Primary Languages - Rosetta does it better

12th December 2008 at 00:00
Technology can overcome the barriers faced by children whose first language is not English, says Mark Corkery

Sylvek and his family arrived in Leeds from his native Poland this September. When he joined my Year 6 class at Ingram Road Primary in Leeds, his knowledge of English barely extended to hello and good morning. Even basic instructions were understood only after cues from the other Polish- speaking pupils in the class.

Sylvek is one of 56 per cent of pupils at Ingram Road whose first language is not English - a total of 21 languages are spoken at our school, ranging from Arabic to Zulu.

He receives help three times a week from Joanna Iwaszkiewicz, our Polish- speaking English as Additional Language (EAL) co-ordinator. Sylvek is using support tools including Rosetta Stone, a form of language learning software, and is picking up English in leaps and bounds.

He has been able to build vocabulary quickly from day one, and practise his speaking, writing, listening and reading skills on topics ranging from school to food and sports. He has developed so fast in the past few months that we are planning to put him in charge of the lighting for our Christmas play, Oliver! - which will require him to follow a complex script in English to get the timing right.

Our other EAL pupils are big fans of the program too. It teaches without translation, creating an environment of complete immersion in the language and can be used by pupils at any level or native language. We find this works well in EAL teaching, where pupils may speak a number of different mother tongues.

Before we started using the software, I had seen it at work in other schools and had been impressed with how enthused the EAL pupils were about technology-based language learning.

Some of our pupils get competitive with Rosetta Stone, racing to see who can complete the exercises fastest. They often look at the percentage score the program gives at the end of each unit and try to improve on their previous efforts. This has had a positive effect on their engagement levels and progress.

At Ingram Road, we find pupils love the independence of having opportunities to learn at their own speed, and Rosetta Stone manager, the program's progress management tool, lets us check on their progress. Joanna uses the manager tool to complete regular reports on each individual's progress, so teachers can support them better in the classroom.

As the program can be accessed online, pupils with an internet connection at home can use the software outside school, which is proving popular with youngsters and parents. Sylvek and fellow EAL pupils have been so pleased with the program, they have been telling their families and classmates about it.

We are about to include Rosetta Stone in tuition for parents as well due to demand, with the aim of helping the whole family improve their English. Other pupils have also been asking about computer-based language learning and we have recently adopted Rosetta Stone in French for MFL teaching as well.

Mark Corkery is modern languages co-ordinator and Year 6 teacher at Ingram Road, an inner-city primary school in the Holbeck area of Leeds

EVERYTHING ELSE YOU SHOULD KNOW

Rosetta Stone was founded in 1992 on two core beliefs: that the natural way people learn languages as children remains the most successful method for learning new languages, and that interactive CD-Rom and online technology can recreate the immersion method powerfully for learners of any age.

The company has recently been awarded the Mac-World Education Product of the Year Award 2008. Visit www.rosettastone.co.ukeducation or call 0800 883 0308.

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