Friday, 8 July 2022



If you are a regular reader of this blog, you'll know that I have written about Key Stage 2 to Key Stage 3 transition before, here, here, here, here, and here, and in several other posts too.  I've been harping on about it for some time.

Transition between the two key stages has never been great.  But there is evidence from Language Trends (latest 2022 report out now) that, if anything, things are getting worse.  The 2022 report says:

Over the last week I have had two Twitter polls running, and you can see the final results at the top of the page.  The results, admittedly from a small sample, are not good.  It's clear that in this, the 8th year of statutory KS2 languages, despite the national curriculum saying: "The teaching [in KS2] should .... lay the foundations for further foreign language teaching at key stage 3" and "Teaching [in KS3] .... should build on the foundations of language learning laid at key stage 2, whether pupils continue with the same language or take up a new one", transition arrangements are still desperately lacking.

Some points for consideration and action:

  • The government has made it clear that they want the vast majority of Y11s to achieve the EBacc, which includes a language.  If you want them to continue into KS4, you have to hit the ground running with them in KS3.  Knowing what they did in KS2 is a crucial part of this.

  • I hear every year of former Year 6 students, many of them gifted linguists, who have gone into KS3 and who are bored and switched off by their language learning, so much so that they seriously consider not opting for KS4.  They don't feel they are learning anything different or new.  I had one tell me about a basic homework that he had to do on me gusta in Year 7.  He crossly told his teacher that he had already covered opinions in more detail in Year 3 and upwards.

  • Many secondary teachers say "But we have so many feeder schools!" as a justification for starting from scratch with all Year 7s.  I appreciate that this does create a significant headache, but we have to be inclusive, we have to consider all students in the class.  This is the time to present usual language in an unusual way.  I once wrote a transition unit for OUP where je m'appelle, j'habite and some basic description were covered using endangered species and their habitats.  Mature and different contexts that students will not have covered in KS2 are the way to go.  Even if they are using familiar language, make them feel like they are learning something new.

  • Every year I send transition information to all the secondary schools my Year 6s are going to.  I have done this for 13 years now.  No secondary school has ever asked for it, and I have very little idea if (a) the managers of the secondary school email addresses pass it on to the MFL subject leaders, (b) what the subject leaders do with the information and (c) if this is the sort of information they would like to receive.  But I continue to send it regardless, as I want to do right by my students and give them the best opportunity I can.  For the last couple of years I have used the ASCL Transition Toolkit.

  • Primary senior leaders: Make sorting out transition communications part of the job description of your Languages Co-ordinator.

  • Secondary subject leaders: Consider giving the responsibility for contacting feeder primaries to a junior member of your department.  They might have more time to get it done, and would like to have a role in the department.

  • Primary colleagues:  Most of us have two weeks of the school year left.  Fill in the right-hand column of the ASCL Transition Toolkit and email it to the secondary schools that your Year 6s are going to, for the attention of the MFL Subject Leader.

  • Secondary colleagues:  Most of us have two weeks of the school year left.  Send the ASCL Transition Toolkit to your feeder primaries for the attention of the KS2 Languages co-ordinator, and ask them to complete the right-hand column for their school and return it to you.
Rant over.  But I may be back....

Tuesday, 5 July 2022

Skills icons


Recently I was shown the excellent work of the history lead of a local primary school.  They had chosen to design an icon for each of the seven history skills (Constructing the past, Sequencing the past, Continuity and change, etc..)  Their plan is to display the relevant icon at the beginning of each lesson, and then to discuss with the children how they will be learning, and to recall when they have used that skill before.

It got me thinking that we could use a similar system in Key Stage 2 Languages, to alert children to the skills that we are using and discuss how we are learning.  I introduced the topic in the Languages in Primary Schools Facebook group, where it turned out that some colleagues have used such icons in other subjects and have also dabbled with them in Languages.  We also discussed the skills that we would want to include.

I have used Canva to create sets of icons for French, German and Spanish.  The skills included are:

  • Listening
  • Speaking
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Phonics
  • Grammar
  • Culture
  • Knowledge About Language
  • Language Learning Skills
(For Knowledge About Language [KAL] and Language Learning Skills [LLS] see the objectives of the Key Stage 2 Framework for Languages.)

My plan for the icons at the moment is to put them onto the first screen of my lesson PowerPoints, the "Today we are going to..." screen, to explain how we are going to achieve our lesson objectives, and perhaps also on my worksheets.

I displayed them in my lessons today, and it enabled me to say not only what we were going to be doing, but also to tell them which skills we were going to be using.  I suspect that quite a lot of the time, the children aren't aware of the different skills that we use and why.

If you would like a copy of the icons (available as shown in the image above and in a reversed format for displaying on a dark background) then click on these links:
If you would like to use them (and I'm not saying you have to) I'd love to hear about how you have used them.

UPDATE 08.07.22:

Friday, 11 February 2022

Physical description: Spanish crowdsource


Following the success of previous crowd-sourced text resources, I'd like to try another, with your help.

I would be very grateful if you could write some sentences using the language that you can see in the tables at the top of this post.  If you don't want to add your real name, a pseudonym or nickname would be fine.

You can add your sentences here in a comment, or email them to me.

¡Muchas gracias!  These will be so useful for my Year 5s who are grappling with adjectival agreement and position.   I will, of course, share any resulting resources.

This will be my contribution:

Thursday, 27 January 2022

Redondo y Cuadrado


When I taught Key Stage 2 French, my favourite way of introducing and practising grammatical gender was using the book un triangle by Néjib.  You can read about the book and what I did with it here.

With my Year 5s I've just started Unit 13 of my scheme of work for Key Stage 2 Spanish, which is all about description.

We started off by reading the poem Redondo (Round) by Gloria Fuertes, and talking about why the adjective is spelled in three different ways.

Then I showed the class the Spanish words for ten more round things.  We gave out the Spanish dictionaries, and the children worked in pairs to look up the new words, find out if they were masculine or feminine, and decide whether we would need redondo or redonda to describe them.

We put the answers in the form of a new poem inspired by the one by Gloria Fuertes.

While we were working on this activity, I had an idea inspired by un triangle and its family of books.  The next week, I introduced the class to the adjective cuadrado, which they had first met in Year 2.

I gave them the challenge of finding in the dictionary the Spanish words for things that are square and putting them into a line of poetry following the example above, and working out whether they would need the masculine or feminine form of the adjective.  The children worked in pairs on their poems and used this guide to help them.  I also showed them the book un carré by Néjib, to show them how the thing didn't have to be something square exactly, but something that had a square as a part of it.

There is also a column for a small picture, so that they could justify why they had chosen a certain word, and show me how it was square.  

The following week the children copied up and illustrated their excellent poems, and I now have the difficult task of working out which ones to put forward for the next issue of Write Away! next month.  Here's one of them as an example of the poems the children created.

The resources will be on Light Bulb Languages soon.

Friday, 10 December 2021

Language Show 2021

The presentations from this year's Language Show have now been uploaded to YouTube.  You can watch my minibooks and vocabulary sessions: