LOMLOE: Creating Learning Experiences in the Primary Classroom

The new LOMLOE Education Law in Spain encourages our primary students to work towards participating in ‘situaciones de aprendizaje‘ or ‘learning situations‘ as projects at the end of course book chapters or curriculum sections in their language learning. But what are they and how can teachers set them up and use them in class? This blog post will take you through the essential elements to consider when implementing them.

First of all, let’s look at the wording of the law when it comes to creating ‘learning situations’. It asks our students to:

1. Take what they have learned in class with you and use it in a complex task to achieve an objective.

2. Use their comprehension, production, interaction and mediation skills.

3. Respond to a 21st century task that’s relevant to their interests or concerns.

4. Participate in a real or potential task.

5. Work with texts (oral, written and multimodal).

6. Do the task in order to progress with language and learn more about culture.

7. Reflect on the experience.

Let’s take a look at each point and break it down a little further.

1. Take what they have learned in class with you and use it in a complex task to achieve an objective.

This complex task, which I shall refer to from now on as a ‘Learning Experience’, puts the emphasis on the task and achieving the task. For example, instead of asking students to ‘Write down five past simple questions to ask your partner’ we now ask our students to interview their partner for a school magazine. The former implies only being successful if they can write and speak with good grammar and appropriate vocabulary, as the past simple takes the spotlight; the latter implies that they can use whatever grammatical, lexical and communication strategies that they can in order to get the needed information.  Suddenly the task is meaning-based, allowing for students to employ body language, clarification strategies, other grammar and vocabulary in order to achieve the task. This is much closer to what we do and experience in real life. For example, when we travel abroad, we use so many different strategies to achieve a task in another language, so we are asking our students to practice these important elements in class, ready for the real world.

2. To use comprehension, production, interaction and mediation.

This is linked to number 1, where students are practising all types of skills in order to understand and be understood. Comprehension – to understand others, Production – to use the language successfully, Interaction – to take turns and share information, Mediation – to clarify any misunderstandings.

3. Respond to a 21st century task that’s relevant to their interests or concerns.

It’s common knowledge that if a student is motivated by a task, they are more likely to do their best to achieve it. This implies choosing Learning Experiences that interest students and is connected to the 21st century, topics such as sustainability and technology are examples.

4. Participate in a real or potential task.

This is linked to number 3, that if a student can see the value in practicing the language because it is relevant to their lives, they will be more motivated to do it well.

5. Work with texts (oral, written and multimodal).

Students need to have access to a variety of texts – visual, auditory, reading, writing are some examples in order to level up all their skills.

6. Do the task in order to progress with language and learn more about culture.

By completing the task, students will be reaching for the language they need the most, thereby progressing. Furthermore, by learning English, they will learn more about  culture and how best to interact with natives. For example, the English culture prefers more formal phrases for asking for things and you say please and thank you more often than in Spain.

7. Reflect on the experience.

Reflection helps us in all stages of life, and to teach our primary students how to self-reflect in anything, including English, is valuable. Students can be guided by you to think about what they did well and what they would do differently next time. This helps our students to see that learning is a process, not a ‘pass/fail’ bar.

Setting up a Learning Experience

Learning Experiences can take the form of many things – what they all have in common is that they are tasks which have elements of challenge in them that students must overcome or solve. For example, here are some possible Learning Experiences:

  • Visiting the doctor
  • Making a short documentary
  • Ordering in a restaurant
  • Planning a day out
  • Solving a puzzle

As you can see, none of them refer to any specific type of grammar or vocabulary, and all are relevant to every day life. What we must consider as teachers are:

  • What typical grammar might a student need in order to do a task well
  • What typical vocabulary might students need
  • Any tricky pronunciation or spelling we need to be aware of

From there, we continue as we have always done in class which is to guide and teach our students what they will find useful and repeat, repeat, repeat as much as possible before the Learning Experience.

However, the new LOMLOE law also asks us to consider as teachers:

  • How can I help my students to mediate and interact?
  • How can I help my students to reflect on the task they have just done

These two skills do not come naturally to our primary students, so we must build them up. For mediation and interaction, we need to introduce phrases from an early age, such as 

May I..?    Can I…?    I don’t…

Young learners can then start with: May I have this? Can I colour? I don’t know.

Older learners as their language develops can use these building blocks to make more complex sentences: May I just interrupt? Can I offer some advice? I don’t understand what you mean.

To help your students to self-reflect, we need to design criteria that is easy for our students to understand, plus a system for our primaries to express themselves in how well they did. That could be a smiley face system, check box, or colours to reflect feelings. For example, if they activity was to plan a day out, the success criteria could be:

  • I planned some fun activities
  • I worked with my friend well to plan
  • I told my friend my opinions

Implementing a Learning Experience

This cycle of implementing a task works well with Learning Experiences, as it shows that it is a process and not a pass/fail bar. The first circle is called ‘pre-task’ and this refers to all the work you have done with your students before you’re ready to start the Learning Experience task. This could be several hours or weeks working on a unit in a book. The green arrows then take you to the task, which means doing the Learning Experience itself, and then the green arrow leads us into the review section. Review is the self-reflection of the students, but also your review of their attempt. Your feedback is crucial to help students understand how to get better. Feedback can be in the form of grammar, vocabulary, but also mediation skills and body language. The circular green arrow in the feedback diagram also allows us the freedom to go back to the Learning Experience and try it again after feedback to see if students can improve on their previous performances.

Let’s look at a couple of Learning Experiences now:

This Learning Experience for young primaries has a 21st century task which involves re-gifting and refusing unwanted items. Students are asked to donate an item and label it correctly. No mention of grammar here, but students are encouraged to try and write the vocabulary item correctly, to write a describing word and who it is from, then they present their item to the class. At the end, they have a self-review checklist and are also encouraged to give feedback to peers.

This Learning Experience for older primaries asks students to plan a technology free day, present their idea to the class, and there is a peer and self-review section at the end.

The reflection criteria here also helps you as the teacher to correctly assess your students to see if they can fulfil the criteria. 

Final Thoughts

Learning the grammar and vocabulary of a language takes time to master, which is why grammar based assessment can be frustrating to many students, teachers and parents. The idea of Learning Experiences helps our students to try and use language in a meaningful way and to help them see the use of learning a foreign language. The opportunity for them to mediate, solve problems and reflect are useful skills for their future in all kinds of situations, not just English speaking ones. There is very little change here in the nuts and bolts of what you as a teacher does in the class, but the focus on meaning-based tasks helps our students to practice, enjoy and get more confident in language learning. 

The Learning Experiences shown in this blog post are taken from Rise and Shine and I Can Shine, two brand new Primary courses which are coming out soon. Written with the requirements of the new LOMLOE in mind, these courses give every pupil the chance to shine! 

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