Teachers Workshop 2017

Second Language Learning in the Primary Years

This workshop was hosted at Chandler House, University College London, 2 Wakefield Street, WC1N 1PF, on Thursday 30 March 2017, 10AM – 3PM.

The purpose of the workshop was to bring together researchers and teachers, providing a unique opportunity not only for teachers to learn more about current research looking at second language learning and teaching in the primary years, but also for researchers to gain important feedback from those working in the classroom.



Dr Elizabeth Wonnacott (University College London)

Learning French in the Primary School: The Role of Teaching and Teacher Factors
Professor Suzanne Graham (University of Reading)
This presentation reported on a longitudinal study across the last two years of primary education and the first year of secondary school, tracking 240 learners of French. It compared the linguistic outcomes (vocabulary and grammatical knowledge) from two different approaches to the teaching of French in England, one placing emphasis on oracy (speaking and listening), the other combining literacy (reading and writing) with attention to oracy development. It also explored the relationship between linguistic outcomes and two other key teaching/teacher factors: teaching time and teacher expertise (teacher level of French proficiency, teacher level of training in language instruction). The presentation reported key findings from the study and discussed their implications for curriculum design, policy and pedagogy in relation to early language learning.

Learning French in the Primary Classroom: The Origins of Grammar
Professor Florence Myles (University of Essex)
This talk tracked a year 3 group of children starting to learn French in the classroom as complete beginners. We explored the relationship between rote-learnt knowledge, and the eventual emergence of productive morphosyntax, which is still poorly understood.

The Development of French Sound/Spelling Links in Key Stage 2
Dr Alison Porter (University of Southampton)
Through examination of both test data and children’s written work, this talk discussed the effects of systematic and explicit French phonics instruction in two Year 5/6 classrooms.

Teaching Second Languages through Computer Games: Engagement meets Intensive Language Exposure
Dr Diana Pili-Moss (University of Lancaster)
Effective language learning in instructed contexts depends on a number of factors, ranging from the use of age-appropriate and engaging activities, learners’ subjective motivation, a balanced mix of grammar-based and communicative tasks and exposure to second language input that is sufficient both in terms of amount and intensity. Due to time and contextual constraints adequate exposure to consistent streams of input is probably the most difficult situation to achieve in the classroom. However, the use of computer language games, where increasing levels of language proficiency are required for advancement in the game provides such opportunity. This talk presented the results of research that deployed a computer board game to teach primary school children aspects of the grammar of Japanese, and discussed how the activity was received as well as what the children learnt after three days of use.

Learning Gender Classes in Italian via a Computerized Word Learning Game: A Study with 7 Year Olds
Dr Elizabeth Wonnacott (University College London), Dr Helen Brown (University of Warwick) & Miss Lydia Gunning (University of Leeds)
Many languages divide nouns into different gender classes (e.g. “masculine” and “feminine” words), and these are notoriously difficult for English speakers learning a second language. In this talk we explored whether native English speaking children picked up on gender markings when they were simply trained on vocabulary, without any explicit instruction about gender. We presented data from a study in which Year 3 children were exposed to new Italian vocabulary via a computer-based learning program. We tracked whether the children picked up the on consistent gender markers (e.g., masculine nouns go with the determiner “il” and feminine with the determiner “la”; nouns ending in -o are usually masculine, nouns ending in -a are usually feminine) in the absence of explicit instruction.

This event was sponsored by the Economic and Social Research Council (http://www.esrc.ac.uk/), and was organised by Dr Elizabeth Wonnacott and Dr Helen Brown