Breaking down language barriers

13th January 2006 at 00:00
The Government's primary language teaching Framework has been published, so it's not too early to think about how it will work in your class. Glynis Rumley looks at some ideas for activities

The Government's new Framework for teaching modern languages at key stage 2 is ambitious and aspirational. It expects that all primary schools will find a way to ensure that all 8 to 11-year-olds get their entitlement of an hour a week. It is supposed to be implemented in the academic year 2009-10, so schools must have plans in place by September 2009.

The Framework is described as a "climbing frame" rather than a "cage". It is designed to allow schools to manage, design and plan their own implementation within certain parameters. There are three learning objectives:

* oracy (O);

* literacy (L);

* intercultural understanding(I).

On top of this there are two strands:

* knowledge about language (K);

* language learning strategies (S).

In the Framework document these are divided into expected outcomes across the whole of KS2 with suggestions for how they should be taught.

Once you have an agreed school policy or (better) one for secondaries and their feeder primaries, and have decided which language to concentrate on, the whole-school activities below will reinforce teaching and learning.

Each idea is marked with the appropriate letter to show which aspects of the Framework are being covered by each activity.

Whole-school introduction * Use the foreign language to greet the children and to take the register. OI

* Ask how the children are and encourage them to be polite in the other language. OI

* Give them a number for the register which they use every day to ensure an opportunity for repetition. As a progression, begin with a different number and expect them to be able to pick up on that and provide the numbers in succession. As they get more expert, start with really large numbers. OIKL

* Try to count in the other language whenever possible. OLKS

* Do numeracy warm-ups using the other language. There is no limit to the complexity of the maths which can be included in this way and there is plenty of room for progression. There are significant advantages in using the primary classroom to practise the measurement of, for example, date, time, currency, distance and weight. OLIKS

* Use a wordprocessor to print cards with the days, months and numbers to 31 and change the date every day as part of the start-of-day routine. As a progression, ask the children to build up their birthday including, eventually, the year they were born. OLIKS

* Introduce words for classroom organisation. Put them on the wall by the clock so that you remember to use them. You can do one a week and put them together over the year. Build them up over the years. OLIKS

* Use the words for objects in the classroom and in children's pencil cases. Use Blu-Tack to put feminine objects on one coloured card display and masculine ones on another colour to build up knowledge of the gender of words. To ensure progression, start off by simply associating each word with its spoken form and then introduce the written form when the children have heard it being used often in context. OLKS

* Use the same method to distinguish singular and plural words. OIKL

* Make a weather chart and refer to it at the start of every day to underline the daily routine. OLKS

* Sing songs. These provide memorisation opportunities and the children will be able to read the words when they see them because they will be familiar. OLIKS

Using ICT

* Use software such as Sonica (from RM) and PILOTE ( to demonstrate how to say the words if you are not sure of their pronunciation (and to find out what the words and phrases are, if this an issue for you). OLIKS

* Make a PowerPoint presentation using any vocabulary - eg colours, months, days. The progression is to present yourself and your home and school life.


* Use Clicker (from Crick Software) to create texts. OLKS

* Do data handling in the other language. OLKS

* Audit all of your software and look at the possibilities for language teaching. OLIKS

Examples of expected outcomes

By the end of Year 3 children should be able to:

* use correct pronunciation;

* read aloud in chorus, with confidence and enjoyment, from a known text;

* write some familiar words from memory;

* talk about the similarities and differences between social conventions in different cultures;

* recognise a children's song, rhyme or poem well known to native speakers.

By the end of Year 6 children should be able to:

* converse briefly without prompts;

* read aloud with confidence, enjoyment and expression, in chorus or individually;

* develop a short text using a model;

* present information about an aspect of another country.

Contact your local ITT or languages college, AST secondary school modern foreign languages department andor other local primaries, offering examples of successful practice and asking for advice. Visit and find out about your nearest regional support group or Comenius centre.

For CILT training through regional support groups go to

See the Framework at Glynis Rumley is the author of PILOTE. The video packs will shortly be republished to match the CD-Roms with references to the Framework

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