Modern Foreign Languages
Start Early!
• Primary aged children are excellent mimics. They usually
thoroughly enjoy rhymes and songs and having a go at
speaking the new language.
• In contrast to post-11 language learners, they respond
enthusiastically when experimenting with the sounds of
the new language.
• Increasing age shows a decline in the quality of native-like
• Starting age determines levels of accuracy in
pronunciation and the mastery of the phonetic system.
Martin, C. (2008) Achieving QTS, Primary Languages: Effective Learning and Teaching. Exeter:
Learning Matters
Primary School Modern Foreign Languages (MFL)
The new curriculum will be statutory from September 2011 for all age groups with
exception of the new languages element, the right for all primary children aged 7
upwards to learn a foreign language, which will be phased in over four years starting in
Year 3.
The new curriculum is organised in six 'areas of learning', rather than the subject areas
currently used. Languages are situated within 'Understanding English, Communication
and Languages' area of learning
See: The Department for Children Schools and Families non-statutory guidelines for
teaching primary languages. The Framework provides comprehensive guidance and
advice for teachers and leaders who will plan and deliver the Key Stage 2 entitlement
to language learning
The Primary languages website is great for lesson resources and ideas as well as
offering training, guidance and support for classroom teachers and subject leaders.
The CILT Resources Library is a unique collection of resources for languages and
linguistics, based in London. Their library and information service welcomes enquiries
on all aspects of language learning, teaching, training and resources and can be
contacted by emailing; or calling the enquiry desk on
08456 124 04
Teaching Points
Introducing vocabulary
When you introduce new vocabulary to your students, group the words in some kind
of order. You could introduce feminine nouns first and then masculine ones. Words
could be grouped according to a known order (such as days of the week or numbers).
For colours, you could start with the primary colours and then the other ones; or you
could group them according to their ending.
-Include articles (un/una, el/la, los/las) when you introduce nouns: it will help your
students become familiar with genders from the outset. See point 9 for more on
-Link items of vocabulary to signs/gestures that will help students remember words
(physical response strategy). Weather phrases, animals and greetings are topics where
this can be used easily.
-Activities involving movement help to motivate students and reinforce learning; for
example learning through games, or even asking students to go to the teacher and pick
up cards.
Introduction and practice activities
You can use the activities below with flashcards, real objects, OHPs, computer screens,
- Listen and repeat: change the repeating mode as above.
- Yes/No: Teacher shows a flashcard/object, s/he says a word; students have to say Sí or No if it is
- right or wrong.
- Options: the teacher shows one flashcard and gives two words for it. Students have to decide which one is
right and repeat it.
- Guess the word: the teacher chooses a card and hides it from students. They have to guess the word.
- Word/Number: link each word/phrase to a number. The teacher says the word; students have to recognise
the picture and say the number.
- Number/Word: as above but the teacher says the number and students say the word.
- Face up: the teacher puts all cards face up on a table/on the board; s/he says a word and a volunteer comes
to pick up the correct card.
- Face down: as above, but students have the chance to pick up cards until they find the correct word. They
have to say the word for each card they pick up.
- Put in order: teacher lists words in order and students have to put cards in that order.
In all these activities, students can take the role of the teacher after some examples. Each one can be used
as a whole class, group or paired activity.
- Repeating new language many times is crucial for remembering it.
- Vary your mode of repetition: happy, sad, angry, quietly, loudly, fast, slow.
- Ask different groups to repeat vocabulary (boys, girls, other groups).
Introduce numbers early on. You can use them to do all the above activities.
- You can use letters of the alphabet instead if you prefer.
- Use activities that enable students to practise numbers in random order (dice, dominoes).
Otherwise students will always have to count in their heads before saying a number – you could
be there for a long time if you are working with larger numbers!
Error correction
Help students accept errors and learn from them. Praise the student for trying (even if what s/he
said is wrong) but then say the correct word to reinforce learning.
Knowing about grammar
Try to help students to deduct grammatical rules from examples, rather than teaching them
- Instead of explaining why an adjective has an -o or -a ending, give examples and see if students can
explain a general rule.
- Explain the rules of gender and number agreements as they appear in your lessons. It's best not to
make a special lesson of them.
- Revisit the agreement rules every time they appear after their introduction. For example, ask
students why they think "verdes" has an 's' when talking about eyes.
Knowing about grammar
Try to help students to deduct grammatical rules from examples, rather than teaching them
- Instead of explaining why an adjective has an -o or -a ending, give examples and see if students
can explain a general rule.
- Explain the rules of gender and number agreements as they appear in your lessons. It's best
not to make a special lesson of them.
- Revisit the agreement rules every time they appear after their introduction. For example, ask
students why they think "verdes" has an 's' when talking about eyes.
Praising and encouraging
Use lots of Spanish vocabulary for praising and encouraging.
Gender awareness
In Spanish, nouns, pronouns, adjectives and articles are gender-related. Try to make students
aware of this from the beginning.
- Nouns could be introduced with their corresponding article.
- Try different exercises where students have to group words by gender.
- Help students to recognise that, in general, masculine nouns/adjectives end in -o and feminine
in -a. (But beware - things can't be that easy! There are a lot of exceptions.)
- If you do dictionary work, make students aware of the terms their dictionary uses to specify
the gender of a noun.
Capital letters
In Spanish, days, months, languages and nationalities do not use a capital letter. Only names of
people and places do.
Activity Ideas
Storyboarding– for children to use the skills of sequencing and deduction to find the main nouns in the story. The visual images provide a clear
association which aids memory retention.
Classifying – by looking for similarities and differences within the words used in the story pupils are made aware of unfamiliar concepts such as
gender or sound patterns.
Visual Map from Memory – this develops memory and recall skills along with an ability to work in a team. The activity introduces adjectives and
the effect that different nouns can have on them.
Auditory Map from Memory – Auditory Memory Maps are a fun and engaging exploration of sound and its relationship to the written word. The
nature of the activity gives children no option but to communicate with each other using the sounds they have heard and their challenge is to
find the words that match those sounds.
Fortune Line – the Fortune Line is a simple tool that helps children engage emotionally with a story. From a language perspective they are
recognising and sequencing text as well as identifying words in the foreign language that are acting as an emotional trigger.
Kim's Game – games help children to recognise that there are a variety of different techniques that can be used to enhance memory and give
them an opportunity to try them out.
Odd One Out – asking children to pick the 'odd one out' from a set of words in another language encourages them to think about the
characteristics of words and what they represent. They start to note similarities and differences, and in articulating these they begin to build a
language which talks about language.
Dominoes – a game familiar to many children. Playing it in another language helps children to recognise and retain new language in a nonthreatening way.
Pass the Parcel – teaches children how to sequence words in a sentence and how word order can affect meaning within a sentence.
Snakes and Ladders – the familiar context of this dice game gives children an opportunity to consolidate their learning from the stories. It helps
transference as they have to think of the target language words outside the familiarity of the story.
Action Charades – uses drama techniques to enhance listening and speaking skills. Initially children use mime and gesture to show their
understanding of phrases related to the story. The language of the story, which until now has been a vehicle for understanding the story, has
become a tool for conveying meaning and creating scenes for new stories.
Happy Families – another familiar game that enables children to practice simple, repetitive questioning techniques using the characters of the
story as a stimulus.
Narrative Format – the Narrative Format activity recreates the imaginary world of the story and invites children to enter it. Only the target
language is spoken here and the repetitive nature of the format helps children build up and retain spontaneous narrative language.
Modern Foreign Languages
and Early Years
Personal, Social and Emotional Development
 Activity 1: Please and thank you
This is an extremely simple game to practise the words for ‘please’ and
‘thank you’. Give a child an object, such as a ball. The child sitting next to
him/her asks for the object in target language politely (e.g. “si vous plait”),
the child with the objects hands it over and the child receiving it thanks
him/her (e.g. “merci”). This continues around the class or circle (Cave, 2006:
 Activity 2: Musical greetings
As the music plays, the children walk about the room. When the music
stops, they must each find a partner and greet them with target language
phrases they have learnt: “Hello”, “How are you?” , “I am fine thank you”
(Drinkwater, 2008: 124).
 Resources: ‘Pilote Moi- interactive.’ A CD-ROM based French
course for young beginners.
Communication, Language and Literacy
Activity 1: Flashcards/pass the bag
Have a set of flashcards in the target language for categories such as
colours, numbers or animals and put them in a bag. Play music as the
children pass the bag around the circle. When the music stops the child
holding the bag picks a card and tries to say what is on the card in the target
 Activity 2: Reading a story written in the target language.
Choose a simple story in the target language to read to the children,
to give them an opportunity to hear the language and the differences
in the way words are pronounced compared to their first language.
Puppets are also a great aid when telling stories and the children can
use them to recount or perform the story.
shtml See also the partner site for Spanish.
Problem solving, Reasoning and
 Activity 1: Number Up 1!
Children standing or sitting in classroom, facing the front. Ask the children to write
the number 1 in the air with their right hand, then their left hand. Can they say the
number in French as they draw it? In pairs or a line ask the children to write a
number on someone's back and see if the partner/people in the line can pass the
number along and say it in French. (Take 10, No.7).
 Activity 2: Numbered Cards
Once the children know some numbers in the target language, stick flashcards onto
a whiteboard and write a number next to each one.
Call out a number in the target language and the children say the word for the
picture on the flashcard (Cave, 2006: 14.)
 Resources:
Knowledge and Understanding of the
 Activity 1: Birthday dash
Children stand in a circle. Begin slowly chanting the months of the year in the target
language. Each child must listen out for the month of their birthday; when it is chanted
they must run across the circle to a space on the other side. Anyone who bumps into
another child, does not run when their birthday month is mentioned or runs at the
wrong time is out. Repeat 2 or 3 times (Drinkwater, 2008: 148).
 Activity 2: Scavenger hunt
This is a little easier to organise than a treasure hunt. Give the children pictures labeled
in the target language, for example things found in the outside environment such as
leaves. The winners are the first group to come back with all the items and try to say
what they are in the target language. You could ask the children to draw other objects
in their local environment for others to find, (Cave, 2006:92).
 Resources: Interactive bilingual calendars
Physical Development
 Activity 1: Traffic Lights.
Children spread out around the room. The teacher shouts out the
instructions in the target language. The last person to start doing the action,
or whoever does the wrong action is out. The instructions are red, green,
amber, crash, bridge, and traffic jam in the target language (Drinkwater,
2008: 246).
 Activity 2: Fruit Squash
Teacher writes the names of 4 or 5 fruits on the board and reads them
through with the children, adding simple drawings if necessary. Teacher
calls out “Fruit March!” and all the children begin marching on the spot.
Teacher calls out a variety of actions linked to each fruit by its initial letter
sound, e.g: leaping lemons, bouncing bananas and skipping strawberries
(Take 10, No. 4).
 Resources: The ‘Take 10’ series in French and SpanishA resource for integrating the target language into daily
physical activity in the primary school.
Creative Development
 Activity 1: Actions to a song
Print out the words to a song in target language – this could be a simple action
rhyme for younger children. Read through and discuss the text as a group – ensure
children understand any new vocabulary. Make up actions to fit the words, and
finish off by singing/dancing through the song (Drinkwater, 2008: 208).
 Activity 2: Animal drawing
One at a time children come up to the board/take a piece of blank paper
and a pen and begin to draw an animal – the rest of the class must raise
their hands to guess in target language which animal is being drawn.
Whoever guesses correctly takes the next turn (Drinkwater, 2008: 62).
 Resources: ‘Chantez Plus Fort- 20 French Songs’.
With CD and sheet music.
 Bevis, R et al, (2007) Chantez Plus Fort!- 20 French Songs. Dunstable, Brilliant
 Cave, S (2006) 100+ fun ideas for- Practising Modern Foreign languages in the
Primary Classroom. Poole, Brilliant Publications.
 Drinkwater, N (2008) Games and activities for Primary Modern Foreign Languages.
Harlow, Pearson Longman.
 Devon County Council, (2004) Take 10 en français. Exeter, Devon Education
 Kent County Council (2002) Pilote Moi- Interactive. Kent, Kent Educational
Modern Foreign Languages in KS1
and KS2
Teaching Approaches
• The Key Stage 2 Framework suggests that language
learning stimulates children’s creativity and
supports oracy and literacy. Therefore,
• Have fun and be creative!
• Use songs, rhymes, stories, drama and games.
• Place emphasis on the speaking and listening skills
of the Framework.
• Integrate language into the daily routine (weather,
praise, date, register).
Top Tip
• If you are worried about remembering vocabulary
and key phrases, create an MFL display in your
classroom where you can display the key
vocabulary and phrases associated with the topic
you are studying. Therefore, both you and the
children can use the display to use the words in
the daily routine and revise them.
Display Ideas
El padre
La madre
Tiempo de Oro
El hermano
¡A comer!
La hermana
¡A jugar!
Useful Websites
• Little Linguist sells excellent resources in many
languages. Resources include: story books, DVDs,
CDs, flashcards, posters, stickers/rewards, puppets
and schemes of work.
• The QCDA schemes of work for Spanish, French and
German are available on to download on the
Standards Site and have teaching ideas and
vocabulary lists.
• The BBC website has free games and interactive
activities in French and Spanish for Key Stage 2
• The Primary Languages website has a list of
Teachers TV programmes about primary MFL and
the corresponding links.
• The Northumberland website is an excellent
resource. It has colourful, interactive traditional
stories, such as Red Riding Hood, in French,
Spanish, German and Italian. You can opt to listen
to the stories if you are not confident in your
pronunciation. Some stories come with a resource
manual so that you can develop learning further.
• Sunderland School website has sound files and
transcripts for many of the French units of work,
which can aid pronunciation.
• The Sunderland website also has a selection of
French sound files, flashcards, songs and a scheme
of work aimed at Foundation and Key Stage 1.
• The Sunderland website also contains sample
lesson plans, activity sheets, PowerPoints, and
Flashcards in Spanish.
Useful Publications:
Title: French: Primary French Language Teaching Resource: Teacher's Handbook Bk. 1
Author: Montgomery, Lucy
Publisher, Year: Ecole Alouette, 2007
ISBN: 1901870596
Title: Effective Foreign Language Teaching At The Primary Level: Focus On The Teacher
Author: Raya, Manuel Jimenez (Ed.)
Publisher, Year: Peter Lang Pub Inc, 2001
ISBN: 3631369514
Title: The Teaching Modern Foreign Languages in the Primary School
Author: Frost, David; Driscoll, Patricia (eds.)
Publisher, Year: Routledge Falmer, 1999
ISBN: 0415183839
• The Primary Languages website supports the introduction and
development of primary languages in KS2 by providing access to online training
DCSF Standards Site: Teaching MFL at KS2 Information on modern foreign languages at Key Stage 2
E-languages Website enabling teachers to work together internationally and share resources
DCSF: News Centre - Major Investment in MFL Learning Article confirming that all primary students will
be taught MFL from 2010
• Interactive network for those teaching or considering teaching MFL at primary
A huge range of fantastic activities and planning resources are available in four different languages
(Spanish, French, German and Italian) at:
Early Start French Teachers Manual vol 1 & 2 (helpful DVD’s and audio CD’S)
• Good for display posters, word cards and games such as colour bingo.
• Spanish resources websites:
Just for fun!
• Click on the following link and watch the animated
version of the German pop-up book, ‘Vom kleinen
Maulwurf, der wissen wollte, wer ihm auf den Kopf
gemacht hat’.

Modern Foreign Languages