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Colourful language

Teaching mixed-age English primary children in an independent school in France, I use a variety of ideas to teach English and other languages.

To explore similes, I use paint-sample cards from the local DIY store. I hold up a range of examples and point out some of the names the manufacturers have used to describe their paints - sunset orange, for example. We discuss why these names have been chosen and whether they are realistic. Then the class think of names that they would choose for their colours. At this point I introduce the idea of similes.

I ask pupils to say a colour is "like an apple" or "as red as an Indian sunset". After some practice, they can use their similes to write poems.

One pupil wrote: "Purple, like the petals on floating flowers and fish diving in and out of the soft tropical sea."

Inventing board games to learn the imperative in language lessons has also proven very successful. We have a collection of game-making equipment, including dice, boards and cards. I limit games to one aim, such as "whoever finds the most pairs wins" and make sure the children don't try to work with more than four imperatives. First they write the instructions for their game and practise using the imperatives by reading them out, for example: "Turn over two cards." When they are creating the board game they can't wait to start practising the orders.

Another tip: I always use the "chin waggle" to teach syllables. Children put their hand under their chin and feel how many times it moves up and down when they say a word. The number of waggles is the same as the number of syllables in a word. Children who have difficulty in understanding the idea of vowels can practise one-vowel syllables.

Jane Wigan, primary class teacher, The Mountain House School, Les Gets, France

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