Monday, 19 February 2018

Gender and number: Trash or Treasure?


This year I inherited a Year 6 class who have done three years of French but no Spanish.  As they have done lots of French I am able to move them on pretty quickly, showing them how the grammatical notions that they know from English and French - number and gender - work in Spanish.

At the moment we are working on adjectival agreement with plural nouns.  So we know how to identify a masculine noun and a feminine noun and how we need to change some of our adjectives when describing something feminine.  We have read Los limones no son rojos which has lots of examples of plural adjectival agreement in action.  The children can explain to me why there is an extra s on some of the adjectives and why some of them also have an a instead of an o on the end.

I have designed the above Trash or Treasure? activity for the first lesson back after half term to make them think about what exactly shows that a word is masculine or feminine, singular or plural.  The words are a collection of nouns, adjectives and articles/determiners.  It’s not vital for students to understand the meanings of all the words - you are training them here to look for the clues that tell you about a word’s gender and number.

Each pair of students will need a set of the words and a Trash or Treasure board.  The following sorts are suggested:
  • Words that are definitely masculine
  • Words that are definitely feminine
  • Words that could potentially be either masculine or feminine
  • Words that are singular
  • Words that are plural
  • Masculine singular words
  • Feminine singular words
  • Masculine plural words
  • Feminine plural words
Which words would you put in these different groups?  Can you think of any other sorts that could be done using these words?

You can find out more about Trash or Treasure here and the board can be found here

After this activity we will do the Spanish version of this French adjectival agreement activity, which I have also prepared and which is available here.



UPDATE 23.2.18:  I used both these resources in my Year 6 lesson yesterday.  We re-read Los limones no son rojos first, talking about why the colours are spelt differently to the ones we originally learned.  The Trash or Treasure? activity consolidated their knowledge about gender and number, and I enjoyed hearing them saying things to each other like "We need to find anything with an s on" or "Find all the words with an a on the end".  They then found the sentence-building activity quite straightforward, and were able to put right independently any errors.  Some pairs chose to use the "son" cards to extend their sentences in the same way as the book had, for example "Las fresas no son negras, son rojas."
Looking for feminine singular nouns

Looking for masculine singular nouns




Friday, 16 February 2018

The Interference of English

Some time ago I wrote about the importance of spelling.  I asked if it was more important to spell accurately or to get your message across with some errors.  I included a list of the words in French, Spanish and German that are commonly misspelled by students.

Over the last few weeks I have been looking more closely at the issue of spelling in the new language.  While it's true that a considerable number of spelling errors are a result of carelessness, many others can be ascribed to the interference of English.

By the time students start to learn a new language in Year 3, they have undergone four years of rigorous training in English spelling and phonics.  The new language has different letter clusters and sequences, but the students can, often unconsciously, replace these patterns with more familiar English spelling patterns.  The four formative years of learning English spelling is enough to build a muscle memory, so that it feels more natural, for example, for a student to write rough than rouge, as the -ough letter cluster occurs in some frequently-used English words and the -ouge cluster is unfamiliar to English native speakers.

Spelling errors of any kind are exasperating for the languages teacher, especially when they are of the je m'apple variety which turn up again and again.  A systematic learning of phonics is one of the keys to ensuring more accurate spelling in the new language, but do we also owe it to our students to anticipate the sorts of errors that they are likely to make due to the interference of English and practise these words in a more focussed way?  

It is worth noting that this interference may also come from other languages that the student has learned, for example if they are in Year 7 and starting a language that is not the one they studied in Key Stage 2.  Any new language will have combinations of letters that are entirely unfamiliar to the beginner student and which they will need to practise in order to build their confidence and to start to build the new muscle memory.

We already draw direct comparisons with English in order to teach grammatical structures such as adjectival word order and the genitive, so should we now extend this to spelling?

Many thanks to the members of the Secondary MFL Matters Facebook group who joined in the discussion about this recently and who also provided many of the examples below:

FRENCH:
French word
often misspelled as
reason?
amusant
amusement
written to make the word look more like the more familiar English ‘amusement’
anniversaire
anniversarie
written to make the word look more like the more familiar English ‘anniversary’
blanc
blank
students remember the meaning of blanc by associating it with the English ‘blank’ but this in turn means that the word is often written to make the word look more like the more familiar English
bleu
blue
written to make the word look more like the more familiar English.
copain
complain
-m- probably added because of the influence of the English ‘companion’
danse
dance
written to make the word look more like the more familiar English
déteste
detest
written to make the word look more like the more familiar English
équitation
equation
the word is obviously unusual looking (and hard to spell/say for an English-speaking learner) so it is corrected to the nearest known English word
heures
hueres
-ue- is much more common in English than -eu-
histoire
historie
written to make the word look more like the more familiar English
il
ill
the nearest known English word
intéressant
interestant
written to make the word look more like the more familiar English
je m’appelle
je m’apple
the nearest known English word
magique
magic
written to make the word look more like the more familiar English
maison
mansion
written to make the word look more like the more familiar English
manger
manager
the nearest known English word
montagne
montange
-gne words often cause problems for English-speaking learners, as -nge is a much more common letter sequence in English than -gne.
natation
nation
the nearest known English word
neuf
nerf
apart from the obvious phonic influence, some of the influence will come from the well known Nerf guns….
oui
qui
these three vowels are never seen together in English.  It’s much more common to have q+u and then another vowel. 
rouge
rough
English words ending -ough are quite common, hence the change to the nearest known English word.
vacances
vacancies
written to make the word look more like the more familiar English
vingt
vinght
-gt is not an English word ending, but there are quite a few words (eight, knight etc) that end with -ght, hence the correction

SPANISH:
Spanish word
often misspelled as
reason?
centro comercial
centro commercial
written to make the word look more like the more familiar English
difícil
diffícil
written to make the word look more like the more familiar English
favorito
favourito
written to make the word look more like the more familiar English
fútbol
fútball
written to make the word look more like the more familiar English
geografía
geographía
written to make the word look more like the more familiar English
me encanta
me enchanta
the nearest known English word
seis
sies
rigorous application of the “i before e except after c” rule!
tecnología
technología
written to make the word look more like the more familiar English
vamos
vamous
few English words end with -os, so this is often written with an -ous ending, which is more familiar, from words such as famous
veinte
viente
rigorous application of the “i before e except after c” rule!

GERMAN:
German word
often misspelled as
reason?
es ist windig
es ist winding
-ig as a word ending is not seen in English, so it is corrected to resemble the much more common -ing ending
Katze
Catze
written to make the word look more like the more familiar English
langweilig
langweiling
-ig as a word ending is not seen in English, so it is corrected to resemble the much more common -ing ending
lernen
learnen
written to make the word look more like the more familiar English
nicht
night
the nearest known English word
Schwimmbad
Schwimmenbad
the extra -en- is added to make it resemble more closely the English ‘swimming pool’.
zwei
zwie
rigorous application of the “i before e except after c” rule!





Monday, 15 January 2018

Phrase du jour


I have been reading today about when and how primary children in France learn to write.  One link I followed led me to this document, which is about finding opportunities for children to write.  One of the suggestions is Phrase du jour.  It is suggested that children decide, as a group, what the phrase du jour will be, and that they then discuss together and prepare orally how that sentence will be written.  They then write the sentence individually.  It is also suggested that all the phrases du jour are kept, to show the children's progression in writing over the year.

Later on this afternoon, in Sainsbury's, I was thinking that this could be something that we could adapt for use in the languages classroom.  We always do our bit in Key Stage 2 Languages by reinforcing handwriting, punctuation and other aspects of grammar, and this could be another vehicle for that.  It could also be useful for "bell work", in other words something that children can be doing when they first come into the room, while the register is being done, books are being given out and so on.

The way I currently see it working is that the children copy from the board a sentence comprising words and structures in the target language that the class is working on currently, and possibly a translation of this sentence in English.  The collection of phrases du jour would then become a useful reference tool as well as an indication of the learning and progression that has taken place and the improvements in presentation and handwriting.  It would probably need a separate exercise book that they could keep for the four years of Key Stage 2.

I'd be interested to hear what you think!

Friday, 12 January 2018

¡Mi Madrid!

Today you can hear the first episode in BBC School Radio's new series for Key Stage 2 Spanish - ¡Mi Madrid! 

The 10-episode series was written by Lisa Stevens, who has given a full account of the project on her blog, so please read all about it!

I am honoured to have been asked to be the consultant on the series for the BBC.  I prepared the teacher's notes and have made a translation of each episode to provide as much support as possible for time-poor primary teachers.

Have a listen!  Don't forget that the French series, Radio Labo, is also still available.


Thursday, 11 January 2018

What's in the box? pt.2


A few years ago I wrote What's in the box?, a post with some ideas for using empty or not-empty boxes to stimulate language work.  Today I actually tried it out!!

I've been working on gender of nouns (animals in particular) with my new Y6 Spaniards, moving on to description of these singular nouns using adjectives of colour.  I wanted them to have a go at some descriptions on whiteboards before writing anything formally in their books.  I set up these PowerPoint slides, which show an empty cardboard box.  I asked the children to decide which animal was in the box and which colour it was.  They had to write their description on their whiteboard and hold it up for me to see.  Then I clicked the slide to reveal what was in fact in the box. 

Doing five of these meant that I could spot common errors such as putting the adjective in the wrong place, putting the wrong article, not agreeing the adjectives and so on.  All the children became more confident and faster with their writing the more we did.  It also turned out to be immensely motivating, especially for the boys.  They all seemed to enjoy putting daft colours with the animal words.