Angela McLachlan, author of Teaching Primary French and Teaching Primary Spanish in the Bloomsbury Curriculum Basics series with Amanda Barton, explains how these new titles can reassure and encourage anyone to get started with primary languages:
We were really excited when we heard about the new Bloomsbury Curriculum Basics series about a year ago, and were keen to create something for languages that new or more established teachers with little or no experience of teaching languages, and whose language skills are rusty, could use to make a strong start in the classroom. French and Spanish are the mostly commonly taught languages in primary schools at the moment, so we started there.
One of the challenges when writing a practical, ‘hands-on’ primary languages book is the absence of a National Programme of Study that addresses learning across individual year groups in the 7-11 age range. In other curriculum areas, very specific concepts and content are outlined in detail for each year group, so that teachers can plan and map progress in learning from the very beginning of that age range, all the way through to the point where children leave primary school and embark on their journey through secondary education. One implication of this is that there can be very wide diversity in the kinds of programmes of language-learning that children receive, particularly in England. So we thought about the kinds of language, lessons and activities we’ve taught or seen that primary children most engaged with, and were able to use regularly throughout the school day and across the school year. We finally decided on 12 initial areas of learning, with a single chapter focusing on each area of learning, but ensuring that progression in learning was embedded across the chapters, with clear links between them.
Each chapter is based around three sequenced lessons that centre around a given area of learning, and each addresses specific aspects of the Programme of Study for Languages in England. That said, these areas of learning are relevant for primary classrooms pretty much anywhere, so teachers working in other parts of the UK or beyond will find the lessons just as relevant. Although each lesson is structured around a very basic 30-minute framework, we’ve suggested ways teachers can extend the learning, and make it more appropriate for the particular year group they are working with. There are lots of ideas for how to align learning with other curriculum areas, too.
For those who do not specialise in teaching languages, a crucial element for us was to be very specific about both the language the practitioner needs to make the most of the lessons, as well as the core language that pupils are to engage with and hopefully learn. We’ve also given guidance on how words are pronounced, and it’s a good idea tosupplement this with hearing the words themselves. You’ll find that many words in the online dictionary www.wordreference.com also come with an audio file, which is enormously useful for pronunciation practice – and within the chapters themselves, we’ve suggested a range of websites and online resources that include audio content.
Beginning to develop an understanding and appreciation of the countries and cultures in which French and Spanish are spoken is an integral part of developing competence in, and love for, the languages themselves. Chapters one and two offer lots of facts about languages in general, and French/Spanish in particular; we’ve chosen ‘fascinating facts’ that we’ve had great success with ourselves in the past, with children really keen to talk about their ‘favourite fascinating fact’, and to continue their exploration to discover more.
There are several resources available online to get you started with your lessons; other resources we suggest for each lesson can be prepared quickly and easily, with step-by-step instructions for how they might work best.
We’re looking forward to seeing the books in print, and hope that they go some way to reassuring and encouraging non-language specialists to get started with primary languages!
The Bloomsbury Curriculum Series: