What did you do to celebrate European Day of Languages this year? It’s always a brilliant but exhausting event- coming so early in the term that you have only just managed to get names on exercise books and seating plans sorted. And for me it has always coincided with Open Evening. Double whammy. Anybody else feel a bit like this picture…?
Added to the usual wonderful chaos of the day was my own personal challenge to do something a bit different. For one of my primary schools where some staff are a bit nervous or reluctant to teach French, I wanted to find a way to encourage them to just have a go, without worrying about the outcome. I passionately believe that language learning is all about being brave, starting to communicate and not worrying about making mistakes. We don’t always have the expertise in our classrooms nor the thousands of hours that childhood language acquisition requires so it’s normal that we will make mistakes. I would love teachers to throw caution to the wind and learn alongside their pupils. It should be fun, pressure and judgement free and all about discovery. Expertise can come later on. So I came up with an idea that would ensure that teachers took a risk and did some French every week. We made these cute little language rocks. And the rocks were going to be responsible for a bringing about change.
When the kids saw the stones they were soooooo excited! It was a task getting them to focus on language content so if you have a go yourself I would advise keeping them hidden until you have set the language task. It was only their third lesson of French so I asked them to think about what we had learned and imagine what their language stone might be able to say. Some of them just produced a simple ‘bonjour, je m’appelle…’ others added greetings, questions and answers etc.
I had seen Language Stones before https://www.facebook.com/Language-Stones-266761760561448/ and took my inspiration from here. The problem was my inspiration struck at 11.30pm so by the time I had dashed to B&Q the next morning for stones and paint, I’d left it too late. People who follow my Instagram stories will have seen my painting disaster. I had intended to paint the pebbles red, white and blue but they weren’t drying quickly enough and they were sticking to the newspaper. It was just a horrible mess so I had to abandon my original scheme and go with all white. I used superglue on the eyes and sharpies for the mouths. I actually think they look pretty cute.
The pupils used an app called chatterpix to record their stones speaking. If you haven’t yet come across it I’d recommend taking a look- it has so many benefits for teaching and learning and is a real motivator with the pupils. I’ll write a post and link it here asap if you need more guidance. Scroll down to see the video montage of some of the pupils’ work.
After recording with the app, we put the stones in a box with a sign saying ‘sshhhh, sleeping rocks’. Inside the box is a note explaining that the rocks love to be held and love it when people sing or speak to them in French. My class will choose which year group will have the box of language stones each week. There is also a note for the class teacher directing them to a suitable resource on the school system or the internet. I have added a log book/diary so we know what the stones have been listening to (and what the pupils have been doing!)
Fingers crossed this will be a successful way of encouraging participation ans raising the profile of language teaching across the school. And I can’t wait to show the pupils this video next week.