Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Seeing progress in action!

I want to call this blog post - "you can always learn more!"

It's a post about progress and observations in the primary classroom from a school visit yesterday.

I am certain that many  of you who read this do achieve similar success in classes across the country.I think it's so important to create a written record of your successes to help others.
Firstly the record can celebrate what is taking place. 
Secondly it's a tool by which to share practitioners and learners progress.
Thirdly it is hopefully a fair record of what school are achieving across year groups and across the school academic year in primary language learning.

A little bit of background knowledge to set the scene
If you have followed my blog posts you probably already know that I work alongside a group of really committed and enthusiastic teachers and that we work every academic week of the school year in 37 schools to support the delivery of French ,Spanish and German. Part of my role is to guide and support the teachers and the schools as the project in their individual settings develops.

Yesterday was one of those wonderful days when I went in to a school, to observe a practitioner delivering language learning and to support the school to see how best to support staff and children with their language learning.
Below is an honest account of what was observed - simple language learning content and context that became one of those rare magical moments !Less about the teacher and more about the progress of the language learners

Ana is one of our Spanish native speaker QTS practitioners. She has worked alongside me now for four years and has worked in this specific school for just over two years. Her relationship with children,staff and SLT is excellent. Ana works with a core programme of learning across KS1 and KS2 and is happy to change or adapt learning to suit school needs and special events.
The core programme is in line with the network JLN SOW ,which means staff and especially the language coordinator can access the core language,activities and  resources and develop simple assessment opportunities with Ana.Ana has provided sound files for our SOW ,which help staff to listen again to those core words and structures too. Ana shares medium term planning for all year groups from YR to Y6 with the coordinator and staff.......

............but didn't I say you can always learn more ? !

Yesterday the observations made,were about the balance of the four skills in accordance with the new DfE POS and also about what progress young learners in the school are really making.
The Head and I observed two lessons.In both lessons the class teachers and TAs are always present and encouraged to participate.The school is still working toward what this participation will eventually look like and how the school, Ana and the staff can support different groups of learners.It's a case of positive SLT supported and staff implemented "work in progress".Spanish is now becoming an integral part of the learning curriculum across KS1 and KS2.

A lesson of two halves with Year 4!

Now here is an interesting thing! 
With Y4/5 mixed age class Ana was looking at the family and creating descriptions using familiar language of a new family- our alien family. She was concentrating also on our New Year's resolution to encourage children to apply rules of pronunciation to new language, applying knowledge of prior learning and to look for those semi- cognates and cognates.You may have read the blog post Look! Think! Read The children are in their second year of language learning and it was in the second half of the lesson,after we asked Ana to deliver everything in the target language- instructions , questions to the children and the speaking card game  to "describe people" (a DfE learning objective!) that the lesson came to life! 
Why? Well the children, it seemed to us, became really keen to engage with the learning through Spanish.It was great to see them all sat on the edge of their seats, listening for clues in the language Ana was using,with Ana carefully selecting the key language she used and actions to support what the children had to do e.g "Para" ,"Movea".......With not a word of English spoken the class wanted more!! 
What is important to remember here is that the children work every week with Ana, know her well and are used to her speaking Spanish with her - and she knows what they know too! 

It was this second half of the lesson that was most remarkable as every child was engaged ,some supported by teacher and TA  but all the children were trying to understand what Ana was saying....and the teachers were too!

The Head and I wanted to take this further so ....

A Year 3 lesson to remember!
The Head and I followed Ana to her next class and asked her this time to speak only Spanish from the beginning to the end of the lesson.These were Y3 children who have two years language learning with Ana, behind them. 
Ana wanted to teach the class how to read and write names of animals, some familiar spoken language and some unfamiliar language in preparation for the work on animals they see and find around them.
She asked the children to  put on their Spanish brains and to travel with her in their heads to Spain.From this moment on she explained everything in Spanish.They were Spanish children in a Spanish classroom with a Spanish teacher for the duration of the lesson.

We observed normal routine warm up language- questions and answers  about the date, month, what day was it yesterday or would it be tomorrow,personal information, favourite months, days , weather on the day , etc etc! 
When she asked the children where they lived,she reminded them that they now lived in Spain( all explained in the target language) and my favourite response had to be "Vivo en Real Madrid" !! 
Although most of the children wanted to live in Malaga, Barcelona or Sevilla- all places that Ana will have talked with them about when for example she talks about her home city Sevilla , or Gaudi and colours and Barcelona and Malaga because we have link schools in the city! 

Then  something magical happened..... one of those "goose pimples" teaching and learning moments which you want to keep forever !

Ana asked the children about their favourite animals and The children were able to tell Ana about the sea creatures they liked -pulpo, tiberon etcetra, without prompting ,from their Y2 language learning focus and recalled  farm animals from their Old Macdonald work in Y1 !! 
All the children were busy thinking about what they could say and remember....

From this point onwards we observed the clearly identifiable progress these young learners are making in language learning.
Ana asked children to come to the front and share how they thought these favourite animal words were written .Hands up all around the classroom! "Casi" said Ana as children added too many consonants or forgot that a "h" sound could be a"j" in Spanish! They weren't put off - the whole class wanted to help sort out the spelling! "Pez" was interesting and the child writing self corrected himself .It's not "th" it's "z" he said "because it's like diez"! Definitely a WOW moment!

Ana introduced new animal pictures and asked the children if they already knew the word for the animal and was it un or una....? Could they write the word if they already knew it? And the new animal words - well could they listen, repeat and then decide from prior learning of numbers , colours, etc how to spell for example "caballo" ( amarillo link) , conejo, pajaro (rojo/ jueves link) etcetra.

The children were applying prior learning to new language and making sound -spelling links and confidently coming to the front to volunteer the written word.Meantime the class teacher and TA were observing and  identifying the confidence of hesitant writers, happy to share their clear and exact writing in a different language and the way that the more able learners were being stretched by challenge of the target language.

These young language learners are inquisitive,keen to learn the language and confident that they can succeed.The thoughtful class practise of the pronunciation of "v" for "vaca" ,the additional information offered about the animals e.g.the impromptu spoken language from some of the children with the colour of the animals in the pictures and trying to describe this in a sentence and the links the children could make with their own experiences e.g raton- oh that's like "ratoncito Perez" said one pupil.(Her Spanish friend told her about this story, she added).

And Ana - well Ana was thriving on the engagement of the children and as an experienced primary classroom teacher and practitioner, using only target language, was being guided by the children and drawing the children further in to their application of language learning skills.

This was a lesson not to forget and needed to be recorded.
Progress of 7 year olds with some prior learning in Spanish across listening ,speaking , reading ,writing, culture and grammar.
Thank you so much Ana for a remarkable snapshot! 

What have we learned? 
Well  there is always room for improvement - perhaps more talking partner opportunities  and use of mini whiteboards ...... but truthfully it was the impact of the learning through the target language and the way the children naturally made those sound -spelling links, recalled language with ease and began to want to engage in sentence level activities outside the learning context that have caused Ana,the Head and I to stop and think!

Next steps?

  • To allow staff time to shadow Ana and see this progress in different year groups and the links the children can make between prior learning and new learning.
  • To begin to plan for Spanish learning which can support teachers and TAs with their own everyday learning skills observations of children
  • To plan for as much use of the target language as is sensible and supportive for the young  learners
  • To plan for staff CPD time to discuss what they have observed and what they think are the next achievable steps! 

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