Primary Education News

12 May '13

News Language learning: teaching tips and creative lesson ideas

Sponsored Q&A: Join us to share advice and ideas on bringing languages to life in schools, Thursday 16 May 2013, 6pm to 8pm

There have been a glut of reports criticising the state of languages in the UK; it's been found that we're lagging behind other countries, not preparing our graduates for the global job market and not doing enough to encourage students to stick with languages. So, what can we do to catch up?

Headteacher Tom Sherrington has some ideas. In a recent blog post, Tom Sherrington outlined his vision for the future of language learning in UK schools. Tired of rote-reliant teaching methods, lack of support from school leaders and not enough time in the curriculum, he wants to see a complete overhaul of approach.

"Can we imagine a version of British culture and British school life where all these issues are reversed? Where language learning is thriving; a real success story? Where multi-lingualism is an everyday part of the cultural experience of young people and adults? What would be different? Firstly, languages would take up a lot more time in the curriculum."

That's exactly what he's done in his school, and the results have been impressive. He writes: "In the five years since we've devoted four hours per week at KS3 to either French or German, we've seen a phenomenal impact: our year 9s are more confident speakers and all-round better linguists than our year 11s ever were before with GCSE results to match."

Tom also wants to see lessons that are "characterised by interactive, immersive, communicative approaches where grammar and new vocabulary are seamlessly interwoven and students are empowered with the tools to explore the language by themselves".

He'd probably be a fan of head of languages, Bertram Richter's approach. He's been telling us how he uses social media – such as Twitter and Skype – to give his students a more positive attitude to learning languages and make the subject more relevant to their lives.

So, inspired by Tom's vision and innovative ideas from teachers like Bertram, on Thursday 16 May, 6pm to 8pm, we'll be hosting a live chat to discuss new and creative ways to teach languages and how schools can make lessons stimulating and interesting.

The live chat is now open for advance questions and comments - please post below. You can also email comments to or tweet us via @guardianteach.

Our panel

Vicky Gough, adviser, schools, British Council

Vicky has worked across of range of British Council programmes for schools in the UK and overseas and is especially interested in those that can support the teaching and learning of languages as well as global learning, such as language assistants, international school partnerships and eTwinning.

Alicia Ruiz Diego, MFL teacher, Capital City Academy, London

Alicia is a secondary languages teacher and a dedicated linguist specialised in cross-curricular teaching. She is currently leading an E-twinning project commended by the British Council.

Diana Linford, teacher, Steeton Primary and Eastburn Junior and Infant Schools, West Yorkshire

Diana teaches key stage 2 French and uses eTwinning projects regularly in the classroom, giving pupils the opportunity to work with international partners for language and cross-curricular work, including the use of IT tools such as video-conferencing, blogging and video.

Neil Jones, assistant head teacher, Sir John Cass Red Coat School, Stepney

Neil is a teacher of Spanish and French and is a former lead practitioner for languages for the SSAT. Neil also shares teaching ideas through his blog. He also tweets @neildj1.

Bertram Richter, head of languages, Tile Hill Wood School in Coventry

Bertram is head of languages at Tile Hill Wood school and language college in Coventry. You can find out about what they are up to on their languages blog site.

Sandra Underwood, link co-ordinator and MFL teacher, LSA Technology and Performing Arts College, Lancashire

Sandra has been working as MFL teacher for eight years and a link co-ordinator for international schools for four. She speaks four languages, English, German, French and Hungarian and is the eTwinning Ambassador for the north-west.

Isabelle Jones, head of languages at The Radclyffe School, Oldham

Isabelle is a head of languages and French and Spanish specialist with experience of secondary and primary language teaching. She is a keen Twitter user @icpjones, regularly blogs and speaks at conferences across the UK.

Joe Dale, independent consultant

Joe is an independent consultant and former languages teacher. He blogs here and tweets as @joedale.

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