Friday, 31 October 2014

Klee Letters

Once again, while I was looking for something else recently, I came across Once Emerged from the Gray of Night, which was painted by Swiss-German artist Paul Klee in 1918.  I like abstract art and I like letters, so I decided to have a go at doing something inspired by it.

I chose a Spanish refrán as my text.  I divided my paper into 2cm squares and coloured the sections with ten different colours of coloured pencils.

I really like this blogpost, which shows how the children used a simple opinion sentence as the text for their Klee-inspired work.  This could easily be adapted to opinions or other short sentences in the target language, which are effectively hidden in the artwork.  It could also be used for making greetings cards in the target language (or English).

Something else to have a play with.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Including Culture in KS2 Languages

I have already written about one omission from the new Programme of Study for KS2 Languages, which is advice about the time allocation for language teaching.  Another omission is the lack of any mention of Intercultural Understanding (IU) in the subject content.

Culture is mentioned in the Purpose of Study: "Learning a foreign language is a liberation from insularity and provides an opening to other cultures."  It goes on to say that " A high-quality languages education should foster pupils’ curiosity and deepen their understanding of the world", which implies that IU should be included if this is to happen.  The Purpose of Study finishes with: "Language teaching should provide the foundation for learning further languages, equipping pupils to study and work in other countries."  If you are going to study and work, and therefore presumably live, in another country, then an understanding and appreciation of the culture will be vital to spending a happy time there.

We all agree, I'm sure, that teaching culture alongside the language is a crucial part of the subject.  As the KS2 Framework says, "A language and its culture are inextricably linked."  For that reason, I have attempted to pull together here a list, for French and Spanish, of links and information for IU lessons, especially useful for the non-specialist or beginning teacher who may be unsure what to include.


The 10 minute guide to IU
Colours in cultures
Euros puzzles
Countries that use the Euro
Information about the Euro


All about French - Pointless
Europe map puzzle - to see where the French-speaking countries fit in
Where in the world is French spoken? - podcast
All about France - podcast

Special days, events and festivals:
Saint-Valentin - minibook
Poisson d'avril (1st April)
Chandeleur, Carnaval and Mardi Gras - podcast
11 novembre - podcast
Bastille Day / 14 juillet (14th July) - podcast
Tour de France (July) - podcast
La Fête du Travail (1st May)

minibook 1
minibook 2
Cloches volantes -French Easter bells

Christmas and New Year - podcast
Christmas songs

Arts and crafts:
Arbre à voeux

Play and games:
Playground games
List of playground games

Website of school on French island of Réunion
Ecoles du Monde - schools around the world
List of equipment that French children have to buy for La Rentrée each September
French handwriting
La Rentrée - podcast
Playground games - podcast


All about Spain and Spanish - Pointless
Fantastic facts about Spain
Spanish geography - data handling
Aztec maths
Calendar of Spanish fiestas
Information about Spanish customs and traditions
Map puzzles of Europe and South America
Maps of Spain
The Spanish flag
South America minibook
The origins of flamenco

Special days, events and festivals:
Día del amor y la amistad (February 14th)
Día del Padre / Día de San José (March 19th)  (Father's Day)
San Fermín (7th July) and here
Celebrating birthdays
Name days / Saints' days
La Tomatina (August)
Día de Sant Jordi (April 23rd)
Día de la Hispanidad / Columbus Day (October 12th)
Pictures from Día Nacional de España 2014 (October 12th)
Carnavales (February)

Roscón de Reyes
Special dates at Christmas
Doce uvas
About Los Reyes Magos (the 3 kings) (January 6th)

Easter nouns
Easter nouns (2)
Games and songs
Semana Santa en Sevilla
Semana Santa en España

El Ratoncito Pérez - a story about the Spanish version of the tooth fairy.  Information and the story.

Arts and Crafts:
Guatemala - textiles
Guatemalan worry dolls and the instructions
Guatemala - alfombras de Semana Santa
Moorish Mosaics
The Spanish-speaking Cultures colouring book - very useful for younger learners
Decorative Tile Designs colouring books - useful when you are looking at Moorish mosaics
Aztec Codices
Gaudi's Mosaics

Poems and songs:
A selection of Spanish songs

Playground games
More playground games
Instructions for some playground games
Spanish handwriting

Una tortilla española

If you have any links that you think would be useful for this list, please add them to a comment here or tweet them to me, and I will add them in.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Are the words important?

Earlier this evening, before I went out to play the Joanna and conduct at a concert, I watched Celebrity Pointless with my family.  The first round was a good one (countries with A as the first vowel in their name) but the second round was truly inspired: misheard song lyrics.  I am well chuffed that I knew all the answers, probably because they were nearly all songs of a certain age.  It reminded me of this book that I've had for a while, which is full of misheard lyrics, malapropisms and "other linguistic gaffes".  Right up a word nerd's street.

Here, for your entertainment and amusement:  From which songs do these misheard lyrics come?

  1. Listen to the rhythm of the gentle boxing gopher.
  2. Sparing his life for his mum's sausages.
  3. No Dukes of Hazzard in the classroom.
This reminded me of something that my elder daughter told me last week.  She said that when she was in Year 6 (last year) one of her jobs as house captain was to operate the hymn words in assembly.  This meant sitting next to the Year 1 children.  One day, as they were all saying the Lord's Prayer, she heard one of the little ones say:

".....And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us by email...."

Yesterday I spent another day at Manchester University with the primary trainees.  We spent a lot of our session looking at storytelling, now an important part of the new Key Stage 2 programme of study.  We practised and told five stories, among them Le Navet Enorme (lesson 7)  I think songs, poems and stories in the primary languages classroom are great, as they offer learners the opportunity to hear and speak passages of extended language and let them hear the music and rhythm of the language.  If you do the Navet Enorme, you can have children with very little French speaking confidently for a five-minute stretch because of the repetitive nature of the story.  One of the trainees asked if, when teaching stories, poems and songs, we should explain to the children what the words mean and make sure that they say all the words properly.  In other words, should we take steps to avoid our pupils delivering us by email and listening to gentle boxing gophers?

Last week I taught my Year 1 Spanish group a new Adiós song from this book.  They sing all the words, some of which are pretty complex - "Me dio mucho gusto/Estar con vosotros", with gusto, do all the actions enthusiastically, and their articulation of the words is pretty good.  They enjoy the song, but they don't know what most of it means.

Some of the songs, poems and stories that we use in the classroom are designed specifically to convey and practise a specific grammar point or structure, and so it is important that the children say the words correctly and know what they mean, if they are to understand the structures and use them in their own speaking and writing later.  For example, my Year 4 Spanish class need to be able to say accurately and understand those little, repetitive pages in the middle of La oruga muy hambrienta  when we are telling the story together, as they then go on to adapt the story using those little pages as the basis for their writing.  The same children happily belt out Chiquirritín at Christmas time without understanding all the words.

It seems to be a careful balancing act between enjoyment and participation, and ensuring understanding where necessary.  I would be interested to hear your thoughts!

  1. Petula Clark, Downtown
  2. Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody
  3. Pink Floyd, Another Brick in the Wall