I hope that you had a good break over half term. I was away with friends. Can you guess where I was when I took this photo? Do any readers of the blog know? I like the idea of cafés where you can read and look at unusual pictures and objects on the walls! If nobody knows I’ll tell you next week as it is worth a visit.
Last week, we heard that ‘hashtag’ is children’s word of the year. Vineeta Gupta, Head if Children’s Dictionaries at Oxford University press, (See blog post dated March 10th Lexicographers and dictionaries for all ages… ) appeared on the BBC last week.
I really recommend that you read this article by David Sillito, the Arts Correspondent.
‘OUP analysed more than 120,421 short stories by children aged between 5 -13 years old, submitted to the BBC’s 500 Words competition.’ Look at the themes that the pupils chose to write about. ‘Popular themes included World War One, world events in Ukraine and Syria and Ebola.’ This proves what I’ve been saying; learners want to talk and write about deeper things and we have to find ways of facilitating this in our language lessons. As we plan for the introduction of the new GCSE we need to think ahead about the requirements of the specifications. KS3 is a crucial stage and the work preparing them for GCSE must start then and build on the excellent work primary teachers are covering. Year 8 is an important stage as they will be starting to think about their options for GCSE. They will have to listen to and read texts that are more complex and authentic materials that are ‘addressing a wide range of contemporary and cultural themes.’ (AQA draft specification). Justifying their point of view when they have expressed their thoughts in speaking and writing examinations will lead to higher marks. We have an opportunity now to change things.
Recently, I met with an old school friend who studied Biology at university and works as Head of Science in a school in Toronto. We were talking about our language lessons at school. He told me that he had hated it, was put down by our teacher and didn’t see the relevance at all, but is learning languages now with the help of an app that he really likes. I didn’t really enjoy the lessons either, if I’m honest. He said ‘I don’t know how you got to love languages so much, Liz.’ I replied. ‘Well, it’s because of my interest in culture and the history and everything that shapes societies now. I wanted and still want to be able to really talk to the people and find out about countries. I wanted to be able to read in the language.’ This conversation made me think again about the current situation in Britain and why we want more pupils to carry on learning a language. The assignments at York University I’ve been marking written by the PGCE students have also made me think. They have been carrying out research, and their findings based on questionnaires and interviews also indicate that changes need to be made. One trainee looked at the issue of low numbers carrying on to A Level. Let’s keep working on strategies that promote language learning together.
Maybe the removal of controlled assessments and the almost rote learning for the speaking and to a certain extent the writing will help? What’s your opinion on this? I’m sure that you agree that the more that our learners are provoked to think the more need they will see to be able to use language for themselves. I have talked before about the power of Group Talk and encouraging simple debates. I think that this also helps with behaviour issues at times. There need to be rules, that they listen and wait until someone has finished speaking. Phrases like, ‘Yes I agree with you’ or ‘Yes, I agree with you to a certain extent’….Or…. ‘No, I see things in a different way’…lead to a dialogue. If we encourage young learners to accept that people have different views on things, but encourage respect for others we will be helping to build a more tolerant society, won’t we? Learning a language is much more that accumulating words and structures. I’ll leave you with this quotation which was above the bookshop door on my travels…