Learning of Languages

Learning of Languages


The Modern Language Initiative was funded by the Department of Education until 2011 when this programme was abolished. We remain committed to the intent of the programme and we will re-start the programme when the DES re-instates the funding and long-term commitment to it.  



This policy was formulated in the Autumn Term 2008, following consultative meetings between the Principal and the Special Duties Postholder for Languages. It is a statement of the vision, aims, objectives and principles of Language Learning in St.Brigid’s. It should be read in conjunction with the policy documents for English, Gaeilge, Language Support and Learning Support. The policy was devised with reference to the Modern Languages in Primary Schools: Draft Curriculum Guidelines and Teacher Guidelines and the Intercultural Guidelines (INTO).

St.Brigid’s Primary School has been part of the Modern Languages in Schools Initiative since its inception and part of the EU Comenius Language Assistant Programme since 2005; both schemes allow us to access Modern Language teaching at no additional expense to our pupils.

This plan was devised:
• To provide an overview of our vision for the promotion of languages.
• To provide additional ideas for the teaching of languages in the specific context of our school, catering as we do for children from around the world.
• To provide clear guidelines to new staff (especially as our Comenius Assistant is on a one year contract and is therefore new each year).

One of the key elements of the Mission Statement of St.Brigid’s is the encouragment of language learning and the appreciation of languages and their place in our culture and heritage.  In the school environment we aim to express this vision in many ways, both visually and through our approaches to teaching.


The aims of a modern language curriculum are:

• To foster a positive attitude towards language learning and to promote self confidence, self-esteem and enjoyment in learning a language.
• To develop communicative competence, enabling the child to use the language in a variety of contexts.
• To develop an awareness of the target language and its relationship with other languages.
• To develop the child’s awareness, appreciation and respect for other cultures, particularly those associated with the target language.

The objectives of the modern language curriculum are that the child should be enabled to:

• Experience enjoyment and fulfilment in language activities.
• Explore, experiment with and enjoy all the playful aspects of language.
• Take part in language-learning activities with self-confidence, thereby enhancing the child’s self-esteem.
• Develop the skill of listening actively through a variety of activities, including story, poetry, songs, games, suitable audio and audiovisual materials, and computer software.
• Be aware of how inflection, stress, accent and word order affect the meaning of what is being said.
• Appreciate the significance of tone of voice, facial expression and gesture.
• Attain confidence in talking about his or her ideas and experiences.

• Develop accurate pronunciation through exposure to authentic audio/listening materials and extend his or her vocabulary.
• Develop an appropriate mastery of grammar in order to communicate simply and effectively.
• Begin to read and write the language as his or her oral competence grows.
• Develop an appreciation of the relationship between languages through an awareness of similarities and differences.
• Enhance his or her language learning through an awareness of variety in grammar and sentence construction.
• Learn about the cultural aspects of other countries, such as lifestyle, customs, traditions, music, art and literature.
• Appreciate and respect identity and cultural diversity.

Structure of the modern languages curriculum


 Communication competence
 Language awareness
 Cultural awareness

Strand units

 Listening
 Speaking
 Reading
 Writing

Principles - for a language programme in primary school:
• The programme should be child-centred and stimulating. It should take account of the age and interest level of the child as well as the social dimension of the child’s life. The child should be actively involved in his or her acquisition of the language. Capturing the child’s interest will provide the motivation to learn and will facilitate and encourage his or her progress in the language.
• The topics covered should be relevant to the child and his or her interests and experience. They should be set in realistic contexts in which the child is required to interact orally with others for the purpose of sharing information, thereby enabling him or her to complete given tasks successfully.
• The target language should be the preferred means of communication in the language classroom.
• The teacher, as model, should speak at conversational pace, using a rich range of language.
• The input should be comprehensible, without restricting the vocabulary used.
• In addition to learning a language, the attention of the child should be drawn to how language is learnt.
• Quality in language learning must be ensured. Children should be presented with correct models of pronunciation in order to ensure accuracy of language and to develop familiarity with idioms.
• Careful planning for the effective transfer of knowledge is necessary to ensure that what has previously been learnt will be reused in another context with the introduction of a new topic. The Introductory Statement to the Primary School Curriculum refers to the developmental nature of learning, advocating that the child be given the opportunity to return to particular knowledge, ideas and skills at regular intervals in order to deepen his or her understanding of them.
• The approaches and methodologies of the project should encompass all aspects of the child’s capacities and intelligence profile. This will entail variety in classroom organisation, to include individual, pair, group and whole-class activities.
• The approach will be an integrated one, where effective links can be made between language development, cultural awareness and communicative competence, and other areas of the curriculum.
• A wide range of attractive modern materials of a high educational standard will be used in teaching modern languages in the primary school classroom.
• Diversification in the range of languages taught is desirable.
• Respect and tolerance of others and of their cultures will be promoted.

Individual Teacher’s Planning and Reporting:
The teachers of French and Spanish provide termly plans of work for their classes. These are retained in the Principal’s office. The teacher of French is briefed by the previous teacher, prior to taking up the position; this is to ensure continuity in the children’s learning.

Modern Language Initiative: Spanish
5th and 6th classes: 1 hour per week

French: 20-30 minutes per week, plus informal interaction.
Senior Infants :
1st class
2nd class
3rd class
4th class

After-School French Club is open to pupils from 2nd-6th classes, at no additonal charge.

The continued provision of French in St.Brigid’s is contingent on our being granted a Language Assistant under Comenius (EU); this is allocated annually following an application process.

Languages are supported and celebrated in the school in a number of ways:
• The use of a Gaeilge display board. This is updated weekly with different Frásaí na Seachtaine, songs and poems. Each class uses this phrase during the course of the week, and learns new songs and poems.
• The use of French and Spanish displays which are regularlyupdated. Themes are used to integrate with different subjects or times of year.
• A Language of the Month display, which promotes and celebrates languages from around the world. This is co-ordinated by the Language Support team.
• Greetings in many languages are displayed in the front hall.
• Seasonal greetings are displayed in the corridors in December.
• Songs/hymns in a variety of languages are taught to classes at different levels (including Gaeilge, English, Spanish, French, Latin, Yuroba, Zulu, Xhosa).
• The children are encouraged to appreciate cultural diversity through exploring such displays and discussing them with the class and language teachers. It is known that a child’s early experiences will affect their language acquisition in relation to the words they know, how they form sentences, and how they use grammar. Second language however (unless it begins in early childhood) is not part of the learner’s primary cognitive development. The later the second language acquisition begins, the more it is influenced by conscious motivational factors.
• European Day of Languages is celebrated at the beginning of the school year.

Suggested topics for the teaching of languages in the classroom:
 Classroom language 
 Time
 Introducing oneself
 Where I live
 Talking about family and school 
 Feasts and holidays
 Investigating numbers, days of the week, months, seasons, weather, pastimes and birthdays
 Hobbies and pastimes

Linkage and Integration:
At all class levels, there are opportunities to link topics in various languages and to integrate themes across subject areas.

Assessment is essential in the teaching and learning process. It is also an essential component of classroom planning. Assessment is included in all curricular areas as well as being taken into consideration at the school planning stages.

Assessment tools:
Children at fifth and sixth-class levels are learning the modern language (Spanish)
for the first time. The approaches and methodologies used vary. However, the assessment component should be included. When using methods of assessment the teacher should have a clear idea of what is being assessed. Among the more important features of children’s
language learning that should be assessed are:
 one of the language skills
 one of the strands Communicative competence, Language
awareness, or Cultural awareness
 pronunciation.

Other factors, of course, will be observed. However, in any assessment of children’s learning the focus should be on what is being assessed and why it is being assessed.

The curriculum mentions a variety of assessment tools that may be used. For the purposes of the language classroom these include:
 teacher observation
 teacher-designed tests and tasks
 teacher-pupil discussion
 work samples, portfolios, and projects.

Teacher observation
Class teachers use this form of assessment continuously. The child’s progress is monitored informally and continuously. Assessing the manner in which the child learns the language results in the teacher employing methods and approaches that best facilitate the language
learning experience. Formative assessment is generally unrecorded; however, teachers may
find it useful at certain times to keep notes of what has been observed in order to modify teaching strategies for the future. The class teacher should always be aware of assessment methods used by the language teacher and of the information gathered by this assessment.

Teacher-designed tasks and tests
These tests also form the basis of continuous (formative) assessment. They may take various forms, depending on the type of learning being assessed. They may be graded to show progression over a period. Teachers may decide to carry these out at the end of a lesson or a particular theme, or as a revision of what has been covered over a period
of time.

The assessment may take the form of:

 taking part in listening games, such as bingo, identifying particular sounds previously heard, identifying common sounds (word endings or beginnings), and listening for specific words following directions, for example listening to instructions and completing a picture, drawing a picture according to directions
given orally, or following directions on a map according to oral instructions
 taking part in role-playing where children are required to reuse and recycle language already learnt in different contexts
 arranging pieces of simple text in sequence. Initially the texts used may contain paragraphs that include key words such as first, then,later, and finally.

Teacher-pupil discussion

By talking to the child, insight may be gained into how he or she learns, what the favourite activities are, and the pleasure gained from learning the language.

By asking questions of the child based on what has been taught, the teacher can ascertain how much of the language the child has actually learnt, and how much has been retained. This gives the teacher an idea of the appropriateness or otherwise of the pace and content of lessons as well as of the level of language at which to pitch future lessons. The need for opportunities to reuse and recycle the language in different circumstances may also become apparent.

This discussion may be conducted in the target language. However, the teacher may also feel it necessary to discuss elements included above in the mother tongue.

Work samples, portfolios, and projects

In the language area of the primary school curriculum emphasis is placed on encouraging the child to draft, redraft and edit his or her work. From the initiation of the project, teachers were encouraged to keep samples of the child’s work. These samples can provide valuable information about progress made. The child’s copy/folder is the most obvious place in which to monitor his or her work.

However, many people prefer to keep records of the work of pupils in a folder where,
over one or two years, a portfolio is developed that gives a clear picture of various pieces of work carried out by the child. Many of these pieces are not suitable for keeping in copybooks. The copybook in itself will be included in the folder as part of the portfolio of work produced. Alternatively, photographs may be taken of items that cannot be
included in the copybook.

The emphasis in the curriculum is on a communicative approach. It is therefore appropriate that cassette and video recordings also be used as examples of children’s work.

Class projects in which the children collaborate to produce a particular project may be displayed initially and kept later in the language area of the classroom for reference, or to show to visitors to the classroom.

The languages programmes aim to meet the needs of all of the children in the school. Teachers can vary the pace, content, methodologies and expected outcomes in order to support individual needs. The teachers of French and Spanish especially encourage children who have either language as a mother tongue to become good models for the other children and to become ‘assistants’ to the teacher. As the lessons are short, it is generally not feasible to set additional tasks to these children.

Equality of access and participation:
All children in 5th and 6th classes have access to Spanish and have the option of taking French in the afternoon.
The languages programmes are available to all pupils and are taught using ability and age-appropriate strategies.

Resources and ICT:
See English and Irish policies for resources for those subjects.
See Appendices for Spanish and French resources.
Useful websites:
Modern Languages In Primary School Initiative 
National Advisory Centre for Early Language Learning (UK) http://www.nacell.org.uk/bestpractice/schemes.htm
Primary Curriculum Support Programme  Development Planning www.sdps.ie
French Lesson Plans www.teach-nology.com/teachers/lesson_plans/languages/french
French Lesson Plans http://french.about.com/od/teachingresources
French & Spanish Lesson Plans www.csun.edu/~hcedu013/eslsp.html
Languages Lesson Plans http://www.primaryschool.com.au

Staff Development:
Teachers are made aware of any opportunities for further professional development through courses available in education centres or other venues. The Special Duties Post Holder attends the seminars organised by Leargas, to support the Language Assistant. Our Spanish teacher attends training offered by MLSPI personnel through Kildare Education Centre.

Parental Involvement:
Parents are directly involved in their children’s language learning. They also provide invaluable assistance in a variety of ways during the school year (translation, interpreting, providing resources (maps, pictures, music, etc), organising a number of key events and encouraging their children to take extra-curricular classes in other languages. Because of the diverse backgrounds of our pupil population there is an enhanced opportunity to engage with languages from around the world.

Success criteria:
The success of this policy will be measured using the following criteria:
• Understanding and implementation of the policy is evident in teacher’s planning
• New language teachers can quickly access the resources they require and the account of work completed in the previous year.

Implementation and Review:
This policy is currently being implemented and is endorsed by the BOM.  It will be monitored by the Special Duties teacher with responsibility for languages and reviewed as necessary. As with all our plans and policies, parents have access on request to this policy.



March 2009
Review date: Nov 2011


Appendix 1:

Early Start "Tú y yo" (with CD)
Early Start "Mi ciudad y mi colegio (with CD and video)
Los Trotamundos 1 (13 units)
Entre amigos 2
Get dressed, Robbie
La guerra del helado de frambuesa
Juegos para la clase de Español
Acti España
Sí, sí, sí package (with DVD and Flashcards)
Descubre las palabras
Pasacalle 1
Pasacalle 1 Workbook (2 units)
Spanish for beginners (2 units)
Cuentos de hadas
My first European Dictionary
Learn to count
First thousand words in Spanish
Country files - Spain
Wellington's way to learn Spanish
Animales del mundo


Activity Books
Spanish word games for beginners
¿Español? Sí, gracias
El Español en crucigramas
El Español en crucigramas Vol 2
El Español en crucigramas Vol 3
Pasatiempos en Español Vol 1
Pasatiempos en Español Vol 2
Splendid ideas for Spanish Teachers
 Smart Spanish
Laboratorio de Matemáticas
Huellas y serpientes
El juego de los números
32 cuentos para jugar con las letras del alfabeto
El dominó de las horas
El zoo de los números
Super Bis
Spanish fun (with cassette)
 Los trotamundos 1 (cassette 1 and 2)
Canciones infantiles en Español
(Also several photocopies and In-career Booklets)

Appendix 2



Les princesses de Walt Disney, bloc de jeux.
French for beginners
La petite famille
Wellington`s way to learn French
Super Maxi
Modern Language in primary school
English and French, my first stickers
Sticky French
Learn French
French elementary book
S`il vous plait
Les paysages francais
Le Moyen-Age

Super bis French
Les Incollables

Le corps
La date
Les couleurs
Le calendrier de l`avent
1,2,3, nous irons aux bois
Chanson de l`alphabet


Le poeme invisible
Les saisons
Les chffres de 1 a 20
Golden Rules in french
1 TV factice

Mois et saisons
La Chandeleur
Materiel scolaire
Villes francaises

Henri Des