Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Slightly appeased

Following the news over the weekend that the overhaul of the National Curriculum has been delayed until 2014, the DfE released yesterday two documents covering what has been done so far.

First, the Summary report of the Call for Evidence.  The Call for Evidence ran from January to April of this year, and altogether there were 5763 responses.  2359 of these were primary and secondary teachers.  81% of the 2679 respondents who completed the MFL section said that it should continue to be a National Curriculum subject.  The other points arising from the Call for Evidence and regarding MFL were:

  • learning a foreign language not only helps pupils to understand their own language more deeply, but also helps them to respect and understand other cultures around the world.
  • children in many parts of Europe begin to learn at least one foreign language at the age of 7. For England to be competitive in the European business market, it is therefore important that when young people leave school they are able to converse in at least one other language
  • GCSE must not be the sole outcome at Key Stage 4.
  • The few respondents who said that MFL should not continue to be a National Curriculum subject were mainly talking about KS1 and KS2.  In their opinion, the learning of another language takes vital time away from other subjects and is not suitable for children who are just starting to read and write English.   
  • 13% were of the opinion that pupils need to begin learning as soon as possible.
  • Children have recently made good progress in learning languages at Key Stage 2. Respondents were concerned that the work that had been done to introduce languages into primary schools would be curtailed.

The second document is the Report by the Expert Panel forthe Curriculum Review, the results of which “will be subject to further consultation and discussion”. 

The report recommends that MFL should be a Foundation subject in Key Stages 2-4, although "It is worth noting at this point that the optimum age at which to introduce modern foreign language teaching remains a contested matter that requires careful consideration of evidence; this is not yet fully resolved and we therefore present modern foreign languages in lower Key Stage as a query .... However, we do believe because of its importance that it should be included in the National Curriculum at upper Key Stage 2, which represents a change to the existing arrangements."   It adds in a footnote: “We are aware, for instance, of the arguments in favour of teaching language awareness in primary schools to avoid language choices which cannot be continued in secondary education, and the counter-proposals of those who believe that more specific capability in a language should be developed from as young an age as possible.  

Therefore it recommends compulsory MFL for Years 5-11, but maybe not for Years 3 and 4, Lower KS2.  I hope that provision is extended across KS2, as in my experience Y4 is the optimum year for language learning.  The proposed Foundation Subjects will have “refined and condensed Programmes of Study and minimal or no Attainment Targets”.  

This table is a summary of the recommendations made:

The list of aims for the recommended new curriculum is also an interesting read:

Provision should be developed to:
  1. Satisfy future economic needs for individuals and for the workforce as a whole, including the development of secure knowledge and skills in communication, literacy and mathematics and confidence in acquiring new knowledge and skills; (recognition needs to be made of the valuable contribution that MFL makes to literacy and maths.)
  2. Appreciate the national cultures, traditions and values of England and the other nations within the UK, whilst recognising diversity and encouraging responsible citizenship;
    (the Ofsted team that inspected one of my schools in September were looking for evidence of this.  Where will MFL’s intercultural understanding fit in?)
  3. Provide opportunities for participation in a  broad range of educational experiences and the acquisition of knowledge and appreciation in the arts, sciences and humanities, and of high quality academic and vocational qualifications at the end of compulsory schooling;
  4. Support personal development and empowerment so that each pupil is able to develop as a healthy, balanced and self-confident individual and fulfil their educational potential;
  5. Promote understanding of sustainability in the stewardship of resources locally, nationally and globally.

So this is cautious good news for the languages community, especially at the primary end.  The previous plans to make primary languages compulsory were abandoned in April 2010, after which schools started to abandon language teaching.  The funding ceased in March 2011 causing many Primary Languages advisers to be made redundant.  In 2014, when it is intended that the new curriculum will be in place, some schools will not have taught a language for 4 years, and many local authorities will have been without the necessary support and expertise for 3 years.  It’s still going to be a long, hard slog.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Outraged from Tyne and Wear

While catching up with Twitter this afternoon I saw some references to the Curriculum Review.  Now I've been waiting anxiously for the publication of the conclusions of the Review, mainly to see what the Coalition's plans will be for languages in KS2.  We had been told that we could expect it at the end of this year.  So now, in fact.  But I had seen no reference to it in the press or elsewhere.  I consulted one of the #MFLTwitterati:

I read the article with interest.  It concentrates on English and maths, and you have to read between the lines for the rest.  It was this paragraph that was of particular concern:

"The conclusions of the review had been expected in the new year, but wholesale reform of the curriculum will now be delayed by 12 months.
A final report by an expert panel is unlikely to be published until the end of 2012, with specifications in the core subjects to be introduced in 2014 rather than 2013."
So the timetable on the DfE website no longer stands, and we will have to wait  even longer for some kind of decision about the future of Primary Languages.  This is infuriating given its already precarious position.  I am also outraged by the fact that this information has come out via a newspaper article (no mention of the information is made on the DfE website) over the weekend and after most schools have broken up for the Christmas holidays.  This appears to me to be underhanded and cowardly on the part of the DfE and of course of Gove himself.  But then I suppose I'm not really surprised about this.  It's not like it's the first time it's happened.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

A card for Christmas

Every Christmas in the primary school where I teach Spanish, I like to make Spanish Christmas cards with the children.  There are a few reasons why we do this.  Firstly, they always ask to do it.  Secondly, it ticks some Intercultural Understanding boxes, and thirdly, it's something from Spanish for them to take home and share with their families.

This is the third year that I have had to think of a design for a card. It wasn't easy!  I decided to base it on this card.  Please feel free to download it and have a go at making it with your students:

German (thanks to Alex Bellars for supplying the vocabulary!)

Also still available if you fancy something a bit different:
2010 Christmas card (Spanish)
2009 Christmas card (Spanish) - crib scene
2009 Christmas card (French) - crib scene

We are also going to be making stencil calligram cards (as described here) for the children at our partner school in Madrid.

Buon Natale e felice anno nuovo.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Sing a song of Spanish phonics

In recent months I've done a lot of phonics work with my KS2 Spanish students.  However, a fortnight ago, at the end of our Family and Pets unit, I noticed that they were still having a problem with the [x] sound (the ge/gi/j sound that we can't write in English!)  So I decided to have a lesson about just that sound.  They like singing so I set out to make a song with as many words with that sound in as possible.  I later decided to add words with the [g] sound so that we could work on the rule for when you say each sound.

I collected all the words that we have covered that had those sounds (there were more than I thought) and thought up a tune.  The song has ended up having four verses and is a nonsense song due to the diverse nature of the words involved!

You can have a listen to it here.  It had its debut with the children last week and they seemed to like it.  I've also done a "th" sound song, which I'm going to use with Y4 as they do more phonics work.  You can listen to that one here.  I have also uploaded the resources that go with both songs (scroll to the bottom of the page).

With Y3 I have worked on the vowel sounds by doing a chant, which you can hear here.  The lyrics are:

a - a - a, Gran Canaria
e - e - e, Té en el café

i - i - i, Lidi y Pili
o - o - o, ¿Loro o lobo?

u - u - u, Purucú, Perú

I recorded the songs using Songsmith, which I think gives a really professional finish for something I have recorded on my laptop in my front room.  The difficult thing was recording the vocal in one take, as I am still suffering from a post-cold "viral chest"!

I wrote the scores with a very reasonably priced and easy to use program called Finale NotePad.  I made the backing track for the chant using Aviary Roc and then recorded the vocal using Audacity.

Are there any other Spanish sounds that you think would benefit from having a song made in their honour?

Friday, 18 November 2011

#ililc2 - ICT and Languages Conference 2012

In the summer of 2009 I left the security of the secondary school where I had been teaching for 13 years, and the AST job that I had there, to take up a post teaching primary Spanish and to become my LA's advisory teacher for primary languages.  I went from being part of a department, with the structure and support that it and the school offered, to being a lone practitioner, and an adviser who was expected to be at the forefront of language teaching.

The network of teachers and education professionals with whom I connect daily via Twitter have been, since then, an invaluable source of inspiration, information and innovation.  And I have been honoured to meet many of them in person at the MFL Show and Tells that have been held over the last few years.  The icing on the cake was attending #ililc - the ICT and Languages conference in Southampton in February this year.  Not only were the presentations excellent, but I was able to spend the whole weekend learning from the language luminaries over various dinners and drinks.

The brilliant news is that it's all happening again, in February 2012!

25-26th February 2012
University of Southampton, Avenue Campus
Whether you want to find out how to use blogs and wikis to trying out digital voice recorders, you’ll be inspired to try something new! A range of speakers will demonstrate tried and tested models for different skill levels. You don’t have to be an expert in ICT to attend!

Plenary speakers:

Joe Dale - Saturday 25th February
José Picardo – Sunday 26th February

Workshop speakers:
Annalise Adam, Wendy Adeniji, Alex Blagona, Vanessa Burns, Joe Dale, Catherine Elliott, Stuart Gorse, Esther Hardman, Isabelle Jones, Helen Myers, Carole Nicoll, Juliet Park, Bertram Richter, Jo Rhys-Jones, Amanda Salt, Clare Seccombe, Lisa Stevens, Jenny Turner, and Sara Vaughan.

You can take part too! Don’t miss the Show and Tell event on the Saturday evening, to be held at the Highfield House Hotel.

Standard: £175 for both days / £125 for one day
Concessionary rates available for Postgraduate students: £100 for both days / £75 for one dayWe will require the name and contact details of your tutor when submitting your registration form.

For more information please contact Languages South East on languagessoutheast@soton.ac.uk or call 023 8059 9135.

So what are you waiting for?  Come along.  It'll change your teaching life and give you a new spurt of energy in what can be despondent and disheartening times.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Tarsia again

Following on from previous posts about Tarsia, the puzzle-making software, I have created a "how-to" guide for MFL teachers.  You can download the guide in PDF format here.

Image by the brilliant Bev Evans

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.

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.fm 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.

Mailvu.com – 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 Classtools.net - make a fake Facebook page
  3. Twister on Classtools.net - 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. Clea.nr 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!