Making time for languages: six simple ways to embed language learning in KS2

    Published: 26 September 2017

    In May 2016, the then HMCI Michael Wilshaw published his monthly newsletter in which he commented on the lack of curriculum time given to science and languages at key stage 2.

    Evidence from Ofsted inspections had found that two thirds of primary schools visited by HMI spent less than one hour per week learning a foreign language, with school leaders and classroom teachers reporting that it was a struggle to squeeze lessons into an already tight curriculum.

    With pressures on curriculum time showing no signs of abating, what can schools do to make extra time for languages?  In this blog, we share tips from Herts for Learning’s languages advisory team, our 3-day Subject leader training alumni and teachers from our award-winning Primary Languages Quality Mark™ schools on how to maximise your language provision.

    1. An appetite for languages


    Eating together at school is a social activity and an ideal opportunity for rehearsing high-frequency, highly transferable language!  A teacher in one of our PLQM award-winning schools, worked with kitchen staff so that pupils could ask for meals in Spanish using me gustaría, por favour and gracias.  Key phrases went on permanent display in the school dining hall.  Why not teach pupils to wish each other buen provecho, bon appétit or guten Appetit as they sit down together to eat?

    2. Take a look inside a book


    Sharing familiar stories and traditional tales in the target language is a great way to introduce literature and authentic texts and can be done at any point in the week.  Build on the conceptual framework that pupils will already have by introducing some key vocabulary (e.g. the main characters) before you start.  Para-linguistic strategies (such as mime, gesture, change of voice for different characters) will help scaffold the stories for young learners.  Want to encourage nervous colleagues to have a go?  Try these free online traditional tales (complete with illustrations and audio) in French, German, Italian and Spanish.

    3. Playground rules

    Simple playground activities can be used to reinforce in-class learning (e.g. numbers) and to promote intercultural investigation by comparing traditional games in home and target language countries.  You can adapt games that your pupils already know (quelle heure est-il Monsieur le Loup? will be instantly recognisable and revise simple time expressions) or you can download the free resource from Schools Online We heard it in the playground to get you started.  Or why not stick supporting language for playground games on your classroom windows facing outwards?  Then pupils are reminded that they can play games through the medium of another language!

    4. If music be the food of languages …

    Music has always been used to good effect in language lessons.  Repetition of key phrases in a chorus, catchy tunes and attractive and engaging accompanying videos can provide a real boost to language learning.  But how about a planning for a focus on songs from target language countries in music lessons?  Websites such as can provide inspiration and often allow you to search songs by language, country or theme and provide audio files or sheet music for use in class.  Doing a topic on South America?  Search for songs from Argentina to Venezuela!

    5. The appliance of science


    Ever thought about doing a science extension activity in Spanish?  Our Herts for Learning Language Network teachers have!   For the past two years, HfL language networks (formerly Strategic Learning Networks) have been working on a cross-curricular STEM and MFL project called ‘The Language Experiment’.   This has included sourcing non-fiction books in French and Spanish to extend learning in science and to develop reading skills in the target language by looking at ‘scientific’ cognates.

    6. Routine procedure


    Routine classroom activities provide an ideal context for introducing a wide repertoire of spontaneous target language talk (a key requirement of the languages programme of study for KS2).  The language used is instantly more accessible (as pupils will be familiar with the conceptual framework of the routine) and the frequent repetition of the vocabulary and phrases that become associated with certain classroom activities will help pupils to internalise language.  Our Target Language in the Classroom pack (including audio CD) focuses on 10 key classroom routines and uses simple high-frequency, highly-transferable language that can be easily transferred to other contexts.  Sections such as Meet and Greet and Being Kind, Being Polite can teach your pupils phrases that are appropriate for a whole range of social situations!

    Contact details

    Latest blogs

    Receive our latest posts direct to your inbox...