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.