Saturday, 30 July 2011

Language World 2011 Plenary-Language learning – why bother?

A panel of guests from the worlds of academia, business, politics and the media debated the pros and cons of language learning in the UK in the 21st century. The discussion, which lasted an hour, quickly went into arguing whether languages were a necessity or somewhat of a luxury. The dreaded question of whether languages should be made compulsory was also discussed.

I found the discussion stimulating due to the range of backgrounds represented by the panel and although I did not personally agree with some of the comments, I found them at least thought-provoking.

The panel included:

Professor David Crystal, an eminent linguist and author, also patron of the Association for Language Learning, and president of the UK National Literacy Association.

Richard Hardie, from the Swiss bank UBS and also Chair of the Hackney Learning Trust. He read History and French at university, before pursuing a career in business and corporate finance. He is now Non-Executive Vice Chair of UBS Ltd in London, which is part of the UBS Group, the world’s largest financial asset manager. 

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon , Shadow Leader of the House of Lords, Leader of the House of Lords 2008-10 and a languages graduate, who has supported languages on a number of occasions in the Lords. She was spokesperson for Education in 2010 and takes a special interest in foreign policy and development.

Professor John White, an educational philosopher from the Institute of Education in London. His research field is the mind of the learner and the relationship between educational aims and their applications to school curricula. His published work includes 'What schools are for and why’, and ‘Rethinking the School Curriculum: Values, Aims and Purposes’. 

The discussion was very aptly chaired by Rosie Goldsmith, a journalist specialising in arts and international affairs. During her 20 year career at the BBC, she covered events such as the fall of the Berlin Wall and the revolutions in Eastern Europe and also presented BBC Radio shows like 'Front Row' and 'Crossing Continents'. She is now a media consultant and a proud of champion European languages and literature.   

These are the following points made by the different members of the panel:

Baroness Royall:

“Those who know nothing of a foreign language know nothing of their own” Goethe

Oracy and literacy in English are supported by the study of a foreign language.

Languages are a tool for acquiring knowledge, enriching Intercultural Understanding and boosting the competitiveness of the UK economy.

Languages boost individual employability-they are always considered as an asset by employers.

All children should have the same opportunities to access languages whether their schools are in the state or the private sector.

Everybody speaks English? This is contradicted by the need for more professional linguists like translators and interpreters.

There is a worrying disparity between the language provision offered to children in the public and the private sector that can only be put right via compulsion.

It is a positive fact that the Ebac includes a language.

The previous government did a lot for Primary Languages [Where are we now?]

We need to lobby-our place in the world has changed.

Continuous process

Richard Hardie:

Professional lives are undoubtedly coloured and enhanced by the study of languages.

Graduate with working knowledge of languages are highly valued-it is a sign of effort and dedication to studies.

There is a shortage of bilingual Brits.

Well-taught graduates will have a good command of grammar, technical vocabulary can then be added later.

Involvement in the Speak to the Future campaign, promoting cross-phase languages.

The best communicators speak languages-there may also be a link with private schools but nobody is sure which way around it actually works.

Social exchanges in business are supported by good language skills.

There has been a delay in the UK in realising that selling was affected by a lack of languages skills.

Only 5% of EU jobs are taken by UK citizens

Prof John White:

Should every child learn a language?

The argument that it helps with jobs is not convincing.

There is also a cultural argument-is it a worthy aim good to understand the nuances but not something that cannot be done without?

Learning a language helps to understand how languages work.

“Students might not want to work abroad” [This is often mentioned by students who think that knowing a language is not useful in the UK and it is denying the personal benefits of studying a languages!]

Prof David Crystal

Multilinguism is the norm. It is natural, 50% of the world population is trilingual.

Chomsky describes the Multilingual Acquisition Device we are all born with.

Languages are essential to support the understanding of a multicultural society.

Sense of identity is strongly linked with languages-another language is important to understand somebody else’s appreciation and viewpoints.

“Teenagers are disaffected- that’s what they are for!!-learning another personality is not best done during teenage years.

Languages are essential to being a good citizen in a multi-ethnic society.

Rosie Goldsmith

Champion of languages?

Arsen Wenger, Rory Bremner… scientists , people who are not necessarily linguists.

CBI and DFE declined to attend the conference

A Language Prize to recognise achievement in languages -like achievement in other academic areas- would support the view that languages are important.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Language World 2011: Modern Languages-Achievement and Challenge 2007-2010 OFSTED Report

This session presented the latest evidence from OFSTED. The full report and report summary are available from here.

Inspection focus:

  • Achievement
  • Teaching
  • Curriculum
  • Leadership & Management
Special issues:

  • Reading

  • ICT

  • Take-up at KS4

  • Progress towards entitlement at KS2
Additional evidence:

FE and SFC inspections 2009-10

Survey of good practice in colleges 2008-9

Phone survey of primaries found not to teach languages in previous inspections

Core outcomes:

Primary-positive general picture

Good or Outstanding in 6 out of 10 schools visited;

High variance skills development-focus on Speaking and Listening;

Knowledge About the Language (KAL)-concept of gender and adjectival agreement put into practice with some confidence;

Intercultural Understanding (IU)-good in most schools;

Primary schools can adopt very creative approaches to develop Intercultural Understanding: they use the internet, skype, dvd and try to get the local communities involved;

A bigger picture of Intercultural Understanding is developed through trips, visits and topics;

Foreign Language Assistants, Trainees from other countries also support the development of language learning.

Out of the 235 lessons observed in primaries, 2/3 were Good or Outstanding.

Languages are reinforced through a drip-feed technique;

Subject knowledge is mostly good although there are still some issues with pronunciation and intonations.

Good support by language specialists: FLAs and other native speakers.

Assessment is satisfactory but emerging evidence show assessment as the weakest area.

Curriculum: model of external language specialist is effective when teacher stays with the language specialist during the lessons.

Schemes used tended to be commercial ones-there can be issues with planning for mixed classes or planning and adapting the commercial resources for the actual curriculum time taught.

The Leadership and Management of PMFL at Primary is usually assumed by a language co-ordinator or the Headteacher themselves.

The rationale for choosing a language is sustainability as a priority.

Transition arrangements to secondary schools are still under-developed.

There can be weaknesses in the monitoring and evaluation of provision especially when senior staff did not feel competent to judge language provision.

More trainees have some language background but Local Authorities are not providing as much support as they did in the past, with many Las not having Languages Consultants any more.
Secondary: KS3 and KS4

Overall the provision for 6 out 10 schools was deemed Good or better.

Students' progress was Good or Outstanding in over half the schools visited.

Listening was found to be impeded by a lack of target language use in class.

Writing was good but could be over-reliant on model practice.

Speaking can be a concern when there were too few opportunities to use the language routinely & spontaneously.

The explicit teaching of language learning strategies has had a positive impact.

Effective pair and group work is key to students’ skills development.

Pace and challenge are essential to keep students on track.

Activities to monitor class progress throughout the lesson are successful in re-focusing students (mini-plenaries)

Exemplification of good practice in the report

Secondary schools are trying to link with primary schools to check about content taught (not achievement levels).

Strong leadership-innovation, use of local networks, effective liaison with primaries and post 16.

There can be inconsistencies in practice, insufficient monitoring, lack of clear policies and priorities for language learning.

Variable access to CPD can be an issue in some schools.

International staff development to be extended-TIPED e.g. research immersion teaching in Canada

Post 16

Progression rate to A level is lower than in other optional subjects (uptake issues).

The challenges:


There is a need to develop students’ early skills in reading and writing;

Clarification of progression through KS2.

Regular use of the Target Language in the classroom;

More use of authentic materials to develop language skills and motivation;

More planning need to be done to ensure smooth transition from KS2;

Increasing the uptake of languages at KS4 is still an issue in the vast majority of schools where languages are not compulsory;
Ensuring that KS4 prepares for KS5 more effectively.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Language World 2011: Making the Languages Department the Most Popular in the School, Eva Lamb

Eva shared some of the secrets that led the Languages Department at her school, King Edward VII School in Sheffield, to be central to all school developments:

Faculty and whole-school systems:

Good systems for monitoring and evaluation

Strong development planning

Importance of ethos

Real commitment from the leadership team: option choices discussed individually and every student is interviewed

The strategy is that to opt out of languages, students need to be interviewed by the Headteacher with their parents. Students do not opt in, they are expected to study languages unless they are willing to explain why they should not.

What can we do as a department/Faculty:

Providing a stimulating learning experience at KS3

Offer courses that cater for different interests, needs and encourage participation

Raise the profile by taking part in a wide range of activities

School management will be convinced by “The Vision”: how does the Faculty’s vision support the ethos of the school?

Taking an active part in developing the International dimension across the curriculum

Promote a prestigious image

Languages as a way to promote Social inclusion: class and gender

Languages support the development of Citizenship

Languages contribute to employability, indirectly by the qualities and attributes developed by language learners and directly by offering students opportunities to work abroad and within international organisations.

The Action at Faculty level consists of monitoring the uptake within the option blocks, offering new courses, proving and/or supporting career guidance, providing students incentives like visits and enrichment activities.

Counteract negative comments

Use “Engrish websites” like this one to show that not everybody speaks English as we know it. “What they are trying to say does not come across as what you hear” and you only know that if you speak another language…

Join up with the coolest departments in school and get the coolest teachers to promote languages.

Remember that Languages are a medium so we can join up with any subjects…

A Visit programme can be a strong incentive for non-specialists to support languages, with cross-curricular links being developed.

Comenius project are a great opportunity to develop cross-curricular links. E.g. graphic design as a political tool (historical/ propaganda posters)

Languages can help raise achievement in other subjects too through CLIL.

Parents should be kept informed and involved as much as possible e.g. judging competition

To finish with, Eva showed us the “Football, the Universal Language” video. Inspirational!

Language World 2011: Handing Over! LinkedUp Project, Claire Dodd and Sue Balmer

This year, Language World showcased many of the wonderful projects set up for the Linked Up Award scheme. LinkedUp is now over but its legacy lives on with 100+ projects freely accessible with all their resources from the LinkedUp website.

Claire Dodd and Sue Balmer, from Gosforth Academy, presented the context of the project with a pyramid structure of 8 primaries, 3 middle schools and 1 high school.

The aim of the Handing Over! project was to motivate Primary School teachers with very little or no knowledge of Italian or German, to improve their linguistic skills and understanding of language learning to be able to deliver their chosen language to their pupils in an integrated programme of study.

There was a need for a consistent teaching approach so that all pupils in Years 3 and 4 would enjoy high quality language provision. Collaboration between teachers helped ensuring this by identifying and sharing resources and pedagogical approaches to develop language skills but teachers were at first very doubtful of their ability to deliver the language lessons themselves.

In each of the 8 “First Schools” in the Gosforth Pyramid, staff chose to focus on Italian or German and a Lead Teacher was nominated as the main contact in each school. The first joint planning session included a practical introduction to an online workspace set up for all to use (posterous). Although not all contributed to the blog and it was difficult to get teachers to contribute, the resources shared on the blog were widely used.

Teachers used the QCA Key Stage Two schemes of work as the basis for their planning, sharing ideas for additional “fun” and cultural activities. Teachers agreed weekly lesson plans to be modeled by the Project Leader. They shared ideas and resources to be able to carry on with some aspects of the lesson during the week and to maximise exposure to the target language.

Primary teachers also consolidated their linguistic skills through their participation in the pupils’ lessons. Active lessons really helped them to improve their pronunciation, cultural knowledge and general confidence. On the other hand, the use of shared resources and access to commercially-produced language CDs, songs, stories and web sites also helped building their confidence as they realised that all resourced did not have to be produced from scratch.

Primary teachers then moved on to identify opportunities for using basic target language at regular times during the school week so that their pupils could experience the use of language for real purpose.

Teachers used their expertise in Key Stage 2 pedagogy to enrich pupils’ experiences of language and culture. They chose to develop CLIL with Art as it was one of their areas of interest. There were also unexpected developments as more staff, including teaching assistants, wanted to take part. Free evening classes in Italian and German led by foreign language assistants have now been set up to continue with the project. The direct involvement of the teachers in the language learning was noted by OFSTED as, far from a case of “Spanish and Vanish”, there was clear evidence of linguistic consolidation integrated in the school’s routines throughout the week.

Last but not least, the 12 teachers who took part in the project went to Bologna on a course at half term to develop their language skills. It was a course for beginners but included a lot of cultural aspects.

More details about “Handing Over!” and all the resources produced for the project can be downloaded from here.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Language World 2011: Cross-Curricular Contexts for Learning and Authentic Resources, Martine Pillette

This workshop aimed to demonstrate how cross-curricular contexts and authentic resources can be used throughout the year to motivate and give students a more meaningful linguistic experience in the classroom.

The resources can be used as a visual/ aural stimulus: the activities simplify the language and support students’ understanding. Using “raw” materials also helps students to develop their capability and confidence in listening and reading.

The range of styles of activities was quite wide and included:

Film trailer like the “Bonobos” trailers from allo cine, a fantastic site with lots of trailers and articles about films in French and other languages. 


Start with the resource, play the trailer again and students try to match print to sound.

Students read and when you stop, students say the next word

Students put their hand up when you read something different from the text

Listening must not be presented as a test

Aux arbres citoyens video (dailymotion)

Card activity –re-order the sentences to follow the order of what happens in the video clip

Support grid with key structures to mix and match

Find the corresponding French word in the lyrics

Use authentic resources to present real issues: e.g. Quinoa - basic food from Colombia now turned into a luxury item –prices go up, impact on poor people in Colombia.

Look at cognates, themes, titles

Regarde, ecoute, lève la main si c’est different

Does it mention these facts?

Discard the odd one out and sequence the paraphrased sentences in the correct order

Gap fill in English about a text in the Target Language

Some of these activities can be used with Y7 students as transition resources in order to re-visit some of the language taught in primary in a different and more linguistically challenging context.

Crossword with sound and gapped phrases as a clue

Listening activity to self-check

This is a fantastic starting point for anybody aiming to use authentic resources regularly in the classroom and I intend to use this post as a reminder of some of the generic activities that can be developed.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Language World 2011: Using the National Curriculum Exemplification of Standards Files to support effective assessment in Modern Languages, Lesley Hagger-Vaughan

I found this session useful to consider different uses of the standards files as a tool box for language teachers, particularly when thinking about next steps for students and for training and development purposes.

Assessment is at the heart of the curriculum and part and parcel of Learning and Teaching, it does not need to be all formal assessment but it needs to be reliable. There is also a need for Senior Management Teams in schools to understand the specific nature of assessment in Languages so that it is not viewed as a barrier to accessing our subject.

The exemplification for foundation subjects follows the APP principles (curriculum 2008)
The Standard File Project involved a number of schools to provide examples of standards through collecting  pieces of work across all 4 skills (Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing), with the overall profile exemplifying where evidence could be collected from.

Key aspects of assessment are integral to Learning and Teaching, evidence is gathered as it occurs in the classroom and it is a response to students’ needs.
The issue is sometimes to get evidence across all 4 skills, particularly when the time allocated to the study of languages is very limited.

Some work also needs to be done on sharing the files with SLTs and parents to get them to understand how young people progress in languages.
There is a need for the judgement to be reliable and it is advisable to link it to national standards and expectations to give it that clout.

The student file contains a student profile. There are also some details about the context, audio files, examples of work and teacher comment. The comments are clustered by skills: Listening and Speaking, Reading and Writing, Intercultural Understanding and there is also a note about what the teacher thought the student needed to do to progress.

Peer and self-assessment is featured quite heavily in the different assessment strategies and the whole ability range was covered with Levels 1 and 2 being exemplified with work done in Special Schools, although this does not cover all languages.

The use of FLIP video cameras was mentioned as a good way to collect speaking evidence and there are also some commonalities with English developing speaking and listening across the school (check materials)

Progression and move to independence is more important than overall language level as it will make what students learn more future-proof and allow them to develop further as linguists. However, there can be strong conflicts of interest in schools that do not have a sixth form, for instance, as they may not have such a long-term view and interest in developing students’ language learning skills.

The New OFSTED framework being currently piloted puts the emphasis on students engaging in discussions about their own work, which will be made easier by widespread use of Assessment for Learning in the classroom.

The question remains for many Faculties and Departments: How do you make this manageable?
I feel that sharing the files could help many to agree on departmental strategies to do just that.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

LinkedUp and Show and Tell Conference, Shrigley Hall, Macclesfied, 1-2 July 2011

Picture courtesy of Esther Mercier

I had a very enjoyable half-weekend at Shrigley Hall in Cheshire, talking to 25 teachers from the North West about their LinkedUp languages projects and sharing ideas and resources.
The conference was hosted by Network into Languages North West as a follow-up LinkedUp dissemination event and it was a real privilege to be able to meet in such lovely surroundings and to spend quality professional time in such great company.
There are currently 5 LinkedUp projects displayed on the LinkedUp webpage, 3 of them were represented at the conference.
The first presentation about the “Liaison into Languages” project also led to a discussion about SOLO taxonomy and referred back to the “Hooked on Thinking” website showcasing good thinking skills development practice.

I started with a short introduction. I had also some ideas to share just in case but I only shared the first one in the end: Join MFL resources!
Linked up conference july2011

As my randomizer failed due to a very unreliable internet link, I proceeded by asking for volunteers.  
Here are a few related links:

Stuart Gorse reminded us of Hugo’s daily routine-great for revision of this topic
Gorseville channel: short animated clips in French and Spanish great to introduce a range of topics.
Neil Phillipson showed us how QR codes could be used to replace expensive voting systems-despite some very adverse ICT conditions.  
For more ideas look at Tom Barett’s google document here
Get interactive! Esther Mercier shares her tools

And some students work done on Glogster

Michelle Cairns shared an idea for a differentiated task
Je voudrais writing differentiated
View more documents from Isabelle Jones
Gary Stroker, Head of Languages at Mossley Hollins, shared how his students are being encouraged to sponsor a child abroad.
This project is managed by the children who need to do some fundraising to send the child to school and support their local community. They have the opportunity to become “world Vision” ambassadors. It is also a great way to make the target  language more real and get the students to find out more about the country the child is from.   

Dominic McGladdery shared 10 ideas in, well, a bit more than 3 minutes but as they were all very good nobody minded!
Diane  Shakeshaft shared a Thinking Skill activity she did adapting an activity from MFL Sunderland.
Isabelle Arnett talked about a KS2/KS3 transition project based on the story of “L’anniversaire de la tortue”. Students made their own puppets and performed the play. Flip camera is used at the end for peer assessment.

To memorise paradigms, we were made to chant verbs waiting for a member of the group to give us a “signal” of their choice to allow us to move on. A “policeman”, chosen member of the group sporting a policeman hat then had to guess who was giving the signal.
Diannah Miller presented us the opportunities offered by etwinnings and the etwinnings website-a private space that can be used to exchange digital materials with partner schools e.g. project on the weather-daily videos sent about the weather of the day.

Alison Smith prepared 3 items for the Show and Tell: a photo game and  two really interesting short presentations on Creativity and Business & Enterprise. 

Alison took a photo of each of the pupils in her class and printed them off with a thick white border to look like a Polaroid. She then laminated them so they can be written on again and again with marker pens. Several games can be played with them:

* Find your partner: write down a key word from the lesson and a move round the room asking the same question until you find someone with the same answer (Example: "Qu'est-ce qu'il y a dans ton sac?" "J'ai un stylo" "J'ai un cahier" "J'ai une gomme" "Ah, moi aussi".
* Find your gang: as above, but you are trying to find as many people as possible with the same answer as you. A merit/point/sweet can be given for everyone in the biggest gang.
* Plenary: write the longest sentence you can (on the back of the photo) using language from today's lesson - get your partner to mark it. Prize for the longest sentence/most creative one.
* Starter: Put 6 of the plenary answers from last time on the board, ask the pupils to guess who wrote them. You can reveal the answer by turning the photo around to reveal the face.
* Categorise: put all the answers on the board and ask the pupils to assign them categories. There is no right or wrong answer, but some pupils will be more adventuous with their choice of categories. You could also arrange them in to an "odd one out" game.

If you attended and you have ideas or materials you did not have time to share or if I have missed your idea or resources, please email-me and I will add what you send me-description of activity, worksheets, resources, links-to this blog post for all to enjoy.

Again, thanks a lot for such a professionally reinvigorating "half weekend"...

ALL London Conference, 11th June 2011

As always, it was a pleasure to see some old and new friends and listen to Rachel Hawkes and Neil Jones, the two main speakers.

Rachel started by looking at questions: 20 questions like  have you/do you like/how/where/is...?
Students need to know how to make up questions in the Target Language, however, this need seems a lot less urgent now that English is used for testing students’ knowledge at GCSE. So, in a way starting off answers has taken precedence. I have pointed out to my students that understanding how questions are made helps you to remember how to start off answers, so it is still well worth practising anyway. Short-termism is not the best way forward if we want students to develop the skills needed to take their languages further.

Question can be used as starters e.g. Tienes?
Piensas que...? can be used in prediction games as well e.g. Do you think my favourite colour is blue?

What are the questions?
Question starters are included in Schemes of Work and themed  e.g food
12 squares answers are displayed and you can see in brackets the number of possible questions
Each questions reveal part of a photo. All anwers/ questions to do with school. The picture in that case was a picture of the teacher's first day at school.

Find someone who..
Va tres bien/ a son Anniversaire en Novembre/a une soeur/ aime l'hiver/peut écrire le mot « father » en français

Say something else-different ways to say similar things
Pimp my sentence! 5-6 mins add to the sentence
Have I got news for you-guess what could be missing in the headline  
Spend the words:  include star structures in speech pair work with a partner ticking off the star

“Impure CLIL” – borrowing content from other subject challenging texts, intense Target Language use in class but no direct teaching through the medium of the Target Language by non-specialists.

Miro painting: Art Link with Spanish-descriptive language, cultural awareness and personal details.
Spelling bee: motivating students to improve their vocabulary and taker regular practice.

El Agua Module y9
BBC clips online
Videos about children in Spanish-Speaking Western Sahara-good for comparisons considering overlaps & differences
Categorise adjectives about water-thinking skills
Haiku 5-7-5 Very easy poem form as it does not have to rhyme. It is also good to focus on the phonic aspect of the target language

El pan
BBC videos-How to make empanadas / Cornish pasties: compare similarities and differences.
Bocadillos: write down everything that could go in a sandwich
Favourite sandwiches in both countries
Compare holidays and festivals e.g. 1st and 2nd November with Guy Fawkes’ day
Aim to include Present tense/ past/ conditional

Y9 media modules
El Misterio del Pez (claymation with or without subtitles)
looking at infinitives

One of Neil Jones’ main areas of interest is intercultural  understanding
e.g. Los colores del mundo-different colours for taxis, post boxes, phone boxes, buses, police cars...

Statistics on holidays/ compare with Britain
Where do British people spend their hols?
Venns diagram for cultural comparisons
animals from South America
Guinea pigs in Peru and Le lapin in France: meat or pets?
Barro o paso la aspiradora-carpets/ tiles inside houses
Stereotypes: handball, cricket, cazar, tapear
List with statements and students have to guess if it refers to England or Spain

Who is this about?
Daniel Retuerta -El Internado ( tv series)
Cut up reading activities-fill in form about it
Time: use new year custom in Spain
Family: royal family and their many houses
Física o Quimica (tv program)
Personal ID, character, physical description, family, free time...
Rutina de Michelito (Mexico)/ South of France (bull fighting)
Paradores- description of a parador ( exclusive)
The ice hotel
Use Trip adviser for reading- hotel reviews in French and Spanish

You tube/ moviemaker to introduce advert
Pepsi advert in Spanish (Torres)
Respond with tick sheet
Defi Sante / Panama you tube on healthy living
El deporte en el mundo Hispano- hablante
Pelota vasca
Description being revealed
Pok a tok
Origin of tenis
The Incas
AVE advert
Looking at a town over a decade- description,using imperfect and preterite
Comparison- before and after the Olympics
Burkina Faso-explain what different places are.

Clothes- worn for the San Fermin festival
Use movie maker to cut YouTube clips.
For and against: about a festival.
French surname

Diversity of communities in Spain-Ceuta y Melilla
Gitanos, judios ...

Medio ambiente
Los pimpollos
Guggenheim Museum-virtual tour
Teach them how to make a English cultural ref eg explain what Eastenders is.
Shorts: El Misterio del pez

Character/personality => adjectives, exploring the theme
Description of characters
Act out scenes for before/ will happen after
Guess the end
Free time link
Medio ambiente link
Daily routine/imperfect
Turn sound off