Sunday, 29 June 2014

Time for Languages

One notable omission from the new Programme of Study for KS2 Languages is the amount of time that primary schools should be allocating to the teaching of a language.  The children need to make "substantial progress" by the end of Year 6, so how much time will they need, ideally, to enable them to reach such a point?

Let's have a look first at what people are already doing.  The most recent Language Trends survey says:

The DfE says:

The Key Stage 2 Framework for Languages, still such a useful document, makes this recommendation, which is the same as the recommendation made by CILT pre-2010:

The conclusion we can draw, therefore, is that children in KS2 should have access to language teaching for an hour a week.  It may be possible to timetable an hour's block, for example if the children are taught by a visiting teacher as part of the PPA arrangements.  For many schools, however, the school day is already jam-packed, and finding that amount of time is difficult.  An alternative would be to timetable a 30 to 40 minute lesson each week, and then to make up the hour with shorter sessions on the other days of the week.

Children can spend 5 or 10 minutes of timetabled time each day practising and reinforcing the language to which they were introduced in their language lesson.  They could also learn new language which ties in with other curriculum subjects.  This gives schools the opportunity to make the new language part of the everyday life of the school and not just something that happens within the confines of the languages classroom.  Children and their teachers can use the language in different contexts and reinforce their understanding and skills.

Here are some suggestions for using that short space of time each day:

  • Use registration to practise the language.  Children could answer their names with a greeting in the new language, answer with a new word or phrase that they have learned, or answer a question that their teacher asks.
  • Children play playground and skipping games and do clapping rhymes from the target-language country or countries.  Older children can also engage younger ones in short conversations with the support of colleagues.
  • Begin or end a session with some question and answer speaking work.
  • Start maths lessons with a mental maths starter in the new language, some counting in 10s or some number fan work.
  • Start PE lessons with a warm-up in the new language.  Lots of ideas here and here.  Don't forget the brilliance of Take 10.
  • Use Art to introduce colours and artists from the target-language speaking countries.
  • Learn a song in the new language for performance in class or assembly, or practise a song that the children have been learning in their language lessons.  There are lots more ideas for music here.
  • Practise basic questions in pairs or with puppets.
  • Learn the words in the new language for things you have been doing in other subjects.  For example, this work on mini-beasts.
  • Show and discuss video clips about the country or countries where the language is spoken.  Many opportunities for intercultural understanding will present themselves throughout the week.  I recommend the Intercultural Understanding strand of the KS2 Framework for loads of ideas.

Friday, 27 June 2014

What does "substantial progress" look like?

The new Programme of Study for KS2 Languages requires children to have made "substantial progress in one language" by the time they reach the end of Year 6.  But what is substantial progress?  What will KS2 children have to do, and what should KS3 teachers expect their new Year 7s to have done?  I have been going through the Programme of Study document in order to make a bit more sense of it, and have arranged it by skill.  The numbers in brackets relate to notes below, where I have made some suggestions for interpreting the wording of the original PoS.  All non-spam comments welcome!

  • listen attentively to spoken language and show understanding by joining in and responding
  • appreciate stories, songs, poems and rhymes in the language
  • understand spoken language from a variety of authentic sources (1)
  • understand ideas, facts and feelings (2)
  • understand familiar and routine language
  • ask and answer questions
  • express opinions
  • respond to others’ opinions
  • seek clarification and help
  • engage in conversations
  • describe people, places, things and actions orally (3)
  • communicate ideas, facts and feelings (2)
  • speak in sentences, using familiar vocabulary, phrases and basic language structures
  • present ideas and information orally to a range of audiences (4)
  • respond to spoken language from a variety of authentic sources (1)
  • speak with increasing confidence, fluency and spontaneity
  • develop strategies to help them to say what they want to say
  • develop accurate pronunciation and intonation so that others understand when they are reading aloud or using familiar words and phrases
  • speak with accurate pronunciation and intonation
  • explore the patterns and sounds of language through songs and rhymes and link the spelling, sound and meaning of words
  • read carefully and show understanding of words, phrases and simple writing
  • appreciate stories, songs, poems and rhymes in the language
  • develop their ability to understand new words that are introduced into familiar written material
  • understand written language from a variety of authentic sources (5)
  • discover and develop an appreciation of a range of writing in the language studied
  • understand ideas, facts and feelings in writing (2)
  • understand writing about familiar and routine matters
  • write at varying length, for different purposes and audiences, using the variety of grammatical structures that they have learnt (4)
  • write phrases from memory, and adapt these to create new sentences, to express ideas clearly
  • describe people, places, things and actions in writing
  • gender (masculine, feminine, neuter forms) and therefore nouns, indefinite articles, definite articles and plural forms
  • conjugation of high-frequency verbs (6)
  • key features and patterns of the language (7)
Language-learning skills
  • explore how the patterns, grammar and words of the new language are different from or similar to English
  • develop strategies to understand new words, including through using a dictionary

(1)  Authentic sources for listening and speaking: Songs, appropriate videos online such as YouTube, audio or video recordings by children in a partner school in the target language country or countries, reputable commercially available audio and video recordings

(2)  Ideas: about pictures, music and poetry?
      Facts: saying your name, saying your age, describing yourself, talking about your family, saying what the weather is like, saying the date, talking about your town, talking about your school and its timetable, healthy eating, talking about the planets, giving the prices of things
      Feelings: Saying how you feel, giving your opinions of things and reasons for those opinions, likes and dislikes

(3)  People: self, parts of the body, family members, friends, famous people, historical figures
      Places: home, school, town, countries
      Things: in the classroom, school subjects, animals, food and drink, colours, seasons
      Actions: sports, hobbies, going to places, directions

(4) A range of audiences: partner, group of classmates, own class, another class in own school, rest of school in assembly, parents, school community via newsletter, website, blog etc., children in a neighbouring school, children in partner school in another country

(5) Authentic sources for reading: children's story and non-fiction books, poems, texts from the internet, magazines, newspapers, publicity material from shops etc., adverts, leaflets, posters, letters and emails from children in schools in another country

(6) Conjugation of high-frequency verbs: to be, to have, to go, to do/make, to want, to be able.  Probably also conjugation of common regular verbs.  Realistically mostly focusing on singular people.

(7) Key features and patterns of the language: written accents and other orthographical marks such as the upside-down question mark in Spanish, word order, adjectival agreement, verb conjugations, rules for pluralisation, phonic rules, rules for capitalisation, use of apostrophes, rhythm and intonation

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Real life support for primary languages

I wrote recently about sources of support for teachers of primary languages which can be found online.  There is also support to be had face to face from real life people!  Online support is excellent for solving those short-term problems and providing information when you need it quickly.  But there is a lot to be said for attending an event with like-minded professionals where you can listen to experienced presenters and share experiences with colleagues.

First, why not seek out your local ALL (Association for Language Learning) Primary Hub?  Meet and share with colleagues from your own local authority and reap the benefits of being a member of the ALL.

If you live in or around the Devon area, sign up for the ALL Devon Primary Languages conference, which takes place on Saturday July 5th.  There will be experienced speakers to inform you and exhibitors to show you how they can help you to get language learning off to a flying start in your school.

For those of you in the Cheshire area, book yourself a place on the Janet Lloyd Network Primary Languages conference, which takes place on Tuesday June 17th.  A fantastic opportunity to find out more about teaching a language in Key Stage 2, and many other delegates with whom to share your experiences.

Organisations such as Osiris Educational offer one-day courses around the country to enable you to find out more about the new curriculum.

These are the things that I am involved in.  There will be other events around the country.  If you know about a primary languages event and would like to publicise it here, please add it in a comment.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Monolingual dictionaries

Earlier this week, I was looking at the Key Stage 2 Framework for Languages.  I was checking out the overview of the Language Learning Strategies and read the following for the first time:

Bilingual dictionaries are an integral part of the KS2 Framework and, importantly, the new curriculum.  I've already written a blogpost about using bilingual dictionaries.  I have to confess that this bit about monolingual dictionaries came as a complete surprise.  And I have looked at the Framework before.  Lots of times.

When I think of "monolingual dictionary", I think "Petit Robert".  My parents bought me a Petit Robert just before I went to university.  I used it a lot during my time at Manchester, and my fellow students and I used to refer to it as "Little Bob".  I've used it a lot since for synonyms and antonyms.  Is this what the Framework was referring to?

I posted my finding on Twitter, and considering it was a Tuesday lunchtime, there were a lot of replies and a good discussion.

Our findings?  Little Bob and his friends are admittedly impenetrable for most students, especially those in Key Stage 2.  I've had even Year 11s say "Wow!  Does that have every French word in it?" about my big Collins Robert French dictionaries in the past - they were impressed by the size and liked browsing through it.  Dictionaries that size are good for novelty value but not the sort of thing you could use for language work of any value.  There are other monolingual dictionaries that are much more accessible for younger learners.  They may be simple word-only dictionaries, or they may be one of the many picture dictionaries that are available both in paper format and online.  And this kind of dictionary, in a briefer, glossary, form, is much easier for us to make ourselves and tailor to our students' needs.

So how can you use a picture dictionary?  Let's say it's a dictionary about animals.  Provide the children with a series of simple definitions of the animals, written in language with which they are familiar.  They read the definitions and find the animal which matches the description.  Alternatively, if the dictionary contains only names and definitions, you could give the children a set of pictures so that they can read the definitions and label each picture.  Later on children can use the language they have learned and the sentence patterns that they have seen in the example definitions to create their own definitions for their friends.  And let's not underestimate the value of children being able to browse through the picture dictionary to see the target language "in action".

Do you use monolingual dictionaries?  Do you have any other ideas for how we could use them?

Thanks Janet, Simone and Erzsi for your input on Tuesday!