Monday, 16 December 2013

It's beginning to look a lot like a Christmas mini-book

I have to admit that I am often easily distracted from my work. I think I may have mentioned that before.  This afternoon, I was having a look at Twitter while I was supposed to be finishing a resource, and noticed that @missmclachlan was tweeting pictures of some interesting-looking origami Christmas trees that her classes were making.  I asked if she had a link, and she posted the link to the above YouTube video.

It's easy to make regardless of whether you understand the Spanish, and what I particularly like is that you can write things underneath each layer.

While I was walking to pick up my children from school this afternoon, it occurred to me that you could stick half a Spanish lady on the top and the tree bit becomes a Flamenco skirt.  Or turn the tree bit upside down, add a semi-circle of pale yellow, pink or brown card and it becomes an ice-cream cone.  Or add a face to the bottom of the tree bit and it becomes a magician's hat.

Like I said, I'm easily distracted.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Christmas ideas for Primary French

This evening I had a planning panic when I realised that the two year groups I have for French this week, Year 3 and Year 5, have already done all my main Christmas resources (cards and mini-books).  I put out a plea on Twitter and the CfBT Primary Linguanet forum, and as usual they came up trumps, with enough brilliant ideas to last several weeks.  Many of the ideas came from Vicky Cooke, a primary languages teacher from Yorkshire.  I suggested she put them into a guest blogpost.  And here it is!

Every year I seem to run around looking for ideas to use across KS2 French. Some years I really struggle and others there’s too many to use. This year is a rich year, perhaps because I’ve connected to other teachers via Twitter and the Languages in Primary Schools Facebook page (join!).

Here are some of my current favourites:

Origami – always a winner. I search for ‘origami de noel’ in YouTube and there are plenty of clips that come up.

This one is pretty straightforward and you only need squares of green paper (in fact, I grab A4 and the first thing we do is make a square).  I tend to have them watch the video first, then discuss the steps, and teach/recap a few key words (plier, déplier, triangle, diagonal).  Then we watch again stopping at each step and repeating the instructions clearly while demonstrating.  I usually have to help those who struggle with manual tasks, or sit them with a capable friend.

Once complete you can then sing ‘mon beau sapin’ with a little forest of trees. Mister Toony has a version with lyrics:

Helen Williams on the Languages in Primary Schools Facebook page (have I mentioned it already..?) shared the Jeanne de la Lune Advent Calendar.   I’ve used it as a prompt for other things. So when Vive le vent comes up, we learn the song and sing it (plenty of choice on YouTube).  Children have also learnt the words of Le Père Noël est enrhumé and narrated the animation with the volume off.  I’m sure you’ll find plenty of other things to do with it.

My absolute all time favourite little Christmas clip is this puppy singing Petit Papa Noël.

You can find the lyrics (and dozens of other seasonal ideas) on the ever popular Tête à Modeler

Emmanuelle Fournier-Kelly of Maskarade Languages has shared some free resources this year.  I like the biscuit recipe and in the past have had a ‘bake-off’ style competition (it’s called Le Meilleur Pâtissier in France) where children can bake at home, decorate and we invite a special guest (or the head…) to judge.

Finally, I also like to do picture dictations where they have to draw what you say. Obviously this depends on knowing the vocabulary, but is good fun when you compare at the end.  I might include deux petits sapins verts, un grand sapin vert, huit petites boules de neige, un grand bonhomme de neige and so on.  Add in some prepositions if they know them.

Have fun and Joyeux Noël!

Merci Vicky!  
What are your favourite Christmas resources and ideas for Primary Languages?  Please share them in a comment below.

Monday, 2 December 2013


From January 1st 2014 Erasmus+ will become the new EU funding programme for education, training, youth and sport.  It replaces Comenius, Leonardo, Erasmus, Grundtvig and Transversal as well as other smaller programmes.

Last week I went to a briefing session which was run by Europe Direct Northeast.  Here are the main points.

Erasmus+ has a new and different approach to that of the old programmes.  Europe is a changed and changing place, and it needs to become more competitive in the face of the new economies of South America and Asia.  Priorities are different.

The new programme is much simplified.  It is more user-friendly and easier to navigate (not difficult, if you have experience of filling in Comenius application forms!)  There is also a substantial budget increase of 40% to €40.8 billion over seven years.

These are the objectives of the programme, against which project applications will be scored:

  • improve the level of key competences and skills (especially literacy, numeracy and ICT)
  • foster quality improvements, innovation excellence and internationalisation at the level of education and training institutions
  • promote European lifelong learning
  • enhance the international dimension of education and training
  • improve the teaching and learning of languages (a real bonus for the MFL community!)
Amongst the opportunities for individuals, across the EU 800,000 lecturers, teachers, trainers and education staff and youth workers will be able to teach or train abroad.  500,000 young people will be able to volunteer abroad and take part in youth exchanges.

Key Action 1 relates to the Learning mobility of school staff.  The aims are to develop school staff competences, such as languages and ICT, and to offer professional development opportunities abroad.  The application procedure has changed.  In the past, schools completed their own applications and delivered them to the national agency by the given deadline.  Now, schools will need to register with the programme and then formulate a strategic two-year international plan.  Then they apply for opportunities as and when they come up.  The approach, therefore, is now strategic and institutional, and is no longer an opportunity for personal enrichment.  It must be whole-school. 

There are opportunities for innovation projects and the exchange of good practice.  There is funding for 25,000 partnerships involving 125,000 institutions (which works out at about 5 partners per partnership) to share best practice, enhance basic skills and to keep children engaged with their learning.  Cross-phase and cross-sector partnerships are encouraged.

eTwinning will take on an enhanced role, with an expected 200,000 teachers collaborating online.  Money will be spent redeveloping eTwinning, and more use will be encouraged.  It will aim to provide a stronger platform for cooperation between schools and will support all kinds of school cooperation and mobility.  

Key Action 2 is for Strategic Partnerships.  They aim to develop and implement practices and tools, as well as an exchange of experience and good practice.  The funding deadline will probably be March. Successful applications will show transferability of knowledge within partnerships, a clear sense of European identity and an introduction of languages, and will not be just a transfer of materials.  If a partnership wishes to meet in one of the partner countries, they will have to demonstrate why they have to meet physically and not online.  The meeting will have to lead to something specific.  Again, the application procedure is different.  In partnerships of just schools, only one application needs to be submitted, by the co-ordinating school.  Then the whole partnership will be approved by the co-ordinator's national agency - whole partnerships are selected.  This will solve the problem that Comenius school partnerships have had in recent years, where each school applied separately to their national agencies and were approved or not at national level.  Partnerships often collapsed when not enough partners were approved by their own national agencies.  Partnerships will receive a fixed amount of Euros regardless of where the partners are, and will be based on the number of organisations in the partnership.

Sadly, Comenius Language Assistants and Partner-finding seminars are not a part of Erasmus+.

Keep an eye on the website as well as the Twitter hashtag #erasmusplusuk.