Tag: Primary Education

‘Greater and more diverse life experiences through travel and culture’: Education and Languages at Stirling

Following on from the recent few posts by students just reaching the end of their first year with us, it’s time for the thoughts of someone who is a little further on in her degree programme. Laura Burns has just completed her second year on our BA Hons in Professional Education (Primary) with a Specialism in Modern Languages and is about to undertake an English Language Assistantship from the Autumn:

“I have always been sure that I wanted to study teaching. However, the opportunities and experiences that I have gained, and will gain, from my involvement with the modern languages department at Stirling have been incredible.

As I have always been aware of changes and dynamics within Scottish Education, I became interested in the 1+2 scheme. This has the aim to better encourage modern language learning in Scotland, due to be fully implemented across primary schools in 2020. Having enjoyed studying French while at school and always having interest in culture and travel, I was keen to look further into languages as a specialist option. This was when I became more aware of Stirling University and the unique opportunities I could gain from studying there. My course came with the chance to study education with a specialism in French language and culture. Immediately, this was beneficial on a social level, enabling me to meet more fellow students and staff across different faculties.

From day one, I found the language department to be friendly, engaging and organised. This was a main worry of mine before beginning university, so it was fantastic to feel at ease so quickly. While the work was challenging for me, I felt supported by the staff and fellow students throughout.

Whenever going into schools, I am far more acutely aware of the attitudes towards modern language teaching. Immediately, I discovered that many of the primary teachers who I spoke with lacked confidence in their rushed learning of French, or Spanish. This lack of confidence, many admitted, led to a lack of engagement with teaching of language beyond, for example, colours or introductions. Contrastingly, from my experience so far, the children have a far more positive approach. While on my most recent placement, I tried to incorporate French into much of the daily classroom life. This even encouraged one child to do her own “research”, coming back to me with vocabulary she had discovered from searching with her family over the weekend. Language learning, at its heart, involves sharing and discovering. Undeniably, this is engaging and important kinds of learning for all children. Studying at Stirling has made me so aware of how I can ensure that a potential lack of teacher confidence does not inhibit this learning, and these experiences.

Speaking more personally, due to my involvement with the French department, my future life experiences will be shaped. I have been given the opportunity to become an English Language Assistant. My post begins in October, staying in Lille, France. This was never something I would have even considered if it wasn’t for the encouragement and support from the faculty. While I am scared and nervous (apprehensive) to be undertaking this unexpected year out, I know how valuable this experience will be. Firstly, on a practical level, to be fluent (or close to) in another language will always be a sought after skill. Secondly, I will be allowed an entire year’s teaching experience adapting to new systems and curriculum. Finally, it grants me the opportunity to have greater and more diverse life experiences with people through travel and culture, making me a better teacher in future because of it. In addition to this, the staff encouraged another opportunity through “Language Linking, Global Thinking” where I can maintain a link with a Scottish primary school to inspire language leaning, and the opportunities which arise with it. 

This was not the journey I had expected to take before starting Higher Education. It is because of Stirling University’s language department that I am more aware that ultimately, university is about more than just a degree, it enables opportunities and creates links. I now will have a desired specialism to be proud of, and advocate. I can use languages to better myself across many areas in my life, for my whole life. I will always be grateful for the department’s keen interest in helping me better myself through opportunities that university, and language learning can provide.”

Many, many thanks to Laura for this great blog post and we hope the ELA year goes really well!

 

Student Successes: Prizes and Graduating Students

On the day our finalists have received their degree results (félicitations à toutes et à tous!!), it seems particularly appropriate to post congratulations to all those French at Stirling students who have been awarded prizes for outstanding performances across our year groups.

In Semesters 1-3, we run both an Advanced stream (for all those with Higher or Advanced Higher French, or equivalent) and a Beginners’ stream (for those with no formal qualifications in French or whose previous studies are from years and years back) and we award prizes in both streams. This year, Prize for the Best Performance by a Year 1 Student in the A Stream goes to Jennifer Graham who is studying Professional Education (Primary) with a Specialism in Modern Languages and the Prize for the Best Performance in Year 1 by a B Stream student goes to English and French student, Laura Castane Bassa.

Best Performance by an A Stream student in Year 2 goes to International Politics and Languages student Stefano Intropido (who was also recently awarded a Stevenson Exchange Scholarship) while Charlene Hoag, who is studying French and History, has won the Prize for the Best Performance by a former B Stream student in Year 2 (Advanced and Beginners’ streams merge in Semester 4).

Our annual Simone de Beauvoir Prize for French which is awarded every year to a graduating student on a French programme for the best performance across their Honours modules has been won by David Vescio who has been studying French and Spanish with us, and Hannah Northfield, who has just completed her BA Hons in French, has been awarded the Translation Prize for French, thanks to excellent grades in translation assessments across her final year.

Many, many congratulations to all our prize-winners from all of French at Stirling!

Primary Education and Modern Languages: “The staff are genuinely inspiring!”

Following on from yesterday’s account of life since graduation from Emma Goodall-Copestake, it’s time for a profile of one of our current students. Jennifer Graham is in her 2nd semester of our BA Hons in Professional Education (Primary) with a Specialism in Modern Languages, studying both French and Spanish with us:

“Living in a small Scottish village on the North West coast of Scotland in the early 90s I definitely lacked exposure to other cultures. I think my first inkling that another language besides English existed was from Sebastian on Playdays, who, for anyone who hasn’t come across this ingenious example of engaging children’s television, was a stereotypical Frenchman made of cardboard or wood or something, who was wheeled about the set and ‘spoke’ the odd French word. Actually, he did intrigue me although I’m still not really sure why.

French in Primary School was great – songs, games and a teacher who loved everything French. I fully credit this teacher for the way that my studies have panned out so far. It was her love of France that tilted my education away from Gaelic, which was much more central to language education in the other local Primary Schools, and towards modern languages. In 1998 I started high school along with the five other pupils in my class, all of us with a confidence in French that was definitely not about to elevate our social standing among our peers. We all very quickly dropped our French accents while reading aloud in class.

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ELA Year in Verdun

 

Fast-forward eleven years to 2010. I’ve done three years of French and Spanish at Strathclyde University and I’ve just completed my year abroad working as an English Language Assistant in Verdun in France.

I’m pregnant.

Incomplete degree, no job, living in the South Side of Glasgow with friends and a cat. Not an ideal situation. I felt like I had been put on a swivel chair that had spun around and set me on a completely different path to the one I had been so sure I was set to follow. Now I have a six-year-old daughter who (you’ll permit me a small brag) delights in showing off her skills in French, Spanish, Dutch, Italian and Polish. When she started school, I started getting itchy. I wanted to finish what I had started, and do it better than I had the first time.

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I love working with children and young people and so I applied for the Primary Education with Modern Languages course at Stirling University (this choice mainly came down to logistics. I live near Falkirk and Stirling is by far the easiest university to access and gives me the best chance of being able to make school drop off and pick up). Had I not been accepted I’m not sure what I would be doing just now, most likely still working full time in the Italian restaurant I’ve worked in for the past two years. Now I’m working part-time, mum full time and studying in the cracks that fall in-between. I’m not sure how long I can keep it up and soon something will have to give. It will inevitably be the job as I’m extremely determined now. I’m very different to the student I was – doing the minimum amount of work and living the maximum amount of student life.

My logistics-based choice of Stirling University has paid off: the campus is beautiful, the staff are fantastic, the facilities and layout of the university are great. I’ve found the enthusiasm of the staff genuinely inspiring. My greatest fear, as a slightly older student, was (is!) the amount of reliance on technology. Although it’s nice to sit at home and organise your student life, I found it quite isolating at the beginning. Choosing all my modules and seminar times online, receiving my timetable online, all of it automatic, was quite nerve-wracking as there seemed to be no assurance from a human being that I was actually doing everything properly. Honestly, in the days leading up to the first week of the first semester I was very, very nervous. Scared, really. I’ve never been frightened of technology before but I really was worried about not being able to prepare for my classes and looking like an idiot. I got through it though.

To round things up, I don’t think anyone can, or should, get through a degree without a fair amount of struggle. And it is a struggle. I’ve forgotten so much and I have a lot of new things to learn that I didn’t bother to learn the first time around. But I’m here and I’m doing it. My once stagnant brain is getting warmed up again and it’s hungry for irregular verbs. (Ha!)”

Many, many thanks to Jennifer for having taken the time to send us this post. We look forward to following your progress throughout the rest of your degree… and good luck with the irregular verbs!

 

Happy Holidays! Joyeuses fêtes!

Teaching ended here last Friday and our students have just finished their oral exams and handed in last essays of the semester so – apart from now waiting for feedback and grades… and the occasional exam in other subjects – it’s time to settle into the festive break until the new semester in January. To mark the occasion, our Language Assistants Brigitte Depret (for French) and Maria Sanchez (for Spanish), organised a pre-Christmas get-together for Year 3 and 4 students yesterday and Brigitte has very kindly written the following post with plenty of positive thoughts on the semester that’s ending from those in attendance!

‘As the semester is drawing to a close, and the exams are over, a Christmas party co-hosted by our Spanish colleagues, was the perfect opportunity to ask our 3rd and 4th year students what the highlights of the semester have been for them.

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Kirsten and Charlotte

Charlotte, in the final year of a BA Hons in French and Journalism, “enjoyed the semester very much even if it was a lot of work. Working on translation (both from English into French and French into English) really enhanced my skills. We also have a lot of support from staff.” For, Kirsten, who is in Year 3 of our BA Hons in International Management with European Languages and Society, the semester was “hard work, but well worth it. Fiona, our lecturer, helped me a lot and gave me all the support I needed, especially in translation.”

 

Colm, a final year BA Hons French and Spanish student, has found the shift back to Stirling after his Semester Abroad in Spain challenging but says “we were lucky to have extra oral classes this year. These were really helpful to me. We are also lucky to have very friendly staff here, and interesting classes to keep us motivated.” Colm’s fellow final year French and Spanish student, Luise says she is “really happy with the language class where the students are encouraged to take part. Our small classes are ideal to work in and it makes learning French a very enjoyable experience.”

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Colm and Luise

David, Lysiane, Conni and Jennifer, who are all also taking both French and Spanish in their final year, were equally positive about the past semester. David enjoyed both the weekly written and spoken language classes this semester: “With Mathilde, in our Spoken Language class, we speak about current affairs, French culture and French society, which keeps us up-to-date with everything we should know about France. It’s a class-based discussion, with lots of interaction in a relaxed atmosphere. I was lucky to have Cristina for written language. As a teacher, she is very approachable and always there to help. Anytime you need support, she’s there.” For Lysiane, “Talking about current affairs, politics have been especially helpful to understand the French society. My teachers were all lovely, especially Cristina who did help a lot in translation. It has helped me to expand my vocabulary and gain more confidence. It was also a great human experience. At Stirling, there’s a real feeling of community.” And Conni and Jennifer are clear that “Our confidence has improved a lot, thanks to great tutors.”

Alongside the weekly oral classes, our French Language Assistants, Brigitte and Mathilde, also scheduled shorter individual and paired slots for further opportunities to speak French throughout the semester for our Year 3 and 4 students, something that seems to have been particularly appreciated by Brett: “I really enjoyed the course, because it opens lots of room to progress, especially because of the extra one-to-one language slots we were offered this year. I am glad I had the opportunity to improve in a well-structured environment and thanks to small classes.” And for Anna, a Year 3 French and Spanish student, the “highlight was the written class which I enjoyed very much. The articles we read in class were really interesting. They widened my knowledge in the realm of politics and French society.”

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Michael and Thomas

Determined not to be out-done, our Year 2 students also got into the festive spirit, deciding to wrap up the semester with a Xmas Jumper challenge during their Language Class. The idea came after they talked about fashion as one of the topics of the Language class in November. They wanted to do something funny and memorable, and then the idea of a Hawaiian shirt came up… Alas, weather not permitting, they had to give up on that idea and Xmas jumper, it was! Two students arrived dressed as Santa with some balloons and nice treats for everybody, while the majority, including our tutor had on their very fashionable jumpers…

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Year 2 Christmas Jumpers

For Jack, who is in the 2nd year of his BA Hons in French and Spanish with Professional Secondary Education, the “Langage Parlé sessions have been relaxed, fun and informative. I greatly look forward to this class every week where we just sit down and spend an hour speaking French. Whether it’s stereotypes or Siberian Skiing, fashion or Facebook, the LP class has given me the opportunity to improve my ability to express my opinions and I feel more confident using French in conversation.”

Another group of dynamic students was also up for the Xmas jumper challenge. On that occasion, Rebecca (in the middle, below) went the extra mile to bring us chocolates, cupcakes and biscuits. Who said we can’t speak  French, learn and have fun at the same time?!!

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And finally, for Amy, who is in the 2nd year of her BA Hons in Primary Education with Modern Languages, “French this year has been great. I really enjoy the written grammar classes as it gives me the opportunity to practice the grammar that is so necessary for us during exams. Langage Parlé classes are also really good as you get the necessary practice speaking French in a very relaxed and unpressured setting. It’s been a really helpful and fun semester.”‘

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Amy, Shana and Holly

Many thanks to Brigitte for putting together this blog post and to the students for their positive and kind words! Enjoy your break and joyeuses fêtes! We look forward to welcoming back our Year 4 students (and Year 2 and 1, of course!) in the New Year and to hearing tales of Semester Abroad adventures next Autumn from our Year 3 students.

Language Linking, Global Thinking

This week, our Semester 3 and Semester 7 students will be getting together for the annual Information Meeting about the British Council English Language Assistantship scheme. Anywhere from 20 to 30 of our students successfully apply for ELAs each year and, as next year’s potential assistants are thinking about their applications, this year’s cohort have just started their postings. Among them, this year, is Gemma Matthews who is studying English and French and who, as well as working as an English Language Assistant for the year, is also representing Stirling on the Language Linking, Global Thinking programme. We’re looking forward to posting news from Gemma throughout the year and here’s the first instalment of her adventures:

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Amiens Cathedral

“Hi, I’m Gemma. I’m an English and French BA (Hons) student at Stirling, and this year I’ve taken a year out to work as an English Language Assistant in France through British Council. I’ve also been able to be a part of a scheme called Language Linking, Global Thinking through my role as an ELA. Set up by Scotland’s National Centre for Languages (SCILT) at Strathclyde University, the programme works with students completing their year abroad with Erasmus or British Council, and also with young people taking part in Project Trust. The aim is to get children and young people in Scottish schools enthusiastic about learning another language, which by all accounts is not a particularly easy task! So, how does it actually work? In practical terms, those involved in the project are linked with a school (or two in my case) in Scotland, and become the link between Scotland and whichever country they are in. We are encouraged to make at least six contacts with the school through blog posts and other media and to encourage the pupils at home to learn about cultures different to their own. I am linked with Callander Primary School and Hutchesons’ Grammar School, and so far have been able to update them through blog posts from across the pond. I would definitely encourage anyone thinking about doing British Council to have a think about doing LLGT too!

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As for the assistantship itself, it’s going well. I’ve been placed in three different primary schools in suburban Amiens and am teaching children aged five to eleven. It’s definitely good experience for anyone interested in teaching, as I have already been trusted with lesson plans and leading classes on my own. I have only just started work (thanks to the formalities of French paperwork) and so can’t comment on the full experience just yet, but from what I’ve had so far it looks set to be a very interesting year.

You can follow my progress here. Please feel free to get in touch if you have any questions about British Council, ELA or LLGT.

À bientôt!”

Thanks to Gemma for this article and keep us posted on how things progress over the year!

Summer in Burkina Faso

Many of our students use the Summer break as an opportunity to do something French or languages-related and we’re hoping to post a few more pieces on this topic as the Summer gets closer. We’re kicking the series off with this blog post from Lauren Birney who will be in the final year of her BA Hons in Professional Education (Primary) with a specialism in Modern Languages next year. Before then, though, Lauren is off to West Africa…

“This summer I’m spending 5 weeks in Burkina Faso, a country that many people, including my travel nurse, have never heard of. Burkina Faso is a French speaking country in West Africa that I absolutely love. In 2012 I visited the capital, Ouagadougou (how fun is that to say?!), with a group on a summer missions trip. We ran kids clubs in the areas surrounding the capital, and got involved with other programmes that helped street children and orphans.

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Up until this trip I HATED studying French. In my secondary school it had been compulsory to take French as far as GCSE and then after that I had done surprisingly well in the exams so begrudgingly kept it on for AS/A Level. Then I visited Burkina Faso and it all fell into place. Don’t get me wrong, my French was not great at this point, I could just about hold a simple conversation or regurgitate a memorised children’s story. But being in a French-speaking country made me realise how great it was to be able to communicate in another language, and made me motivated to learn French.

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When I returned from the trip I realised that I wasn’t quite ready to give up French yet and so I started researching universities that I could study French alongside primary teaching. And that’s how I ended up in Stirling!

So four years on (three at Stirling and one spent abroad with the British Council) I’m returning to Burkina Faso to do something a little different. I’m hoping to put my teaching skills to the test and volunteer at LIFE academy, an international school in Ouagadougou. In true African style I’m not quite sure what my role will be yet, but I’m sure when I arrive all will be made clear! I hope to teach and help out where I can within the school.

2016 Lauren Birney April

For the rest for my time I hope to get stuck into as much as I can, the possibilities are endless really – work with street children, in orphanages, practical work, teaching adult English classes, volunteering in hospitals and so much more. For now I will leave you with some pictures that little give you a taster of my Burkinabé life and update you more when I am there, settled in and know what I am doing!”

Thanks to Lauren for this article. We hope all goes well with the trip and look forward to updates later in the Summer!

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