Monday, 12 November 2018

Language Show 2018 - presentations

Many thanks to everyone who came to my session Putting Pen to Paper at the Language Show yesterday, and also everyone who came to the Primary Show and Tell.

You can find my Putting Pen to Paper presentation here.

My Trash or Treasure presentation from the Show and Tell is here.  You can read more about the gender and number Trash or Treasure that I described here.

Monday, 8 October 2018

I've won an award!

In June I found out that my resource Box of French: Je suis préhistorique! was a finalist in the Teach Primary Resource Awards 2018.  Well, at the beginning of September - the first day of the new school year in fact - I heard that I had won the MFL category!  I have been sworn to secrecy since then, but as the latest edition of Teach Primary is published today the embargo has been lifted, so I can tell everyone!

I have a huge smile today!

Sunday, 23 September 2018

For easy interactive activities I have been mourning the demise of Sugarcane, which ceased to be in June this year.

This morning on the Modern Language Teachers' Lounge Facebook group, I found out about educandy, a new interactive game creator from the Linguascope team.

I have created an account and created my first activity.

I clicked on "My Activities" and then on the red icon to create a set of matching pairs:

I then entered my pairs of words or "questions and answers".

When I had done this, I could scroll down and see the selection of games that I could play using this word set:

When I scrolled down further, I could see the code for this set of games, its URL and also the embed code:

The code for this activity, as you can see, is 15b.  Students can enter this code in the box in the top right of the home page and go straight to the activity:

It's also possible to embed activities:

I have been trying all this out on my laptop, and it has been very straightforward.  I have also had a go at the games.  The only downside for me is that the text on the games is small (very small in the case of the crossword clues) and therefore not very suitable for using on the interactive whiteboard.  A big positive, though, is that there is an educandy app available for both Android and Apple.  Students input the reference code and are taken straight to the choice of activities that you have designed.  This is what is looks like on my Android tablet once I have entered the code.  As you can see, I had to enter zeros for the missing digits in my code.  The games are clearer on the tablet screen.

All in all, educandy looks like a promising resource, especially if, like me, you have a Sugarcane-shaped hole in your life that needs filling. It's easy to use, quickly and easily produces activities that are clear and fun to play.  Have a go!

Monday, 17 September 2018

Language Show 2018

The Language Show 2018 will take place at London's Olympia, 9th-11th November.  I am very honoured to be speaking this year.

The Sunday has a primary focus.  I'm looking forward to seeing everyone there!

Sunday, 16 September 2018

DIY cliparts

I get a lot of the cliparts I use from as it is a reputable provider of copyright-free images.  You can never guarantee that an image you've found via a Google search is copyright-free, even if you've selected "free to use, share or modify, even commercially" on an advanced search.

Sometimes I can't find the sort of thing I'm looking for, and so I make my own.  I do this using MS Publisher and its Autoshapes function.  Earlier on today, I needed some smilies to illustrate opinions, but couldn't find the exact images I was looking for in a high enough quality.  So I made the ones above.  Below is a screen capture to show you how I did it:

Unable to display content. Adobe Flash is required. I learned how to do this from the late, great Bev Evans, who was so generous with her expertise.  You can still find her videos about how to make faces, flowers and backgrounds on YouTube.

So if you can't quite find the image you want, why not try some DIY?!

PS  If you'd like to use these smiley cliparts, they are available to download on the Light Bulb Languages Facebook page.

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Why I don't like trendy fonts

Imagine you are 11 years old.  You have just started secondary school.  You have spent the last two weeks trying to get used to a school that is very different to what you have been used to for the last seven years.

When you were in primary school, all the resources you were given were printed in a certain kind of font:

Your primary school probably subscribed to a certain handwriting scheme such as Letterjoin.  Your SAT papers were in a font very similar to Sassoon.  The resources on the walls around you were probably courtesy of Twinkl and their own font.

Then you got to secondary school and started to encounter materials in quite different fonts:

These appear to be the trendy fonts at the moment.  I saw them first in American resources on sites such as Teachers Pay Teachers.  But are they suitable for use in a time-poor classroom, where the students are faced with text in a foreign language?  They are hit with the double whammy of having to decipher the font and then having to decipher the text itself.  Surely it's in our best interest to create resources that students don't have to spend valuable time decoding before they can respond to them.

Amatic SC is all capitals.  Capital letters are harder to read than lower case letters, as they comprise so many straight lines.  Lower case letters have rounder, more easily recognisable shapes.  HelloCasual is my own particular least favourite, as all the letters are the same size and this makes it difficult to read.  I think also that a font should model good handwriting to students whose handwriting, let's face it, is still developing.

Imagine being faced with a text in one of these fonts, and think about how accessible that text would be to the average student:

These are my own personal opinions, of course.  I prefer to use Sassoon for primary resources and Arial for secondary resources.  I may dabble with a fancy font for a title.  I am liking SFCartoonistHand more and more for certain resources.

What do you think?  

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Resources News

I have recently invested in a new package with Sellfy, the provider of my online shop.  This allows me to create money-saving bundles of resources, and also allows customers who wish to purchase more than one resource to put them in a shopping cart instead of having to buy them singly as before.

If you have a look at the shop, you will find some attractive bundles of resources, especially some back-to-school bundles which are available until Sunday 26th August and which give you savings of nearly 50%.

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Survey 2018 - the results

In May 2015 I carried out a survey of languages provision in Key Stage 2 in schools in England and also examined what happened to children on their transition to Key Stage 3.  This gave a snapshot of how things were going towards the end of the first year of languages being a compulsory part of the national curriculum from age 7 to age 11.

Over the last two weeks I have carried out a virtually identical survey with a view to finding out if and how things have changed after another three academic years.

The surveys have now closed, so here are the results.

First of all, the number of respondents:

Key Stage 2 teachers
Key Stage 3 teachers

So, roughly speaking, twice as many teachers responded this time round.  Many thanks to all those who took the time to respond.  I posted the survey links on Twitter, on four different Facebook groups (Languages in Primary Schools, Secondary MFL Matters, MFL Resources and Ideas, and Primary Teachers), on the primary and MFL TES fora, the MFL Resources email group and here on my blog.  Once again, I acknowledge that the numbers of respondents represent only a very small percentage of all the schools in England.  However the findings appear to back up anecdotal evidence that can be read in the various fora and on social media.

I asked respondents to give their role in school.  For Key Stage 2:

More than half of the KS2 respondents are specialist languages teachers, either visiting (working for another company or franchise) or employed directly by the school.  This is an increase of nearly 20% based on the 2015 survey, where specialists made up 45% of the total and class teachers 35%.  It is unclear if this is because schools are employing more specialists or because fewer class teachers responded.  The numbers of TAs / HLTAs remains pretty much the same, and the percentage of visiting secondary teachers has only risen very slightly.

For Key Stage 3.  There has not been any significant change in these figures.

I also asked respondents to say in which region of England they are based:



The South East and North West provided the most respondents in each survey, a pattern which was largely followed in 2015.

Question 3 asked about the languages taught.  In both surveys it was possible for respondents to select more than one language.  It is noticeable particularly in the KS3 responses that some schools teach more than one language to Year 7 students.  

I asked which language or languages are currently taught to KS2 children in the respondents' schools:

I asked KS3 teachers which language or languages Year 7 children currently learn in their schools:

The headlines here are the German figures.  There has been a considerable amount written in the press in recent months about the drop in numbers of students taking German GCSE and the comparative rise of Spanish, with some sources even going as far as to say that Spanish is set to overtake French.  The KS3 German figure has dropped from 36% to 23.5% over the last three years, but, interestingly, KS2 German has risen from 2.5% (less than Mandarin in 2015) to 7.7% in 2018, putting it in 3rd place behind French and Spanish. 

French shows a drop of a couple of percent in KS3, while Spanish has climbed 7%.  Spanish's climb is not as great as German's fall.  French in KS2 shows a rise of only 1.5%, while Spanish has fallen 1.5%.  I find this interesting, as it seemed that more schools were switching from French to Spanish in KS2.  It is certainly the case in my local area.  Mandarin has fallen in both key stages, while Latin has increased 2.5% in KS2, and 2.7% of KS3 respondents mention it in the "Other" section.  Russian, Bengali and Urdu received twice the votes of Arabic and Hebrew in KS3.

I asked KS3 teachers if the 2018-19 Year 7s in their school will study a different language to this year's.

Most schools appear, therefore, to do the same each year.

I also asked KS2 teachers if languages are taught in KS1 in their schools. This is not statutory, but something that schools can choose to do.

These responses only differ by 1% - 1.5% to the 2015 results, and show that nearly 50% of children may arrive in Year 7 having studied a language for not just 4 years, but 5 or even 6.  Language learning for these children will be a normal part of school life, something that they have grown up with.  Is this something that KS3 teachers are aware of?

Next I wanted to find out who does the KS2 languages teaching.

Of the 117 respondents who commented in the "Other" section, 71 (nearly 25% of the total respondents) mentioned a language specialist.  If we add this to the "Visiting language specialist" figure, that gives a total of just over 63% of children who are taught by a specialist teacher.  The TA / HLTA total has risen very slightly, while the percentage of respondents who say that children are taught by their class teacher has fallen by 10%.

I also wanted to know how often children in KS2 have a language lesson.

As in 2015, the vast majority of children have one language lesson a week.  But how long are these lessons?

By far the most common, again, is a lesson of 30-60 minutes.  It can also be seen that some lessons are less than 30 minutes.  It is very unlikely that these children will be making the required progress.

I was interested to find out what training, if any, KS2 teachers have had to help them in their work.

Nearly half of respondents have attended a conference, and nearly 32% have attended meetings at their local ALL primary hub.  In 2015, Language Co-ordinators delivered training in 17% of schools.  This times it was just 6.5%.  In 2015, 7.5% of schools had welcomed external trainers, while this year it has been just 4%.  The number of teachers accessing online training remains more or less the same. There were 127 comments to this question.  58 of those comments stated that the respondent had received no training at all.  That is 19% of the total respondents.  Others spoke of finding their own CPD by reading books and engaging with social media.  A number of respondents stated that they don't need CPD as they are subject specialists or secondary trained.  Personally I wouldn't be able to cope in the primary classroom without CPD and support of some kind.  That's a subject for another blogpost.


The results of the 2015 survey were not good as far as transition is concerned.  56% of primary schools admitted to not sending languages transition information to the children's secondary schools, and secondary schools said that they did not receive information from 48% of their primary feeders.  20% of primary schools had not been able to get in touch with the secondary teachers, and 28% hadn't even tried.  17.5% of secondary departments hadn't been able to get in touch with their primary feeders to find out about language learning, and 19% hadn't even tried.

I was really hoping that the 2018 survey would show that things have changed since then.

They haven't.

I asked KS2 teachers if they send transition information to the secondary schools that their Year 6 children transfer to.

This shows that the percentage of primary schools who send transition information to the secondary schools has gone down by 2%, and the percentage of those who don't has increased by nearly 10%.  I asked secondary teachers a similar question:

33% of secondary departments receive transition information from all, most or some of their feeder primaries.  This is down from 41% in 2015.  64% of secondary MFL departments receive no transition information at all (up from 48% in 2015), and so begin each September not knowing anything about their new Year 7 students, what they have done and what they can do.  As an aside, I sent transition information about my two Year 6 classes to the four secondary schools that, between them, they will be attending.  (I know, I know, 4 is hardly any.  It's usually closer to 8.)  I have not had a reply from any of them to my email and the information that I sent.

I asked both phases about their relationship with the other.  In KS2:

As already mentioned, 34% of primary schools haven't tried to get in touch with the secondary schools, and 15% haven't even tried.  Only 16% of primary schools consider that they have a positive relationship with the secondary schools.

The question to KS3 teachers was very similar.

16% of teachers have tried and failed to get in touch with the feeders, 28.5% haven't even tried.  30% are happy with the way they are working with their feeders.

So it looks like primary schools and secondary schools are still, generally speaking, not communicating with each other in order to ensure a smooth transition between Year 6 and Year 7, and an uninterrupted 7-14 continuum of language learning.

What should children expect of their language learning when they arrive in Year 7?  I invited KS3 teachers to show the extent to which they agreed or disagreed with four different statements.

"All of our Year 7s have learned a language in KS2":

45.46% of secondary respondents agreed that their Year 7s had learned a language in KS2, while 46.97% disagreed with the statement.  In 2015 44.78% agreed and 50% disagreed.

"All of our Year 7 students continue to learn in Year 7 the language that they started in KS2":

76.14% of respondents disagreed that their Year 7 students continue to learn in KS3 the language that they learned in KS2.  Only 17.43% of respondents agreed with the statement, and these figures are very similar to the 2015 results.  The large proportion of disagreement is difficult to understand, given that the majority of students in KS2 and Year 7 learn French.

"We have adjusted our schemes of work to acknowledge and build on KS2 learning":

Only just under a third (30.31%) of respondents agree that they have adjusted the schemes of work followed by Year 7 to allow for the learning that the students have done in KS2.  In 2015, nearly 42% of respondents agreed that they had adjusted their schemes of work.  It would appear that secondary departments are considering the prior experience of their new Year 7s less than in the past.

"We disregard KS2 language learning, and all Year 7 students start their language(s) from the beginning":

In 2015, 61.47% of respondents agreed that all Year 7s started their language learning from scratch regardless of any learning that they had done in KS2.  This figure has increased, three years later, to 71.21%.  This is more evidence that secondary departments are paying even less attention than before to the language learning experience of their new Year 7 students.

This is further reinforced by the knowledge that secondary teachers apparently have of the KS2 programme of study for languages:

63.26% of teachers profess some degree of familiarity with the KS2 programme of study, with 36.74% saying they are not familiar with it at all.    In 2015 69.42% of teachers said they were familiar with the programme of study to some degree, 30.58% said they were not.  This means that more teachers than 3 years ago are not familiar with what children are required to do in KS2 in order to achieve "substantial progress in one language".  Surely knowledge of the KS2 curriculum is vital for secondary teachers?  It should be the starting point for Year 7 schemes of work, and a key bargaining chip for communication and co-operation between the phases.

So that's it, that's the responses to all the questions.  To summarise:

  • French is still the language learned by the majority of Year 7 students and KS2 students.
  • The number of students learning German has dropped in Year 7 but risen in KS2.
  • The majority of children in KS2 are taught by a specialist teacher.
  • The vast majority of children in KS2 have one language lesson a week that is between 30 and 60 minutes long.
  • Two thirds of primary schools do not send transition information to secondary schools; two thirds of secondary schools do not receive transition information from any of their feeder primaries.
  • A third of primary schools have not tried to get in touch with the secondary schools.  Just over a quarter of secondary schools have made no attempt to contact their feeder primaries.
  • Nearly three quarters of Year 7s start their language learning from scratch regardless of their KS2 learning.
It is distressing and dispiriting to see, as a primary languages and ex-secondary languages practitioner, that very little has changed with regard to the teaching of a language in KS2 and the transition to KS3.  We have heard a lot in the press, on the fora and on social media this year that, after Brexit, languages will be more important to the UK than ever before, that this year's GCSE was difficult, that students are dropping languages in KS4 in droves despite EBacc.  Surely it is in all of our best interests that we get KS2 language learning right, and that transition to KS3 is handled effectively so as to make the most of these 7 years of compulsory language learning.  

Most of us have one week of term left.  That's 5 days to reach out to your feeder primary schools to find out what their Year 6s can do and have done.  Get on the phone, or go there in your gained time!  

Primary colleagues: your Year 6 colleagues and SMT will know who to contact in the secondary schools.  They will have seen them many times over the last term.  Failing that, go online, find the email address of the school and send them the information, marked for the attention of the MFL subject leader.  It doesn't have to be a long, complicated document.  This is what I do.  All I do is paste in different children's names for each school, the content remains the same.  

Secondary colleagues: listen to what the primary schools have to say, then think very carefully about how you will manage your Year 7 scheme of work.  You may have to be a bit creative and abandon the text book for a time.  If you do have to cover some basic content, then do it in an unusual way.  Here's your chance to ditch the pencil case and get to grips with some of those more mature and meaty topics that students will love!  " We have too many feeder primaries" isn't really going to cut it anymore as an excuse.

Friday, 29 June 2018

Survey 2018

In May 2015 I carried out a survey of Key Stage 2 provision of Languages, and I also asked some questions of Key Stage 3 teachers who were involved with Year 7 teaching.

May 2015 was almost the end of the first year of compulsory Languages in KS2.  June 2018 marks the end of the fourth year, so I am embarking on another, virtually identical survey, to see if and how things have changed since 2015.

  • If you are a teacher of KS2 Languages in England, I'd be very grateful if you could complete the 11 questions on this survey 
    If you teach Languages in more than one school, please could you complete the survey once for each school.
  • If you are involved with the teaching of Languages in KS3 in a school in England, I'd be very grateful if you could complete the 9 questions on this survey.

Privacy statement: You will not have to give any personal information and email addresses will not be stored or used.

Very many thanks for contributing!  The surveys will close at 11.45pm on Friday 13th July.

Friday, 1 June 2018

Teach Primary Resource award finalist!

In September 2016 I first published this resource, Box of French: Je suis préhistorique!  It's a series of nine lessons designed for Year 3 children, which teaches greetings, colours, the concept of gender and articles via cave paintings, Stone Age tools and Iron Age jewellery.

I heard today that this resource is a finalist in this year's Teach Primary Resource awards:

Special thanks are due to Nathalie Paris, who suggested I enter some of my resources for the awards.  The winners will be announced in October.  Very exciting!

The Spanish version, Box of Spanish - ¡Soy prehistórico! is also available in my Sellfy shop.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Pointing and Flicking

The Pointing activity is something that students can do individually or in pairs. 

  • They have in front of them a copy of the Pointing sheet (for example the colours one above), and the teacher has a copy on the board.  
  • As the teacher says each word, the students touch the correct image on the sheet.  
  • First of all the teacher says the words in order, then randomly. 
  • Finally, the teacher points to the words without speaking and the students say the words.  
  • Students will be able to think of other ways that they can use the sheet to help each other to practise, for example giving each other sequences to find.
The physical act of finding and pointing to the right image makes students listen, think and focus.  A variation on the Pointing activity is the Flicking activity:

  • Students work in pairs. 
  • Each pair will need a coin or counter, a whiteboard marker and a laminated copy of the Flicking card. 
  • Students take it in turns to put their coin or counter on the black circle and push or flick it onto one of the images. 
  • If they can say the correct word for that image, they can write their initial on the square with the marker. 
  • The winner is the first student to mark his initial on all the images.  (Each image can potentially have both students' initials on.) 

A more challenging version has an extra spider and star:

If students land on the spider, they have to erase their initials on one of the squares they have already 'won'.  If they land on the star, they get another turn. 

All these resources are available here

Monday, 21 May 2018

French and Spanish Art

It's the time of year when schools are having French days or Spanish days and need things to fill them, or when teachers want an artistic activity to fill in a spare lesson here and there.  Here are the ideas previously mentioned on this blog, that may come in handy for such an occasion:

Klee letters - combining art and writing

Vision On!  - creating art out of words

Magical Miró - ideas for exploiting the images of Joan Miró

Decorative Letters - making illuminated texts

The Shape Game - creating an image out of a shape

Imprinting Verbs - creating characters to inspire writing

Moorish Mosaics - making mosaics and exploring symmetry

Gaudí's Mosaics - making mosaic suns inspired by Gaudí

Guatemala - traditional patterns and textiles

Bend it, shape it, any way you want it - using plasticine and play doh

Food flags, informative flags - creating flags out of food, words, images...

Calligrams - converting text into images

Calligrams part 2 - creating calligrams using outlines and stencils

World Cup calligrams

Letter by Letter - make personal calligrams from your initials