French was never my strong point at school. I felt that I didn’t have the underlining and basic skills to forward my development and therefore the subject broke down for me. In Scotland, we are now introducing a second language in Primary 1. This is a positive means of having the underlining basis of a language such as French or German and therefore moving forward and learning another, for example Spanish, will become easier in accessing the grammar and speech.
Children learn a modern language through receptive skills and productive skills. Receptive is similar to our language – learning through listening and reading. It is important that children have the opportunity to listen to a language before attempting to read it. This is because in many European languages they use accents. These can change the way the words are pronounced. Therefore, if a child were to read a new word first, they would have an interpreted pronunciation and continue to say the word wrong. It is important that productive skills are brought forward also. These are talking and writing. Talking is important feature that can run alongside listening. Teachers can get involved with this also, as demonstrated by Carrie on Tuesday. Carrie used a lesson with us where the teacher used associated actions with a word, such as a left-hand wave with “bonjour” and right-hand wave with “au revoir”. This repeated back and forward from the teachers and pupils can reinforce specific phrases and therefore they have a sound understanding of new vocabulary. This makes it easier in future to receive the words through recognition of sounds and phrases.
These new phrases can then be brought forward through the introduction of the words being written and read. As a teacher, it can be difficult to bring forward a second language when a child’s first language is continuing to develop. Therefore, as mentioned previously, it is important that they are not bombarded with phrases and lessons are focussed on a maximum of 8 new words in a lesson. This provides opportunity for new vocabulary to become embedded in a child and talking and listening activities can progress through writing and reading lessons.
When Carrie was carrying out the lesson she solely focussed on some individuals. This was a reflection task for us all as we were required to think like a class of primary school pupils would. As a teacher, we have to understand that not everyone will be confident in accessing a different language or confident enough to say phrases in front of their peers (Jones, J and Coffey, S 2006). It is therefore important to make activities group tasks to get everyone involved and if feedback is required this is done on a collective basis. We must also keep the work engaging for pupils, whilst progressing at the same time. Keeping activities relevant to the language by having lessons based around a song, a game or an art lesson, provides pupils with fun activities whereby the language is not their sole focus. However, we must develop progression. In Primary 1-3 talking and listening is emphasised, so the pupils have a key understanding of basic language. But older pupils will engage more with reading and writing lesson so therefore they are expanding their skills (Jones and McLachlan 2009). This however may require for teachers to recap pre-taught language to gage the level of the pupils’ understanding and reinforce the words. Therefore, by checking for understanding, use of progression and the use of the four main language skills, children CAN have a sound understanding of a foreign language and maintain this language throughout primary school, with progression in upper stages.
Jones, J. and Coffey, S. (2006) Modern Foreign Languages 5-11: Issues for Teachers. David Fulton. London
Jones, J. and McLachlan, A. (2009) Primary Languages in Practice: A Guide to Teaching and Learning. McGraw-Hill Education