Wednesday 18 May 2011


After hearing Chris Harte talking about Solo taxonomy at ILILC in Southampton earlier this year, , I have been trying to get pupils to think more about language, its formation and the patterns they can see.

Having already done a similar exercise with Lower 6 a while ago, I decided to experiment today with my two Primary 6 classes in the local primary school. They have been doing half an hour Spanish a week with me since Christmas.

I divided the class into pairs or groups of 3, and distributed the sheets to the pupils. After a frenzied 5 minutes of cutting, the pupils were ready to go. I told them I wanted them to group the hexagons into honeycombs by putting linking words together. The bigger the honeycomb, the more links they would have found.

It was particularly interesting to see the difference in the two classes, in terms of those who found most links. The pupils chose their groups and the majority were same sex. In one class, two groups of girls 'got it' best whilst in the second class, it was two groups of boys. Perhaps obviously, it was those who generally contribute most verbally in Spanish class who made the most links, but oleasingly the activity drew in others who have not been so vocal or engaged.

It was fascinating to see pupils with a fairly limited amount of Spanish talk through reasons for their groupings, and see connections in language. It has enthused me to start using this activity more with my own pupils.

Tuesday 17 May 2011


Today our Head of Department turned the tables on us, delivering a 10 minute slot in Japanese entirely in the target language. The lesson included a handout, IWB and miniwhiteboards, with whole class and group work included.

It proved to be a bit of a double-edged sword. On one hand, he was happy to point out that we had coped with some fairly in-depth grammar including tenses, althouhg of course we are all linguists. Yet the discussion after the 'lesson' raised some interesting points about what it must be like to be a pupil in the language classroom, especially when we use target language.

I have no Japanese, and found the whole-class intro stressful, particularly when some others appeared to know a lot or 'get it' quicker than me. I was far happier and indeed quite enjoyed the challenge when presented with key vocab and a sentence to translate.

The reaction from the department was mixed in terms of how we felt as pupils, with some really enjoying it (including those who had a little previous experience of Japanese) and others sharing my feelings of stress. We all agreed that having some knowledge of pronunciation and basic vocabulary would have aided our comprehension and learnig.

Would I like to be a pupil in my classroom? I'm not sure, actually. I think I may be one of those who prefers to take things at their own pace, and process systems and patterns for myself. But at the very least, today's experiment has reminded me of the range of emotions felt by my pupils, and to tailor my teaching accordingly.