I t's all very well for the Government to say every primary school should introduce a modern language, but how do teachers who are not confident speaking a language set about teaching it? There are challenges ahead to meet the deadline of every child in key stage 2 having the opportunity to learn a foreign language by 2010.
Many primary teachers are finding online and CD resources the most useful, because they can use these with an interactive whiteboard. They are also a finished product and so do not require hours of photocopying, cutting and pasting. Most importantly for teachers who lack confidence in a foreign language, accurate language is often combined with the spoken version of the text, providing a support for pronunciation.
In a good IT-based resource, it's important to look for activities that combine a mixture of skills such as games, songs, moving images and stories. Ideally, it will not be focused solely on whole-class activities but will also include pair, group and individual activities.
Fortunately, three good ones have appeared recently: the BBC Primary French is Fun, Le Depart, Storms and Shipwrecks and the new Tout le Monde package.
The BBC has produced two new CD-Roms, Primary French Let's Begin and Let's Continue, based on the old French is Fun DVD with Serge the cheeky monkey. In both, there are video clips of French children going about their everyday lives, songs and the fun FC Coco cartoons about a football team. There are questions and lesson ideas on screen to go with each of the clips, to get children thinking about the language, games activities to practise pronunciation and some French traditional songs and clapping games.
The Let's Begin resource is suitable for Years 3 and 4, while Let's Continue revises and extends the language with a greater emphasis on grammar and structure, and is more suitable for Years 5 and 6. Each could be used as a whole-class resource with the interactive whiteboard, or for children at individual computers.
The option to pause the video clips and add speech bubbles is a visual way to help children make the sound-spelling link. A good resource, although quite expensive.
West Sussex County Council has published materials that link to English, geography and history. In Le Depart: Children in Wartime, published last year, learners follow a young evacuee as he comes to terms with rural life, homesickness and meeting a pilot escaping from the wreckage of his aircraft. Texts include a narrative, a letter, a postcard and a cartoon story. These would suit able Year 6 children and could provide teaching materials for a term.
Storms and Shipwrecks follows Henri, 7, as he sets out to sea with his botanist grandmother in search of an elusive butterfly. It shows how he copes with the trials of a hurricane and shipwreck on Guadeloupe. Texts include a shipwreck story, a diary, a recipe, a range of fact files on Guadeloupe, a volcano, butterflies and a poem about a hurricane. Children will enjoy responding to the poem's rhythm through chanting and using instruments and it's good to see a resource that focuses on a different area of the French speaking world.
Heinemann has brought out level two of its Tout le Monde package. The interactive whiteboard activities for the teacher consist of a flashcard presentation of vocabulary with sound and practice games. There is a song in a karaoke format as well as videos and a big book story for each module. The cartoon-type stories of Goldilocks and the Wizard are particularly appealing, and there are also photo stories, such as one about celebrations.
Comprehension is an interpretation activity that progresses from level one and does not include visual aids, in order to challenge and stretch pupils' reading abilities. There is a resource bank and dictionary.
In the pupil section, children with access to the internet or the CD, either at home or at school, can practise the listening and reading activities at two different levels and reinforce their learning
Wendy Adeniji is a modern languages teacher and consultant
Primary French is Fun 1 Let's Begin pound;125 + VAT
Primary French is Fun 2 Let's Continue pound;125 + VAT
BBC Active Customer Services, PO Box 88, Harlow, Essex, CM20 2JE
Tel: 0870 830 8000
Le Depart: Children in Wartime pound;20 West Sussex schools; pound;50 other schools
Storms and Shipwrecks pound;20 West Sussex schools; pound;50 other schools
Business Administration Unit, Education Department, County Hall, Chichester, West Sussex, PO19 1RF
Tel: 01243 777933 Fax: 01243 777894 Email SIS.ED@westsussex.gov.uk.
Tout le Monde
Level 2 school site licence pound;250 or Level 2 pupil CD pound;150 and teacher CD pound;150
Complete set of Level 2 flashcards pound;45
Harcourt, Halley Court, Jordan Hill, Oxford, OX2 8EJ
Tel: O1865 888084, www.harcourt.co.uk.