Sunday, 25 September 2011

#MFLSAT+ at Cramlington

It's been a week of extremes for MFL teaching.  The Bishop of Bradford said that language teaching in this country is "deplorable".  And then today #MFLSAT+ happened.

#MFLSAT+ was the fourth MFL Show and Tell, following on from the previous ones in Coventry, Nottingham and Oldham.  It was invigorating, exciting, inspirational, exhilarating, challenging....  Don't believe me?  Then have a read of some of the tweets from the event.  If the esteemed Bishop of Bradford could hear about the language teaching that was described here, he would have to climb down pretty rapidly.

The event was well attended, with plenty of local support, which was good to see.  It made a nice change for me to only have to drive for 30 mins to get to a Show and Tell!  Admittedly Northumberland is a long way for some, and so for those who couldn't attend but would still like to find out what went on, here are the notes that I made.  You can also watch the video replay here.

The Singing Tribe - MFL group dynamics

Mark showed us some warm-up exercises for the beginning of the lesson – warming up the voice, and also as children are copying what you do they are all focussed.
Use a backing track with a good beat to do this

Use rhythm, actions and tune for giving praise to individuals.

Routines in the MFL Classroom

¿Puedo ser voluntario por favor?
¿Puedo cronometrar por favor?
¿Puedo pasar lista?
¿Puedo cronometrar?
¿Puedo ser voluntario por favor? – to the tune of Coming round the Mountain

One pupil calls the register, another times them with the stopwatch

Pupils then have to guess how many seconds the register took using an opinion phrase.

Then they express an opinion of the whole process  -“Fue + mal, super, bien” etc

Then porque fue + adj e.g. interesante

Expanding spontaneous language

Could build on this, for example "how long will the register take?"

Forfeits for people who speak English by mistake!

Using cognates, mimes and visuals to facilitate understanding

Read more about Sam's presentation on her blog.

Thinking Skills

Reading images – pretend you are a person and then say positive/negative sentences about them, say what they should do to be more healthy etc

Create a mindmap of what you have learned in the lesson

Draw round your hand – write how you’ve learned in palm, write what you’ve learned in fingers

Emma Bains
Small changes to the curriculum to improve motivation

Emma has been designing a new curriculum for KS3.

Creating own satnav using ppt and audacity
Language with purpose early in Y7
Complex language produced
Pupil assessment of the process

Fashion rather than clothes
Lots of opinion work with adjectives

1st week of Spanish, mixed experience groups:
find cognates, use common sense, guess what things mean
Lesson 2 adapting the patterns

Cluedo can be adapted in lots of ways

Rights and responsibilities in Spanish Y7

Endangered species -  animals but in a different way.
“Soy un mamifero, vivo en Africa, soy amarillo” etc
20 statements for others to try to guess which animal it is.

Advertising – looking at videos – questions before start
“If the HT walked into the room during this, how would he know that you were learning?”

Audioboo is an online application, and is also available as an app for Android / iphone.
Set up a free account

Record children speaking in class, can listen to the "boos" via the web interface straightaway.

Can embed "boos" in blogs

Children can listen at home and also reflect on how successful they were

(Put phone on airplane mode in class!!)

Getting students to 'mark' our lessons

“I thought this lesson was ….. because….”  Establishing dialogue with students

Teacher comments on the pupil comments – getting students to think about their learning and the usefulness of their comments to the teacher.

Informs marking, gives ideas of points to address next time

Personalises the experience for each child

Comments are good for showing to parents

Need to explain to students what constitutes a good and useful comment

Students can express problems privately

Gives teacher a very good idea of which level students are at, good for differentiation

QR codes

QR codes video by Common Craft has just come out

Open URLs quickly

Link to audio or video files to play straightaway

Link to Google Form for students have to fill in information

There are some apps which will make QR of page you’re looking at on mobile device

QR Coder bookmarklet – whatever webpage you’re on, it’ll make a code for that page.  You put it in your bar on browser

Use in classroom:
QR treasure hunt
Qwikvotes – surveys etc

Kath Holton has made QR codes for Zondle games

“Make your classroom 4D” – QR codes of students' blogposts stuck in exercise books

SnipURL – can change link URL for your QR

Find out more on Joe's blog.

Free, and you don’t need to set up account

Record, click “send to a friend” to email the recording to someone
Receiver listens but can also save it as .wav file

Good for homeworks – individual speaking tasks
Opportunities for peer assessment
Pupils enjoy it – something a bit different and reaches the students who may not want to speak out in class
Avoids having to do it all in class – saves time. Instant.

Students can explain something for others, such as how to make tenses perhaps. – good for FLAs – videos with audio, can be sent to students for homework.

Also consider Voicethread, Ipadio.  Ipadio also provides an embeddable widget.

Read Suzi's blogpost about #mflsat.

Music and art, creative partnerships

Isabelle gave her presentation via Skype!

Rap project for boys.  Girls reluctant to be involved as don’t identify readily with rap.  We heard a clip where the boys were rapping using simple language (their name, what pets they have etc)

Social Media and improving boys’ achievement

Emailing work to teacher – 1st step  Teacher can comment easily, more personalised
Started to get a bit cumbersome with the number of emails

Looked for next step, pupils suggested Facebook
Created pages for classes in KS4 and KS5
Profiles in German

A trio of tools

Class Dojo – real time behaviour and rewards in class
Create a class group, select individual avatars for each one
Give awards to students as the lesson goes along, at the end of the class you can see who has what
Can PDF the resulting graphic and forward to colleagues, parents etc
Android app too

Turns any webpage into a clickable resource
Students can access reading material which may be out of their reach ordinarily

Fridge Magnets excellent for sentence manipulation work
Random group generator
Resource for putting things in order
“What’s the question” – bit like jeopardy where you give them the answers and they have to provide the question.  Can be done as a team game.

Thomas Snell
Language learning resources from Newcastle University

Thomas described the Linguacast and Universed projects at Newcastle University.

Schools can also book to use the facilities at the university, and this can be accessed via the Routes into Languages website.

Terri Dunne

The scope of Blockbusters as an activity for the classroom is broader than we might think.  
For example, put a sport word in English on each square.  Starting at word level, students have to give the sport in the target language.  Then, using the same game, they have to give the sport with an opinion.
Another idea is using time phrases.  What tense do you have to use with it?  Give an example of a sentence that includes that time phrase.
It's good for plenaries, though you could easily use one slide for the whole lesson in lots of different ways.

Dominic McGladdery
10 ideas

  1. Wallwisher
  2. Fakebook on - make a fake Facebook page
  3. Twister on - make a fake Twitter page
  4. Random name generators.  PowerPoint one can also be adapted as random question generator for starters.
  5. Random letter sequence generator - generate the letters, the student to find the longest word containing those letters wins.
  6. Wikis
  7. Blogs - everyone has something to say that other people haven't heard before.
  8. for YouTube.  It gets rid of all the "stuff" on the YouTube page, but only works in Chrome and Firefox.
  9. Puppets
  10. Mug of Misery / Pot of Participation

Amanda Salt
Speak, eat, sleep Spanish - an immersion residential

Amanda takes 6th formers on an immersion residential where no English is spoken in the presence of teachers.
Activities such as Dragons Den and Which Teacher.

The videos that the students produce during the weekend are used to promote Spanish around the school.

Find out more on Amanda's blog.

And here is my presentation from the day, including audio:
Reading Books with KS1 and KS2
View another webinar from Clare Seccombe

All of these have been really useful ideas in the face of uncertain and unsettling times for MFL teachers at the moment.

In the words of Steven Fawkes - "Subvert creatively".  

In the words of Adam, when he was with The Ants - "Don't you ever, don't you ever, lower yourself, forgetting all your standards."

And in the words of the great Chris Harte - "If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always got."

Saturday, 3 September 2011

A different angle

When we were in Brittany at the beginning of August we spent a most pleasant day in Vannes.  I wanted to see the historic town centre (it didn't disappoint), the girls were looking forward to the Aquarium and Jardin aux Papillons, and Mr S wanted a very tasty lunch.  We started off at the Aquarium, and made our way to, for us, the star exhibit.  The star exhibit is a crocodile.  Not any old crocodile, oh no.  This is Eléanore the crocodile, who was discovered in the Paris sewers in 1984, when the égoutiers noticed that there weren't as many rats down there as usual:

In true MFL teacher style, I took pictures of all the signs and information in case it comes in useful for a lesson sometime.  And this blogpost is about ideas for lessons that approach the usual in an unusual way, from a different angle.  

This month Year 7 teachers are receiving into their classes children with mixed experiences of language learning in Key Stage 2, something which can create all sorts of problems.  One strategy that is suggested for classes with mixed experience is to go over the same language but in new contexts, so that those who haven't done it before can learn the important language, while those who have done it before won't be bored because the context is different.  Eléanore the crocodile could be used for looking at personal identification in a new way, as illustrated by the speech bubble at the top of the page.  It makes a change from children writing similar information about themselves or their friends.  There must be some other famous animals that can be written about.  

This can also bring in some elements of intercultural understanding.  How many students will know about Eléanore's former home, Les Egouts de Paris?  Eléanore's home in Vannes Aquarium has been decorated to remind her of her time in Paris:

We were so busy being excited about the crocodile that I almost missed the jellyfish corner.  There was an interactive display - the sort with lots of buttons for small children to press.

You had to press the buttons to find out what parts of the body the jellyfish has, and in the white boxes a "Non" or a "Oui" plus information and pictures would appear.  This would give a new twist to "Parts of the Body".

No concrete ideas, I know, but hopefully some food for thought and some inspiration.

And, in case you're wondering, our favourite thing about the crocodile WAS that she is named after my sister!

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Another new phase

1st September 2011 is the beginning of a new phase in my professional life.  For sixteen years, from being an NQT, I worked for Sunderland Local Authority.  Now I don't.  The local authority will no longer receive the money that paid for me to be the advisory teacher for Primary Languages, and in these times of cuts the role has been deleted.

Now I will be teaching Primary Spanish in one school and Primary French in another, and that will take care of 2.5 days each week.  I would like to spend some of the remainder of my time training, speaking and consulting, something which I started last year.  To this end I have set up my own company.  And for the first time, despite my years of web experience, I have purchased a domain name and paid for web hosting.  So if you would like to see what I do and have done, please click on  You can contact me via the same site.