Foreign Language learning for primary age children should be fun. Use a multi-sensory approach to present and reinforce the language in a motivating way and to build the children's confidence: use puppets, visual aids, songs, rhythm and rhyme, gesture and mime, drama. Previously learned language should be continually recycled and new language incorporated into the lessons.
- Puppets (see printable activity 1) are a stimulating way of practising material; voice modulation adds interest; children relate better to puppets talking than to adults, they identify with them and mimic responses, intonation and accent; they provide another Foreign Language speaker in the room. Use them for individual work and they will help to build up the confidence of shy or reserved children, who will more readily perform 'through' a puppet; children can use them to speak to a partner for quick practice of structures just learned, or for creating longer dialogues.
- Songs, rhymes and rhythms are an enjoyable and stress-free way to learn the rhythm, intonation and pronunciation of language. The use of songs and rhymes enhances the National Literacy Strategy. Songs attune the brain to the language. Language can be chanted rhythmically even when there is no tune. Children could:
- accompany the songs with their own instruments
- have a singing competition between groups
- sequence parts of a song correctly (pictures, words, lines or verses) while listening to the song or rhyme
- replace missing words on song sheets by drawing pictures or writing words in the spaces
- make up new verses using familiar language
- Games are fun, and therefore motivating, and should also be challenging. They provide a meaningful context for repetition and reinforcement; they hasten and encourage pupils' progress not only in the language learned but also in social and communication skills as they build confidence; they encourage a positive approach to learning foreign languages. Use guessing games or activities that involve real communication, e.g.
- children point to visual aids as you say them, and vice versa
- they respond to instructions by showing or bringing items
- let children guess visual aids from seeing a small piece or a quick flash of the item, or guess items in a bag, or a missing item in Kim's Game
- play Simon Says then progress to guessing mimes performed by other children or the teacher
- have variations of Yes/No games, where children call out a question all together and then must decide if the answer is correct
- recognise and use numbers in counting games such as Fizzbuzz, or dice games
- play circle games where children are named or numbered and must move when they are named, trying not to end up in the middle without a chair
- have team games such as Chinese Whispers, progressing from passing a word or letter to the last child bringing text cards to the teacher
- match pictures to text and questions to answers, using large text cards
- progress to group and pair games using small card games (see Printable Stuff)
- Compare words in English and French (and in other European languages or other languages familiar to the children). Draw out sounds that are different in the two languages.
Provide extra support for some students, building their confidence by prompting them when necessary. Encourage others to volunteer answers for the class, to take the lead in games, role-plays and demonstrating puppet conversations, and to adapt language to create their own versions of dialogues, puzzles, quizzes rhymes and songs.
Printable activities can be differentiated by printing them off and deleting or adding French before photocopying them for the children.
Listening and Speaking Skills:
Children, when beginning to learn a Foreign Language, must learn to listen carefully, to repeat the language accurately with plenty of reinforcement from the teacher and from activities, and to show understanding by responding to the language. They can then progress to speaking independently.
Once the children have thoroughly learned language items in spoken form they can progress to text recognition activities on the screen or on large text cards, and eventually to independent reading.
This is the last skill to be acquired. Pre-writing can be provided by manipulating text. Written work at this stage should always be supported by providing the correct version of text for reference.
Extension work could include manipulation of text using ICT speech bubbles, progressing to children copying and adapting language to write about themselves or re-use of the language to create new dialogues in imaginative contexts.
Further help for teachers can be found on the Useful links page.