DISPLAYING ITEMS BY TAG: LANGUAGES

International Friendship Day need not be reserved for a special time slot in the calendar. Internationalism - with all of its diversity, cultural richness and opportunities for vibrant community and world connections - is intrinsically linked to our everyday existence. It is the thread which creates potential for a dynamic tapestry of multi-disciplinary learning across schools and communities. It combines our own uniqueness with an interconnection of beautiful perspectives on what it is to be human in an outward looking, forward-thinking, inclusive world.

When we help our learners to become global citizens - to see themselves as players in a universal team that plays for the world, where everybody matters, where diversity is celebrated and where there is cultural respect and understanding - we open doors to real everyday international friendship. Here, we support the development of many important skills, including empathy, curiosity, courage, confidence, tolerance and creativity, skills which are key to unlocking and unleashing present and future potential for a peaceful, unified planet. In fact, these skills were manifest in abundance during the recent Thailand cave rescues, where a whole host of people came together from across the world with a common purpose; to share expertise in order to rescue the boys and their coach who were trapped. Hope and trust led to a very successful internationally cooperative operation in which any differences were irrelevant to the combined humanity of the group.

The following ideas are not exhaustive and are merely suggestions. They may well have occurred in your school already - if so, you can no doubt supplement them to support reflection and dialogue about your school’s internationality and interculturality. I am also making mention of UNESCO’s Rethinking Education: Towards a Global Common Good here, as it is a very insightful read and certainly gave me as a teacher, learner and citizen of the world much to think about.

We need not look far to unearth international gold in our schools and communities. There will always be young people, colleagues and families with direct or indirect connections to different countries, diverse nationalities, languages and invaluable cultural stories. By embracing these naturally occurring opportunities, learners can gain international perspectives in their own local contexts and see that their worlds are interconnected. They can also learn to celebrate and embrace diversity and differences.

  • From clubs, assemblies, classroom research and local visits, to designing and sustaining cultural school gardens, sharing recipes from people in the local community, trying new foods, celebrating festivals, learning new languages and making school / community books in which cultural stories and poems are told and illustrated, there is a plethora of learning and sharing which can be facilitated across the curriculum.
  • Business, community and college and university links are also excellent. Could you host a group of visiting international teachers doing a course, or develop your learners’ entrepreneurial skills by setting up social events, such as a culture cafe, for diverse members of your local community? Could you obtain support to construct a small cultural garden, or learn about international tourism and business through local hospitality links and business brunches, where there are opportunities for your learners to meet people who can talk about international links and their own journey in intercultural understanding?
  • The British Council is a fantastic support for all things international, both for teachers and for learners. eTwinning, Connecting Classrooms, Erasmus+ and their very own International School Award are all wonderful for establishing and sustaining links, building international friendships, sharing projects and celebrating achievements. Their school and teacher resources platform is open to all teachers, and their classes and must not be perceived as the domain of the languages faculty or language teachers. There are opportunities in abundance for STEM, developing learners’ skills in literacy, numeracy, digital learning, creativity and competencies for life in an international world. There are dedicated British Council ambassadors who can come to your school to deliver professional learning and to help you to get started in your own context if you need support.

 

  • Developing your own class blog is a productive way for learners to share international learning with the wider school, with parents and carers, and with the world beyond school. Similarly, following a blog of an ex-student who is taking a gap year to work with Project Trust, or who is studying or travelling abroad, is a wonderful way to forge direct, real and relevant links. Scotland’s National Centre for Languages has a good website with examples of ‘Language Linking, Global Thinking’ and ‘Business Link’ case studies.

  • You could establish your own international school ambassadors or language & culture mentors to work with younger learners or community groups. This helps support the development of leadership skills and confidence, allows for positive peer interaction and role-modelling, and may create opportunities for your learners to achieve wider achievement awards. Either way, you can set up your own working group, as well as providing school certificates and awards.
  • Language assistants are an excellent means of bringing real-life international learning into school. They can provide cultural experiences, games and linguistic support in classrooms, small groups and clubs. Assistants can be shared between schools locally. There may also be a possibility of tapping into the community if assistants are not possible. Is there a parent who would like to volunteer with the school to enhance international learning?
  • The Sustainable Development Goals are high on the international agenda, and can be incorporated across the curriculum in different ways and at different levels. Not only does this unite learners and teachers in a common international endeavour; it also provides many enriching and valuable learning experiences in school, for both outdoor learning and for community / international links and projects.

  • Finally, Twitter is an excellent tool for international learning. @UNICEF, @UNESCO, @voicesofyouth and @TeachSDGs (to name but a few accounts) provide interesting ideas and very real insights into the lives of people around the world. There are many more!

While historically or traditionally, international education was perhaps more associated with cultural study trips abroad, exchanges, or with the languages department, today’s international is not abroad or confined to one particular curricular area. International is here, and there, and you, and me, and them. Our world is composed of a series of international experiences we may not recognise at first. They are in our food, where it comes from and how it arrives, they are in our shops, our art, our music, our words, our films, our books and our everyday exchanges and our friends. We are all international, but to develop an international mindset and outlook in our learners, we as teachers can contribute in our own contexts every day and everywhere. We can help our society towards a more equitable, tolerant, kind and accepting world by actively supporting our learners to develop into and to see themselves as dedicated global citizens.

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‘Immersion’ – chances are that anyone who has ever taught or studied languages will have heard this word a lot! In the realms of language education, ‘immersion’ refers to being in an environment in which only the language being learned is spoken. ‘Immersion’ in technology, meanwhile, refers to blurring reality and the digital. Through immersive technologies, it is possible to simulate the real world, and real-world situations, without the need to travel.

To become a leader, you must first become a human being.” Confucius

I started this post just as we awaited the announcement of the Nobel Peace Prize winner 2017. Nobel Peace Prize winners are leaders who, through their passion, determination and influence, fight for causes close to their own hearts - with much wider societal and global benefits. They are inspired and moved enough to insist and persist, leading a cause with fire and enthusiasm for the good of humanity. This year’s award was to ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. “ICAN” – what a hugely important cause, and a great campaign name which embodies a leadership attitude: “I can”.

As the late, great Nelson Mandela once said, “If you speak to a man in a language he understands, it goes to his head. If you speak to a man in his own language, it goes to his heart”. And for me, at least, there are few better ways to express just how valuable learning another language can be - by opening hearts, we open minds and by opening minds, we open doors.

We have been using Word Aware as a structured whole-school approach to promote the vocabulary development of all our children. It is primarily focussed on whole-class learning and we have found it is of particular value for those who start at a disadvantage – including children with Developmental Language Disorder, Special Educational Needs and those who speak English as an additional language. It has had such a major impact on word recognition and understanding within English, we decided to extend it to French and Spanish as an approach for learning new, contextualised vocabulary.

Here’s the thing about teachers. I think we all secretly want to be Michelle Pfeiffer in the movie Dangerous Minds (or maybe not even in the movie!). Our job is the hardest, most grueling job out there. And yes, it is rewarding – but often our influence is noted, absorbed and internalized within a student but we don’t ever get the satisfaction of being told by a student what actually made a difference (although I’m pretty sure my jokes have).

Leading language company uTalk will be marking its 25th anniversary at this year’s Bett Show, by showcasing an exciting range of multi-platform products for schools and colleges. The MFL gurus will be meeting educators at Stand E280A during the event, which will be running at the London ExCeL from 25th-28th January. Bett 2017 will also see the launch of the this year’s Junior Language Challenge.

Storytelling in the classroom can be a powerful way to support literacy. Children can be so absorbed in the tale, they are inspired to retell what they’ve heard to others, motivated to read it for themselves and encouraged to take it further and write their own parts or versions. The National Literacy Trust advocates that ‘speaking and listening skills underpin all learning’.

Staffordshire’s National Memorial Arboretum is encouraging pupils from across the UK to take part in its Battle of the Somme poetry competition, with entries being accepted until Friday 17th June. Part of the Royal British Legion, the Arboretum is the UK’s year-round Centre for Remembrance. KS2, KS3 and KS4 pupils are being asked to submit a poem on the theme of the hornbeam tree, which was the only one left standing in Delville Wood, Longueval, and became a poignant symbol of hope during the Battle of the Somme.

Teaching a foreign language in Primary school is often a bit of a misnomer. French and Spanish are the standard options and you as the teacher are typically in one of three situations:

  1. A foreign language expert is brought in one day a week to blitz-teach every class in the school.
  2. There is a resident foreign language teacher in the school who teaches each class.
  3. You teach your class a half hour lesson every week, where possible.
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