Embracing bilingualism helps school achieve Good OFSTED report.

What great news that a school in Peterborough has improved so greatly in the past months that OFSTED have now deemed them as good. So remarkable that news papers Peterborough Today and the Daily Mail and even the radio station R2 have today run the story.


Readers of this blog will not be surprised that by embracing bilingualism and using it to benefit your teaching improves and speeds up the rate that the pupils learn English. I have gathered information about its benefits and the results are now starting to come through. The head teacher clearly supports this view of bilingualism and her results show that by embracing it results can be improved quickly. I believe this is the start of the educational culture change which so many schools and LA officers were resisting up until a year or so ago.


Head Christine Parker, 54, said: ‘More and more  of the world is  going bilingual. The culture at our school is not to see  bilingualism as  a difficulty.’

I am also hopeful that this great result will also make sure that gone are the conversations littered with  I only have one or two! or what can I do I don’t speak their language? as an excuse is changing. Gone and evidently going are the teachers plodding along teaching what is comfortable for them in such a way that it takes longer than necessary for the children to pick up the language.  Children pick up social language quite easily and it is the schools job to ensure the curriculum is taught and academic language is known and understood. In the future we should now be able to say that  Every Student does Matter.

There will be difficulties along the way as the head describes here;

‘Sometimes parents have tried to help  their  children learn English but their own isn’t too good,’ she said.  ‘The outcome is  the children aren’t fluent in their own language. If  they haven’t got a good  foundation [in their own language] it can be  very difficult to build on  that.’

but by sharing and supporting each other we can ensure that this becomes the reality.



Design Technology – How to support EAL learners

Design Technology is a practical subject with elements that require explanation of ideas, development of ideas using a mix of drawing and text, planning and at the end of everything evaluation. These areas are often neglected to be mentioned by senior managers as they often believe that the written element is so small it contributes little to the practical component. However this is not true in the classroom.

In the classroom young people often find it difficult to express the ideas in their heads when the classroom language is English and their first language is the same, but put your self in the shoes of an eight or thirteen year old whose first language is not English.

It is worth thinking about this at the planning stages what tools, including websites and withdrawal classes for pre teaching support, will you ensure you have to hand to support the child through the learning process?

What words will the child need to know to effectively evaluate or predict? How will you ensure that they learn these academic words alongside the other skills and practical language and skills they are learning? What is your plan if some one new is integrated into the class when you have done the groundwork with others?

Pupils who are at the emergent, developing and consolidating levels of learning EAL will benefit from planned interventions and structures to ensure they develop the language skills they need to fully access the curriculum and produce work and portfolios at the appropriate level. This cannot be left to chance it must be planned for, including ensuring if words are to be learnt they are learnt in context. Too often classrooms and workshops that I have observed, have words that may appear random to someone with very or little language of the classroom. If you must put up words, use pictures to show the product/concept and a sentence with it in context for the children to use as their starting point.

One thing you can do is to recognise the benefits of pupils using their first language at all stages of the design process and also support them to keep the language alive as this supports 2nd language acquisition, increases their self-esteem and can lead to decreased bullying incidents.

Welsh children should all have a chance at bilingualism

Further to my post last week I see this press report from Wales Online again about ESTYN’s findings and the writer supports my belief that we should encourage bilingualism but the policy and strategy for ensuring this including the training of teachers with the level of Welsh needed to be more fluent in English-speaking Welsh schools.

As a parent I for one was pleased that Welsh schools were embraced and that I had the choice of sending my child to a Welsh-speaking school even though English was our main family language. Just as important for my other family members was the choice not to send their child to a  Welsh school but to and English school that taught Welsh. I am sure this is still a really good compromise for most of the Welsh people.

This is just food for thought unless everyone just speaks Welsh in Wales then dual language and the balance between the two must always be measured against the needs of the children and society and not a group that wishes just to promote the language.  Whilst there is a place for this they can alienate if they try to impose their wish. My family members are mainly happy that they speak English and have no wish for their children to learn Welsh apart from an awareness of it and an acceptance of bilingualism.

The report finishes on these notes to which I totally agree.

Whatever action the minister decides to take on the basis of the findings, he  needs to ensure that the excellent work done by his Government doesn’t slip  between the cracks.


The Welsh-Medium Education Strategy is a case in point, as are the powers in  the School Standards and Organisation Bill. At long last, the framework is in  place to hold local authorities to account in terms of their Welsh education  strategies – so please, let’s not abandon ship now.


For those still young enough to soak it up, to those of us a little more  advanced in our years, including all school staff, the support needs to be in  place to give everybody the opportunity to grasp bilingualism with both  hands.

Read more: Wales Online http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/education-news/2013/01/31/all-must-have-chanceto-grasp-bilingualism-91466-32713956/#ixzz2JdY5Kj5I




Supporting language acquisition through Literacy

These are a few ideas for teaching learners who are learning English and have to read for meaning.

Before reading a book give the children the words needed to understand the important parts of the text. Where appropriate allow the child to revert back to prior language via internet machine translators to access their prior learning.  Give them the time needed to answer allowing them to process in their mind.

Their process could include reading it in English, reverting back to previous language understanding what is meant in prior language and then finding the words to explain this in their first language and then back into English.  All this can take time so try not to get too impatient as they practice. Think about when you try to translate in a language you know, what process do you go through?

By allowing this to happen it develops the pupils minds and they have a clear understanding of what the written word is conveying.  In turn this allows the child to develop a secure understanding of the text and characters.

When the child falters allow them to read a sentence and then encourage them to read it again this time more fluently to help them practice and develop their fluency. Keep a regular check on each child’s comprehension to ensure they are fully understanding the new words. Where possible put them into context so that when the child next sees the same letter formation they feel confident at reading it aloud.

Then ask each child in a the group to read part of the story.  Question them to ensure understanding and also check their fluency but importantly make it a secure environment where they can try out new sound sensations.

When questioning develop their sentence level via a game e.g. put their hand in a  bag and pull out a word related to the new text they are reading.

  1. Ask them to find a word e.g. beach
  2. Read out the word
  3. Then ask them to create a sentence e.g. I went to the beach
  4. and finally extend it by asking them what they did e.g. I went to the beach and swam in the water.
  5. Review and repeat the sentence to ensure concrete understanding.
  6. Above all make it enjoyable.

2012 in review – Thank you to all my readers

Thank you to all of my Readers.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 2,300 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 4 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.


ESTYN – Good practice bilingualism

Team teaching and the pivotal role of the Welsh co-ordinator to implement the clear shared vision has ensured a school in Aberystwyth has developed bilingual practice according to ESTYN.

In 2012, as a result of prioritising bilingualism in the Foundation Phase…the school can now offer pupils a realistic choice of bilingual secondary education as they enter key stage 3 and parents realise the benefits of their children being bilingual in our community.

link to the original report : http://www.estyn.gov.uk/english/docViewer/257739.3/welsh-second-language-comes-first/?navmap=33,53,158,

Ysgol Plascrug is situated in the town of Aberystwyth which lies on the coast of Ceredigion. Approximately three-quarters of the pupils are white British while a quarter of pupils are from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds, originating from 38 different countries. Less than 1% of the pupils come from homes where Welsh is the main language. Thirty-five per cent of pupils live in disadvantaged areas and approximately 12% are entitled to Free School meals.

English is the main medium of teaching. Nearly all pupils learn Welsh as a second language. For many minority ethnic pupils, Welsh is a third or even fourth language for them to acquire. The school’s provision and comprehensive professional development programme for all staff in the development of Welsh is judged as sector leading. As a result, pupils’ standards in Welsh second language are deemed excellent.

The school has a firm, clear vision to prepare pupils to become inclusive members of the bilingual society of Wales and nurture pride in the language, heritage and culture of our country. The introduction of the Foundation Phase curriculum also highlighted the need to improve pupils’ bilingual skills at a very early age.

Description of nature of strategy or activity:

This vision is shared with all staff and over recent years has become a high priority in the school improvement plan. In order to fulfill the vision of creating fully bilingual pupils in a natural Welsh ethos, the school is committed to offering excellent provision to its pupils and exceptional opportunities for staff to improve their professional skills in Welsh language provision.

As part of the school’s strategy for raising standards in Welsh, the school improvement plan gives particular emphasis to the continuing professional development of staff.

The Athrawes Fro service provides effective support for Welsh language development on a weekly basis. It complements a team-teaching approach and offers helpful guidance on planning and resources. This allows the school to implement a ‘target group’ teaching approach at key stage 2.

The Welsh coordinator has a pivotal role in planning and integrating the teaching of Welsh.

The governing body recognises the benefits of releasing this member of staff to model good teaching approaches, monitor planning, provision and standards, and provide suitable resources and appropriate guidance and support to colleagues. The enthusiasm and passion of the coordinator is evident as Welsh is increasingly becoming the everyday informal language of the school.

In recent years, the school has focused upon developing bilingualism in the Foundation Phase. Welsh is now used as a medium of teaching for 40% of the timetable. As this progresses throughout the school, there is a direct impact on standards in Welsh and at key stage 2, pupils are able to access more subjects through the medium of Welsh. For example, physical education, art, design and technology and music can now be taught through the medium of Welsh.
In 2012, as a result of prioritising bilingualism in the Foundation Phase, 85% of pupils achieved Outcome 5+ in Welsh second language.
The school can now offer pupils a realistic choice of bilingual secondary education as they enter key stage 3 and parents realise the benefits of their children being bilingual in our community.


Language translation is the fourth thing done on the internet.

Only 20% of respondents said that they would pay for human translation in China.  They say that this is because current machine translations do not currently reach their expectation.  Can we confer from this that once it is better that even these will be less inclined to rely on a human?  In an ideal world a mix of both would surely be advantageous but only time will tell.



“Language acquisition does not require extensive use of conscious grammatical rules, and does not require tedious drill.” Stephen Krashen

How many children will be glad to know that, how many of us have sat through really boring lessons?  I like Stephen Krashen’s theory because from my experiences it make sense.  Learning in context, using prior learning as a bridge to the next piece of knowledge is how we all learn, yet these building blocks are sometimes forgotten as are the age and linguistic development of the learner at times.

I agree with all of these saying attributed Krashen below and still find it amazing that I have had arguments with head teachers who cannot see the benefit of a safe environment where it is ok to make mistakes. This particular head was definite that no one was allowed to make mistakes….well… we all know no one is perfect, so lets embrace this fact and make it safe to try, with the skills and backup to make sure the mistake is made once and learnt from. I ask all language teachers whatever your situation,  Is your area safe to learn in?? I expect the knee jerk will be yes, but as reflective practitioners lets look at what our evidence tells us, if the children are cautious about trying, then you know deep inside that the ethos or atmosphere is wrong somewhere.

“Acquisition requires meaningful interaction in the target language – natural communication – in which speakers are concerned not with the form of their utterances but with the messages they are conveying and understanding.” Stephen Krashen

“The best methods are therefore those that supply ‘comprehensible input’ in low anxiety situations, containing messages that students really want to hear. These methods do not force early production in the second language, but allow students to produce when they are ‘ready’, recognizing that improvement comes from supplying communicative and comprehensible input, and not from forcing and correcting production.” Stephen Krashen

“In the real world, conversations with sympathetic native speakers who are willing to help the acquirer understand are very helpful.” Stephen Krashen 

Wishing you all Happy Language Learning


What tags to use?

I am always wondering what to use as tags spend more time on that than the story sometimes.


Tips for raising bilingual children – Early Years

It’s always the simple things that make you think and this story gives some good tips of raising bilingual children from ensuring if you are using childminders or childcare use those who speak the language you are introducing.


If you’ve ever thought about raising your kid to be multilingual, now’s the
perfect time to start. “Babies are wired for language,” says Naomi Steiner M.D.


“The earlier they’re introduced to a second language, the easier it will be for them to pick it up.” Knowing a second (or third!) language could one day give your child an edge in an increasingly global workforce. And that isn’t the only
plus, says Dr. Steiner. “When these children get to school age, they tend to have superior reading and writing skills in both languages, as well as better analytical and academic skills,” she explains.


In addition to using foreign language gear, hire a babysitter who speaks another
tongue, secure bilingual daycare or arrange playdates with bilingual families.
Benton’s ex-husband worked in Spanish-speaking communities, so he asked clients
for sitter recommendations.