After gaining a Psychology with French degree, I honed my child-centred linguistic skills (along with crafts, games and never to be forgotten songs) working on bilingual holiday camps in France. Moving with my husband and three young children to Italy in the late ’80s allowed me to gain another language immersively whilst observing my children acquiring their first new language.
Mixed age approaches for the generalist teacher
Returning to primary education in rural Norfolk in 1991, I developed key approaches to the mixed age teaching of languages. From my long background as a generalist classroom teacher, I champion the strengths of a model based on the classroom generalist teaching languages, supported by excellent materials and realistic, sustainable approaches.
Hocus and Lotus
Meeting Prof. Traute Taeschner in 2002, the psychology graduate in me was deeply impressed with the depth of her research into child language acquisition. Equally, wearing my primary languages ‘hat’, I appreciated the possibilities that her resources offered to the classroom generalist. I was one of the first UK practitioners to train in the Hocus and Lotus immersive approach, using Hocus and Lotus widely in my own teaching and becoming a national trainer in 2005. In my advisory capacity I subsequently trained hundreds of teachers in East Anglia and throughout the UK.
Language Awareness: a multi-lingual approach
During my seven years steering the introduction of languages into Norfolk primary schools, I developed a countywide model for primary languages based on the teaching of two or more languages throughout KS2. This approach addresses the threefold issues of transition, non-specialist teachers and progression in mixed age classes. Now working as an independent language consultant for primary education, I continue to recommend this language awareness approach, and am currently writing new materials for Discovering Language, supported by the Esmee Fairburn Foundation.
Swahili: a new linguistic challenge!
I am currently living in Kenya for part of the year, following my husband’s job, but am returning to the UK several times a year. I could not live in Kenya without challenging myself to learn a completely new language! I am intrigued by what I am finding easy and more difficult (there being no European linguistic ‘hooks’ I can use to help my recall). Many Swahili words begin with similar prefixes and I am finding that using actions really does help recall…even if it does mean that when I say ‘kupiga’ (to hit) with a striking action and ‘kupika’ (to cook) with a stirring action…I get some strange looks! To learn more of my Swahili and Kenyan adventures visit my blog: http//semasoma.blogspot.com