Tuesday, 25 October 2011

MFL + Maths = all in a day's work

Michael Gove's plans to extend primary languages into KS1 were greeted with cautious optimism in the MFL community.  Some members of the public, some other teachers and headteachers, however, preferred the "What's the point of teaching them a language when they can't even read/write/speak English?" approach.  An afternoon of comparing the MFL Frameworks for KS2 and KS3 and the Literacy objectives for EYFS through to KS3 will show beyond doubt the contribution that learning another language can make to literacy skills in the mother tongue.  Generally speaking, learning a language reinforces the Literacy from the previous key stage.

In a press article earlier this year, the CBI criticised the "inadequate" literacy and numeracy skills of school leavers.  So English and Maths teachers obviously have some work still to do.  I wonder if they are aware how much MFL teachers are helping them out?  Are MFL teachers aware how much Literacy and Maths they are teaching?  I've done a fair bit of work on Literacy, and always kind of knew that in MFL we cover some Maths, but, until I started to look into it in some detail recently, was unaware exactly how much.

KS3 MFL reinforces KS2 Literacy, and it would appear that it also reinforces KS2 Maths.  I would urge any MFLer to have a look at the KS2 Maths curriculum to see just how much they do.  A particular eye-opener for me was looking at the key vocabulary for KS2 Maths.  Here is the key vocabulary for "Time":

Familiar?  When we consider the new Ofsted framework for January 2012, I think it is vital for MFL teachers to find out exactly how they reinforce Literacy and Maths, and for them to open a dialogue with English and Maths teachers to let them know exactly how MFL supports and reinforces their subjects.

From the draft proposals for the new Ofsted framework:

When evaluating the achievement of pupils, inspectors will consider
  • the extent to which pupils develop a range of skills well, including communication, reading and writing and mathematical skills and how well they apply these across the curriculum
  •  the standards attained by pupils by the time they leave the school, including their standards in reading, writing and mathematics

When evaluating the quality of teaching in the school, inspectors will consider
  • how well teaching enables pupils to develop skills in reading, writing, communication and mathematics

I asked the #MFLTwitterati what are their favourite ways of incorporating Maths into their lessons, and combined the answers with things that I have done in my own lessons:

Simple calculations
Comparative (older than, younger than, more than, less than, more expensive etc)
Countdown (the numbers round)
Loto (play with calculations and not just numbers)
Number tennis
C’est quel numéro?
Crosswords where the clues are sums in words and answers are numbers written in words
Higher / lower (plus / moins, más / menos)
Numbers Tai Chi
Hold up small cards to show the right number
Put small cards in order
Pupils hold number cards in right order to make a telephone number
Songs to reinforce order
Games like Snakes and Ladders, Blue Numbers etc to reinforce
Strip bingo
Dominoes or shape puzzles to match the written word to the figures
Psychic counting
PowerPoint activities such as Fly past
Colour by numbers
Follow-me cards with the numbers in figures and words, or phone numbers
Use number words for phonics practice
Standing-up-sitting-down games for practising multiples while counting
Noughts and crosses, Connect 4

Carry out surveys
Show the results of the survey in graphic form
Work out the percentages

Compare prices
Le Juste Prix – higher or lower
Multiply prices of individual items at market
Buying stamps
Sending parcels
Use a French website to “buy” equipment for school using budget of a certain number of Euros
Find out the price of the same items in £ from a UK website
Weights and measures
Add up a bill

Time and Dates
Telling time
Speed, distance, time calculations
Cinema prices and times
School timetables
Bus and train timetables
Dates Cluedo
Follow-me cards with the times in figures and words
Battleships with dates (numbers on x, months on y) Can use the same grid for Connect 4

Count the number of items and write how many there are, making the noun plural as appropriate (worksheet or mini-book)
Make pictures with different shapes and write/say how many of each shape there are

Past tenses
Years for big numbers
Calculate how long ago something was

French départements
Numbers of countries that speak the language, speakers within those countries
Number of languages spoken in the world, number of speakers of the top 10 languages and lesser languages
Cocoa bean calculations (Spanish)

*Many of these aspects of Maths have links to intercultural understanding

I have also simplified the KS2 Maths objectives to make them more accessible (and understandable!) for MFL teachers, and you can download them here.

Here are some more ideas for incorporating Maths into MFL:

Number sequencing
What is the next number? - neuf, dix-huit, vingt-sept, _______
Put the numbers in the right order: siete  doce  cuatro  veinte  catorce

Addition and Subtraction
Use a website like www.bonbonsgourmands.fr.  Give the students a budget of a certain number of Euros, they choose what to buy, work out the total and the change they would receive.  All in the target language of course.

Multiplication and Division
Work out who receives the most pocket money, when given sentences giving the amount that people receive and how often they receive it.  (Thanks to Fiona Joyce for passing on that idea.)
Play the Number Challenge (like the numbers round of Countdown) from Triptico.

Fractions and percentages
A good vehicle for introducing some comparative and superlative work.

Make pictures out of certain shapes and write correct plurals to say how many of each shape there are.
Take this one step further and make a picture with coloured shapes.  Then the writing will involve numbers, shapes, plurals and adjectival agreement.

For something a bit different to shopping lists and recipes, have a look at websites like this one.  "Avec un dollar je peux acheter trois paires de tongs au Vietnam."
Reading temperatures from a thermometer is a skill that students need to practise.  This could be an introduction to climate and weather.

Maths?  All in a day's work for an MFL teacher.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

I am not an MFL teacher

The more I find out about literacy and maths in MFL teaching, the more I think that I am not an MFL teacher at all.  It would appear that I am, in fact, a teacher of all subjects, using the medium of Spanish or French.

I reinforce literacy and maths from the students' previous key stage.  I explore traditional music and art by artists from other countries.  I cover geography and cultural identity, and aspects of history such as the age of exploration and William the Conqueror.  I examine health and healthy lifestyles as well as other aspects of citizenship and the PHSCE curriculum.

Is it the same for teachers of other subjects?  When I explain acute accents in French, I always refer to acute angles in maths.  Do maths teachers refer to acute accents in French when teaching that aspect of geometry?

Is this true?  Am I being conceited about the importance and value of my subject?  Or am I showing classic MFL-teacher insecurity, the insecurity of one who has to constantly justify the worth of their subject?

I would be very interested to hear your comments and thoughts.

Saturday, 15 October 2011


In 1976 I was 7 years old.  For my birthday, my parents gave me my very first calculator - a Detson E406.  It was as big as a Samsung Galaxy Tab, as thick as the Tesco Direct catalogue, and I thought it was magic.  You clicked it on with a proper on-off switch and on the display appeared bright numbers of blue light.  They were so bright that I often used the number 88888888 to illuminate my books under the bedclothes.

The other part of my present that year was a book.  A book of puzzles, games and exercises to help me find out how to use my calculator.  It was thanks to this book that I discovered the art of calculator spelling.  I think most people of my generation have experienced the sniggery delight of typing 5318008 into a calculator then turning it upside-down to read a certain naughty word.

For the last few days I have been finding out about Key Stage 2 Maths, as in 6 days time I will be delivering some training to secondary MFL teachers on Literacy and Numeracy.  While looking at a list of KS2 Maths vocabulary, I came across a list of calculator terms.  This made me think of calculator spelling, and I got very sidetracked.  I need to blog it to get it out of my system and make me concentrate again!

I wondered if calculator spelling existed in other languages, and I'm pleased to be able to report that it does.  In Spanish it even has a proper name - Calculogramas.  It struck me that these would make cool little target language exercises that would promote numeracy in the MFL classroom, as well as dictionary and other skills.

Have a go at these:


Aujourd'hui il fait du (220681 + 493024).
Ma meilleure copine s'appelle (277461 + 73612).
Je ne suis pas Français.  Je suis (9934.5 x 4).
J'ai une nouvelle robe en (621 x 5).


Me gusta jugar al (372902 x 19).
Tengo (5 x 1027) años.
A mi novio doy muchos (41436 + 9102).
Un vaso de limonada sin (12 - 11.2686) por favor.

There are more ideas for French here and Spanish here.  Apparently there are some German examples too, but, as I don't know any German, I'd recommend you use 379009.

UPDATE 31.10.11:  I have added a Calculogramas worksheet to my website - click here and scroll to the bottom of the page.

Monday, 10 October 2011


There has been talk on Twitter this evening of a free-to-download program called Tarsia.  Designed as a Maths program, it is also incredibly useful for MFL teachers.  With it you can make dominoes, follow-me cards and shape puzzles.  Above you can see an example of some dominoes and below is an example of a shape puzzle:

It is a very easy program to use.  

Step 1:  Select the kind of puzzle you want to make.
There are many different shapes that you can use.  The one you choose will depend on how many pairs of words or phrases you want to practise.  You can have blank edges to make it easier for students or you can have edges with red herrings to really test the learners (these are "extended jigsaws")

Step 2:  Type in the words or phrases together with their translations in the other language or, instead, a picture.

Step 3:  When you've typed in all your pairs of words or phrases, click "Output" on the bar at the bottom, and Tarsia will generate your puzzle.  

Tarsia files have their own peculiar file suffix which is incompatible with other programs.  If you want to share your creation with others, I recommend PDF-ing your puzzle.  I use CutePDF.  To make a PDF of your document, you click as though to print it and then select CutePDF from the list of printers.  Then you get a dialogue box which allows you to save your PDF document.

Tarsia activities tick many boxes.  They are ideal for pair and group work and really make students think.  You can use them to revise previously-learned language or to introduce new language or patterns.

The all-important links:

Download Tarsia (Formulator Tarsia) from here or here.
Information about Tarsia here.
Lots of examples of Spanish Tarsia puzzles for KS3 and KS4 here.  Many thanks to the wonderful Marie Connolly.