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With a little savoir faire

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By Rosie WardenYear 4 teacher

French enthusiast and last year’s Guest Editor, Rosie Warden, reveals how to add a little va-va-voom to your French teaching

With a little savoir faire

Perhaps the biggest challenge that teaching primary languages presents is how to fit the recommended 60 minutes a week into an already jam-packed curriculum. Clearly, if children are to make good progress with a language, they must hear it regularly, and have opportunities to repeat it. The KS2 Framework for Languages deliberately avoids prescribing a particular way of planning lessons, though the recently published ‘Section Three’ does contain guidance and examples. A four-part lesson structure can work well:

  1. Present new vocabulary.
  2. Explain how it can be used.
  3. Repeat new language.
  4. Apply new language learned.

It is much more effective to learn a small amount of language really well and be able to use it flexibly in different situations, than to attempt to memorise long lists of nouns. By working to the maxim ‘little and often’, it can be useful to supplement a longer, weekly taught session (of say 30-40 minutes) with short, five-minute ‘bursts’ during the week, achieved by embedding the language into classroom routines. See ‘Little and often techniques’ below.

Little and often techniques

  • Do the register in French – get each child to respond to the question: Ça va?
  • Record the date in French on the board and change it daily with the children. Equally, a daily weather report can work well, too.
  • Children can be dismissed to play/lunch by answering a simple question in French. Alternatively, define a particular criterion for the children to respond to, for example: Ton anniversaire est en Septembre; Tu portes du bleu; Tu as huit ans or Ton prénom commence avec ‘A’.
  • Praise work across the curriculum in the foreign language: Super Mark! for example. For younger children, many of the main sticker companies sell foreign language stickers.
  • Encourage children to use s’il vous plait and merci.
  • Use basic classroom commands such as Asseyez-vous and _Rangez vos affaires_.
  • Count up or down in French while tidying up.
  • In PE warm-ups, state a number in French and ask the children to get into groups of that size, or use French in your warm-up by having actions that go with a particular number.
  • Sing ‘Happy Birthday’ (‘Joyeux Anniversaire’) in French.
  • Have a word of the day – for example a classroom object which could be labelled.
  • Using flashcards is a great way to introduce new words. Get the children to demonstrate understanding through a physical response so that they get used to really hearing the words (see ‘Tips for using flashcards’, below).
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