Tips for successful language learning at Key Stage 1 & 2

1. Plan for short, regular bursts of learning: Studies have shown that in order to promote a deeper understanding children need to be exposed to bite sized chunks of new language on a frequent basis. It is better to plan for 15 minutes of language per day rather than 1 hour a week.

2. Repetition, repetition, repetition - regularly recapping new language is essential. Children need to see it, hear it and use it as much as possible. Every session should begin with a fast paced recap of the language learnt previously. Integrate themes into other subject areas wherever possible as a way of repeatedly visiting new language. PE is a great opportunity for this as warm up games and activities can be adapted to include foreign language numbers, colours, and instructions.

3. Make the most of incidental language learning opportunities - Children getting changed for PE? Play a countdown in French. School Trip to the Zoo? Ask the children to keep a chart of animals they have seen with foreign language labels. Making Easter cakes? List ingredients in the foreign language being learnt. Anything which increases the frequency of children’s exposure to the new language is good. Taking the register in a foreign language or having a set of foreign language classroom instructions are commonly used practices and a great way of including just a bit of extra learning into an already busy day.

4. Role Play – Children learn when they are engaged and can see the relevance and usefulness in what they are learning. Role play is great for this. Pick a weekly topic, discuss and display key phrases and useful words before setting aside a role play area where children can use the language learnt. This could be a shop setting where children ask for and buy food or a ticket booth where children have to successfully ask for the correct number of tickets. Through role play, children are able to practice new language in a non-threatening environment. Confident children can be asked to present their role play to the class.

5. Build confidence - reluctant children can be encouraged to engage if they have confidence that they know the answer. Display useful questions and phrases in the class and refer to them often. Ask children to find a certain phrase or question and they will enjoy searching for the answers on the display and you can reward them for saying the foreign language word out loud to the class. This exposure allows children to become familiar with a language without any pressure to remember it and a sense of achievement is important to encourage children to feel they are making progress with unfamiliar language.

6. Integrate language into other subject areas – this goes hand in hand with making the most of incidental learning opportunities. Language learning can easily be integrated into a range of other subject areas such as Geography, citizenship, art, drama etc . Learn and sing a foreign language song as a class to present in assembly, integrate foreign language into PE games, read simple foreign language poems in literacy and solve a maths puzzle in French.

7. Mix the familiar with the unfamiliar – At Key stage 1 & 2 the most important thing is that language learning is fun and children develop an interest and desire to continue with study. Young children enjoy the familiar so adapt already understood games and puzzles which children know and enjoy to include foreign language elements. Listen to nursery rhymes in French or, of course, read and enjoy the dual language stories of Cloud Cuckoo World. Mixing familiar, mother tongue language, with new, unfamiliar words and phrases allows children to experience new language whilst still enjoying a story which they can access and understand.