Wednesday, 27 July 2011

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.

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