Activities Bag

Having just read a fab post by@valleseco I felt that I had to upload a word document that is a regular life saver for me. A friend made it a few years ago whilst we were on our PGCE and now, whenever I am stuck for an idea on how to introduce or practice language, then I pull out this ‘Activities Bag’ for some inspiration. I would love to update it, so feel free to leave a comment with your ideas.

Primary MFL

primary languages

As a trained secondary school teacher I am qualified to teach languages at primary school level, and I had the opportunity to work with a primary school class to gain some experience a few years ago whilst doing my PGCE (resources can be found here). Recently, my (independent) secondary school have, for various reasons, asked the MFL department to deliver French, German and Spanish to pupils in our accompanying primary school, so from September, the MFL staff will teach these languages to pupils from Year 3 to 6.

From a general perspective the introduction of MFL at primary level in an independent school is very interesting. Being an independent school means that we do not have to adhere to every government initiative that is regularly rolled out, however, most independent schools will follow a curriculum very similar to that of the National Curriculum and most will offer GCSEs and A Levels (or IGCSEs and the IB). Every school is different, and will have its own reasons for making the choices that they do. Where I currently teach, a language at KS4 is mandatory for most pupils, even though the national picture has changed somewhat over the last few years, and French is the first foreign language they experience (offered at primary school and then from Year 7 -13) We also offer Spanish and German from Year 8  to Year 13 and have previously been able to offer GCSE Italian and some Russian. The Dearing (Languages) Review  of 2007 encourages the teaching of a foreign language to all pupils at all levels, especially with MFL no longer being a mandatory part of the curriculum in KS4 from 2004. At the same as this change at secondary level, primary languages became an entitlement for all pupils in Key Stage 2.

“Every child should have the opportunity throughout Key Stage 2 to study a foreign language and develop their interest in the culture of other nations. They should have access to high quality teaching and learning opportunities, making use of native speakers and e-learning. By age 11 they should have the opportunity to reach a recognised level of competence on the Common European Framework and for that achievement to be recognised through a national scheme.” (page 15 of the National Languages Strategy for England) .”

Although I am in favour of this, I am aware of problems in the past when this idea has been introduced (The Nuffield Project in the 70s, for example). Teachers will argue that it requires more work, more planning and more resourcing. A lot of secondary school teachers are not used to teaching younger pupils, and often chose to train at secondary level as they prefer to work with older pupils. It could also be said that it is just one more thing to add to the mountain of work that teachers do on a day to day basis, but I can also see the advantages of MFL specialists spending a small amount of time, once a week, with a dedicated class. 

Many primary school linguists are not specialists, and this is a problem that is highlighted in research from 2000 looking into the statutory provision of MFL in the Key Stage 2 curriculum. Often, the MFL teacher is brought in from outside the school which creates difficulty in an MFL teacher getting to know the pupils well leading to issues with reporting and assessment.  

It is common practice for secondary schools with an AST in the languages department or with specialist Language College status to build up links with local secondary schools and to work directly with the languages coordinator of the primary school and pupils, thus improving the progression between the two schools from Key Stage 2 to 3. The flip side to this is that this can create further issues at Key Stage 3 with pupils coming from various feeder schools, with various levels of understanding and possibly even various languages.

In order for the teaching of languages at the primary level to be effective we must ensure cohesion between the two levels of schooling and take advantage of the specialist (primary (@lisibo) and secondary) linguists that have a high level of skill and can offer excellent provision. The KS2 curriculum must be well planned with a clear focus if it is to have any impact at all, and for pupils to be encouraged and stimulated by the learning of a foreign language.


23 Ways to use Wordle in the MFL Classroom

Wordle: CV

And this is what my CV came out with in Wordle. 🙂 Click on it to enlarge.

I have spent the evening thinking quite a bit about this wonderful word cloud tool, and I want to implement it’s use in the classroom now that I will have some more planning time available as exam classes stand down. I have googled the topic of word clouds in education and came across many interesting sites and blogs. A very interesting document was this which I found after tweeting the word ‘Wordle’ – 32 interesting ways to use Wordle. Below I have written a few ideas of how we can use Wordle in the MFL classroom:

  1. Use to introduce a topic – encourage pupils to guess what they will be learning about (works for all levels).
  2. If you have an idea of what level of writing pupils want to be at by the end of a topic, you could use an example text in a word cloud as an introduction to the topic, but linking it back to the end activity or referring back to it as the lessons progress.
  3. Use to analyse the content and gist a longer written text, especially with exam or higher level groups
  4. To practise speed reading techniques for gist
  5. To introduce new vocabulary
  6. To memorise new vocabulary/vocabulary lists
  7. To encourage pupils to make sentences from the vocabulary learnt, using the word cloud as a visual prompt
  8. Revision of key topics and vocabulary – pupils can create their own or can be given them
  9. Comparing two texts at different levels (eg. Foundation & Higher) and discussing how the lower level one can be adapted to match the higher level
  10. To teach pupils how to do a presentation without reading from a sheet and just using prompts (useful for oral exams)
  11. Copy the RSS feed of a foreign news website and see what current affairs are (this idea came to me as there have been various tweets flying around regarding following FL newspapers on Twitter as a teaching tool)
  12. Encouraging creative writing from a selection of key words from a word cloud
  13. A way of noting down bullet points, but not in bullet point form eg. when commenting on pupils’ work
  14. Self-reflection on work – as Wordle makes a word larger the more frequently it is used, pupils will be able to see at a glance which words or phrases they are over-using. This would encourage variety in their work (‘range’ being a regular requirement in exams)
  15. Display posters on languages (eg most spoken) or commonly used phrases in the target language classroom or class rules/expectations
  16. Cross-curricular – literacy (words) and numeracy(frequency)
  17. See results of class survey visually
  18. Choose which words are relevant for a writing task eg. formal vs informal letter writing
  19. Prompt for word games eg. taboo, charades etc
  20. As Wordle doesn’t include many smaller words such as prepositions this could be a good way of practising them eg.input sentences that focus on prepositions, such as “the table is next to the door”. Pupils then have to construct the correct sentence as the only words the word cloud will show will be the key nouns (and any other words you wish to remove you can by clicking on them).
  21. Input target language vocabulary and English words – pupils match the vocabulary
  22. Input vocabulary and screen capture the word cloud, copy into a PowerPoint or FlipChart page. Then add images for another vocabulary game or exercise or just to add variety to text only
  23. Collate individual’s responses to questions (this could be linked to the ActivExpressions handsets that I am trialing at school)

Click on the image below to englarge it:Wordle: languages are cool

Update: 23rd November 2009

Here is a nifty trick to include phrases in your Wordle: just use ~ between each word and it will link them together when the Wordle is created. Read a blog post here on it that was passed on to my by @joedale.