Early Start Languages - Primary French

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Using Early Start materials in your classroom


Helping the non-specialist classroom teacher
The films - an authentic model
Learning activities across the curriculum
Progression - speaking & listening, reading & writing
Gathering information to help cross-phase liaison
Lesson Style
Developing cultural perspectives
Using the video - practical hints
Continuing professional development


Helping the non-specialist classroom teacher
Early Start Languages packs help the non-specialist primary classroom teacher introduce their own class to a foreign language and culture - even if their own command of the language comes from school-level qualifications.

Primary teachers cover the whole curriculum - the professional skills they employ to help young beginners with literacy, numeracy, science, maths, music, history and P.E. are equally relevant and valuable in introducing children to the early stages of MFL and the International Dimension.


Films gives an authentic model
The films show children native speakers talking in authentic social contexts. They see and hear the intonation, pronunciation, gestures, facial expressions and "body language" of native speakers of their own age [and adults too] - and they see from the context and in the background all sorts of information about everyday life in France, Spain or Germany.

By using the films frequently in class MFL sessions, both teacher and children are reminded of how native speakers use the language. Without such a resource, the children's pronunciation can only ever be as good as the adults they hear and copy. Obviously audio-tapes and textbooks on their own lack the richness of such a resource.

Short films are an active part of the lessons

Each part of the course has a film (on DVD, video, disk or online) lasting about 5-8 minutes. This will introduce the children to a little more language by showing many different people talking in appropriate social contexts - almost all filmed in the country. Progression is carefully planned - each part builds on the language and structures taught in those studied previously, so the parts should be used in sequence.
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Learning activities across the curriculum

Picture: two language assistants working in a Croydon primary school. The child who next catches the grey furry toy (seen in the FLA's hand) engages in a simple Q and A dialogue about themselves.

Each EARLY START video-pack has a Teachers Manual that suggests activities to help children practise the new language introduced by the films - in class and group activities, with activity sheets and flashcards, through games and songs. These help pupils in primary school learn a foreign language in a way appropriate to their needs, interests and abilities.

Singing activity working on colours at KS1

We suggest how the class teacher can use many different occasions in the school day for language practice and exploring another culture - in literacy and numeracy work; in art, music and PSE; in physical education; in geography, history and technology; in developing ICT skills - even in non-lesson time, e.g. meeting children in the corridor, or when calling the register.

In these ways, not much timetabled time need be devoted specifically to MFL work.

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Progression - speaking & listening, reading & writing
These introductory courses aim to develop the learners' confidence that they can speak languages and successfully communicate with foreigners - and enjoy doing so. The vocabulary and structures are chosen to be appropriate to the needs and interests of children - they won't be buying airline tickets or booking hotel rooms, but they will want to be able to introduce themselves, and to understand personal information from other young people.

The young beginners start with hearing - and trying to understand - the new language. The next step is for them to speak it, in appropriate situations. As the course progresses they hear questions, and are able to respond; they can seek information themselves. Soon they are having conversations.

The written word is introduced if children are likely to encounter it - and then mainly reading to recognise and understand. Translation and potential difficulties of writing such as adjectival agreements and accents are largely left to more formal work at secondary school. But we suggest strategies for helping children to read and write in the target language when exchanging e-mails and other communications, and look at the value of using simple children's books from other countries.

Storytelling in a nursery class

To avoid potential problems when pupils from different primary schools transfer to secondary school, the approach is to cover as little as possible of the structured formal work pupils will meet at a later stage.
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Gathering information to help cross-phase liaison
It is important to be able to pass on to the secondary school MFL teacher what the child has covered in an introductory course. To help make this easier, we have provided profile statements at the end of each course book which teachers can use to get quick feedback on pupils' attitudes and perceptions. There is also a quiz for each part, which tests what the pupils have learned. Each is appropriate to the course methodology, i.e. the emphasis is on whether they can communicate through speaking the language, and understand when hearing it spoken.
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Each language course progresses through a series of topics that is common to virtually every mainstream PMFL course in Europe. First pupils learn to understand and respond to a limited range of personal enquiries. Next they talk about their immediate environment, find their way around a town, and give directions. Then simple structures and phrases are introduced so they can speak the language at mealtimes, when shopping and when playing games with their peers.

At each stage, new words, phrases and questions are introduced in three groups:

Core vocabulary
The 'core vocabulary' is introduced in the video, and the teacher can choose to go through the whole of the course with the class speaking and hearing just that.

Extra language that could be introduced by the teacher
In each section, teachers are offered a further selection of optional words and structures. You should choose which, if any, to introduce for use in activities, depending on your pupils' progress, and how confident you are yourself with the language. An audio tape is available that gives a model for pronunciation.

Classroom management vocabulary
Each Pack also has a further selection of words and phrases for classroom management, which are shown in a separate section of the film, or on the e-flashcards.

We have tried to help the inexperienced linguist avoid situations where an inadvertent use of a word or phrase in a particular context might be incorrect. This may happen, for example, where prepositions have to change form to agree with the gender of a noun.

Activity to practise words for colours

Recording 'Today's weather' becomes another opportunity to use the foreign language

Action singing game

Where we draw attention to points of grammar, we offer sensible 'survival strategies' for the wary. Explanations are given to help the teacher offer a correct spoken model to pupils - and not to give to the class.
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Lesson style
Learning a foreign language with these packs is meant to be fun. By playing language-based games, singing songs and enjoying role-plays, pupils will quickly learn some basic structures of French or German and a key vocabulary.

Teachers should expect this to be a noisy process! Pupils will need plenty of practice in speaking and listening in the language - and this is best done through pair- and group-work.

Some reading will be introduced, and more able pupils could perhaps try a little writing as well. But the emphasis is on speaking and listening: reading and writing will become more important later on.
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Children like activities where they speak through puppets, a device which helps them lose any shyness and self-awareness about pronouncing foreign words.

Home-made resources can make a very effective prop for a successful game - here, parts of the face on a "Big Monster".
MFL and PE, using an adaptation of "Simon says..." - the teacher gives instructions in the target language, the children respond. It's great fun, and a painless way to learn.

Children can listen to audio-tapes from other publishers to give more practise at hearing and understanding different voices

Developing cultural perspectives
Young learners are just getting to know their local area and the country in which they live, so the emphasis in the approach suggested is on discussion of similarities and human diversity rather than national differences or stereotypes. We include activities where children look at how they do things, or behave in certain contexts, to help draw out notions of how social conventions work, and help them become aware that different people can do things in different ways. Throughout, a European or even wider dimension is encouraged.

Children taste typical German foods

A video-conferencing session with a linked school - using both languages
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Using the films - practical hints
Each film presents a number of short sections, each of which extends the pupils' language by a small step, by presenting new words, phrases or a new structure in a number of contexts. Each offers a model of authentic usage and pronunciation by native speakers, who are not actors - a mixture of children and adults, and often with a variety of accents.

Each video scene complements the language heard with visual information about the social context, offering incidental insights into how our European neighbours live and their everyday culture.

Each section is carefully referenced, so you can easily find it on the tape. Each supports language activities that may last for short episodes extending over several days or a week. During this time, you will probably want to play each section several times as your class works through activities in the book, so the pupils become familiar with the authentic sounds. As a general principle, it is a good idea to give pupils the opportunity to see and hear the film again in any session where you are introducing a brand new section of vocabulary for the first time. This gives them the chance to find out for themselves how much more they can understand and follow once they have had some practice.

Experience suggests that children enjoy seeing the varied and lively films several times over - the book suggests ways of making best use of them, especially in circumstances where access to an electronic whiteboard, data projector, TV set , DVD player or computer is difficult (e.g. involves moving to a special room).
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As their vocabulary grows, children can use a video camera (if you can acquire one) in simple interview or even game-show situations, to practise more extended exchanges in the target language.

Continuing professional development
The team that developed these language courses is available to give a limited number of presentations, subject to the demands of updating and developing the course publications.

For teachers new to teaching a foreign language, we can recommend courses run by CILT and various cultural agencies - see "Which Language" page for contact details.
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UK Policy
www.earlystart.co.uk Updated: 20th December 2000 Copyright 1995-2013 Early Start Languages