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Modern Languages - Tuned up for conversation

What's it about?

When I think back to my best experiences as a learner, I remember things that captured my attention and imagination - and it seems the same is true for other beginners, writes Lisa Stevens.

Getting started

I asked my pupils, aged three to 11, what they enjoyed about learning languages. A class I taught in Reception - who are now in Year 3 (P3) - enjoy a memory game involving painted toenails, because a member of their class holds the school record for the contest. A Year 6 group remembered retelling the story of El Nabo Gigante (The Enormous Turnip) in Year 2, with silly hats and actions.

Another Year 6 group listed singing, rhymes and chanting as favourite activities because they don't do them in other classes. They also said they remembered things learnt this way because they could recall the tune or rhythm as well as the words.

Towards the end of Year 6 we do a unit on a Spanish cafe, including writing a song about ordering food to the tune of The Twelve Days of Christmas. The task is more demanding than simply recalling vocabulary, because pupils must consider whether the rhythm of the words fits the tune, making them focus on stress patterns and syllables. It also offers a chance to be imaginative because each group wants to be the most original and, perhaps, the funniest.

Where to go

There are TES resources on innovative language learning, including rhawkes' ones introducing pupils to colours and the verb "haben" through paintings.

For ideas on combining playground games with language learning, try a Teachers TV video featuring short dramatised clips of native French- speaking children presenting scenarios for classroom use.

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