Sunday, 6 December 2009

Calligrams, part 2

Last week I spent two after-school sessions doing some training at a local primary school. They are just starting out with French, and so I began by teaching them the first lesson of the Sunderland scheme of work, which many will recognise as the "Deux petits oiseaux" lesson. One of my activities to practise bonjour, je m'appelle and au revoir was the dinner party one, where everyone has a character and has to go around greeting each other and introducing themselves until they find their partner. For example, Minnie Mouse has to find Mickey Mouse. I used the set of character cards that I use when doing the same activity with children. The deputy head of the school was sitting next to me while I was explaining the activity, and was having a crafty look at the cards. She whispered "I don't know who Boots is, or Miss Hoolie!" I think I assume that every teacher has to endure the same number of hours of children's television as I do. Dora the Explorer, Peppa Pig and the Disney Princesses are very well known in my house.

Yesterday, children's TV came up trumps. My artistic elder daughter's Saturday lunchtime routine consists of coming back from ballet and having some lunch while watching Art Attack and Fingertips on CITV. Yesterday on Art Attack there was one particularly good item, which gave me another idea for Calligrams.

You need a pencil outline of your picture - Neil Buchanan (Art Attack presenter) used a skier zooming downhill. Then you fill each area of the picture with words pertaining to that picture. For example, he wrote the word "cold" over and over again on the skier's coat. I could immediately see the potential for MFL ! As they say on all the best children's TV programmes, here's one I prepared earlier:

I wasn't brave enough to make my own pencil outline, so I found this character on the Staedtler website. (I thought he was very suitable for the World Cup !) I pasted the picture into PaintShop Pro and adjusted the lines from black to pale grey. Then I printed out the picture and set about filling in each section with words. I am quite pleased with the overall effect. It made me think carefully about the words I was using to fill in each section, and the repetitive writing really drives the spelling home ! When I do another one I'll try shading each section in coloured pencil and then writing the words over the top in felt-tip.

This will be a good idea to use for the World Cup. Once pupils have researched one of the countries playing in South Africa, give them a football player outline and they can fill each section with words pertaining to that country, in relevant colours.

While I'm still on a Calligram tip, I'll share with you another idea. My daughter did this at school and told me about it. You make/buy/get pupils to make a stencil. Then place it over a blank sheet of paper and write your words inside the shape. Remove the stencil and you have a Calligram. I cut out a stencil of a Christmas tree and wrote my words with a white pencil on green card. The final result is rather like a low-tech version of the ImageChef Word Mosaics:


Update, 10.12.09

I have used the stencil method to create some Christmas calligrams with Y3, Y4 and Y6.

We started the lesson with the Level 1 skill of copying single words accurately, to collect from the board a bank of Christmas words to use in the calligrams. This also enabled us to talk about Christmas in Spain. I got the stencils from here.

We have found that the less blank space you leave in the stencil, the more effective the overall result is, and that colour really brings them alive. Click here to see Y6's Calligrams. I will upload Y3's and Y4's when they are finished - they are looking even better then Y6's.

The lesson was very successful and the pupils obviously really enjoyed it. Their class teachers commented on how focussed they were creating their calligrams.

Monday, 9 November 2009

It's all a bit of a puzzle !

Mention the word "puzzle" to the average MFL teacher, and they'll probably think of a wordsearch or crossword. Of course these have their place in the occasional lesson, where they are usually used as a way of reinforcing items of vocabulary or as simple fillers. But puzzles can be so much more than that. A jigsaw puzzle or dominoes fulfil the same purpose as a wordsearch or crossword but can do so much more besides. An AST colleague of mine in Sunderland first put me onto jigsaw puzzles, and we started off by making them using random triangles drawn in Publisher, rotating the text within Publisher too, like this one or this one:

The results were effective, but making them was pretty time-consuming. Then a fellow TESser put me onto Tarsia Formulator. It's a free download, and you can use it to make puzzles, dominoes and follow-me cards. All you have to do is type in the pairs of words that you want to appear on your puzzle, and the programme does the rest for you.

The default font is Times New Roman italic, which isn't really ideal for MFL needs. I'd recommend changing the font by going into Style > Other and then selecting the font you want. If you change the font of the first word you put in, the rest of your puzzle will then default to that font. I'd also recommend making the font bigger. You do this by clicking on Size > Larger.

All of the classes to whom I have given one of these puzzles so far have really liked them. They have worked in pairs and have obviously enjoyed the kinesthetic nature of the activity. I have used them to introduce new material, to reinforce it, and to provide the basis for an information-gap activity. The students had a grid of new vocabulary or structures in English and French. However, not all of the information was filled in. They used the pairs that they did know to help them to complete the puzzle, and then used the completed puzzle to help them fill in the gaps on the vocabulary sheet. Of course there is a competitive element as well to see who can finish it first !

Tarsia documents save in their own .fjsw format, which you can print out but which is compatible with nothing. If you want to share your puzzles, I'd recommend PDFing them first. I use CutePDF.

Another jigsaw programme that I've come across recently is JigsawPlanet. You upload your own picture file to be turned into an interactive jigsaw puzzle. If you click on "Advanced Setting" you can choose how many pieces you want your puzzle to be and what shape those pieces will be.

Here's one I prepared earlier:

I custom-made my picture in Publisher and saved the Publisher document as a ".jpeg file interchange format". Then I uploaded it to JigsawPlanet and made my puzzle. I also remade the same puzzle with traditionally-shaped pieces, as I think it would be easier for younger children to find the corners and the edges. I've put that one on my school blog as well as one of Spain and another of the Spanish flag.

The only drawback to the site is that you can't sign in and create an account. You would have to copy and paste and save somewhere the links or html of your favourite puzzles for future use. My favourite thing about JigsawPlanet is that the puzzles are embeddable.

I've done them mainly for my pupils to have a bit of fun at home with the language, to revise what we have been learning at school and to maybe learn something new as well. I would also use them in similar ways to the paper puzzles.

I hope you enjoy experimenting with puzzles.

Friday, 30 October 2009


a.k.a. "Calligrams, part 2" or "Things I want to try which I haven't tried before, part 3"

A couple of weeks ago, via Twitter (where else ?!), I came across ImageChef. My immediate thought was that the part of it to which I had the link - Word Mosaic - tied in very nicely with my previous Calligrams post. But there are other things that it can do as well. Here are some ideas:

Word Mosaic:

You can choose the shape and colours of your image, and then all you have to do is to type in your text.
What can I use it for? Inspiring creativity and independent writing, display, illustrating vocabulary, making calligrams of course

Fortune Teller:

Just type in the text that you want to appear, et voilà.
What can I use it for? Introducing and practising the future tense

Make a custom Soccer jersey:
A useful little something to have up your sleeve for World Cup 2010 !

Candy Hearts: - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more

This is just one of the many customisable photos that are available on ImageChef. You can only fit a little bit of text on, but that could be a good thing. Many pupils are put off independent writing by the thought of having to write pages of text in the foreign language. They can be just as creative with a short amount of text.
What can I use it for? Introducing and creating short and simple sentences

Visual Poetry:

This works in a similar way to the Word Mosaic. You can also upload your own photo for a background.
What can I used it for? Illustrating short pieces of text or poems, encouraging independent writing

Poetry Blender: Poetry Blender
Similar to the Visual Poetry tool, but you can fit in a lot more text. There is a variety of backgrounds to choose from.

Enjoy having a play with it yourself - my 6 year old is already hooked !

Friday, 23 October 2009

Storybird flies into my Spanish lessons

ImageChef Word Mosaic -

I first started Tweeting in earnest in April this year, and quickly found that I was hooked. I have lost count of the number of very useful links and fantastic ideas that I have received via Twitter. One of the links that I found was the Free Technology for Teachers blog via which I receive interesting links every day. On October 17th I received a link to an online story-writing site called Storybird. I had a quick look while I was having my breakfast, thought it looked quite good and so set about bookmarking it in Delicious. It turned out that I had already bookmarked it on September 8th. So that was twice that I thought it looked quite good. I had a closer look, this time at some of the stories. I really liked it, and could see lots of potential for MFL, so decided to tweet it:

This started what I can only describe as an avalanche of activity from the Twitterati. Storybird was blogged by Lisibo and Dom and lots of people set about making their own, including me.

The one thing that kept bugging me, though, was how can I use this in the classroom ?

We've been muttering in the LA for at least a year now about promoting the use of big books in the foreign language in primary language lessons. Storybird seemed to offer a useful "in". Therefore I did a bit of research about big books and how to use them, and planned my first lessons using my Storybird.

My KS2s are all beginners, and so have only been learning Spanish since the second week of this term. I wanted to get them being creative with the language that they had learned so far, in particular greetings, saying their name and saying how they feel. I used my Storybird to give an example of how a little language can go a long way. The previous lesson they had done a matching exercise to give them a glossary of useful words and phrases. To reinforce this language, we started the lesson with a rectangle puzzle courtesy of Tarsia Formulator and then checked over our glossaries from the previous lesson. Then came the Storybird. I showed them the front cover and asked what the title was. Then I asked them what they thought the story was about, and what would happen in it. Next I read the story to them and we discussed whose predictions had been right. Then I read it again, stopping at least once on every page, and the class had to tell me what the next word was. After that, we all read it out loud, doing all the silly voices and actions. Then the children set about writing their own dialogues, having seen that they could actually get quite a long bit of text out of the little language that they know.

Year 6 and Year 4 enjoyed it, but it was Year 3 I was most surprised by. They had by far the most imaginative ideas about the story ("the monster has no friends and goes around saying hola to lots of people to find a friend") and were also the most enthusiastic about reading the story out loud, even though they are the least confident readers in KS2. The best bit of their lesson was when the Head came in just as we were all reading it together and was treated to an excellent performance !

So I had a very successful first flight with Storybird, and it's definitely something that I will be pursuing in the future. I'll be incorporating ideas from the National Literacy Strategy along with ideas for working with texts which I have from a Sunderland LA working group back in 2000.

Hence the graphic at the top - I "heart" Storybird !

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Things I want to try which I haven't tried before, part 2

Here are some more ideas which I have found since my previous post:

1. Which card ?
Several children stand at the front of the classroom holding a flashcard, with the picture side facing them. The others have to find out who has which card by asking "¿Tienes ....?" or "¿Te gusta...?" The children with the cards can only answer yes or no.

2. Join up the words
Give children or pairs of children sets of words which have been cut in half. Ask them to reconstruct the words by putting the halves together correctly.

3. Alphabetical order
Give children a set of word cards and ask them to sort them into alphabetical order. Alternatively, with words that follow a specific order like the months, children can race to put them in the right order.

4. Phonics
Make a set of word cards with single words which have the same sounds in them. Highlight the graphemes in a different colour. Use the cards to practise reading out loud, then children can classify the cards according to the phonemes or graphemes.

5. Stand up sit down
Give each group of children a sound, word or phrase. Tell them that when they hear it they all have to stand up together. The faster the activity goes, the more they will enjoy it. As an alternative you could say the word or phrase in English so that the children have to recognise their own phrase and then stand up.

6. Stand up sit down 2
Take your seat, and say a word in the language, for example "español". Then repeat it, standing up and sitting down when you say the final, stressed syllable. Ask pupils if they can explain what you did. Give another example if necessary. When they have worked it out, say a word to them, which they have to repeat, standing up and sitting down at the right time, i.e. on the stressed syllable.

7. Find your group
Give each child a card with 3 pictures on it. These pictures could be hobbies, animals, colours... The idea is that they are things about which opinions can be expressed. The children circulate around the room asking each other questions about what they like, and they answer according to what's on their card. Once a child has found someone with the same like as them, they stay together and find someone else to add to their group. The game continues until everyone is in a group. Ask each group the relevant question and they reply in unison. A simpler version would be for each child to have one word or picture, and for several children to have the same word or picture.

8. Find the sweets
Put the images for the words you are practising on the IWB. Behind one of the images hide a virtual sweet. Ask a child to name one of the images, move it aside and see if it reveals the sweet. If it does, ask the winner to jumble up the images so that the sweet is hidden somewhere else.

9. Spell it out
Give pairs of pupils a set of pictures and a set of individual letters on cards. Call out a word and the pairs race to find the right picture and make the word correctly.

10. Mexican wave
Choose some of the words that you have been learning and want to practise. The children help you to decide on the order in which they will be said. They go round the circle saying one word each, in the right order. They could stand up or kneel up to achieve the wave effect. You could clap your hands to change the direction of the wave. This could be fun with adjectives, where the children have to say, for example, "triste" in a sad way. Alternatively, they could use a sequence such as days of the week for the main words, but you make it more interesting by periodically calling out an adjective so that they have to say the words in a certain way. A Mexican Wave would be a good way to embed short phrases or sentences, or anything where word order is important.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Things I want to try which I haven't tried before

In 2002, when I'd been in the teaching game for seven years, teachers were given a £500 bursary to spend on their own personal CPD. Some of my Science and Geography colleagues, and MFLers come to that, managed to spend it on holidays under the guise of "looking at igneous rock formations" and the like. I, however, always the geek, spent mine on books. Lots of them. To give me lots of ideas for things to do in the classroom.

I became an AST later in 2002, and decided to go down that route rather than the HoD route because essentially I am a teaching and learning person. I like finding out and trying new ideas in the classroom to enhance my teaching and pupils' learning. I also have a pretty low boredom threshold, and get fed up teaching the same thing the same way year after year.

So in 2002, I took my new books and read through them, writing down all my favourite things and saving them in a document called "Ideas". Today I had to start preparing a training session for our FLAs, and my first port of call was this document, to find things which FLAs could usefully do in the classroom. To my surprise, I found that I have actually tried out a lot of these ideas, and some of them are part of my core repertoire.

Since then I've acquired a lot of new books, with yet more ideas, and I'm reading through those too, as much for the FLAs' benefit as for my own CPD as a newbie primary practitioner.

Now I'm guessing that if I haven't tried these things before, then there'll be others too who haven't tried them, so I thought I'd share them.

Here's the first instalment. There is a primary bias, but I'm sure that some of these could be done with KS3 too.

1. Crazy Talk with pupils (I have had it for a while and have used it in resource making, but have never let pupils loose with it)

2. Wordle with pupils

3. Making comics with pupils. Again I've made comics myself for resources but I'd like to see what the children can do with them.

4. Mini-books - an excellent way to unleash creativity.

5. Good taste, bad taste: Arrange opinion phrases in descending order along the wall (Me encanta to odio) Play snippets of music (get lots of different music styles) and pupils stand in front of the poster that reflects their opinion. They are creating a living graph (and not in the Thinking Skills sense !) Ask one or two children for their opinion, and they should say the same opinion as is on the card behind them. Quickly change music and repeat

6. Stick ‘em up: Show a set of pictures on one side of the IWB (or board) with corresponding labels on the other side. Two pupils come to the front and match them up while the rest of the class time them by counting in the TL in unison. If they think they’ve finished but some are wrong, tell them in TL how many are wrong and they try to put them right. When they’ve finished shout Stop in the TL, and the number that the others have counted to is noted as the record to be broken.

7. In the bag: Find a series of objects and put them in a bag. In teams pupils ask "¿Tienes un(a) ...?" and you reply "Sí, tengo ...." or "No, no tengo..." If you do have it, it’s given to that team. The team with the most correct guesses wins.

8. Lily pads: A variation on the writing grid theme. Arrange words on lily pad shapes in columns on a big pond on the IWB. A frog has to jump across safely by jumping on the lily pads one from each column, to make a correct sentence.

9. Choral repetition - I need to increase my repertoire.
Say the word in a different way, such as quickly, slowly, angrily, sadly, happily, quietly, loudly, lightly, heavily, strongly, calmly, lazily, sleepily, fearfully, proudly, secretly, silently, painfully, lightly, seriously, dramatically, gracefully, decisively, worriedly, thoughtfully, stiffly, jerkily, childishly, drunkenly.
Have one half of the class say it then the other.
Say the words row by row or table by table.
All the girls or all the boys

10. Pass me the salt please: Show pupils a selection of objects. Ask different pupils to ask for one of the objects "Pásame el/la....por favor" until all the objects have been given out. Then a pupil who doesn’t have an object asks for one and pupil who has it has to hand it over. This can be done with word or picture cards as well, and obliges pupils to listen in case their card is chosen, and listen to all the available options in case they have to do the asking.

11. Matching sentences with pictures: Give each pair a different picture (e.g. fashion picture from magazine) and about 10 statements about the picture. Some of the statements are true, others are red herrings. The pair read the statements and place the correct ones on the picture and put the rest back in the envelope. You check it, then they swap with another pair to get lots of practice. As a follow-on they can find their own picture and write their own sentences. They could also put into sentences into chronological order if appropriate

12. Weather: Give pairs of pupils sets of picture cards, for example weather symbols and activities. They pair the cards up to make sentences which they can present orally or in writing.
You could also use maps with weather symbols “In the north it’s rainy” or different countries in the world, as well as different animals for different climates.

13. What did I have for breakfast ?: Another way to practise vocabulary. Put a big picture of a whale on the IWB, with some small pictures inside Drag the pictures out and say “For breakfast I ate….” Then put them back and pupils have to guess which one will be pulled out first, by repeating the sentence. You could also use a cat by a dustbin

14. Freetime activities: Show pupils a group of aliens which are all different. Add a speech bubble in which pupils can say what activities the aliens do. Go for some obvious characteristics like couch potatoes, brainboxes, sporty ones, blobs.

15. Action listening: Pupils all stand up to listen. They have to do the correct action when they hear a certain word, and have to sit down if they are wrong. To avoid some sitting down and being bored you can time games and give a point to those left in at the end of the time before starting again.
Give pairs of pupils a sheet with pictures on and they have to listen and point to the right picture.
Or you can give out cards, which they hold up when they hear theirs. Then swap cards over to make it more difficult.

So there's 15 ideas for starters, 15 things that I want to try that I haven't tried before. I'll let you know how I get on !

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Making the link - it's Delicious !

In my line of work, "Making the link" is all about finding partner schools in the UK or overseas with whom you're going to work collaboratively. Here, however, it's going to take on a different meaning.

I check emails, tweets and forums several times a day (or often more than several times!). There are lots of helpful people out there who pass on lots uf useful stuff. Towards the end of last term, I started to find a lot of new websites that I wanted to keep to refer to later, and started to copy and paste the URLs into a Word document called "read this!" which I kept on my desktop. A few days ago I noticed that this document was 9 pages long. I knew that I had to do something with this list of websites but wasn't exactly sure what.

Then yesterday I clicked on a link on one of the forums which led to someone's Delicious links. Delicious is something I'd been aware of before but which I had ignored as I didn't see the point at the time. Yesterday, though, I quickly realised that this would be an ideal tool to use to sort out my many pages of useful websites.

So what is Delicious ? "Delicious is a social bookmarking service that allows users to tag, save, manage and share web pages from a centralized source." So it's an extension of the process of adding bookmarks to your individual computer when you're surfing the net.

Signing up was a piece of cake, and I also installed the Internet Explorer toolbar, which makes adding links very easy. So much easier than pasting into Word, and I can access my links from anywhere with an internet link ! I think the most useful thing is the tags, which allow you to search your many links quickly and easily.

You can see my links so far here. I'd be very interested to hear from folks who have been using this for a while, especially if you have been using it for more than just a storage point for the links that you've found. I know that this is old hat to a lot of people, but I figured that if it's new for me, it'll be new for others too.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Let's Flash(card) !

I sometimes feel that I should blog more often. But then I don't know what I would blog about. So I wait until blogs find me, if you like. And on Saturday, one did.

I received a link to ProProfs, which is an online poll, quiz and flashcard maker. It was the poll bit that caught my eye, as I have dabbled in online surveys for MFL Sunderland using questionform, which I really like.

I was then sidetracked by the flashcard bit. When I did my PGCE in the mid-nineties, we were taught to use picture flashcards to present and practise new vocabulary, but not a lot else. For KS3 I always preferred OHTs, as they were smaller and a bit easier to manipulate. Then a few years ago, presenting vocabulary via PowerPoint crept in. I have to say that I have never got to grips with that, and there are reasons why I don't like it.

PowerPoint seems a bit remote. Your pictures are always in the same order and fixed in place. Flashcards, on the other hand, are tactile, kinesthetic, portable and immensely versatile. It's sad but true that today's students aren't really exposed to the low-tech methods anymore, and so using flashcards might actually make a refreshing change for them. No more Death by PowerPoint.

So this all got me thinking: What can we use flashcards for ? What are the online flashcards all about ? I set about some research, and here are the ideas that I found:
Teacher-led activities:

1. Use flashcards for choral repetition, to introduce and practice vocabulary.

2. Show students the flashcard and say '¿Es una manzana?' (etc) and they say 'sí' or 'no'.

3. Show students the flashcard and say '¿Es una manzana o una pera?' and they call out the correct one.

4. Show students the flashcard and say '¿Qué es?' and they have to say the answer.

5. Put the flashcards around the room and they point at the right one when you say it, or eventually say the right one when you point.

6. Place flashcards all around the room - on walls, hidden and stuck under tables and chairs etc. Have the TL word on the flashcard as well. Give students the list of new words, either in English or TL, and they have to go round the room and use the flashcards to find the correct translation. Make it a race to get all the words.

7. Cover and slowly reveal the flashcard, asking students to say the correct word when they think they know what it is.

8. Quickly flash the flashcard and see if students can say the correct word or phrase.

9. Students have a set of the flashcards and they hold them up to demonstrate their understanding.

10. Students have a set of flashcards. You tell a story which includes these words and they put the cards in the order in which they hear them.

11. Write some random numbers, including negatives, on the board and stick flashcards over them. Organise your students in teams. They tell you a phrase, you take off the flashcard and that is the number of points they get.

12. Guess which card / Beat the teacher Hold the pile of flashcards with the facing you. Students have to guess which one is at the top of the pile. They have to listen carefully to each others’ guesses to eliminate wrong answers and work out what the right answer is. Whoever gets it right could come to the front to take your place.

13. Slaps Stick the flashcards randomly on the board. Divide the students into teams and invite one of each team up to the board. Say one of the words or phrases and the winner is the player who can slap the right card first. Slapping the board with a fly swatter adds to the fun.

14. Noughts and crosses / Snakes and Ladders Students have to say the correct word or phrase for the flashcard to be able to draw in their nought or cross or to advance along the game board.

15. Loto / Bingo Use small flashcards, and give each student or pair of students a set. They choose a certain number (say 6 or 9) of cards and lay them on the desk, face up. You call out the words and they turn over each card as they hear it. The winner is the one who has turned over all his cards. An extra test could then be for the winner to read back to you all the cards he has turned over !

16. Pass the parcel Find a box, bag or envelope that can be passed around the room to music. When the music stops the student holding the box must pick out a flashcard) and say whatever goes with the card. If you have a large class you can add in more boxes or have groups with their own boxes.

17. Les quatre coins Stick flashcards around the room. Turn your back to the class and play some music. When the music stops (or when you call 'arretez!'), the students have to go and stand by one of the flashcards. The winners are the students standing by the one you have called out.

18. Round the World Students sit in a circle. Choose a starting person. This student stands behind the next student in the circle. The teacher holds up a flashcard. The first student to say the answer stands behind the next person in the circle. If a sitting student says the answer first, the standing student sits down in the winner’s chair. This process continues until at least one student makes it completely around the circle.

19. Team Tag Divide students into two groups. Have them form two single file lines facing forward. The first student should be about 3 metres from the front of the room. Put two equal stacks of flashcards on a desk in the front of the room. When play starts, the first person in the line races to the desk, takes the first card in his or her pile, holds it up, announces the answer to the class, places the card in a discard pile, and then races to tag the next person in line. If the student does not know the answer or gives the wrong answer, he or she puts the card on the bottom of the pile and selects the next card. This student keeps selecting cards until he or she knows the answer to one or until five cards have been selected. The two teams play simultaneously. The first team to correctly give the answer to all the cards in its pile wins.

20. Flashcards at the door As the students line up at the beginning of the class, hold up a flashcard for each of them to solve in turn. The answer to the flashcard is their "pass" into the classroom. If a student answers wrongly, they must step to the side and work it out before they can come into the room. You will want to choose flashcards according to individual student's ability or you could be standing there all day with some of them!

21. I'm going on a picnic Students sit in a circle. The first one takes a flashcard from a bag. They say the word in target language. The next pupil takes another flashcard and has to say the word of the first person, plus their own, and so on around the circle, until all words are used. Words can be duplicated.

22. Monsieur Intelligent Ask the students to stand up. Show the flashcard, model and the students repeat. Except sometimes you use the wrong word and then they don't say anything. Those who speak when they shouldn't are out and sit down.

23. For moving them on to the written word: Have a set of flashcards with the vocabulary in the target language blu-tacked at the front of the class. Students have a mini whiteboard each. Call out the English word and they have to find and write the appropriate Spanish word from the list, onto their whiteboard. You can choose a student to be teacher and call out the words. And you can reverse it - you call out the Spanish word, they have to write the English word.

24. Kim’s game Stick the flashcards to the board. Ask students to close their eyes, remove one, then they have to work out and say the one that is missing. Alternatively, students put small picture cards on their table. They study them for a few seconds and then, at a signal, turn them over (but keeping them in the same order). Call out a card and invite them to try to select this from memory. They hold it to their chest until you say Show me. If they have guessed correctly, they put the card to one side. If not, they return the card, face down, to the same place. The first child to have guessed them all correctly is the winner. The winner can be the caller in the next round.

25. Odd one out Use the pictures to make some Thinking Skills-style odd ones out. For example, put together pictures of un crayon, une règle and un sac. Which one is the odd one out ?

26. Stand up sit down Set the students up in two teams and get the teams to line up in rows. Walk up the middle of the two teams and show a flashcard to each member in turn. The student that is shown the card should then say what is on the card. If the student is successful then he or she is able to stay standing. If the student is incorrect or then he or she should sit down on the floor where they are standing, and remain sitting until the end of the exercise. When the teacher has shown the flashcards to all of the students and they have all had the chance to take part in the activity the teacher then allocates one point for each student standing.

27. Board memory game Place all of the flashcards on the board that in a line so that all of the flashcards can be seen. Re-drill the vocabulary. Turn one of the cards over and then drill the line of flashcards again with the students saying what is on each card, including the one that has been turned over. The process is then repeated until all of the cards are turned the wrong way up. By this time all of the students should be able to say what is on each card even though they are unable to see the pictures on each card.

28. Use them to build up sentences. Use a structure such as J'ai or As-tu..? and add the nouns to it using the flashcards to illustrate the sentence. You can also add an adjective, the cards and their position making the word order clear.

29. Human sentences Students hold flashcards and make 'human sentences'. They can also work in pairs or groups with mini-flashcards to do the same. They are learning to read and write without using a pencil.

30. Sound-spelling link Have a set of phoneme cards and a corresponding set of picture cards. Say the sound and the students have to identify the word (picture) containing that sound.

31. Avalanche Stick 5 cards going vertically down the board for team 1 and 5 cards going vertically down the board for team 2. Team 1 line up behind the first set of cards and team 2 line up behind the second set of cards. The teams start at the same time and the first person in each line writes the French next to the first flashcard. Then the second person writes the French next to the second flashcard and so on. Each member of the team gets 2 points for a correct answer and 1 point for an attempted but incorrect answer. If there is an avalanche due to a wrong answer, all is erased and the next person in line starts with the first card again.

In pairs or groups:
1. Pelmanism Each pair or group has a set of flashcards showing, for example, pictures and the corresponding words. They have to find the pairs by turning over pairs of cards in turn, and remembering where each card is.

2. Classification Students sort the cards into groups and explain why they have grouped certain words together.

3. Dance mats / Hopscotch Put the flashcards on the floor, and students take it in turns to call out the order in which their partner must jump to the cards.

Private study:Students can make their own flashcards, with a picture on one side and the word on the other side, or the English on one side and the TL on the other side. They can then use them to help them to learn the vocabulary or structures. The electronic flashcards from online activity makers like ProProfs and Quia can provide an alternative to paper versions.

I'm looking forward to trying out some of these ideas with KS1 and KS2 next year. I've already started to make some
flashcards, which I have uploaded to MFL Sunderland, and will add more as I make them.

Do you have any other flashcard activities ? I'd love to hear about them. ¡Viva el low-tech! Let's all flash(card)!

Saturday, 11 July 2009

We are multicolored

"Join Twitter, it's really good."
"It's the best CPD you'll ever have."
"I find it incredibly useful."

In April some esteemed TESsers were muttering about the wonders of Twitter. In a moment of idle curiosity I registered and had a look around, but honestly failed to see the point. The TESsers persisted, tracking me down and following me.

It didn't take long for me to become totally hooked. Each day I receive interesting information from those I follow. For example, today I received a link to Free Technology for Teachers, which looks like just my kind of website. I had a peruse of the MFL links, and came across something that is definitely my kind of site - We are multicolored.

In my World Cup 2010 presentation (see previous post), one of my ideas for using the flags of the qualifying nations was for pupils to research the colours and symbols used in flags and then design a flag to represent themselves.

"We are multicolored" is a website that will help them to do just that. The site is the brainchild of some of the digital artists at the Tenement Museum in New York, which aims to "promote awareness around the contemporary immigrant experience".

There are two main areas of the site. If you click on "symbolism", you can browse the flags of the world and the colours and shapes that they use, and find out the meanings behind them. Then on the homepage you have the opportunity to create your own flag by answering three simple questions:

  • where is your home ?
  • what other country has affected you ?
  • where have you dreamed of going ?

Then you are given the three flags of the countries you have chosen, and you can click and drag their individual elements to make your own personal flag. As you do so, you are shown information about the flags. When you have finished your flag, you can save it to the site and write an explanation of why you designed it that way. Clicking on "superflag" brings up all the flags that others have made and their explanations. There is also a downloadable 45 minute workshop available.

Here's the flag that I made with my three choices - United Kingdom, Spain and New Zealand.

It gets pupils to think about where they come from, where they have been and where they would like to go. Community Cohesion ! Enjoy.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

The 2010 World Cup

So you might be wondering what the 2010 World Cup has to do with the blog title "Changing Phase". Well, football up here in the north-east is certainly changing phase, with Sunderland being the only north-east team still in the Premiership. Who would have thought it ?!

Today I attended the annual Atlas conference at St James Park in Newcastle. Atlas is the name of the steering group of the north-east branch of the Regional Network for International Learning, and I have been the Sunderland representative since I became an AST in 2002. The title of the conference this year was "Ready, set, go global! - developing international links to enrich school life", and had a particular focus on forthcoming sporting events, in particular the 2010 World Cup and the 2012 Olympics, and how they might help us as classroom practitioners to bring an international dimension to our teaching and therefore to pupils' learning.

I "volunteered" to give a presentation on the 2010 World Cup and how it can be used as a stimulus for activities in the primary classroom. We ran an event in Sunderland in 2006 called "Making the most of the World Cup" which produced many resources and which was very successful. The World Cup resources page on the LA's international website continues to receive a number of hits even though the tournament is long over.

When putting together my presentation, I looked at the resources that we produced for the 2006 tournament for a bit of inspiration, but based my presentation on the official Fifa World Cup website, which is a mine of fantastically useful information and well worth a look.

I hope you enjoy the presentation. It's my first go with Slideshare, and especially my first go at linking audio with PowerPoint. I hope also that it gives you lots of ideas for how you can bring the world into your classroom. After 12 years, 4 Comenius projects and 3 International School Awards, international education is something that I am passionate about. This is the latest step in my mission to enthuse as many other people as possible !

Sunday, 28 June 2009


The other day I was going through the QCA KS2 Scheme of Work for French, cross-referencing lesson plans for a project I'm doing. Unit 17 (Le Retour du Printemps) suggested Calligrams as an activity. I have to admit that I didn't know what a calligram was, and had to look it up. It turns out that there is a calligram on one of the pens from my childhood pen collection - the Spratts dog.

So what is a calligram ? According to Wikipedia, "A calligram is a poem, phrase, or word in which the typeface, calligraphy or handwriting forms an important part of the focus." Other sources just refer to its being a poem, but I like the idea that it can branch out into phrases and words as well, especially when thinking from an MFL point of view.

How can we use calligrams to enhance teaching and learning in MFL ? Pupils are introduced to them in Y3 Literacy and so when they get to upper KS2 or indeed KS3, it's a concept with which they are already familiar. In Y3 they look at examples of calligrams and then have a go at making their own using ICT.

Why not use them as a way of displaying key words, introducing new vocabulary or including a glossary on a worksheet ? Because of the images, English is unnecessary. If you are feeling a bit artistically or ICT-ly challenged, get the pupils to make the calligrams.

I think I see the most potential for them as creative writing activities. Instead of writing a short paragraph about a dry topic like, say, a pet, pupils can write their text as a calligram, which might just motivate them a bit more, and will make for a good display for you. I can also see myself using it to develop an series of lessons which I have done before on Neruda's Oda al Tomate.

So here is something which I shall add to my (albeit quite small at the moment) repertoire for KS2 next year.

Here are some that I've done myself, just to have an experiment. I got a bit frustrated with the ICT angle, and found I could be much more creative with my pen. Suits me, as I'm rarely able to get my classes into an ICT room at the moment !