Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Hexagon books

 It's time for another mini-book!  I was reading Erzsi Culshaw's blog recently and it reminded me of hexagon books.  As I've mentioned recently, my Year 5 Spaniards are learning how to tell the time in Spanish at the moment.  I usually finish this unit with a lift-the-flap book, but the cutting and folding always seems to go wrong (not mine, I hasten to add).  So I thought I'd give the hexagons a try to see if the children find the making any easier.

The idea is that you unfold one hexagon at a time.  On the top of each hexagon I have drawn a clock.  When you lift up the hexagon, the time in Spanish is written underneath.  The clock pictured below says 4 o'clock.  When I turn it over you can see "Son las cuatro" written underneath.

Because of the six "petals" this mini-book would be useful for verb forms.  Here is the template if you'd like to have a go yourself:

Monday, 27 January 2014

A bit random

Fellow NE-tweep Dom McGladdery often blogs about random things.  I don't mean random in the "no specific purpose" sense or the "haphazard" sense, but in the sense that many of his posts are about random number generators, name generators and language generators.  Very useful things.  Dom gave me the link once to the Fresher Schools random name generator, a PowerPoint based generator which is very easy to use.  You just put the children's names on it, set it off and then press S to stop it, randomly.  A good thing to keep on your USB to bring out when needed.

Last week I adapted it for my Year 4 Frenchists, with whom I have been doing the weather.  I put the eight weather pictures that we have been using on the slides and we used the resulting PowerPoint to randomly select us a weather picture lots and lots of times.  The children thought of some good ways to use it.  They are a bit addicted to playing Round the World, so we used the PowerPoint to generate the weather for each turn of that.  Then they had to predict which one would come up, earning a point if they were right.  And of course we did the "say what you see" one as well.

Here is the PowerPoint if you fancy trying it out:

I'm sure this can be adapted for different areas of language.  For example choose an infinitive, then randomly select a personal pronoun or tense and the students have to give the right part of the verb.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Vision On!

Early on Friday morning I read an email from Pinterest.  I registered with Pinterest quite some time ago, but have to admit that I haven't really done anything with it. Anyway, there was an interesting link in this email.  The skeletons reminded me of the 70s children's programme Vision On, and the character that Tony Hart made by writing and mirroring the programme name.  In 1981 I was in the 4th year of middle school, and we did a piece of art work inspired by this, where we wrote our names, mirrored them, and then painted each little section in a different shade of the same colour.  I seem to remember mine was various shades of red and pink.

Then this morning my six year old downloaded yet another app for her Android tablet.  It's called Doodle Toy, and she showed me how you can make mirrored writing with it.  So, instead of doing the work which I really need to do, I have been having a play with Doodle Toy, and thinking about how it could encourage Year 3 in particular with their writing of single words, as specified in the Key Stage 2 Framework for Languages.

Using this app it's easy to create an image of, for example, an animal name, and then embellish it to make it look even more like that animal.  I have done the French animals lapin and lion.  I have also created one of my own name, about which I could write something like "Me llamo Clare.  Soy un insecto." because of the shape my name makes.  It was straightforward (after a few false starts!) to save the images to my tablet's Album for later use.

I hope it gives you some ideas for having fun with text.  I'm going to put this on my old Android tablet, which I let the children use, and see what they come up with.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Take One Picture

The school where I teach Spanish has begun work this term on the National Gallery's Take One Picture project.  The current picture is Bartolomé Bermejo's Saint Michael Triumphant over the Devil (1468).  The fact that Bermejo is a Spanish artist is great news, and means that there will be a lot of cross-curricular Spanish stuff going on this term in at least PE, literacy, history and geography.

I have started to incorporate the picture into my Spanish lessons, and it is proving considerably easier for some year groups than for others.  Year 5, for example, are currently learning how to tell the time in Spanish.  Ideas on how to get Bermejo into that are very welcome!

Here's what I've done so far.

Year 4 have been working on days, numbers to 31 and months, and putting these together to make dates in Spanish.  As the picture is of St Michael, I took the opportunity to do some intercultural dates, namely saints' days.  I made 24 different saints' days into cards and we used them for a game of Showdown.  If you haven't tried Showdown yet, I recommend that you read Helena Butterfield's blogpost about it.  It's so easy to adapt and the children find it very useful and enjoyable.  Here are the cards if you would like to have a go yourself.

Year 3 have just started colours.  They are already familiar with them from Year 1 and Year 2, so I welcomed something different to do with them.  Bartolomé Bermejo was actually called Bartolomé de Cárdenas.  Bermejo means red, and he was always known by that name, maybe because he had red hair or a red face.  This gave me the idea to combine colours with names (more intercultural input).  The children are drawing Mr Men style characters in one colour, and then using the sheet below to find the name of the colour and a Spanish first name to go with it.  My examples on the board were Verónica Violeta and Rodrigo Rojo.

If you have any brainwaves about other ways that this picture could fit in, please let me know! The devil is going to inspire the "describe a monster" part of Y4's next topic, but apart from that.... I'd also be very interested to hear from anyone else who has been involved in this project, not necessarily for this picture.

And on an entirely unrelated matter I have also learned that you can embed documents from Box.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Primary Languages UK Twitter List

My Twitter followers may have noticed that over the last few days I have been asking a lot of questions.  Well, I'm preparing a training course and was asking Twitter a few questions in case I had forgotten something.  I'm compiling a list of places for primary language teachers to go for support and training.

The obvious place to go, of course, is Twitter, but if you are new to Twitter it is difficult to know who you should follow to begin with.  For that reason, I have put together a Primary Languages UK Twitter List, which contains all the UK primary language teachers, PGCE tutors, consultants and organisations in my list of followers.  If you can think of anyone that I have missed off, please let me know in the comments.

You can also subscribe to the list by going to my Twitter profile and clicking on 'Lists', then the name of the list and the 'Subscribe' button.  I have the List as a separate column on my Tweetdeck at the moment.

Friday, 10 January 2014

Ofsted and Primary Languages

This week I have been preparing a course for primary teachers who are preparing for compulsory Key Stage 2 Languages, which will arrive in September this year.  One of the things that I need to include is "What are Ofsted looking for?"

I realised that I hadn't heard anything from Ofsted about what they will be looking for during inspections come September, and so on Tuesday sent them an email to ask that very question.

On Wednesday I received an answer:  "Refer to the inspection framework."  Hmm.  I emailed back to ask for some more detailed and specific information.  This email was passed onto the subject team.

Today I received a much more useful reply from one of the HMIs:

"The new requirement puts modern foreign language on the same footing as other foundation subjects and therefore will be inspected in the same way. The pattern of provision is up to individual schools and there is no required number of hours. The curriculum guidance says inspectors will take account of whether the curriculum ‘is effectively planned and taught’ and is broad and balanced in the context of the school. At the very least we would expect to see a plan for the introduction to meet statutory requirements within a reasonable timeframe.

The substantial progress expected would be evident in schemes of work that support a pupils modern foreign language learning in one language from word level understanding and reproduction to the list of expectations expressed in the new National Curriculum requirements by the end of Key Stage 2. In common with all subjects the removal of levels will require a new way of measuring progress that is yet to be confirmed.
I am sorry I have no further information on this at present."

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Behind your back

I am endeavouring this year to get more structured speaking activities and pair or group work into my Spanish lessons, in preparation for September 2014.  During the summer I went through all my (many) books to find new ideas.  Yesterday Year 3 and I were revising the numbers 1 to 15 with a view to moving on to saying your age.  I used this activity that I found in Juguemos Todos Juntos and slightly adapted.

In preparation I made some grids (above) with the numbers 1 to 15 on and laminated them.  The children worked in pairs, armed with a grid and a whiteboard marker between two.  One child chose one of the numbers, and then tapped their partner on the back that number of times.  Their partner had to count the taps, then point to the right number on the grid and say that number in Spanish.  If their partner agreed that they were correct, they wrote their initial on that square with the whiteboard marker.  You can see above the grid that Luke and Abbie were using.  Then they swapped over.  The aim of the game was to see who could get their initial on the most numbers.

This was the first time I had tried the activity.  I was very pleased with how engaged the children were, and when I stopped the activity quite a few pairs were on their second game.  I asked them for their feedback, and they said that they had enjoyed it and that it had helped them to remember the numbers better.  Some pairs had come up with their own twists and adaptations.  Two of the girls decided that they were going to tap each other on the head and not on the back.  Apparently that made it easier to count!  Other pairs decided that they would keep repeating the tapping till their partner got it right.

While Year 3 were working I thought of a way of using this activity for other topic areas and for other vocabulary.  For Places in Town, for example, with Year 6, you could prepare a grid with fifteen squares, numbered 1 to 15 in the corners, and with an image of a place in town in each square.  They select one of the squares and tap that number.  Their partner has to point to the right square and say the correct place in town.  I'm sure it could work for other things too.

Monday, 6 January 2014


PetitesTetes.com is a website that's a bit like Momes.net, as it has stories (which you can listen to), comptines, crafts and - my favourite bit - dossiers thématiques which are great for primary French and intercultural understanding.

On New Year's Day I received from them a lovely Bonne Année greeting

and a link to their instructions for making an Arbre à Voeux.  It's an activity which is ideal for this time of year, in particular for writing resolutions.  In fact you could use it for lots of different things, and not just in French.  It could be real tree branches, or you could make a big tree on your display board and stick on writing on leaf-shaped pieces of paper. Like mini-books, the labels only require a small amount of writing and so are non-threatening for the learners.  However you choose to do them, they will make an eye-catching display.  As PetitesTetes says: une idée d’activité de groupe qui permette à chacun de s’exprimer - an idea for a group activity which allows each person to express themselves.

The Arbre à Voeux is inspired by Japanese wish trees, where people tie ribbons inscribed with their wishes onto trees.  Because of this, it reminded me of the Arbre à Coeurs in the French village of Saint Valentin, home of the ultimate Valentine's Day experience.  I recently had to research what goes on in Saint Valentin for a resource I was writing, and the celebrations would certainly make for an interesting Valentine's lesson for secondary students.  The village has its own website, which explains how it came to be at the heart (excuse the pun) of Valentine's celebrations, and describes all the things that happen there now.

So there is a lot of scope for using trees in the languages classroom.