Thursday, 26 June 2014

Year 9 pupils teach Year 6 pupils in the TL!

Yesterday was great.  A day to feel really proud. This year we have run our own voluntary 'Language Leaders' course for Year 9 pupils, based on Rachel Hawkes' language leaders course, which you can find here.  Pupils have come once a week, at lunch time, with their lunch and have learnt how to set context, present language, drill language, set up pairwork - all in TL.  Our aim was to get them to help out in our annual Year 6 taster day.  26 Year 9 pupils successfully managed to teach 24 Year 6 pupils in French and German, all about clothes, colours and opinions and it all culminated in a French and German fashion show.  Throughout the day, our Year 9s taught language in chunks, in small groups.  They taught from their own plans that they had written and used activities that they had devised, based on ones they had learnt from us.  The pace was a little slow, but there was a languages teacher in the room to move them on, if needed.

The result - the Year 9s loved it, the Year 6s loved it and the languages teachers were nowhere near as worn out as they normally are after one of these extremely intense days.  The most impressive thing is, that they managed to deliver the lessons IN THE TARGET LANGUAGE!

If they can do it, all of us can!

Please get in touch if you want more info about how we went about it.  Thanks to Rachel Hawkes for inspiring us to do this in the first place.  Roll on next year!

Wednesday, 18 June 2014


I am a German teacher with some French and therefore I am not as confident with using the TL in French.  However I have the luxury at the moment of observing my colleague and Head of French, teaching my class, so I can train myself up in useful classroom phrases.  If any of you get the opportunity to do this, even if you are quite happy with the standard of your TL, please do.  It is such a fulfilling experience.  I have gained so much in terms of TL phrases and also confidence, that I am happily using all I have picked up with other French classes and it is making it much easier for me to keep my lessons almost entirely in French.

The trick is to find some really simple phrases and to use them consistently.  I find that less is more and often, rather than barking long winded commands at my classes, I prefer to use short phrases and sometimes single words and gestures;


'On pose les stylos'  or simply 'stylos' and gesture for it to be put down
'C'est quoi, la date?' or simply 'la date?' and gesture writing it on the board
'Ouvrez les cahiers' or simply 'les cahiers' and gesture opening a book

If you have good routines and if you are consistent, your learners will quickly catch on.

More on routines later!
Signing off!


Back again!  Just came across these photos I took of my classroom a couple of years ago.  They show classroom language displays for pupils to use to communicate with me and each other.  I have taken them down now, in favour of the language mat (See previous post - Prep), but for those of you wanting to put displays up and who are not sure of what to include or how to set it up, they might be useful:

I also don't have the seats set out like this.  I have changed the layout to rows again, so that everyone is facing the front (avoiding too much chatter).

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Before I start!!

Obviously, this is not the start of my project, given that it is June, it is hot and sticky and we are almost at the end of a year.  I just wanted to mention a few things before I got the ball rolling.  The aim of teaching a foreign language is ultimately to get your learners to communicate in it.  Therefore, it makes sense to lead by example, doesn't it?  I find it a little weird teaching in language sandwiches - English, German, English; like it isn't real.  Your learners need to see that it is a real tool for really using in real situations.  Your classroom is a mini Germany, France, Spain etc.  Everything that happens inside it should be, for the most part, conducted in the language of the lesson.  Teachers that enter should be trained to speak only in that language when they enter, or at least try!  Learners love to see other adults having to abide by the same rules they do and are very impressed when Mr Blahblah shows them he can 'get by' in German etc.

There are of course things you can do to help this communication happen.  Your walls and noticeboards are a brilliant place to display useful language, or if you are short of space, why not provide 'language mats' to give your learners the vocab they might need to say various important things, such as 'Can I go to the toilet?'

 They will not need all of the language on there to begin with, but they can start to make connections and maybe surprise you by coming out with something else from the mat that they have worked out themselves!  Do not underestimate the power of teampoints and prizes, or indeed, praise.  Learners like to win, so use that to your advantage.

The main thing is that you start off small and build up, so routines such as taking the register, handing books out and keeping score become a language opportunity.  Then you can build it up to asking for points and giving reasons why they should have those points etc.  Before you know it you have got complex 3 or 4 clause sentences, just as a result of the 'incidental' language.

You have to put to one side your thoughts about not having time to fit in the content language and understand that THIS IS the content language that they need.  The structures and phrases you teach them to communicate with in lessons are the structures and phrases that they can use for a variety of 'topics' if you are clever about it and choose wisely.

Finally, what if they don't understand you and switch off?  This won't happen if you use cognates and simple language to begin with.  There is always a way to make yourself understood, including gestures and mimes; anyway, isn't this what we do when we travel to other places - we make ourselves understood!  Your learners will feel great when they make themselves understood in your lesson too!