Creativity for control freaks

6th January 2006 at 00:00
Peter Greaves shows how teachers can let go without losing it. This week: Bonne et heureuse annee!

Which metaphor do you like for the year ahead? The start of a voyage across seas unknown? A new chapter waiting to be written? Even though September always feels more new-yearish to me than January, I'll certainly be looking for a new chapter to write in my book of voyages and I'm going to try to write some of it in a different language.

I know many primary schools are now looking to embrace languages as an important element of the broad and balanced curriculum. Some have done this through optional clubs, others have employed specialists to provide planning and preparation cover. Others have made room in the curriculum to teach languages in a progressive way throughout the school. Many schools, however, find that teaching pupils to speak, read and write English takes all their time, and with no league tables of broad and balanced curriculums, choices have to be made.

My New Year's resolution is to find different ways of introducing a new language into my class. I've chosen French for some straight forward reasons. First, there are a few kids in the class who have a little bit of French. Mainly it's just a few key words, but one pupil has a French-speaking mum and I figure that's a resource to draw on. Second, I have a little knowledge of it and that's got to help.

Where can I go for my inspiration? Well, I'm going to draw on all the ways in which foundation stage introduces young kiddies to their own language.

As I walk round the classrooms of the youngest children, the first thing I see is words everywhere. I used to joke about it in my ignorance. I would say to the foundation staff, "What is this mysterious silver square on the wall, with a white movable centre? Oh hang on, it's labelled... a light switch!" Now I see how this text-rich environment soaks into the pupils and allows them to connect their speech with the written word. How much more would that be true if they could already read, which I figure is the position I'm in with older children as I seek to introduce them to new words.

So this is where I'm going to start. I have borrowed a kiddies French book from the library and have made a pile of labels for everything from the door to the pens, the projector to... yes, the light switch. I'll introduce them a few at a time and then soon try to make my room into a life-size replica of the room-plan illustrated in the borrowed library book. I'm hoping that my class will show the same delight in naming and recognising labels as five-year-olds do. How can they not be delighted at knowing the French for switch? Le interrupteur!

Peter Greaves teaches at Dovelands Primary School in Leicester Email: primary@tes.co.uk

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