The Power of the Primary Voice

Liz Black

There is nothing more encouraging to hear than that the seeds that were sown by a teacher in primary school have resulted in a learner continuing to enjoy learning languages and make progress, or even that a student has decided to take a language at A level or degree level. How wonderful!

Primary teachers are experts at creative planning and sparking an early interest in language learning and are so often in a unique position to foster this. At ALL we believe that primary language teaching and learning makes an enormous contribution to the child’s whole learning experience.

What is unique about primary age children is that they keep asking questions! They are so curious about the world. My personal view is that questions should be answered, but of course I am aware that time is short and the timetable needs to be followed. Our Programme of Study states that pupils should be taught to ‘’engage in conversations; ask and answer questions; express opinions and respond to those of others; seek clarification and help…’’

Please click here for more details.

The planning put in to teach and cover important knowledge in the primary curriculum is thorough and rigorous, but even a few minutes looking spontaneously at a word or phrase that a child has asked about, or an issue that has been raised, is time well spent.

Please click here to read more of Liz's thinking.

Please click here to read more on the Primary Voice from Janet Lloyd.

Listening to the Primary Voice

ALL Primary Calligrams 2024 

In Spring 2024 ALL volunteers organised a national Calligrams celebration, inviting pupils in age-groups 7-9 and 9-11 to create images of their own with words in other languages.
We had a great response!

We heard that teachers were organising displays in class, peer reviews and assemblies around the Calligrams, and we hope they will continue to celebrate now, and to raise the profile of Primary Languages, with the availability of two e-books of selected examples which can be projected on to a screen!

During the activity teachers commented:

"…has enthused my students
The children loved doing these…"

"Thank you for organising this wonderful cross-curricular initiative."

"Our Girls really enjoyed creating their designs and it proved to be a popular activity. We did it as part of our Language and Culture Week."

"Our students have submitted a number of calligrams and we will be showing them to the whole school this Wednesday for International Mother Language Day."

"The children really enjoyed doing these and I had a number who completed extra ones during their own time in half term! Thank you for setting such an enjoyable competition!"

"We have been learning about Sports in Spanish and the pupils have written about their favourite sports using the Calligram format."

"Many thanks, the children enjoyed the activity very much and what a fabulous way to revise vocabulary!"

"This has really inspired my pupils – I have had 21 entries covering languages including Greek, Latin, Irish, Spanish, German, French and our local patois, Guernsey French. They will be proudly displayed in my classroom."

"My classes thoroughly enjoyed designing these, and it was so hard to just choose 3 from each category to submit. Thank you very much for organising this activity."

And within minutes of publication:

"I am so impressed by the level of creativity. It is very inspiring and we will definitely join again next year."

You can read Volume 1 (7-9 year-olds) here and Volume 2 (9-11 year-olds) here.

Here we celebrate the 'Primariness' of Language in the Primary classroom

Photos from Lisa Stevens, Alistair Sage and Caroline Hewson.

Please send your photos to share! [email protected] with title 'For Primary Voice'.

We thank the children of Hillingdon Primary School for their thoughts on languages and cultures, and their teacher Marian Devons.

The Primary Languages trip is back!

On 13th June 2022 started the best school trip I have ever been on: 18 Y5 & Y6 pupils alongside 3 members of staff from Roseberry Primary School in Pelton, County Durham, were kind enough to let me accompany them on their trip to France!

And what a brilliant week we had!!

I had been confident that our pupils would enjoy being in France, but I had underestimated how much French they would want to know and speak! Being with French children their own age is what made the trip. Everyone on both sides got so much out of it!

Read more (and see more photos) here.

Story telling and Chinese paper-cutting

For the Year of the Rabbit Jenny Core, previously of Devon Primary Languages, shared advice on exploiting the story 'Bon Appétit! Monsieur Lapin' by Claude Boujon' demonstrating the links between Literacy and MFL.

Listening, enjoying and involving the learner (from text to sentence to word).

Read the lesson sequence here.

You can find more on the Year of the Rabbit and other Chinese Years, and  about  paper-cutting activities on this page.

Read about Chinese New Year celebrations at a Primary School in Bushey in 2022. Send your own cultural event stories and photos to [email protected] with title 'For Primary Voice'.


Celebrating Diversity through Translation

Lea Merle PGCE student teacher at the University of Portsmouth reports:

The day started with ‘hello’ cards in various languages, being given to the 62 pupils. They had to find their matching ‘hello’ partner and form groups of 8. Sitting at tables in the hall, they were supported by 2-3 trainee teachers at each table. One of the presenters then read out a story in French but initially without additional support. She then read the story again but this time employed a range of strategies to aid understanding such as pictures, colour coding of key words, intonation, props, noises and characters to act out the scenes. Understanding a text without knowing all the words was a challenge for the learners and the support teachers enabled the pupils to face this challenge by identifying the approaches to understand the text better.

Please click here to read more and see the photos.

European Day of Languages (26 September) is our chance to celebrate ALL our languages. Carol Taylor from Merseyside tells us how she does it here.

Primary Display

Primary classrooms are often full of brilliant displays created by teachers and Teaching Assistants. We are grateful to Patricia Chellal for sharing examples of display from her classroom in Blackpool...

What we offer ALL members

Language Zones

Five collections of articles in English or the target language on culture, resources and practice in the classroom

Languages Today

Practical ideas and content for primary teachers through our termly magazine, Languages Today

Language Learning Journal

ALL’s flagship research journal providing a forum for scholarly contributions on current aspects of foreign language and teaching

Learning from the Classroom

The ALL initiative to connect and share research and practice by teachers for the benefit of members

Primary Hubs

Local groups across the country offering training and support

Email fora

Anyone who is teaching languages in the primary sector can also join Primary Languages, ALL’s email discussion group


Weekly news and updates with our e-newsletter, ALLNet


Discover challenges and competitions for your learners