Welcome to Practitioner Focus
Practitioner Focus highlights ALL resources from across the website, and new content from and for members which is of general interest. Teachers of Adults, in Colleges and Schools and in other contexts will find here ideas, suggestions and resources that they can adjust to their specific Language and requirements. These are grouped under the headings below, along with the ALL Teacher Briefings that keep you up-to-date with events.
Non-members can find opportunities to pay per view content articles, so you don't miss out!
Research summaries from OASIS
The Open Accessible Summaries In Language Studies (OASIS) initiative aims to make research findings on language learning and teaching available and accessible to a wide audience.
OASIS summaries are one-page descriptions of research articles on language learning, language teaching, and multilingualism that have been published in peer-reviewed journals listed on the Social Science Citation Index or the Arts and Humanities Citation Index. The summaries provide information about the study’s goals, how it was conducted, and what was found, and are written in non-technical language. Where relevant, they also highlight findings that may be of particular interest to language educators, although the initiative is not solely aimed at research with immediate practical implications. The summaries are generally approved, and often (co-)written, by the author(s) of the original journal article.
Ofsted Curriculum Review Webinars 2021
Ofsted has recently published Curriculum Reviews in several subjects, alongside its Education Inspection Framework. As part of its role in informing members of developments, ALL hosted an Information webinar in September 2021 which presented a reminder of the EIF headlines, and details of the MFL Curriculum Review, contrasting it with the requirements of the MFL National Curriculum. A recording of the webinar is available here.
ALL is grateful for these contributions which express the views of the individual writers and are offered to stimulate the thinking of readers.
Has Brexit wrecked my life's work?
Mike Zollo was an active volunteer for ALL in the 1990s especially in the field of Spanish where he worked as a teacher, teacher trainer and writer.
In his blog Mike reflects on the political changes of recent times and reminds readers of the bigger picture.
Inclusion – one school’s work to support Gypsy-Roma students
Juan Echepares Riera
Spanish-Roma, ESOL/ Accelerated Curriculum Teacher and EAL Research Projects Coordinator at Queen Katharine Academy (QKA) in Peterborough.
Our cohort at QKA includes 65% of EAL students (with some individual year groups having up to 75%) and 9% declared Gypsy-Roma (20% suspected). Many of these students are newly arrived migrants and have gaps in education when arriving to the UK, or even if they have lived most of their lives in England. It is a statistical fact that only a minority of Gypsy-Roma students continue to further and higher education due to discrimination and the lack of aspiration for, and by, the Gypsy-Roma community.
To boost students’ learning especially in the Accelerated Curriculum (See the article ADIBE at QKA please link to this in CLIL Zone / Secondary case studies), we sought advice to narrow those gaps. We identified that most of our Roma-Gypsy students have experienced institutionalised racism in their countries of origin; most have had sub-standard education and quality of life; they may have health-care and self-esteem issues; they are amongst the poorest in our cohort – but may not be Pupil Premium.
To address these issues, we established an Erasmus+ project called ‘Roma - Narrowing the Gap and Aiding Integration’ in partnership with The University of Nitra Institute of Romani Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences and Healthcare (CPU) and CampusRom - an organisation supported by the Catalan Government that works with the Spanish Gypsy-Roma community. This project is focused on the exchange of good practices and collaboration to improve integration and achievement for Gypsy-Roma students in the UK, Spain and Slovakia. Thus, we brought together organisations that are all working to improve outcomes and aspirations of Gypsy-Roma at different stages and in different contexts, so that we can learn from each other about initiatives that work, and also to improve the provision in each country and across Europe.
This two-year project started in November 2019 and has allowed the three organisations involved to participate in a variety of workshops and conferences where information on the diversity of contexts and good practices have been exchanged:
- our Spanish and Slovakian partner visited QKA to plan an overview of the research project
- The University of Nitra and QKA visited CampusRom in Barcelona and learnt how CampusRom has successfully secured guaranteed places for Gypsy-Roma students in all faculties at Catalan universities. They also showed work requesting the Catalan Government to include Roma history in the National Curriculum at primary and secondary schools. Additionally, we spent a day walking around the neighbourhood La Mina and talking to Gypsy-Roma neighbours, which allowed us to gain an insight into the degree of segregation and marginalisation they are living in, and the limitations to integrating in society that they find.
- QKA ran a 3-day workshop where our partners observed our Home Languages preparation for GCSE and A levels, attended a workshop on the successes of QKA’s Sixth Form and the support on offer to post-16 students, and got a flavour of the numeracy interventions and the support for developing skills for life. They also explored the aims and objectives of the Accelerated Curriculum and its impact on students with low levels of English and literacy; they shadowed Roma students in lessons, and they met Petr Torak MBE and learnt about the COMPAS charity, and how successful collaboration between schools and community groups has improved community relations. Our guests walked around Lincoln Road to understand the Roma context in Peterborough and took part in a session of our ROGA (Roma of Great Ability) scheme (run in collaboration with Cambridge University) and finally attended the Parallel Lives: Roma Engagement and Integration
As we have had to extend this Erasmus+ project due to COVID-19, this year we are running 4 different online workshops to maintain the exchange of good practices and to agree on further actions for the last year of the research project.
Recordings from the ALL Peterborough Hub webinar, Erasmus+ Narrowing the Gap, from Friday 12th February 2021.
Erasmus+ NTG - Obstacles faced by UK Roma communities during the Covid-19 pandemic https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ARWxrRk0vQI
Narrowing the Gap – Mihai Bica – Roma Support Group https://youtu.be/q8XSyqt26Cw
If we throw language learning under the Brexit bus ...
Mike Zollo contributes his views on the Year Abroad .
“This one year changed my life, my values and my appreciation of those of others”.
As an undergraduate studying Spanish and French in 1969, I really didn’t want to spend a year abroad, and it wasn’t compulsory to do so in those days. My arm was twisted by my tutor, and I spent a year in Granada, Spain. That year changed my life, and made me a confident speaker of Spanish, made me a hispanophile and a proper hispanist!
Soon after I arrived, the conserje (caretaker) of the block of flats I stayed in said to me one day: “Te ingré, ¿no?”, or at least that was what it sounded like. I replied “Sí” in a not very convinced voice, but not having understood at all. Later, after much puzzlement I twigged: he had actually asked “Usted es inglés, ¿no?” (“You’re English, aren’t you?”), but in the local accent and ‘swallowing’ lots of crucial letters. My very traditional school and university studies in Spanish had not prepared me for this at all: real Spanish!
After about three months I became ‘linguistically acclimatised’, then started learning very rapidly. I also acquired my taste for calamares (squid), garbanzos (chick-peas) and jamón serrano (serrano ham). I finally decided to try them after seeing my Spanish friends fight over what I was leaving on my plate and I’ve never looked back. Not only that, I returned to my university ready for my final year so much more mature, culturally aware, and confident in my Spanish. I could not in all conscience have gone into language teaching without this experience.
Yet, Brexit has deprived British language students of their freedom of movement in Europe. Universities are extremely worried now about the lack of opportunities for their language students to benefit from their year in an EU country. As quoted in an article in the Guardian on 23 February, the dean of research and innovation at Cardiff University, Claire Gorrara, said “I don’t think anybody was fully aware of the extent of the entanglement of the UK with the EU. Like any sector – the same goes for fishing, transport and logistics – the university sector is grappling with the complexities of the situation that weren’t known until it happened.” This is yet another area which the Brexit government overlooked in the rush to “get Brexit done”.
As one student, Antonia Kessel, says: “For so many people, going on a year abroad is unfeasible at the moment”, and another, Esme Cawley: “Navigating a year abroad post-Brexit has been a total administrative and financial nightmare.” Students now face mountains of red tape and having to prove that they can afford their stay in some countries, including proof of more than €6,000 (£5,194) in their bank account. Brexiters voted for an end to freedom of movement… for British youngsters who need to spend time in an EU country as part of their studies: the future teachers of European languages in our schools.
You can read Mike's article in full
The AATT of curriculum planning - Dr Jennifer Eddy
In her article Dr Jennifer Eddy introduces the principles behind designing the task-based learning modules available, with tools for language teachers, on the Design Space website.
Manchester City of Languages
In the Multilingual Museum project, Manchester Museum partners with Multilingual Manchester to promote inclusion and accessibility and mobilise pride in the city's linguistic diversity.
The project solicits voluntary contributions from its online community in order to translate the narratives of Manchester Museum. Translations can provide easier access to content for those who prefer reading in a language other than English; but they can also offer a platform for a variety of audiences to engage actively with museum content, by using the translation process to contribute to the interpretation of that content. The project is hosted online
The Multilingual Museum takes a participatory approach to translations, and contributors can submit translations in any language or dialect, as well as provide commentary on others. Submissions can be a close translation or a loose interpretation; experiences, observations and opinions relating to the objects are welcomed.
The project is a collaboration between the University of Manchester, Manchester Museum and Multilingual Manchester and is led by Professor Yaron Matras.
City of Literature
An article about the Multilingual Poetry Library at Manchester Metropolitan University appears in LT 38
ALL London June Event 2021
Please see below resources and videos from the ALL London June Event 2021.
Greg Horton Resources for Speaking
Just 9 Words
Thanks to Tina Lonsdale for her activity
Creating a brain-friendly environment through coaching techniques
Nicole Malloy describes a project with adult learners that will resonate with teachers of younger children and teenagers.
At the beginning of the year, I set out to discover what difference the integration of coaching strategies and techniques would make to learning.
Would it increase learner confidence, engagement and progression through the provision of new approaches and techniques?
Would it reduce barriers to learning and individualise learning more?
In addition, as goal setting is part of its basis, would it assist me in my planning?
And further, might it be interesting to teachers of different ages of learners?
I teach German to adults of the third age attending classes at an educational charity in Wilmslow, Cheshire, mainly for pleasure. The majority of my learners have some connection with a German-speaking country, quite often with family members living in either Germany, Austria or Switzerland. Some of my learners used to work in, or with, a German-speaking country, while others did German at University.
All of them wish to improve their language skills, but, like so many British people, doubt their own ability, often highlighting that their increasing age makes learning harder. I often hear: ‘I have learnt this so many times, but can never remember.’ or ‘For every word I learn new, I forget another.’ A never-ending worry about making mistakes also accompanies their learning.
This combination of negative feelings I have observed inspired me to research brain-friendly learning, which places the focus on reducing the factors which might push the brain out of a relaxed but active state into an anxious one, and on creating an environment shaped by learners’ wishes, needs and interests; this is what brings in coaching techniques.
In preparation for my research, I studied two books in relation to the topic: Paling's "Neurolanguage Coaching" (2017) and Betham's "Coaching for Language Learning" (2018) as well as a number of articles.
I read about the importance of creating a brain-friendly learning atmosphere by attempting to reduce as many fear factors as possible. Key, according to the literature consulted, was for learners to maintain a calm state of mind.
I learnt that asking learners to set themselves goals, to identify any hurdles which might get in the way of reaching the goals, and equally drawing their attention to existing knowledge and skills which might assist them, should be beneficial tools in focusing attention, individualising learning and building confidence.
Armed with these ideas, I started my project by asking learners to identify their goals, and identify any hurdles they perceived. Achieving these goals then formed the basis for my systematic planning of activities, while clearly naming the fear factors was the first step in overcoming them.
I then gradually integrated specific techniques, making the intention of each activity clear so that learners could focus, and to take away any worry.
- listening for what learners understand (as opposed to losing focus because of information missed or not understood)
- listening with the heart (dedicating full focus to the message heard without assuming or judging, but paying attention to the information conveyed including through means beyond the spoken word) in order to predict what would happen next, or to fill blanks, or to comment on what we heard.
- reading for detail and putting cut-up text into the correct order
- reading for full understanding of the content, or for particular information, reading aloud for rhythm or reading to stimulate thinking, e.g. interpretation or discussion or personal association.
- learning grammar through self-discovery. When we are exploring new grammatical structures I invited learners to tell me what they could see and to hypothesise possible explanations for what they have observed. For example, when studying the Perfect Tense in German, we would choose an examples from a text, ‘Ich habe ein Buch gelesen’ and comment on what we saw: ‘habe’+ a second verb which has ‘ge-‘ and is at the end of the sentence. We would attempt to translate in order to determine the tense and its use, comparing to English to highlight similarities and differences. My favourite questions became ‘What is happening here? What do you think?’ As these questions merely focus on what learners think and observe (not already, or necessarily, know) their anxiety is reduced. In addition, the thinking activity may increase engagement and build stronger memories.
- For speaking and writing we tried out the FAB approach (Betham, 2018):
F- Focus - on the message you wish to communicate (in speaking or writing)
A - Adapt - fill gaps, correct spelling, change words, check the grammar
B- Be the message - believe in it, focus it on your recipient and transmit it with conviction
(In the case of speaking the three steps need to be completed simultaneously.)
To reduce fear about speaking we have two separate types of activity: speaking for fluency (where the focus is on self-expression without interruption) and speaking for correctness. I found great benefit in the first option as learners have become so much more confident, and it is a pleasure to hear them having conversations in the target language.
To support the development of real life communication we also work on simplifying what learners want to say. Often the message they think of is complex (because they are capable of expressing this in their mother tongue). So how can we reduce it to a simpler essence that can be shared in German with the vocabulary and structures learners are familiar with?
In Writing I encouraged the learners to write their message focusing first on what they would like to communicate, and then revisiting it to refine vocabulary and grammar, but always keeping the reader in mind.
To reduce anxiety further, I offered my learners options in completing tasks such that they could attack them as they viewed best for themselves. I made sure ‘mistakes’ and questions were viewed as learning opportunities with a positive focus throughout, and I strongly discouraged comparison between learners.
Key new learning information was explored step-by-step, constantly linking it to existing knowledge, so as not to overload the brain, and to avoid confusion.
Throughout I strongly encouraged learners to get involved in the design and flow of our sessions by bringing queries and making suggestions for topics which reflected their goals.
From the feedback I received from my learners I learnt that they found the integration of these coaching strategies and techniques beneficial. They felt that the process increased their confidence in their abilities, and their motivation and offered them encouragement. Some said they felt they had progressed better and were more satisfied with themselves.
They saw that the process had assisted them in gaining clarity about their motivation, their strengths and areas for development, and given them focus. Setting goals and identifying hurdles created a basis for measuring progress. Teaching and learning was perceived to be more structured, more relevant, more responsive to learner needs and hence more inclusive.
They appreciated that the techniques and approaches supported their learning for the following reasons:
- being very closely linked to the use of language in real life situations
- representing a natural and more inclusive approach
- providing a basis to understand the target language by giving insight into vocabulary and grammar, at times by comparison to English
- teaching useful strategies, such as simplifying the message to focus on communication
- maximising focus on the task in hand
- inviting learners to engage in using the language without fear
- supporting basic understanding and creating a basis to develop from
- encouraging them to take risks, to just ‘go for it’.
Betham (2018) states that the approach would be best suited for B1 level learners, and some of my lower level learners did indeed feel that the techniques and strategies required a certain level of language competency.
(A small number also felt that techniques like listening and reading for gist, were not that useful for them as ‘they wanted to know everything’ !).
Overall I concluded that my project positively answered the research questions. The integration of coaching-based strategies and techniques increased learner confidence and facilitated more individualised learning. It structured teaching and learning and was combinable with more traditional approaches. Above all, it seems to have supported learner satisfaction as highlighted by many in their feedback questionnaires. So an overall positive outcome, which will certainly influence my teaching moving forward.
ALL for One and One for All – How to engage adult learners
The above quotation from ‘The Three Musketeers’ by Dumas has passed into the English language and conjures up thoughts of comradeship and unity. This motto could also be applied to my Derby U3A French Conversation Group which has been meeting regularly for the last three years. There are twenty members on the register with equal numbers of men and women. We agreed that the group would not be for beginners but that it would be an intermediate conversation group for people who want to practise speaking French, myself included! The enthusiasm and energy in the group is contagious but why is it that after having retired, this group of people were motivated to join a language class? This article endeavours to explore some of the reasons why older people are choosing to learn a language and how we as teachers engage them so that they continue to return. Some of the issues clearly apply to learners of all ages!
The University of the Third Age ( U3A) is a movement that brings together people who are retired or semi-retired to draw on their skills, knowledge and expertise. People learn from each other and voluntarily give of their time. Learning becomes a pleasure and as the U3A states “learning is its own reward“. My role is that of a facilitator and decisions about what topics or subjects to talk about are made not by me but by the whole group. One could debate the difference between the role of a teacher and that of a facilitator but Paulo Freire in his work entitled ‘Pedagogy of Hope’ (1992) suggests that the learners should take control and through the act of taking themselves in hand they become ‘agents of curiosity.’
At a recent U3A Languages Workshop in Birmingham there were teachers/facilitators representing many different languages including Latin and Welsh. The consensus was that languages are in demand. I repeat LANGUAGES ARE IN DEMAND! What a contrast to the headlines that languages are in decline in our schools and that our language departments are contracting. This sharp contrast and apparent contradiction has made me ponder on the reasons why U3A members are bucking the trend and opting for languages as opposed to our students in school who seem to be opting out. Are third age adult language learners ‘agents of curiosity?’
In order to understand why third age members are bucking the trend I devised a questionnaire to try to discover what my group of adult learners like to do and what they wanted to learn. I also wanted to find out about their experiences at school. One of the group studied French but said that her French exam results were not good enough at the end of her first year at secondary school and she was told that she would be unable to learn German or Latin. However she continued to study French to ‘A’ level. Recently she returned from a holiday in Iceland and spoke in French at some length about her holiday adventures. She pinned a map on the wall and talked about her journey. Group members were interested in what she was saying and asked many questions. The negative experience at school had not deterred her from continuing with her French language studies. Other group members studied French to ‘O‘ level but for some of them that was sixty or more years ago! They said that they were worried that they had forgotten grammar and tenses. Another man did not study French at school and said ‘Just staying alive was the principle objective at my school!’ When I asked him why he had joined the group he replied that he thought it would be a challenge for him. Yet another man informed me that he did not enjoy languages at school and that his French teachers were ‘old school’ and difficult to relate to. The group’s previous language learning experiences were varied but they all seem to be united now in a quest to improve and revise their French conversational skills. They have all set themselves this challenge.
The results of the questionnaire revealed that group members wanted to learn more about France, the different regions, politics, wine and current affairs. One person has a property in France and another needed to improve his French in order to be able to deal with his French aunt‘s affairs. Many of the responses referred to the desire ‘to be able to hold a relaxed conversation in France rather than thinking about whether the conversation is right!’ All were in agreement that lots of opportunities for speaking and listening were needed to improve their conversational French. Their appetite for wanting to learn more came through the questionnaire very strongly irrespective of their school experiences.
Naturally there were some anxieties and concerns about remembering grammar, tenses and as one member said ‘dredging up vocabulary’. I stressed that our sessions would be relaxed. Most importantly I emphasized that no-one would be forced to speak. Stephen Krashen (1982) described affective variables that relate to success in second language acquisition. He describes these variables in his ‘Affective Filter Hypothesis’ and argues that anxiety is one of these variables that can affect language acquisition. Krashen argues that ‘low anxiety appears to be conducive to second language acquisition, whether measured as personal or classroom anxiety.’ The ethos of the classroom or meeting room is important and sets the tone of the learning environment. One group member said recently that our group is a good supportive group in which everyone helps each other and no-one is embarrassed if they make a mistake. Other members revealed that they were worried about their memories and for some a gradual loss of memory in both English and French. By contrast when asked what do adult learners worry about one member said “ I have long since stopped worrying!“ and another stressed that it is not a problem if he makes a mistake in class as when he is in France he feels that he has sufficient knowledge, experience and confidence to get by. The range of answers in the questionnaire revealed a broad spectrum with those who were very confident with no worries at one end to those who were anxious and fearful of making mistakes when speaking French at the other end.
In order to engage this group of adults I began our first session in 2016 with a quiz about the geography of France. It was a useful ice-breaker and enabled paired work and small group discussions. I talked about living in Caen in Normandy and some of the places to visit in that region. We looked at maps and photos and gradually we began the process of getting to know one another. Questions were asked in French and people responded hesitatingly to begin with and then with more confidence. Since then we have explored other regions of France including Brittany and the Breton language. This led to a discussion in French about other minority languages and one member of the group revealed that she spoke Gaelic and had studied it in Ireland at university. Hobbies and interests have been discussed and there have been presentations in French on playing the organ and how an organ works, on jazz music, art, and much more besides! We have celebrated Christmas and attempted to retell the story of Jacques et les Haricots Magiques (Jack and the Beanstalk).
We sang French carols and attempted a traditional French dance. Last Summer we discovered that there was a ‘Pétanque Club’ nearby and after making contact we enjoyed a sunny afternoon together trying to master the rules of this traditional French game. More recently we have been following the exploits of ‘le septuagénaire qui traverse l‘Atlantique en tonneau‘. It has captured our imaginations and one member updates us on the French man‘s progress each session! We have been trying to predict where he will land as he is being blown off course – an opportunity to practise the future tense!
This term we explored the theme of ‘Le Printemps’ (Spring) and explored the use of vocabulary through poetry. Some of the group were adventurous and had a go at writing some acrostic poems about Spring. This form of poetry was new to some of the group but they embraced the concept enthusiastically and enjoyed reciting their poems to one another.
They decided to adapt acrostic poems to other areas and some chose their names and attempted to write a poem about themselves. We are fortunate to have a native French speaker in the group and she adds authenticity and that certain ‘je ne sais quoi!’ Sometimes we work together as a double act and tease one another about the French or the English. She has lived in England longer than she lived in France and for her coming to the French conversation sessions is both a social activity but also a way of sharing her French skills with like-minded people. She has talked about the French elections, about Macron and last Summer introduced us to the term ‘la canicule’ (heatwave). The importance of the social aspect of the group was highlighted by many of the group members in the questionnaire.
My expectations of the group are high and a programme is always sent out in advance with suggestions of how to prepare. One lady said that she appreciated the structure of the sessions and another told me that ‘the more I learn the more I realise that there is even more to know.’
The resources that we use include articles from French newspapers and magazines and radio or television items, e.g. in early 2019 the death of the singer Johnny Halliday. His life was discussed and we listened to some of his music. An article about a French mayor and dogs produced a debate on ‘pour ou contre les chiens’ and the recent introduction of ‘uritrottoirs’ in Paris caused a great deal of hilarity as only toilet humour can!
Visual material such as pictures and photos are appreciated and I try to incorporate them into most sessions. Role play has also proved popular and we have imagined ourselves in situations for example ‘Chez le dentiste.’ We are gradually building up a small bank of resources including some unearthed French novels, French dictionaries and other books which members of the group can borrow. One member of the group belongs to a Book Club and read a novel by Michel Bussi, the Black Water Lilies which she then recommended to the French Group. However in the questionnaire one person highlighted that she thought that the best resource was the group itself and stated that “We are the group’s resources.”
Learning a language is a challenging activity and for several of my group their earlier negative school experiences have not put them off wanting to learn French again and wanting to improve their spoken French. They choose to come to the French conversations sessions and enthusiastically engage with each theme and topic. The quality of the learning experience and the safe environment in which these adult learners find themselves are important factors in their continuing attendance. There is a social aspect too., and members of the group who live on their own actively look forward to the French sessions. There is a positive group dynamic and the social interaction is obvious to see both during the session and during the much needed tea break!
Language learning need not stop when we leave school or university. For many it is an enjoyable and rewarding life-long pursuit. The results of the questionnaire point repeatedly to the dedication and self-motivation that each one of the group possesses. They are ‘agents of curiosity’ and motivated by their love of France and all things French. I would argue that their enjoyment of the learning experience is a crucial factor in their engagement and in motivating them to pursue their language goals.
As a languages teacher, I have been influenced by the research and work of Freire, Krashen and Cummins and have tried to put some of their ideas into practice as a teacher of French and of EAL (English as an Additional Language). The Natural Approach to language teaching developed by Tracey Terrell and supported by Krashen (1983) builds on a communicative approach to language teaching where the role of the teacher is to provide comprehensible input and to provide an environment free from stress and anxiety. Professor Jim Cummins distinguishes between Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills (BICS) and Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP). In simple language this is the difference between ordinary everyday language and more complex academic language which one needs to argue, discuss and debate. The members of my French group would argue that they have mastered to some degree the everyday conversational language in French. They can greet one another, order food and ask for directions. However the leap to a more academic language proficiency requires a more in-depth knowledge of formal French language to enable them to converse in a more formal, articulate fashion. My task is to help them to cross this language bridge and enable them to acquire this level of language proficiency. The Natural Approach helps to engage students in a way that recognises each individual student’s needs in a non-judgemental and empathetic way.
In this article I have shared the analysis of my questionnaire and described the thoughts and feelings of members of the group. The third age students in my group are keen to learn and to improve their languages. The teachers at the Birmingham workshop were also enthusiastic and keen to work together. This then raises the question in my mind about what role the Association for Language Learning could play in all of this? As a Primary Languages Network leader I encourage teachers to join ALL and I spell out the benefits of being part of a national organisation, summarised as ‘Together we are stronger’.
I wonder if there is a way forward for ALL to support primary, secondary and U3A third age language teachers/facilitators and their learners? I would like to propose that just as the Three Musketeers found strength and unity together, then perhaps all of us language teachers, whatever age group we teach, should be working together towards a new motto: ALL for one and one for ALL.
Looking to liven up your lesson?
German at The City Lit
I really enjoy being a German tutor at The City Lit in Central London. The learners are all adults with various motivational reasons for wanting to learn German, from enjoyment to travelling or family needs. Some are beginners with no German whatsoever, others have ‘rusty’ German from previous learning at school or college, whereas others are skilled linguists who are accomplished in one or more language and just want to learn another one. This creates a great class dynamic, everyone is focused and they support each other really well.
As a German teacher, this makes it a particularly interesting role: some learners need lots of encouragement and respond very positively to praise and feedback, others understand grammatical concepts very well and are able to apply their knowledge in a new context or help other learners to understand things more clearly. All are especially interested in learning about the cultural and everyday aspects of life in each of the German-speaking countries, so planning my lessons always involves looking for opportunities to bring in those cultural elements or idiomatic phrases that I know they will enjoy learning.
Neil Hillman (German Tutor, The City Lit)
Arabic as One: Teaching Adult Learners of Arabic
Here Sahar Y.I. Alshobaki (PhD student, University of Roehampton) shares her research in progress on her approach to teaching Arabic by starting the engagement with a new student by asking them to create their personalised Learner’s Vision.
Express Yourself in Lockdown
A recording of the celebration event 2021 for Express Yourself in Lockdown is available here: https://www.britishcouncil.org/school-resources/languages/express-yourself-lockdown
Express Yourself in Lockdown was organised by the British Council and ALL with our cultural partners in early 2021.
Language learners of all ages can benefit from awareness of linguistics: https://www.tes.com/news/teaching-linguistics-improves-language-skills
ALL members might also like to read this article : https://www.all-languages.org.uk/languages-today/languages-today-extended-content/how-do-we-talk-about-grammar-and-texts/
ALL Pointer: Exploiting video resources
ALL Pointer: Exploiting songs
Songs are attractive and versatile resources to use with learners of all ages and abilities. The key to using them to support language learning is in the interaction teachers devise. Here are some ideas from Steven Fawkes.
Harmer Parr's Best Ten things to hang onto...
Harmer Parr’s Best Ten things to hang on to …
Harmer Parr was a French teacher, then Adviser and later HMI, now retired. He responded to ‘Our Best Ten things to hang on to’ in LT 38 by contributing this:
It’s been a long while since I’ve thought about this, but …
General things first:
1 I’d teach more verbs, from the very first minutes, not as grammar but as vocabulary. If approaches tend to focus on a set of nouns related to a topic, it leads to a pocketful of words with no way of stringing them together into a sentence. I’d like to get learners talking in sentences from the beginning. I remember that phase when giving a whole sentence answer to a question, usually using a lot of the words from the question, was frowned on because it wasn’t ‘natural’…. as if learning a language in a classroom is natural.
2 Use symbols and sign language to build up oral stories. I once saw a bloke who taught by stapling sugar paper round the walls and then building up a story on it, using pictures and agreed symbols to stand for words not representable by pictures. He built up the story with the class, recapping it the whole time, and at the end of the lesson got the kids to tell the story from the pictures. As a further refinement of that, he later dropped some of the symbols and then the pictures out, so that pupils could tell the story from memory.
3 Going on from that, using pictures or words, teach the class to talk from notes. This stage can be reached by composing a whole text with the class and then dropping words out progressively, until you are left with a set of single words to act as prompts. This is a great way to prepare for talks and presentations by the kids. The activity can lead to writing the original story from the notes.
4 Teach vocabulary guessing strategies. A guide to how to guess the meaning of unfamiliar words by a series of check questions: ‘Is it like English? Do the words around it or the sentence as a whole give a clue? Leading to teaching some simple etymology: l changing to u, c changing to ch, b changing to v, French circumflex meaning s dropping out, and so on, encouraging kids to try the change to see if it helps.
Brian Page once wrote a couple of little books I used in the classroom at Sudbury (in the early ‘80s) about how to teach reading. They were excellent, and hardly used at all anywhere. A good example of ideas getting by-passed when the latest whizzy scheme comes up. It would be worth as well having a look at the supporting publications for languages produced for the National Curriculum. There were a lot of excellent ideas in there, which were maybe never read.
5 An idea: teach the imperfect tense by means of alibis. What were you doing when the crime was committed? I was watching TV in my room. Etc. A good crime to kick it off helps.
6 An idea: teach ‘être’ verbs by moving a little character up and down the shaft in a large hotel. He went up to the fifth floor, down to the second floor, went in a bedroom, came out of the bedroom, etc. More interesting if there are activities, or people, or strange creatures in the different rooms. I used to have a little cardboard cut-out figure to put on the OHP, which I guess don’t exist any more, but one day when I was ready to do the activity Monsieur Machin had gone missing. I screwed up a ball of paper and called it ‘les aventures de Blob’. Poor Machin was redundant after that. Il est mort, in fact.
(Finally, a humorous suggestion for teachers of a certain age, and fans of Eddie Izzard.)
If all else fails, get a series of pictures showing a monkey stealing a picnic and someone falling in the river as a result. It’s an absolute winner. The story could start: ‘Par un beau jour d’été, le soleil brillait dans un ciel bleu, sans nuages’. When days start like that, the fall into the river is inevitable, so the only proviso is that it might spoil the surprise when the splash comes.
Templates for Powerpoint games
Yu Bei from the ALL Mandarin Zone volunteer group has shared a link to a website with a range of Powerpoint templates
Languages and Skills
Economic Value of Languages Skills
A forthcoming report on research findings on the economic value of languages skills in SMEs
Lifelong Education Commission
Top ten reasons
DfE employer skills survey 2019
Queens Speech 2021
Extract from the Queen’s Speech May 2021
Skills and Post-16 Education Bill
“Legislation will support a lifetime skills guarantee to enable flexible access to high quality education and training throughout people’s lives.”
The purpose of the Bill is to:
- Legislate for landmark reforms that will transform post-16 education and training, make skills more readily available and get more people into work as set out in the Government’s Skills for Jobs White Paper.
- Enable people to access flexible funding for Higher or Further Education, bringing Universities and Further Education colleges closer together, and removing the bias against technical education.
- Deliver the Prime Minister’s new Lifetime Skills Guarantee, as part of our blueprint for a post-16 education system that will ensure everyone, no matter where they live or their background, can gain the skills they need to progress in work at any stage of their lives.
- Increase productivity, support growth industries and give individuals opportunities to progress in their careers.
- Strengthen the powers of the Office for Students to take action to address low quality higher education provision.
The main benefits of the Bill would be:
- Offering adults across the country the opportunity to retrain in later life through the Lifetime Skills Guarantee, helping them to gain in-demand skills and open up further job opportunities.
- Realigning the system around the needs of employers so that people are trained for the skills gaps that exist now and in the future, in sectors the economy needs including construction, digital, clean energy and manufacturing.
- Improving the quality of training available by making sure that providers are better run, qualifications are better regulated, and that providers’ performance can be effectively assessed.
The main elements of the Bill are:
- Putting employers at the heart of the post-16 skills system through the Skills Accelerator, by enabling employers and providers to collaborate to develop skills plans aimed at ensuring local skills provision meets local needs.
- Introducing the Lifelong Loan Entitlement, which will give individuals access to the equivalent of up to four years’ worth of student loans for level 4-6 qualifications that they can use flexibly across their lifetime, at colleges as well as universities.
- Strengthening the system of accountability by extending existing powers for the Secretary of State for Education to intervene where colleges have failed to meet local needs, to direct structural change where required to secure improvement, and by amending the regulation of post-16 education and training providers to ensure quality.
- Strengthening the ability of the Office for Students to assess and regulate Higher Education provision in England, ensuring that they can regulate in line with minimum expectations of quality.
Territorial extent and application
- The provisions in this Bill will extend UK wide. Most provisions apply to England, however some also apply to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
- Only 10 per cent of adults aged 20-45 hold a higher technical (level 4-5) qualification as their highest qualification, compared to 20 per cent in Germany and 34 per cent in Canada.
- Only four per cent of young people achieve a qualification at higher technical level by the age of 25, compared to the 33 per cent who get a degree or above.
- New findings have shown that more people would now prefer their child to gain a vocational qualification ahead of a university degree.
- A third (34 per cent) of working age graduates are not in high skilled employment.
- In 2019 employers were unable to fill a quarter of all vacant positions (214,000 vacancies) because they could not find people with the right skills.
- Skills shortages account for 36 per cent of all construction vacancies, and 48 percent of all Manufacturing and the Skilled Trades vacancies.
- Men with a higher technical (level 4) qualification earn on average £5,100 more at age 30 than those with a degree (level 6).
- 80 per cent of the 2030 workforce are already in the workforce today – so reskilling the existing workforce is a key opportunity.
- The Government is investing significant amounts into further education - £1.5 billion to improve our college estate; £2.5 billion (£3 billion when including Barnett funding for devolved administrations) in the National Skills Fund; and £650 million extra into 16-19 further education.
- The Skills Bill forms the legislative underpinning for the reforms set out in the White Paper, ‘Skills for Jobs: Lifelong Skills for Opportunity and Growth’ which was published on 21 January 2021.
From ‘Background Briefing Notes’ https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/queens-speech-2021