Saturday, 19 September 2020

Teacher Aprons

Ever since I started teaching primary languages in 2009 I have taught in a different room every session.  I've tried several different ways of storing and carrying round my belongings, in particular my stationery.  In February last year I caught a discussion in a Facebook group about teacher aprons, and investigated!

I made one (the grey and green one at the bottom of this picture) and tried it out at my schools, and was immediately sold on the idea - why hadn't I tried this before?!  They are a very handy way of carrying around your stationery and other small pieces of equipment and always having them to hand.

Since the new regulations came in, I have been mindful of cross-contamination between my schools.  Therefore I've made two new ones so that I have one for each school.

I use them to carry around a pen (4 coloured Bic), pencil, rubber, pencil sharpener, board markers, glue stick, scissors, sticky notes, marking stampers, my whistle, USB, a small bottle of hand sanitiser and, last but not least, my ID on the keyring.

If you're interested in making your own, I used this pattern.

Sunday, 6 September 2020

Managing choral speaking


In my previous post, I wrote about language lessons in the "new normal", particularly with regard to choral speaking.

To help manage choral speaking, I have made some PowerPoint slides which tell the students which group should be speaking at any one time.  It also tells them what they should be doing while others are speaking.  There are slides for two groups and three groups, and the PowerPoint is available for Spanish, French, German and Italian.  You can download it from here.

Grouping in 3 groups (which I will have to for my classes of over 30) was a slight problem for Spanish, as the flag only has 2 colours.  So the three groups will be Los Rojos, Los Amarillos and Los Escudos, which I will probably type onto the slide.  Great for phonics too!

Thursday, 3 September 2020

The "New Normal" Classroom

Here we are at last: the new school year, the new term, and the “new normal”.  I’ll finally be heading back into the classroom next week, to earn a teaching salary after 173 days of not earning a teaching salary.  In preparation for the big return this week and next week, teachers have been discussing behind the scenes what we will and won’t be able to do in the classroom this term.

WARNING AND DISCLAIMER: The plans and strategies that I am going to discuss here are appropriate to my schools, the risk assessments that my schools have in place and agreements I have with my headteachers.  They may not be suitable for your setting.  Always check your own risk assessment and confirm with your headteacher.

I’ll be seeing all my classes pretty much as normal, as peripatetic teachers are allowed to work in multiple bubbles.  For additional protection for me, for the children and for the other adults in the schools, the way I teach is going to be different to usual. 

I will be restricted to a small area at the front of the classroom.  This means that scaffolding and supporting activities, building up the learning in small steps, is going to be even more crucial than usual.  If a child is stuck, I won’t be able to go over to help them.  The class teacher’s seating plan is not always conducive to children successfully helping each other, so knowledge organisers are going to be a huge help and provide that extra layer of security and confidence for the children.

One of the main discussion points over the summer has been choral speaking.  In the government guidance, specific mention is made of singing, chanting and shouting.  I don’t consider choral speaking to be the same as chanting, and emailed the DfE at the end of last term for ask for clarification.  No clarification has been forthcoming.  Therefore it has been the responsibility of each headteacher to decide how to address choral speaking in their schools.

I will still be able to do choral speaking activities with the children (thank goodness – I don’t know what I would have been able to do otherwise – it’s my bread and butter!) but only with a maximum of 15 children at a time.  For most classes this will be half the class at a time, but I have some classes of over 30 and so will have to divide them differently, into more than 2 groups.

I’ve been thinking, therefore, about the ramifications of choral speaking with only a small group at a time, and how to manage the activity.  What about the ones who aren't speaking?  What will they do?  I want them to physically do something so that they don’t have time or the opportunity to look out the window / fiddle / talk etc., and so that I can see that they are engaged.

Thank you to everyone on Twitter and in the Languages in Primary Schools Facebook group who responded with their ideas, particularly Amanda, Noelia, Suzanne, Vicky, Barbara, Steve, Erica, Jane, and Maria.

Actions  The children do an action which represents the word.  This is an example of a multimodal approach.  My 13 year old daughter has been teaching herself BSL (British Sign Language) over the summer; you could try one of the signs as your action.

Mute button
  Children mouth the word silently, they “put their Mute button on”.  (This might take some practice with certain children!)  If the children are speaking, you can also use an imaginary volume control button with them to ensure they are speaking quietly and therefore not expelling too many droplets.  By the way, whispering should be avoided – it has been shown to expel more droplets than ordinary speaking.

Writing  The children write the relevant words on their mini whiteboard, using their knowledge organiser or other support to help them.  I like this idea as I would like to do a longer period of speaking with one small group, rather than rapid swapping between groups.  I’ll get the writers to hold up their whiteboard to show me what they’ve done!  To make the writing more engaging you could try:
- writing the words in order of length, shortest first
- writing the words in alphabetical order 
- writing the words in order of preference (could be useful for later work on opinions)
- writing the words with a finger on their sleeve
There’s also the dice activity where the number thrown tells you how to write the word.  Here are some suggestions:
1 – write the word in bubble writing
2 – write the word with your other hand
3 – write the word backwards
4 – write the word with your eyes closed
5 – write the word normally
6 – choose how you want to write the word

·     Group A Group B  You could say your word or phrase, then ask the first group to repeat it, followed straightaway by the second group.  The second group will listen to the first group and so are reliant on the first group’s accuracy.  This could be adapted to have a row speaking at a time in a Mexican Wave style.

·     Pointing  The children have a sheet with showing the words, English translations or images.  The children who aren’t speaking have to point to the correct word or image as the other half of the class say it.  Find out more about this activity here.

I still haven’t solved the problem of pair speaking activities, such as dialogues, where the children all practise together in pairs, but am hoping that most other things won’t be too different.

If you're looking for other ideas, check out Janet Lloyd's video No singing? No problem!  and these Covid-friendly activities from TheIdealTeacher.

I hope this has given you some ideas for your classroom.  There are some more ideas for choral repetition here.  If you have any other ideas, it'd be great if you could pop them in the comments.

Wishing everyone well for the new term.

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!