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12,09 –FR –L’ENSEIGNEMENT DES LANGUES VIVANTES A L’ECOLE PRIMAIRE – TEACHING MODERN LANGUAGES IN PRIMARY SCHOOLS Theme 12: L’enseignement des langues Venue: Reims – France Dates: 12.03.2007 – 16.03.07 Working languages: French and English Organisers: ADNOT Christian/ RENAUD Philippe – Inspection académique de la Marne, 1 bis Avenue du 18 juin 1940 Participants: AMOROSO Antonio IT firstname.lastname@example.org ASHTON Geoffrey GB email@example.com BENGY Ebru TU firstname.lastname@example.org HALLUM Aud NO email@example.com NESBITT-LARKING Nicholas GB firstname.lastname@example.org SIEDLECKI Janusz PL email@example.com VERCHER BENAVENT Joan Miquel ES firstname.lastname@example.org Rapporteur: NESBITT-LARKING Nicholas GROUP REPORT: Reims 16th March 2007 1. INTRODUCTION This visit brought together a group of educational professionals from seven European countries with a shared interest in the development of the teaching and learning of MFL in primary schools. A full and varied programme provided participants with the opportunity to find out some aspects of the delivery of MFL in primary schools in the department of Marne and other regions of France and discuss, both formally and informally, how the theme is being addressed in the country of each participant, and in particular: what are the common goals (the shared vision)? how do we identify and share best practice? what are the challenges in effective MFL teaching at primary level and the possible solutions? what are the strengths and weaknesses as perceived in each country? 2. BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THEME IN FRANCE The study of a foreign language has been obligatory in cycle 3 (CE2, CM1 and CM2 - 8 to 11 years) for 1 ½ to 2 hours per week since 2002. The curriculum is based on: Communication centred learning activities Regular exposure to the language and methodical progression Cultural understanding and the international dimension – e.g. contacts with schools abroad The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFRL) has been adopted and the expectation is that pupils reach level A1 by the end of cycle 3. In the département de Marne, parents can choose between English and German for their children as these are the languages that are studied at the colleges. The majority opt for English, but if 8 or more opt for German a course is run. Languages are delivered by a variety of personnel: Primary class teachers who have taken an upskilling examination called “habilitation” which is henceforward going to be necessary to deliver languages – this has impacted on 27 staff this year; Visiting teachers from the colleges or lycées (junior and senior high schools); Foreign language assistants Visiting staff with good language skills (often native speakers), but who are not qualified teachers, paid by the Inspection de l’Academie de Marne Many schools use published packages such as Jellybeans (Nathan) to deliver English, supported by other materials. The challenges facing the department de Marne, such as teachers’ linguistic skills and confidence, financing and disseminating best practice, are shared by many of the participating countries and are addressed in section 4. 3. EUROPEAN COMPARISON Whilst each participant’s country has developed different systems of education, few of which are as centralised as that in France, the common aspirations are to help children at the primary level develop good linguistic communication skills, an awareness and understanding of different cultures and positive attitudes to language learning which they will take forward to the secondary stage. The amount of time dedicated to the teaching of languages varies considerably from one country to another and, within those countries from one school to another. In Italy, for example, three hours per week are dedicated to language teaching from the age of 6, whereas in England most schools delivering languages find it difficult to find the 60 minutes recommended in the Key Stage 2 Framework for Languages http://www.standards.dfes.gov.uk/primary/languages/ There are considerable differences in the initial and continuing training of teachers in each country and who might then deliver languages. In some countries, particularly Spain, languages are delivered by a teacher with a language specialism. In others, such as France, teachers will at least be expected to have upskilled on a recognised course, “habilitation”, before they are allowed to teach languages. In Italy and England, many non-specialists are or will be teaching languages and, whilst they are encouraged to upskill, many have yet to start this process. The participants identified both pros and cons to non-specialist class teachers delivering languages. The class teacher can deliver languages on a regular basis so that a little is done each day and integrate languages into other curricular areas – e.g. daily routines, instructions, PE, simple numeracy. The class teacher is also uniquely placed to make links with other curricular areas as appropriate, for example comparing the native language with the MFL being learnt. Some participants had concerns about non- specialist teachers modelling poor pronunciation and lacking the confidence and, still worse, the conviction to teach languages well. The choice of language(s) to be studied, and how it is arrived at, is also an area of some difference. In most countries other than England, the most popular foreign language is English. In several cases, including the department of the Marne as mentioned above, parents can choose, from the available languages, which language their child studies. In Spain, this means that if just one child’s parents opt for a given language, this must be catered for. French is by far the dominant language in England, where schools are free to choose which language/ languages to deliver. Most schools make this choice on the basis of the language skills of existing staff and which language is delivered at local secondary schools. Whilst parents’ views may be canvassed, there is no guarantee that their child will be able to take the language of their choice. 4. SUGGESTIONS FOR THE COMMON RESOLUTION OF CHALLENGES AT EUROPEAN LEVEL – The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages is seen as a positive step in a Europe wide understanding of levels of linguistic competence, even though it may take some time to be understood by all interested parties. Further suggestions for common resolutions of challenges at the European level are: To conduct an evaluation of languages at European level to inform future planning; To organise the training of teachers more coherently across Europe with common expectations; To expand the language assistant scheme so that EVERY primary trainee has the opportunity to spend some time in a primary school in another country – this would also benefit the host school with the services of a native speaker for some time; To increase opportunities for teachers to attend training abroad Disseminate good practice more effectively To support student exchanges between countries. To promote the study of more than one foreign language Adequate resourcing: financial, training 5. BEST PRACTICE – WHAT WORKS WELL, WHAT DOES NOT AND WHY? There was widespread agreement that methods, which encourage real communication with a wide range of stimulating activities and, where possible, multi-sensory experiences, enhance enjoyment and effective language learning. Children should have regular opportunities to: sing, which can also address intercultural understanding; perform role-plays and drama; move – e.g. in activities such as playground games, PE and dance; listen to native speakers on CD, DVD, the INTERNET etc. as well as their own class teacher; have maximum opportunity to play with sounds in the target language and talk for real communicative purposes; play games which encourage the use of the target language; compare their own language and culture with that of the target language; progress from word to sentence level and be aware of their progression – e.g via the Junior Languages Portfolio http://www.nacell.org.uk/resources/pub_cilt/portfolio.htm and the CEFRL http://www.coe.int/t/dg4/linguistic/CADRE_EN.asp Pupils’ learning and progress are hindered when they are not engaged in meaningful communicative situations and there is a lack of variety in the teaching method so that pupils lose concentration and, ultimately, motivation. There is no doubt that best practice will keep children engaged in their work and will contribute to their motivation and success. This occurs best when the materials used are colourful, interesting and involve children in a wide range of activities that cater for different learning styles. In particular, where the start of lessons involves very quick, sharply focused work that encourages recall of previous work, it is possible to maintain a pace that helps to keep children involved and engaged. This was seen in some of the French schools in Reims that used materials and methods that appealed to the children. Some of the materials were based on popular culture, to which the children could relate, e.g. The Jellybeans. These included real situations and places that the children would hear about in everyday life. The materials were colourful and appealing and involved a comic strip style that the children found appealing. However, from speaking to some of the users it would appear that one of the weaknesses of such published materials is the lack of opportunities for writing. This would need to be recognised by the teacher and further opportunities given, although the introduction of writing needs to be handled well as too early an emphasis and dependence on the written word can lead to poor pronunciation. Unfortunately, in common with teachers from England there is a danger that the published materials may be used by the teacher as a resource without supplementing them. Some teachers want an instant solution particularly when they lack confidence in the standard of their own foreign language proficiency. To keep children involved is always a challenge and the most effective work may be maximised by teachers working with groups of between 12 and 15 students. This was seen to work more effectively with groups in France where the classes were split for activities with l’enseignante itinérante working with half of the class while the other children worked with the class teacher using ICT facilities. When compared with the work of a class of 26 children in another school this limited the number of children who were bored or distracted. However, this requires budgetary and human resources. Repetition and revisiting is an essential feature that enables children to reinforce previous learning and to learn new words. This was observed in activities where children interacted with the teacher to label objects on the whiteboard and was also a feature of songs that helped the children to use the words correctly through repetition and chanting. It was obvious that the children managed to remember previous work through singing and chanting. This is a very important feature of effective early language learning. Rhythm and rhyme are central to language per se and also to any given individual language and can contribute not only to a child’s cultural awareness, but also phonological development in the target language – e.g. consider the characteristic phonemes in these well known children’s songs and rhymes: Sur le pont d’Avignon … Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall … Alle meine Entchen schwimmen auf dem See … Good practice also includes the teacher using the target language confidently for instructions wherever possible. This was effective in the French schools, where some teachers said they try to use these throughout the day thereby increasing the children’s exposure to the target language and using the language for real communication. Effective questioning that encourages practice and reinforces previous learning is important. However, it is also important to give opportunities for children to develop answers through opportunities to build up their responses from experience. This needs teachers who can anticipate and plan the opportunities for more open types of questions and who have sufficient understanding and confidence in the target language. There are potential difficulties in France and other countries for non-specialist teachers delivering a foreign language. In particular there is a danger that poor modelling of pronunciation will be copied by the children. This is recognised by teachers who are honest enough to recognise the problems. However, this should not deter non-specialist teachers from developing their own language skills as they deliver languages to their pupils and using a range of resources with native speaker models of authentic pronunciation, as effective communication and developing an appreciation of the languages and cultures are more important in the initial stages. 6. WEAKNESSES AND STRENGTHS IN THE WAY THE TOPIC IS MANAGED IN EACH COUNTRY Teachers need support, starting at national (and European) level and then devolved to regional and more local levels. In France it was evident that a commitment exists to develop foreign language teaching at all levels. In other countries schools are at different stages in the development of Modern Languages teaching in primary schools. The challenge is to provide sufficient training opportunities for teachers who feel confident to deliver this important initiative with all its immense implications for the future of Europe’s children. The following were cited as the perceived strengths and weaknesses by each participant of his/ her country’s system: Strengths: Spain – Children start languages at 6 and can start as early as 4. There is also a very favourable pupil/teacher ratio of 18:1. Poland – Good initial training for MFL teachers, although continuing professional development is less well organised. Norway – An early start is made to language learning and this is mainly oral work. The class teacher is also the English teacher. Pupils are motivated and enthusiastic. Italy – The amount of time dedicated to language lessons (3 hours per week from 6 years old). Turkey – Excellent teaching of grammatical structures. England – Excellent ICT facilities with most primary schools now having interactive whiteboards in all classrooms and pupils having ready access to computers. Flexibility in terms of how languages can be delivered, supported by guidelines in a national Framework for Languages. Weaknesses: Spain – The majority of teachers use traditional methods which are not sufficiently interactive. Poland – Group sizes are too large and teachers are overstretched, sometimes teaching in 2 or 3 establishments, and are consequently tired and lacking enthusiasm. Norway – There is only one lesson per week (In classes 3 – 4, 6 to 10 years old) Italy – The relatively poor language skills of the teachers. Turkey – Lack of opportunities for pupils to use spoken English. Funding and inefficiency in terms of getting resources from the ministry. England – Relatively poor language skills of most primary teachers. Insufficient input in initial teacher training. 7. SUMMARY The visit provided a valuable opportunity for the participants to reflect on the theme away from the demands of their busy working lives. The group has functioned well as a team using the well planned social opportunities to continue to discuss the themes of the day in relaxing and convivial settings. Everybody has gained new insights into many aspects of primary language teaching and links have now been established for ongoing dialogue and support, for example to quickly find out by e-mail what is happening in other countries with CEFRL or if any other participant knows of a good resource. It has been a privilege to participate in this visit in the beautiful city of Reims and to have had the chance to see so much of its stunning architectural and historical heritage as well as the surrounding countryside. We would like to thank the following for having made this such a memorable visit: The pupils and teachers of all the schools we visited: Maison Blanche Adriatique, Danube Beauséjour, Tinqueux Hippodrome Barthou Ecole de St Thierry Mme Thiery, Inspectrice pédagogique régionale Bernadette Aubry, Directrice d'IUFM Christine Gonzalez, Directrice de l'école maternelle Marcel Pagnol Mairie de Reims Our three fantastic guides Michel, Véronique and Guy Leandro Berra, sculptor Students and staff of the restaurant au lycée Gustave Eiffel Jean-Christophe Malet, secrétaire de la permanence langues vivantes And last but not least, Christian Adnot, inspecteur de l’éducation nationale, and Philippe Renaud, conseiller pédagogique des langues vivantes, for having conceived and organised this valuable visit.
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