and saw what we were doing.  He said that with last year's Year 6 he had done some data handling using a table of information about Spain, and would it be possible for me to something similar, as some of the class are still struggling with reading information from tables.  We did a very quick brainstorm and I finished the class with the next lesson pretty much planned in my head.

I spent most of last Friday researching, preparing and planning the lesson.  I found this site particularly useful for finding the data that I needed.  

Here's what we did:

  1. Revised our weather phrases and song
  2. Revised and practised further our points of the compass and how to put them together with the weather phrases.
  3. Looked at the Spanish weather map from  I pointed out the days of the week along the top and we practised saying what the weather is like, again using the compass points and the weather phrases.
  4. Looked at another map of Spain, this time showing the regions.  I explained how the Balearic Islands are a region despite being in the middle of the Mediterranean, and we talked about why the Canary Islands were shown in a box on the map.  I also showed them a larger-scale map showing Ceuta and Melilla.
  5. Gave the children an outline copy of the map of the Spanish regions with 8 questions to answer.  The idea was that they worked in pairs, using the map and their prior knowledge of countries and weather, to predict the answers to the questions such as "Which region do you think is the largest?" and "Which region do you think is the warmest?"
  6. Gave the children a copy of the table of regional data and they set about using it to find the real answers to the questions. 
  7. Gave the children a list of 24 questions to answer using the table, in order to practise further reading information from a table.

Afterwards I showed the Year 6 teacher what I had been doing, and he was very supportive and thought that it had hit the right note.  I mentioned that some pupils who are in the middle ability range of the class for Spanish were particularly responsive, as the Spanish work as being couched in mathematical terms, something that they are a lot more comfortable with.  It's always good to find a way of reaching those children for whom a language isn't the easiest thing.

I was also particularly pleased with the significant intercultural input of the lesson.  As well as the obvious aspect of getting to know Spain and its regions and weather, I was able to draw attention to the uses of commas and decimal points when writing numbers in Spanish.  

I said to my Year 6 colleague that I am aware that it is very important that I use the correct mathematical vocabulary when teaching this kind of lesson, and he said that yes, this needs to happen to ensure consistency across the curriculum.  A lack of consistency of this kind is something that Ofsted would pick up on.  I now have a copy of the Mathematical Vocabulary Book for KS1 and KS2 so that I can swot up on my maths before "teaching" it!

I enjoyed teaching this lesson, especially as it was truly cross-curricular. It brings to mind this recent news report about learning maths by using it for real purposes, and echoes my school's philosophy of getting maths into as many areas of the curriculum as possible.  It shows that maths is not a discrete subject but that it can be useful in all areas, and it adds validity to the learning of another language by making the link with maths.  I think it's vital that, given the new Ofsted framework and its emphasis on numeracy across the curriculum, MFL teachers know which aspects of numeracy are already embedded in their schemes of work and that they have a repertoire of ideas and resources that they can use to highlight maths in their lessons.  I have started to compile a collection of such resources and ideas here

My Year 6 colleague said today that his class also need more practice with pie charts and percentages.  Trying to figure out how I'll be able to fit that one in.....!

1 comment:

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