How does a non-specialist primary teacher instruct pupils in languages in a way that engages them and boosts achievement?
The answer according to Peter Lillington is to use ICT. As manager of Waltham Forest City Learning Centre, the former ICT co-ordinator and local authority advisory teacher recently hosted a languages training and development day during which he encouraged teachers to use technology to enhance their teaching: "Choose the right software, preferably something open ended and flexible, and it can be relatively straightforward to create individualised learning programmes and activities when teaching modern foreign languages to beginners, without creating an excessive workload in terms of preparing resources," he says.
The resources he presents are carefully chosen for their closeness to Qualifications and Curriculum Authority schemes of work and their multimedia approach which, through a combination of sound, text and images, allows a wider range of learning styles to be catered for.
Imagine a hi-tech version of Fuzzy Felt where you can't lose the pieces down the back of the sofa and you have Kar2ouche. Published by Immersive Technology, this software allows users to combine high quality backgrounds with characters, objects, texts and audio clips.
Storyboards, using a range of vocabulary and word association, can be created through which unfamiliar words can be given the sort of context that gives them real meaning for pupils. You can play these back as presentations or print them as posters, comic strips or booklets. On top of this, importing digital photos or audio clips can personalise activities designed by the teacher or the children's own responses. Alongside a vast array of other curriculum resources, Immersive Technology produces Primary French 1 and 2 to cover all programmes of study in the QCA scheme of work.
The only drawback is the price (see below).
Clicker 4 and 5 also presents a range of materials combining text and sound with picture support. Click on pictures, words or phrases to hear them spoken by the inbuilt speech engine or by a previously recorded voice. If necessary, English and French speech can be attached to the same picture.
Register online and additional resources, ranging from simple word association puzzles, activities to develop sentence structure and basic extended writing stimuli, can be downloaded from www.learninggrids.comuk According to Peter Lillington, Clicker's main attraction is its simplicity.
This makes it ideal for those who are neither French experts nor confident in the use of ICT.
Peter also profiles the impressive Sonica Spanish. Commissioned by the DfES and produced by 3T Productions, this resource provides 240 activities in 12 units, based on the QCA scheme of work. Once again both visual and audio impact is impressive. Basic vocabulary is introduced and reinforced through a variety of games such as hangman, print-and-do, karaoke singing and a selection of activities using a dance. Rather than a series of tests, assessment takes the form of a game that takes place in an interactive castle. "It's another great example of software that can be used either by pupils independently or as a focus for teacher-led whole class learning,"
Paul Rodgers, creator of the widely acclaimed Petit Pont French resource, is also on hand at Waltham Forest CLC to show his creation to the borough's teachers. He gives this advice on how to choose effective ICT language software: "Go for something with an audio-visual focus so children don't have to rely solely on looking at words on a screen. Software that approaches key vocabulary and grammar in a variety of different ways will reinforce learning and ensure children remain enthused throughout."
Peter admits though that ICT, however impressive or useful, should not dictate what it is being learnt. If used exhaustively, it would be all too easy for children to perceive themselves as "doing Petit Pont" or "Sonica"
rather than French or Spanish. "To get the most out of ICT, use it strategically and creatively as part of a well-planned programme," he says.
* For Kar2ouche, schools pay pound;299-pound;749 for a network licence, depending on the number of users
* Clicker 4 costs pound;90 for a single licence and pound;20 per additional licence. A Clicker 5 upgrade is pound;75 and a further pound;15 to upgrade each user licence
The first 24 Sonica Spanish activities will soon be available to London schools on www.content.lgfl.net
A site licence for the full product can be ordered for pound;299 or online for pound;284.05 at www.rm.comsonicaspanish
Petit Pont 1 School Packs cost pound;195-pound;545 They include a 15 or 30 single-users licence, interactive CD-Roms and pupils' books
* Eclipse Books is offering two free Petit Pont School Packs to TESTeacher readers. To request a pack, worth pound;195, email: email@example.com, quoting TESTeacher. The packs will be sent to the first two readers who apply. The company is also offering a 10 per cent discount on the Petit Pont range, until June 12 (quote: TES101)