How UK primary MFL teachers make the most of their limited class time

It seems like only yesterday when the announcement was made that languages were to become compulsory in English primary schools for the 2014 curriculum and beyond.

Great stuff, but in an already crowded primary curriculum could MFL teaching realistically fit in? Well it is fitting in, but as primary MFL teachers know, language learning takes time – and time is what they lack with their pupils!

We asked 17 teachers from within the primary MFL community to tell us how they make the most of their limited class time. Here’s what they kindly shared with us…

Erzsi Culshaw

erzsi

1. What language(s) you teach?
I teach Spanish in 3 primary schools in sunny Lancashire:-)

2. How much time a week do you have to teach it?
The lessons vary from 30 to 60 minutes

3. How you maximise that time?
I maximise my time by preparing a lot for the lessons and arriving early to set the classrooms up and leaving late after clearing up all my mess. All the hand outs and material are on the pupils’ tables when the lesson starts. Most of my toys and teaching aids are by the teachers’ desk and the song/video/PPT is copied on the teacher’s computer so that I don’t have to fiddle with my USB stick. This is lots of extra time from my life and means extra childcare costs but it is my choice

Maximising my one session also means that I have to reach out to the days when I am not there. I have a display in every single classroom (15). Some are beautiful and some are only a few laminated PPT slides. Some are already made in the classrooms by the class teacher and the teaching assistants and some are “stolen” space on cupboards, doors, etc. On the displays the pupils always see the learning objectives and the vocabulary

I started a “5 a day Spanish” campaign at the beginning of the year, so that the pupils get more Spanish time. The activities are lead by pupils, as I realise that class teachers are extremely busy and under great pressure to deliver the rest of the curriculum. I teach independence to the pupils and make them responsible for their own learning. Apart from the 5 a day Spanish activities, some classes teach mini lessons within our session and in one of my schools the big ones visit the little ones and show them games and revise Spanish ( colours, numbers, etc)

I also set up class blogs, but we can’t view them in school so I will have to change them so that we could write the posts together in class instead of me working on them on my own at home

Contact Erzsi:

Blog: www.zapatitoingles.blogspot.co.uk
Twitter: @Erzsiculshaw
Facebook: www.facebook.com/erzsi.culshaw

Sylvie Bartlett Rawlings

sylvie

1. What language(s) you teach?
French. I teach 350 children across two schools from reception to y6 in one and from y3 to y6 in the other one

2. How much time a week do you have to teach it?
In the first school lessons last 30 mins for KS1 and 1 h for ks2 with 1h30 mins for year 6, in the second school 30 mins across and reinforcement daily by the form teacher (in some classes) with register, date, speaking practice, worksheet, dict work. I run Lang specific days too

3. How you maximise that time?
I maximise my time by having every thing set before going to class in school number 2. For school number one by avoiding to waste 5 mins at the start of class with the writing of LOs. Tend now to give them out on printed sheets to glue in book. May do a termly one per class as so time consuming

Contact Sylvie:

Twitter: @SylvieBRawlings
Facebook: www.facebook.com/sylvie.bartlettrawlings

Sue O’Malley

sue

1. What language(s) you teach?
I teach French to years 3-6 in primary.  I am based in one school and teach 8 classes a week

2. How much time a week do you have to teach it?
Each class is roughly 35-40 minutes long

3. How you maximise that time?
I maximise my time by revisiting/revising previous learning through games/songs/rhymes and then introduce new language & reinforce/embed through various activities, audio clips, stories, role play

Contact Sue:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/sue.omalley

Lisa Stevens

lisa

1. What language(s) you teach?
I teach Spanish at two primary schools

2. How much time a week do you have to teach it?
At one, I teach y3-6, two classes each for between 45 minutes and an hour each week. At the other, I currently teach Y2, Y3, Y5 and Y6, two classes each. That school, class teachers also deliver their Spanish when I don’t teach them – and whole school does some Spanish from Nursery up. I have between 35 minutes and an hour depending on the timetable and year group. The least time is with the oldest classes which is tricky!

3. How you maximise that time?
I maximise the time I have by trying to make learners independent, giving them tools to help themselves and reminding them of how they can recycle things they already know. We work in pairs/groups a lot and do lots of activities to reinforce. Also class teachers do language activities in SODA time and also as part of their cross curricular topic. And I try to be creative so learners remember better!!

Contact Lisa:

Web: lisibo.com
Twitter: @lisibo
Facebook: www.facebook.com/lisibo

Laetitia Davies

laetitia

1. What language(s) you teach?
French

2. How much time a week do you have to teach it?
35 mins in years 3/4 and 1 hour 10 mins in years 5/6, but only over 34 weeks/year as it is a private school

3. How you maximise that time?
– Always get the classroom ready before they arrive
– Don’t do much writing because it takes ages to give books out, collect them, write etc…
– Do a lot of speaking instead
– Use Zondle (a game based website) as often as I can as it saves on worksheets to give out and to stick in books. It is also brilliant for vocab learning and differentiation. It is accessible from home on the pc and on the ipad with the app Zondle. It is a way to get them to practice their French outside the classroom without having to ask them to do it. Finally, it does the recording of progress and of learning for me as it tells me exactly how many mistakes they have made for each exercise in the teacher’s markbook
– Do oral assessment every lesson when doing the register: they have a card each with different topics (myself, my family, colours, pets, my town…). There are 6 levels for each topics. When I do the regsiter I just ask them 1 question each on any given topic and if they answer correctly they move up to the next level in the next lesson. It saves me having to assess them for whole lessons at a time several times a year

Contact Laetitia:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/laetitia.davies

Catherine Charnley

catherine

1. What language(s) you teach?
French in 3 schools, Spanish in 1 school

2. How much time a week do you have to teach it?
30 or 40 mins depending on school. 8 classes a day

3. How you maximise that time?
Lessons – greeting- song or poem to recite- q and a session or recap -then either continuation of last week or new learning-game or pair work or work Iin books -farewell activity eg demonstrating work done or practised, story or mon ane song. Sometimes if I’m on fire I can do all of that but not very often and not 8 times a day!

Contact Catherine:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/catherine.charnley

Catherine Cheater

catherine cheater

1. What language(s) you teach?
I teach French in 2 primary schools: 210 children from Reception to year 6 in one, and 120 children in KS2 in the other

2. How much time a week do you have to teach it?
In one school I have 30 minutes with each class, in the other I have 45 minutes including changeover time

3. How you maximise that time?
I start each lesson with speaking practice of known, memorised material, such as a bank of finger rhymes, and end each lesson with a song and/or story. These activities are very inclusive, allowing all children to speak in chorus, or to listen carefully to language being modelled

Use a small but growing bank of vocabulary through which to learn about grammar and sentence building. This means that we don’t have to spend a lot of time learning new words, because we can use the words we know to expand our understanding and application of grammatical structures and concepts. Because the bank of known vocabulary is small, it’s easy for me to add to it if I want to focus on a topic linked to other areas of the curriculum. Each half term, the new vocabulary to be used in lessons is displayed as a list on the French display board, and is also put onto the school website so that it can be downloaded from home. All new vocabulary is printed out by me and stuck into each child’s vocabulary book for reference – this means that when children write in lesson time, it is to produce sentences using the words and structures, rather than copying words

I try to extend opportunities for learning and practice at home. In year 3 we have sacs français that travel home with each child once a term. Each sac contains a song DVD and our cuddly toys. We are expanding this idea on a huge scale in one school – each KS2 class is about to have sacs français with a wonderful range of story books, recipes, apps, non-fiction books, a dictionary, audio CDs and DVDs, and much more. We have also invested in class libraries, so that children will have access to all the storybooks that are read to them by me in class

In each class, the teaching assistant is always present, which is a huge help in ensuring the children are ready to participate positively

Contact Catherine:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/catherine.cheater
Email: catherinecheater@gmail.com
Twitter: @CCheater

Helen Lawlor

helen

1. What language(s) you teach?
We alternate between French and Spanish half-termly and I also run a Chinese club in each school. I teach about 450 children across 2 schools from the age of 4-11

2. How much time a week do you have to teach it?
30 or 40 mins depending on school. 8 classes a day

3. How you maximise that time?
I have hour long sessions but in one of my schools I do the register and get children ready for home time, collect them off the playground, changed for PE etc. I maximise my time by doing as much of this as possible in the target language. I’m also looking at ways to get MFL into the days that I’m not there. I think we (the CTs and I) might be devising something around early morning work for this

Contact Helen:

Twitter: @Beckenhambird
Facebook: www.facebook.com/helen.lawlor

Marcela Martinez

marcela

1. What language(s) you teach?
I teach Spanish years 3- 6

2. How much time a week do you have to teach it?
Each class gets eight 45 min lessons per term due to size of school (3 forms)

3. How you maximise that time?
Trying to increase use of Spanish on both teacher and pupil talk. I try to rely heavily on cognates for instructions and explanations and pupils are starting to use word mats to express requests (going to toilet, getting a drink, asking for help etc…). Also devising ways that are not linguistically too demanding for class teachers to use Spanish with their classes. At the moment this includes doing routines in Spanish (register and home time for now) in a way that progression can be seen within each year and across school

Contact Marcela:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/marcela.martinez

Fatima Duerden

fatima

1. What language(s) you teach?
I teach Spanish from nursery to year 6. KS 2 pupils come to my dedicated Spanish classroom for their Spanish lessons. I am lucky to have my own classroom as it makes my teaching much easier. Pupils have a sense of purpose when they come to their Spanish lessons

2. How much time a week do you have to teach it?
I teach groups of 15 (half a class) for 30 minutes at a time. As we are a two form entry school, I will repeat a lesson 4 times…

3. How you maximise that time?
Throughout the years I have learnt to maximise my teaching/their learning time…! It depends which stage the pupils are at in their learning. I try to have at least 5 minutes of going over previously learnt material, followed by speaking, reading and writing. Whenever possible, a topic related song.

Contact Fatima:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/fatima.duerden

Lisa Izard

lisa2

1. What language(s) you teach?
French reception to year 4, Spanish year 5, German year 6. Just short of 500 children across 23 classes, from reception to year 6

2. How much time a week do you have to teach it?
Half hour per class, although the session averages 20-25 minutes

3. How you maximise that time?
Every second counts. An example lesson might include a song as children come in class, recap vocab, partner talking work, presentations to class, new vocab / cultural thing / new song, more pair work or games to reinforce. Game or song to finish

Would desperately like more time with the children, especially year 3 up

Contact Lisa:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/lisa.izard

Vikki Bruff

vikki

1. What language(s) you teach?
I teach French 1 day per week to KS2 I. 4 schools. 18 classes, 520 children. At the moment all are on Y3 level work as all are beginners. Next year Y3 will be on this work & all others will be Y4

2. How much time a week do you have to teach it?
Lessons are 1hr in three schools, & 45 mins in one due to school size

3. How you maximise that time?
I build on known words or phrases to introduce new concepts / vocab. Lots of games & kagan structures, songs & kinaesthetic activities to reinforce learning. I blog & ch access that at home (well the keen as mustard ones do). In one school I run ks1 club, in another a choir. I do etwinning with 4 classes, and successfully Skype with 1 partner school

Contact Vikki:

Twitter: @VB_PrimaryLang
Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/VB-Primary-Languages-Barnsley

Lou Smith

lou

1. What language(s) you teach?
French. I teach in 1 school at the moment (and at a Saturday music school). Yr1 have done 1 term Spanish and 1 term German with their class teacher, which as co-ordinator I’ve tried to support them in
– yr 2-6 so 166 children

2. How much time a week do you have to teach it?
I have an hour a class, (1 1/4 hrs for 2 classes because of how the timetable works out) but do some other things for the class teachers such as class assembly, hand writing etc or what they need. I have the luxury of time but follow similar patterns to above

3. How you maximise that time?
Our children are used to a creative curriculum so I try to include stimuli such as a story, doing, a creative task (we made sock puppets last week to go with our song), food tasting, props, and as much as possible writing for a reason, esp with yr 6

Contact Lou:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/lou.smith

Christine Ballance

christine

1. What language(s) you teach?
I teach French in one large primary school, covering ppa time from year 2 – 6, two classes per year group, one year group per afternoon, before and after afternoon break – so nearly 300 children

2. How much time a week do you have to teach it?
I get around 40 minutes with each class plus getting them off the playground, doing register and coats, letters, etc at home time

3. How you maximise that time?
I arrive early to prepare so no lesson time is lost and I clear up and mark books after they have gone. I also have a display in each classroom where I post up their practice language for the week which they are meant to practise at register time. I can always tell who has or hasn’t practised!

Contact Christine:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/christine.ballance

Simone Ahlborn

simone

1. What language(s) you teach?
Spanish

2. How much time a week do you have to teach it?

3. How you maximise that time?
My best strategy has been to use a very specific program with each grade each year, then something completely different the next year, to accommodate the addition of new students to my class. I use the Sonrisas curriculum for grades 1-2, Vale 1 from Eli for grade 3, Cuéntame (TPRS) for 4th and QTalk (visual symbols for smartboard) for 5th. Because the routine is very predictable, it is much easier to get right to work where we left off and to conduct the class almost entirely in Spanish. They also do homework on the wordplay website each week in 4th and 5th, where they are starting to master the vocab from the middle school textbook series used in 6th and 7th

Contact Simone:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/simone.ahlborn

Rebecca Stevenson 

rebecca

1. What language(s) you teach?
I teach French to years 3-6

2. How much time a week do you have to teach it?
40 mins a week years 3 and 4 and 45 mins year 5,6

3. How you maximise that time?
I do a recap of the previous vocab – quickly. Then do a much practise as possible with the new vocab. A lesson always starts with a target language recap and then proceeds into the new vocabulary with songs or a thinking activity about the vocabulary. A lot of spoken French is used but also I try to cover the other skills in a variety of ways.

Contact Rebecca:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/rebecca.stevenson

Noelia RG

noelia

1. What language(s) you teach?
French

2. How much time a week do you have to teach it?
4 form entry school, 50 minutes once a week

3. How you maximise that time?
Year 1 to year 6. KS1: bonjour song, date, weather, vocab games or song to teach vocab, goodbye song. KS2: Most of the time CLIL history/science lessons and lots of French in school assemblies. I also have a Spanish club for ks2

Contact Noelia:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/noelia.rg

Thank you to these 17 primary MFL teachers for their input and expertise.

I for one greatly admire their dedication to their profession.

See you next time readers,

Jim

Jim Porter is a co-founder of Speekee®, home of the most comprehensive Spanish learning program for children ever to appear online

Jim began his Spanish learning journey in 1990. He has been a language teacher since 1994 and he lives in sunny southern Spain with his two bilingual children. Loves it! More…

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