Teaching Modern Languages

Teaching modern languages in primary school is a subject that I am passionate about as I have had my own positive learning experiences  that I am inspired to emulate.

I have studied French academically for 9 years now, and my love for the language began when I was first introduced to it in Primary 6. I think I am living evidence that if children experience something from a young age and develop an interest, with consistency this passion can only grow.

In our first workshop with Carrie, I was intrigued to learn a variety of methods for teaching modern languages. I think an important point raised was that it must be as simplified as possible for pupils to be engaged and not give up hope in picking up new language skills – two important tactics to consider using are repetition and the use of actions to aid understanding.

One of the main reasons that pupils gradually lose the motivation to learn a second or third language is the fear of being wrong – I realise this from my own experience as a child, and also witnessing modern languages taught in schools. Children are afraid that they will sound silly or they have an intrinsic feeling that they cannot grasp a language that is foreign to them, so often will not even attempt to improve their understanding. An important element that Carrie touched on was to ensure vocabulary is practiced in larger groups so no pupil feels singled out and feeling as if their struggle should be kept to themselves. Confidence will be built when pupils feel they are in a safe, non-judgemental environment (Kirsch, 2008). Also, an alternative to assessing progress in modern languages could be to allow pupils the time to reflect on their work and therefore self-correct any mistakes they pick up on (Kirsch, 2008). This will also improve children’s confidence as they will not feel demotivated by someone else pointing out their mistakes.

Talking and writing in a modern language are more challenging than reading and listening as they require the production of new content instead of relying on recognition skills When trying to interpret oral in particular, clarity of instruction is important so that children know what they are being asked to do. A good example of a talking activity that could enhance learning is a game of Chinese Whispers for example, where pupils are encouraged to repeat the correct vocabulary so that it sticks in their memory.


Kirsch, C. (2008). Teaching foreign languages in the primary school. Continuum International Publishing Group, p.108.

Kirsch, C. (2008). Teaching foreign languages in the primary school. Continuum International Publishing Group, p114.


Actions Speak Louder Than Words

I was intrigued initially about the word ‘action’ existing as a concept in the IB PYP programme. It is not an aspect that is highlighted as clearly in CfE, so I was interested to find out how we as teachers can create a positive environment in the classroom to encourage this.

When ‘action’ is mentioned, you may generally picture a grand, world-shifting movement. This is particularly relevant now as many will picture Greta Thunberg, the inspirational young girl who spoke out at the UN Climate Action Summit for her strong beliefs in taking immediate action against global warming. Further examples could be joining movements through protests, rallies and direct contact with the adults who make the laws.

However, this is idealism. In classrooms across the world, you will not see a budding activist in each and every one. Most children at that age will not be motivated to take ‘action’ to solve world poverty.

And as future IB practitioners, it’s important to realise that that’s okay.

Through our workshops and my own reading, I have grown to change my perception of the word ‘action’. I have snapped out of picturing Greta Thunberg. I realise that actions can be big and ground-breaking for the local community or even the world, but they can also be just as meaningful on a smaller, personal scale. We should be proud of the pupils we teach because of their ability to recognize a positive action, and understand why this behaviour is encouraged. If pupils can see the positive difference that their actions make in their own small world, we are creating humans who can make a big difference in the future world they will be a part of. The base values for positive ‘action’ should be the building blocks taught in the IB PYP Programme so children can grow into responsible members of society, with their own confident voice.

What action am I going to take to improve my practice? I’m going to take this alternative understanding to the word to ensure pupils are ready to be take action in their society.

Who I am as a Teacher

Answering the question of ‘who am I as a teacher’ is an incredibly difficult task as an MA2 student who has only experienced teaching one P5/6 class so far in her career. However, it is a question that has been at the back of my mind ever since I did my first work experience in a primary school in S6.

Over the course of my experience of primary school, I have been fortunate enough to witness many great examples of outstanding teachers. These experiences were so positive, I know that they will remain with me for the rest of my life, not just career. Although I am inspired by my experiences, it is important to remember that I need to have my own philosophy of teaching – what qualities will embody me as a primary teacher in my own right.

To understand my own values in my profession, I first look at the GTC Standards that provide a good start for each qualified teacher in Scotland. Among other characteristics, teachers should uphold the professional values of Social Justice, Integrity, Trust and Respect and Professional Commitment (GTC Scotland, 2012). I believe in the importance of these professional values, with particular emphasis on creating an inclusive and respecting classroom environment and continually striving to improve my own professional practice as I face new challenges in my career.

An inclusive and respecting classroom environment means that all views and beliefs are heard and that children learn that respecting doesn’t necessarily mean agreeing with, but rather it means you allow the individual to follow their own beliefs as is their human right. Not spreading a message of animosity, but respect regardless of gender, race, religion or sexual orientation, as humanity is equal.

This is why I resonate so much with the beliefs that the International Baccalaureate (IB) Learner Profile strives to instil in each pupil under their programme. For me, it is key that pupils are taught to be Open-Minded (International Baccalaureate Organization, 2013), which refers to creating their own informed beliefs. This means that quality discussions about world issues and differing views is an important aspect of more informal learning in the classroom, an activity which I strongly believe is valuable.

I further agree with the concept of creating Inquirers (International Baccalaureate Organization, 2013) as I fondly remember my own love of learning when I was of school age, so I am passionate about motivating pupils to pursue learning rather than see it as a chore. I think that to achieve this, Reflection is required (International Baccalaureate Organization, 2013), so I am inspired by how the IB Learner Profile links all of these qualities with the aim to create autonomous and successful learners.

Finally, to create my philosophy of the kind of teacher I want to be, I look to my own qualities that I can bring to the job, the ones I believe made me ideal for the profession in the first place. I think this is particularly important to consider as well as relating to the GTC Standards and IB Learner Profile because the teaching job is easier if you are allowed to be yourself in the classroom. I think I work well and enjoy working with children because I am empathetic, which allows me to understand how others feel and show kindness to all. I am also knowledgeable in many areas as I have always liked speaking to people to improve my own understanding, which means that I am happy to teach every subject and ensure pupils possess knowledge from a diverse curriculum also. I believe that primary school should be about preparing pupils for the path they choose to pursue in later life, so covering all subject areas caters to each pupil’s passion.

Most of all, I want my pupils to be happy. I want to emphasise the importance of physical, social and mental wellbeing in a world where you judge yourself over how many likes your selfie got or whether you participated in the Fortnite tournament last night. I want my teaching to inspire pupils to want to come to school and go home to find out more about what they learned today. I want to nurture a love of reading books and to help my pupils aim high, and be the best they can be.

This is my philosophy of teaching as I embark on becoming a successful Primary teacher.



The Standards For Registration. GTC Scotland (2012). Available at: http://www.gtcs.org.uk/web/FILES/the-standards/standards-for-registration-1212.pdf (Accessed 29/9/19).

The IB Learner Profile. International Baccalaureate Organization (2013). Available at: https://www.ibo.org/contentassets/fd82f70643ef4086b7d3f292cc214962/learner-profile-en.pdf (Accessed 29/9/19).

Concept-based Learning

This interesting approach to learning has intrigued me because of its emphasis on ensuring all learning has a purpose and highlighting how the world is interconnected in many ways. A curriculum that can teach pupils this awareness from a young age deserves to be explored in greater depth.

The idea of learning a ‘concept’ rather than facts and statistics has advantages because it means that pupils can understand key elements of the world across a variety of disciplines, as ‘concepts’ can be learned through transdisciplinary learning or in stand-alone topics. Regardless of the topic, the idea of a concept allows pupils to consider wider themes and ideas that appear in the world around us – for example, learning about evolution theory and migration in the 21st Century can be linked through exploring the concept of change. This allows pupils to see how learning about the past affects their future.

In PYP, 7 main concepts are highlighted in the curriculum. These are:

  • Form
  • Function
  • Causation
  • Change
  • Connection
  • Perspective
  • Responsibility

This lists accentuates concepts that should be explored in the curriculum, but the list is not exhaustive.

Concept-based learning is an intriguing idea, however at this stage in my professional development I am wondering how to ensure pupils understand the significance of what they are learning. There is a difference between topics, facts and concepts and as teachers we need to include all in the curriculum, but convey that concepts are key to deeper understanding of the world around them.

“90% of what we teach in school is a waste of time…” – is this true?

It is saddening as a future primary teacher to see this statement and to imagine a classroom full of young students who are disengaged, unmotivated and fully supporting this statement. This is fundamentally not the purpose of education – for children to believe learning is pointless, and for this detachment from learning to only grow as they progress through life.

Before the pressures of placement took over and I had the task of creating my own worthwhile lessons, I really enjoyed taking a backseat in my MA1 placement class and watching how the pupils learned. I liked trying to read each pupil’s mind and particularly focused on everything I had learned about body language – it was interesting to notice the little details now that might escape me while I was standing in front of the class preoccupied with teaching. I was lucky to have a really good example set to me on my first placement, to be able to see smiles, good work and also positive relationships exhibited. If I could emulate such a positive learning environment in my own practice, I knew for sure I was on the right path.

I believe that learning should be relevant to modern life – helping children unmuddle the complex world they live in, and begin to form opinions of their own from an informed background. This is one of my main aspirations as a teacher, to ensure children see the purpose they have and difference they can make in the world. In the IB PYP, this is also a key concept.

When a pupil says to me, “Miss, I don’t see the point in learning this, I’m not going to bother”, I want to always have an answer ready.



IB TDT 1 – Inquiry

Since starting on the IB Pathway, I have been interested in learning more about the concept of learning using an inquiry-based approach. To me, inquiry is about having a focused and switched-on mindset, meaning you are always willing to accept new information and actively pursue it. It is interesting to me to think of an education system centred around learners being constantly open to absorbing more. Inquiry means that students are not just passively learning, but are actively involved in the process and make decisions for themselves about what will help them on their learning journey.

I believe that creating inquiring learners is one of the aims of CfE, but I am sure that it is an even more relevant and applied concept in the IB PYP curriculum. In my experience of CfE, I was able to see good examples of inquiring pupils who had autonomy over their own learning because they were offered Personalisation and Choice. This is because Personalisation and Choice is one of the principles of Curricular Design that is highlighted in CfE. A broad element of choice was great to see as I think that it aided pupil’s concentration and motivation, because instead of being parroted learning, they were able to have independence and it meant that they were doing the work they wanted to do. A particular example of this approach in action is a Homework Grid, which was made of up ten optional tasks of which six had to be completed over six weeks, but the order and selection was purely down to the pupils. Instead of dreading homework, it was clear to see that pupils enjoyed having to make the choice and completing the activity that they preferred.

I am intrigued to learn more about inquiry-based learning’s prominence in the IB PYP curriculum and I am wondering how I can apply this approach to my own classroom, regardless of the curriculum I teach. I feel optimistic that I can create a learning environment in my classroom where pupils feel inspired to learn and are excited about school.

Comparing IB Primary Years Programme to Curriculum for Excellence

From my understanding of the two education systems so far, it is clear that they both have much in common in terms of their core values and how both have progressed to steer away from the more dated system of learning, where each pupil was given the same work so that they could be easily compared in their progress.

Both the IB Primary Years Programme (PYP) and Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) pride themselves on being an improvement on the older education system as they value pupil’s opinions and are concerned with ensuring each pupil is able to achieve on their own learning journey. I agree that both programmes have pupil’s best interests at heart and I have grown to form my own philosophy of education with similar values to both programmes.

The PYP and CfE are similar because they both encourage transdisciplinary learning in order for pupils to understand that that is how the real world works, and few professions or subjects involve only one discipline. In CfE, this is often encouraged through outdoor learning and exploring nature, not only using biology but also maths and English to make sense of the world around us. I think this is a great example of transdisciplinary learning that advantages pupils as they are able to independently make links between the subjects to form a more complete understanding.

The PYP also highlights six specific transdisciplinary themes that ensure the curriculum is creating global learners. These are:

  • Who we are
  • Where we are in place and time
  • How we express ourselves
  • How the world works
  • How we organise ourselves
  • Sharing the planet

(The IB Primary Years Programme, 2014)

While it is clear that CfE shares many of the same themes through promoting transdisciplinary learning, these themes are specifically highlighting in the PYP Programme as being core to pupil’s understanding of the world around them, and form the basis on which transdisciplinary learning exists in the PYP.

Furthermore, both curriculums aim to include pupils as much as possible in their own learning, by asking them what they would like to learn, which ensures pupils are engaged throughout a topic. This is an advantageous approach as learning is more enjoyable and pupils are able to see a purpose to the learning because they have used their own inquisition to think of what they want to learn about the world around them.

By valuing the input that pupils can have in their own learning journey, both programmes are working towards creating responsible and valued future citizens of the world, who are able to make their own decisions and views based on the knowledge they have acquired. Both programmes also ensure that learning is a journey that is never finished, encouraging pupils to never stop being inquisitive and challenging themselves, so that they can see the purpose of what they are learning for themselves.


The IB Primary Years Programme. (2014). The International Baccalaureate Organisation. Available at: file:///C:/Users/julia/OneDrive/Documents/University/MA2/IB/IB%20Primary%20Programme%20Brochure.pdf (Accessed 20/8/19).

IB Educational Trends

The IB Programme was initially founded in 1968 when a Diploma Programme was created to merge subjects together and create a holistic understanding for the learner.  This programme provided the core foundations for the later programmes introduced as it is where the ideology of a course focused on interdisciplinary learning began. The Primary Years Programme was created in 1997 to start the IB programme from a young age, in order for learners to maximise their potential in being successful learners and members of society.

Throughout history, the structure of education and the essence of teaching have evolved in a number of ways for the better, ensuring that learners are gaining more from their education experience than a simple structure where standardized testing and memory were important indicators of a pupil’s learning progress. In the 21st Century, an emphasis on following each child’s individual learning journey has been placed, and education focuses more on the following:

  • Critical analysis
  • Student choice
  • Transdisciplinarity
  • Range of skills testing
  • Constructivism
  • Child – centred
  • Education of the whole child
  • Criterion-referenced
  • AV and AL (languages)
  • Open plan rooms
  • Multiple perspectives

(The history of the IB, 2017)

These progressive trends in the education system ensure that learning is now more of an interactive activity, where each child is assisted to perform their best and individual progress is tracked so that each child is progressing at a speed suitable to them.

The latest progressions that have been identified by the IB Organisation are also present in the CfE curriculum that exists in Scotland. For example, CfE is criterion-referenced with the existence of Experiences and Outcomes, which is a nationwide approach to ensuring every child under CfE possesses the same skills and knowledge, so no pupil is disadvantage by not knowing the bare minimum and vice-versa. This ensures that there is a consistent approach of child-centred learning, as Outcomes have been designed to be applicable to modern society and teachers can interpret the Experiences and Outcomes to suit the pupils in their class, choosing when to progress to the next level or when to provide constructive support to help each pupil achieve their potential. This is a contrast to education systems in the past, where learning was not as individually focused and content was the same for all.

‘Student choice’ is also an aspect that can be seen applied in CfE as Principles of Curricular Design exist in the CfE framework to ensure lessons help learners prosper in many ways. ‘Personalisation and Choice’ is one of the core principles because it is important for pupils to develop independence and the ability to manage their own learning, so they must be able to decide what stage of their learning they are at and be able to make learning enjoyable and not a chore for themselves.

Furthermore, it is clear that the approach to teaching has also improved through time as transdisciplinarity is an important aim of CfE also. For example, subjects such as Health and Wellbeing, Mathematics and Languages also have ‘Responsibility for All’ Experiences and Outcomes, highlighting it is the responsibility of the teacher to incorporate these three subjects in as many lessons as they can, as they are essential and relevant to many more subjects also.

To conclude, it is clear that the structure of learning has changed dramatically as the century has changed, particularly with the introduction of CfE in Scotland which aims to modernise learning by taking the factors above into consideration. Therefore, many aspects of inclusive and child-centred learning can be seen present in CfE, making the curriculum relevant to modern day society and ensuring pupils get the most out of their learning experience.


The history of the IB. (2017).  International Baccalaureate. Available at: https://www.ibo.org/globalassets/digital-tookit/presentations/1711-presentation-history-of-the-ib-en.pdf (Accessed 20/8/19).

What is IB?

The International Baccalaureate Organisation (IB) is an education programme that covers ages 3-19 and has the main aims of creating globally aware learners who are accepting of different cultures and values, aspiring to create a better and more peaceful world.

Learners of the IB curriculum work towards attaining 10 core values that help to build their understanding of the world through enquiry, action and reflection:

  1. Inquirers 
  2. Knowledgeable
  3. Thinkers
  4. Communicators
  5. Principled
  6. Open-minded
  7. Caring
  8. Risk Takers
  9. Balanced
  10. Reflective

The values at the centre of an IB curriculum align with the main aims of Scotland’s main education programme, Curriculum for Excellence (CfE). In CfE, learners aspire to be:

  1. Effective Contributors
  2. Responsible Citizens
  3. Successful Learners 
  4. Confident Individuals 

The two education programmes overlap as for example, ‘Responsible Citizens’ in CfE relates to how in the IB curriculum learners aim to be ‘Caring’, ‘Open-minded’ and ‘Principled’, meaning that all learners should respect all members of our multicultural world and hold their own values of tolerance, encouraging a peaceful world.

Furthermore, ‘Effective Contributors’ in CfE links to being ‘Thinkers’, ‘Communicators’ and ‘Balanced’ in the IB curriculum. All learners in both curriculums should aim to be valuable contributors to modern society, which refers to promoting your own and other’s mental and physical wellbeing, and being engaged in real world issues that challenge society, for example the environment (global warming), rights (LGBTQ+), governance (Brexit), religion (Islamophobia) and cooperation (tackling xenophobia). In the IB curriculum, ‘Communicators’ also refers to possessing knowledge of two or more languages, a valuable skill in the modern world that we live in. This is also encouraged in CfE, with Modern Languages existing as a subject choice.

‘Successful Learners’ is also promoted in both curriculums as learners aspire to be ‘Inquirers’ and ‘Reflective’, ensuring that they develop the skills to manage their own learning through the process of studying what they are interested in and evaluating how they can continue to improve.

‘Confident Individuals’ are important in both curriculums as it is important for learners to be ‘Risk Takers’ and ‘Knowledgeable’. These qualities ensure that learners are able to play a valued role in society and are not afraid to continue to challenge themselves, as they are supported by the knowledge they already possess, so are not intimidated by making mistakes and failing.

From evaluating the core values that both curriculums hold at their foundation, it is clear that they have mutual ambitions and the goal of creating learners who are ready to thrive in the outside world. Through my own experience of CfE so far, from being a pupil to planning class lessons with these values in mind, I have played a part in lessons that promote all of these ideas and it is positive to see this in practice. I particularly enjoy seeing pupils aim to challenge themselves in their learning, as it is clear they are working towards being ‘Risk Takers’ and are not afraid to try out new things and push their boundaries.

An Early Introduction to Writing

It is explicitly clear how writing is linked to listening, reading and talking – the 4 main aspects of language – and Pie Corbett has highlighted this in his idea of ‘Talk for Writing’. This is an effective way to introduce children to writing as children start by orally familiarising themselves with a story and then build the skills to be able to add their own twists to it – change the ending, explore characters further, create their own versions of the same storyline. This manipulation process is good as it develops children’s higher-order thinking and creativity, providing an easy stimulus that will aid children who cannot tap into their own imagination as easily as others can. Corbett explains how this is enjoyable to both girls and boys, important as the latter are usually lacking in language skills as they lack motivation. Talk for Writing is an interesting method to encourage children to write creatively without it seeming so daunting.

Writing is often a subject that children struggle with because it seems so arbitrary, but it is important to see it as just the next stage from reading, listening and talking. Teachers must support children in the early stages of writing by ensuring all children understand that they can do it – it is not just for the avid readers or the children who always seem to have thoughts they can put to paper. Writing cannot exist independently of reading, listening or talking so by linking all 4 elements together in a process like ‘Talk for Writing’, children will grow in confidence to write to entertain, to inform, to pursuade and eventually, to encourage others to write a response.


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