Monday, 27 July 2020

Making a flag

The last unit of my Year 3 scheme of work is one of my favourites - Mi bandera.  The children learn how to describe the colours and shapes on flags, opening the door to other countries that speak Spanish and their cultures.  It usually coincides with a major sporting event and so the children are always interested in it.

After we have finished practising all the speaking with actions (multimodal - it really works!) the children make their own flag and describe it to the rest of the class.

I always use the method of making a wave-able flag that I first saw on Barbara Cheded's blog.  Unfortunately the link for the instructions no longer works, and I can't find them anywhere else, so I've done my own instructions for making the flag here:

1.  Fold a piece of A4 paper into quarters.

2.  Cut off one of the quarters (it doesn't matter which one).

3.  It's important to get the piece of paper the right way round at this stage - children sometimes put the paper in the portrait orientation and end up with the wrong-shaped flag.  At this stage children draw and colour their flag design on the "flag" section.

4.  When the flag design is finished, roll up the flag pole section of the paper and stick it with some sticky tape (we've never had any luck with glue!)  The flag is now ready to be waved.

Thursday, 16 July 2020

Primary Languages Conference: Pillars of Progression

Primary teachers and specialist teachers of primary languages are always looking for good quality CPD.  The online conference Pillars of Progression is a joint project from the teams behind the successful Northern Primary Languages Show (NPLS) and Southern Primary Languages Show (SPLS), and I am delighted to have been invited to speak about the pillar of vocabulary.

Here is more information about the conference and its sessions:

The conference will take place on Zoom.  If you're a member of the Association for Language Learning (ALL) it will cost you £5, if you aren't a member it's only £25.  

To book your place, go quickly to the online booking form, as places are limited.

See you there!

Wednesday, 15 July 2020


I've mentioned before that I subscribe to Richard Byrne's blog Free Tech for Teachers.  I recommend you follow it as well, particularly if you use Google Classroom, as there are lots of posts and useful information about that.  This morning Richard has written a post about an online quiz generator called Doozy.

You can use Doozy to build quizzes that require students to type in their answer, or multiple choice quizzes.  

I've had a go at making a quiz where you have to type the answers in.  It's all about regular -AR verbs in Spanish, and you can try it out by clicking here.

You don't have to create an account to use Doozy, so if you create content you'll have to think of a way of keeping a record of the links for the quizzes you've made.

You can play by yourself, or send the link to friends and play along with them, or you can be the quizmaster - this generates a quiz in a similar way to Kahoot that can be played by a group of people at the same time.  The quizzes can also be played over Zoom, Google Hangouts, Messenger and Houseparty - Doozy is a new application which has been developed since the beginning of lockdown.

I haven't yet had the opportunity to play as a team or against others, but if you challenge yourself, you answer the questions and then at the end you have to mark your own answers.  In the language learning context this provides useful feedback to the student.

Doozy provides a useful and different alternative to other online activity generators, such as educandy, which have been widely used during this period of home learning.

Have a go and see what you think.

Tuesday, 14 July 2020

Do they know they're making progress?

I've mentioned before that I've been following the free Futurelearn course Teaching Languages in Primary Schools: Putting Research into PracticeYesterday I worked through week 2 (there are 3 weeks altogether) and it gave me more food for thought.

Following week 1, I've been thinking about progression, particularly in upper Key Stage 2 (age 9-11).  I learned that the younger children (lower Key Stage 2, age 7-9) benefit from lots of varied input with which they can actively engage.  They are emotionally engaged with the learning, and "fun activities from an engaging teacher" are particularly important for them at this stage in their learning journey.  The older ones, on the other hand, appreciate more challenge, focus, logic and structure, and more opportunities to reflect on the language and on their learning.  As the children get older, they gain a deeper understanding of their own learning and they become more frustrated if they don't achieve their learning goals.  Younger children are motivated by enjoying the fun activities, while for the older ones, progress and achievement are crucial to motivation.

So awareness of progression and a sense of achievement are key factors for motivation in the older children.  This has led me to think about progression:  I know what progression looks like in my scheme of work, and I know when the children have progressed and achieved their objectives.  But do the children know?  Do they know they're making progress?

I'm thinking of a possible way of showing the children explicitly how their learning is progressing and how they can do things at the end of a lesson that they couldn't do before.  Giving them a green stamp for achieving an objective and showing them my spreadsheet every so often probably isn't sufficient.

Week 2 of the Futurelearn course, during an interview with Sarah Dugdale, mentioned WAGOLL (What A Good One Looks Like) texts for showing children what they are aiming for.  In this case, children can help the teacher to compile a list of things that they will need to know in order to create their own version of that text, and will see their progress as they "tick off" the different points on the list.  Sarah advocates using as the WAGOLL text a piece of work that  has been done by a previous pupil.  Children will find this more motivating: if that child can do it, they can do it.  You could also provide a teacher-produced WAGOLL, but children might perceive this as less motivating, as they already know the teacher can do it!  Incidentally, Sarah also commented that she can see a use for "WABOLL" (What A Bad One Looks Like) texts, where children are shown a bad (or less good!) example and can suggest ways to improve it (maybe in a content sense rather than accuracy).

Another solution that I have been thinking about is, at each stage of the learning, getting the children to write a few words or a short sentence to summarise what they have learned during that lesson, that they didn't know before.  I've made a mock-up of how that might look for the beginning of my first Year 6 unit:

Alternatively we could break down the learning objective to create a tick list as mentioned before.

What do you think?  Do you think that the children in your Year 5 and Year 6 classes know that they are making progress?  Can you think of any easy-preparation and quick ways of showing the children explicitly the progress that they are making so as to motivate them in their learning?

Friday, 10 July 2020

Languages in the news (3)

There has been another rash of press articles about languages following the publication yesterday of Towards a National Languages Strategy: Education and Skills.  The document has been compiled by the British Academy, The British Council, ASCL, Universities UK and the Arts and Humanities Research Council.   It is a set of proposals for a new national languages strategy and is well worth a read.

There are many proposals for all stages of education.  They include the establishment of an online portal for sharing messages, information and resources called Languages UK, which they want to establish as a brand.  They would like a major communications campaign to promote languages, and want to ensure the continuation of programmes like Erasmus+.

There are also a number of proposals for primary languages:
  • The strengthening of existing funded partnerships or centres, to spread best practice and help all children to access high-quality provision (SCILT in Scotland, NICILT in Northern Ireland, Global Futures in Wales, and NCELP in England.
  • A new task force or separate wing of NCELP devoted to primary education, led by primary practitioners and experts, for England
  • Work with UK governments to establish and implement the best approach for the primary curriculum
  • Work with UK governments to establish and implement the best approach for the transition to secondary
  • DfE in England should develop clear non-statutory guidance on the amount of time that should be allocated to language learning in KS2  
  • In Wales, the Welsh government should recognise and specify the time allocation for primary languages in the new Curriculum for Wales 2022
  • In Northern Ireland, the DE should develop and implement a fully funded primary languages curriculum.
  • Require teacher education providers in England, Wales and Scotland to extend the amount of time allocated to the primary languages subject specialism
  • Universities and colleges should facilitate language learning for primary education trainees, so that they have the opportunity to achieve at least CEFR A1/A2 in a language
  • DE(NI) should explore teacher education qualifications for primary languages

* * * * * * *

Last week the DfE released the guidance for schools preparing to welcome back all students in September.  I noticed that languages were included in the list of subjects that Key Stage 3 students should be doing in September as part of their broad and balanced curriculum, but there was no mention in the Key Stage 2 list:

Given the often precarious position of languages in some primary schools, I found this concerning, and so tweeted DfE to ask if the failure to include languages was just an oversight or if it was deliberate.  Suzanne O'Farrell of ASCL replied and said she would investigate.

On Wednesday (July 8th), Baroness Coussins, chair of the All Party Parlimentary Group on MFL, stressed in the House of Lords the importance of language learning in primary school and asked for clarification.  (Time 18.49 on this video clip)  Baroness Coussins also shared the news via Twitter:

Please make sure that this news is shared with all your primary colleagues!