Sunday, 28 April 2013

Go Latino!

A whole day all about languages, a whole day about languages descended from Latin.  This was Go Latino!, a day conference run by ALL (NE) yesterday.

I did Latin O'level back in the day, followed by A'level two years later.  Then some five years after that I needed to call on it again while researching for my M.Phil, as my poem was "borrowed" from one in Maccheronic Latin and called on many of the classical authors.  (Nearly 20 years later, it still bothers me that I never succeeded in tracking down the reference to "Venus y sus ninfas".)

In my Spanish Key Stage 2 scheme of work I have included a bit of Latin, namely in days of the week and parts of the body, inspired by the children's questions.  I'd like to weave in some more (and a bit of Arabic if possible!) and was after some information about how it is taught these days and what resources are available.

The day started with some thought-provoking words from Jim McElwee.  We considered the words of Comenius's Magna Didactica, in which he speaks about effective teaching as well as language teaching.  Some of Jim's points for your consideration:

  • Do we draw attention to cognates or take them for granted?  Are they obvious to all learners?
  • Do we notice things we aren't looking for?  Children often come up with things we aren't expecting, while the teacher tends to have a certain answer in mind.
  • Do we teach about language or help learners to acquire the language?  For example, a young learner might be able to use a present subjunctive clause without knowing or understanding exactly how it works.

Sue Balmer spoke about the Latin teaching that she has been doing at Gosforth Academy.  She and others have found Latin to be a boy-friendly subject, due to its logical and problem-solving nature.  Sue uses the Cambridge Latin Course, which is the course that I learned from at school.  The course has been updated has new resources to go with it.  The Cambridge Latin Online Project was launched in 1999.  Another story-based course is Ecce Romani.  Both are rich in language and culture.  Sue recommends the Minimus series for primary-age learners.  Minimus is particularly apt for north-east learners as Minimus and the other characters are from Vindolanda on Hadrian's Wall, and  he is even on Twitter.

Latin has some advantages over modern languages.  
  • Non-specialist teachers, and students, will not be as worried about the pronunciation.  
  • Latin in Key Stage 2 would solve Transition dilemmas
  • It provides enormous cultural knowledge and there are huge benefits for Literacy and other areas of the curriculum.
Some useful links:

After finding out about using short films in the classroom ( looks like an excellent site and I recommend Chop Chop), dabbling in some Portuguese language and culture and then a quick lunch, it was time to learn about Web 2.0 tools with Joe Dale.  There are some useful links posted on the page for the event, which you will be able to view for the next 29 days!

Many thanks to Claire Dodds and her team for organising such a good day.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Paper chains aren't just for Christmas

I've seen a lot of paper chains in the classrooms of my schools recently.  In one school, each classroom has a paper chain made of links decorated with the children's names.  In the other, one of the Year 4 classes has made a chain out of their work about Jacob Marley in A Christmas Carol.

Then today, when I should have been doing something else, I saw an interesting tweet from the TES appear in Tweetdeck and retweeted it together with a little thought about how it might work in MFL:

I had a chat about it on Twitter this afternoon with @kscapp, and after that thought I'd give it a try to see how it would work.

I tried it out with the sentences that my Year 6 Spaniards did recently, about where they go and how they get there.  The sentences have four "chunks" and so to start with I cut strips in four different colours.  Blue for time phrases, green for parts of the verb ir, orange for places in town, pink for transports.

Then I made three paper chains, using one of each colour for each chain.  You can see the results in the photo at the top of this post.

Students could work in pairs to make chains like this from a given selection of "chunks".  They could check each other's and translate them into English.  Putting the colours into the right order reinforces the word order and will increase pupil confidence when it comes to writing their own sentences later.  And of course they are an instant display.  The activity works in a similar way to using different coloured Lego blocks or multilinks, but is a bit longer-lasting.

I've had another idea for how I might plan this into a lesson:
  • Give students the strips on white paper with the words in an outline font or with an outline border around them.
  • Students sort the strips into the different groups or chunks (Thinking Skills classification exercise)
  • Once they are happy that they have sorted the strips into the correct groups, they colour in the letters or borders of each one a different colour.
  • They stick the strips together to make chains as before.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

What should KS2 MFL do?

In September 2014 the teaching of a foreign or ancient language from the prescribed list of seven (French, Spanish, German, Italian, Mandarin, Latin and Ancient Greek) will become statutory in Key Stage 2 in all schools that aren't independent, free or academies.  For many of us, this is a very exciting prospect, and something that we have been waiting for and working towards for some considerable time.

There are 3.75 terms to go.

The draft Programme of Study is very brief, and pretty inaccessible for the non-specialist classroom teachers who will be doing most of the teaching.  There has been a lot of criticism in recent months of the amount of prescription in the draft Programmes of Study for subjects such as history.  It's my opinion that primary languages need this amount of prescription.  Teachers need to know what they should cover in Key Stage 2. It will help them and it will be even more useful for Key Stage 3 teachers - they would then know exactly what they were getting in Year 7 and would be able to plan accordingly.  At the moment Year 7 seems to consist mainly of starting again from the beginning, irrespective of students' Key Stage 2 experience, mainly because students come from so many different schools and have such different experiences of language learning.

I am in the fortunate position at the moment of having received a commission to write a series of resources for French and Spanish for Key Stage 2 and early Key Stage 3.  It seemed quite an easy job to start with, but the more I think about it the more cans of worms I open.  Each resource needs to have some specific grammatical, structural, linguistic or cultural point.  Which has all led me to think: What exactly do children need to learn in Key Stage 2 to prepare them for Year 7?

I posed the question to the #mfltwitterati yesterday

and have received some very useful answers.  Thanks everyone!

So here is my first go at a list for what KS2 children should learn in Spanish.  (I'm starting with the Spanish resources as the phonics and the numbers are more straightforward and because it's my first language.)

Number (plurals)
Adjectival agreement and position
Definite and indefinite articles
Paradigms of high frequency irregular verbs in the present tense (ser, estar, tener, ir, hacer)
Paradigms of regular -ar, -er and -ir verbs in the present tense
Connectives (y, pero, porque, sin embargo, también)
Qualifiers (muy, bastante)
Making verbs negative

Sé / puedo / quiero plus infinitive
(No) me gusta(n) plus noun or infinitive plus other opinions such as Me encanta(n)
Prefiero plus noun or infinitive
Question words 

Core language:
Numbers to 1000
Days of the week
Months of the year
Common adverbs (muy bien, bien, mal)
Telling the time

Children should be familiar with
Map of Spain and its neighbouring countries, position within Europe, main geographical features, major cities
Map of Central and South America and the countries there that are Spanish-speaking
The reasons why the majority of Central and South America is Spanish-speaking

Spanish's Latin roots
Spanish's Arabic roots

The above points can be taught through a variety of different contexts, such as animals, weather, food and so on.  I would envisage the French list not being too dissimilar.

Do you think I've missed anything out?
Do you think anything on the list is unnecessary and should be kept until Key Stage 3?
I would be very grateful if you could tell me via a comment!

UPDATE 23.04.13:

Very many thanks to all those who have responded either via comment below, via Twitter or via the CfBT fora.  I have taken all your comments on board and adjusted my original list.  My new list is available via Scribd (below) for anyone who would like a copy as a starting point for their own deliberations.  John Connor has made the very valid point that it's difficult to do anything too specific until we know what's going to happen with assessment.  Several people have mentioned stories, songs, poems and rhymes.  Most of the language and cultural content mentioned can be explored this way.

Thank you all again for making me think very hard!