Wednesday, 9 April 2014


It must be a primary thing.  I'm sure that when I was a secondary teacher I wasn't drawn to toy shops and toy departments as much as I am now.

This afternoon I took my daughters to a local craft establishment to buy some bits and pieces to make Easter cards with. We weren't very successful on the Easter card front, but I find these. In the Children's department.  In the packet there are three bundles each of five person shapes. They only cost £2.25, and I had to have them.  I didn't know what I was going to do with them but I had to buy them anyway.

When I got home I posted this picture on Twitter and invited suggestions as to what I could do with them.  Here are the suggestions.  Thanks everyone!

The lovely Julie Prince has found somewhere to buy them online if you can't make it to the northeast.

I have a variety of different toys that I use in my lessons:

  • Different coloured balls for playing passing games.  I use them with Year 1, who know colours, to practise por favor and gracias.  They ask for the colour they want and then say "Por favor", then they say "Gracias" when they receive it.
  • A giant foam microphone for speaking practice
  • Giant plastic tweezers for younger children to use to pick up, for example, all the blue minibeasts, five minibeasts.  I have also used them with butter beans masquerading as seeds, and Year 1 had to pick up the right number of seeds.
  • Percussion instruments (pinched from my children) for providing the rhythm section of raps in the classroom.
  • Finger puppets and glove puppets.  I have lots of these!
I also liberate quite a lot of my children's toys, to do activities such as this gender sort for Year 3:

I put all the toys in a bag, then the children took it in turns to take out a toy.  I said the name of the toy in Spanish and they had to put it in the blue basket for masculine, pink basket for feminine.  Thanks to Vicky Cooke for the idea!

I also have a very large box of Playmobil.  My husband keeps threatening to put it in the loft, so my daughters and I defiantly play with it.  I have used it for animation (Madame Poule) and it has been known to appear in some of my resources.

There has been quite a lot of chat on Twitter over the last couple of days about ways to use the plastic fillable eggs that you can buy at the moment.  You can put all sorts of things inside them, and I also like this idea for using them for a matching activity.

What are your favourite toys for using in your lessons?

Monday, 7 April 2014

One light goes out, another switches on

Ten years ago, on April 24th 2004, I uploaded for the first time a little website called MFL Sunderland.  It looked very different in those days, and didn't have many resources on it to start with.

In December 2004, MFL Sunderland welcomed 235 unique visitors.  In December 2013 the figure was 53092.   By the time it came to the end of its life last Friday, it had clocked up 3,450,473 unique visitors and an astounding 13,271,665 page views.

The site began as an evolution of an email resource-sharing group that existed in Sunderland local authority at the time.  Its creation was my first AST target in 2002, when I was a complete website novice.  I was chosen for the task because I had an email address!  I am entirely self taught, and MFL Sunderland was always a one-woman enterprise.

I am very aware how much the website has contributed to my professional career and reputation, and that I owe much of what I now have to it.  Deleting it last Friday evening was a sad and emotional experience.

I had permission to take all my website files and start again elsewhere.  For this reason I have purchased a new domain name and created a new website to house all the MFL Sunderland resources - Light Bulb Languages - which will be supported and maintained by me through my company.

Why Light Bulb Languages?  Well I wanted something that linked the new site to my company name.  Then I looked at my logo and had a flash of inspiration!  When we are planning and preparing our lessons, we all seek that light bulb moment that gives us a clear idea of how we are going to proceed with a certain lesson.  I hope that the resources continue to inspire those light bulb moments!

You will notice that each of the pages of the new site has a Google ad.  This is to cover my domain and hosting bills.  I hope you do not find them intrusive, but it's the only way I have of paying for the site, unless someone fancies sponsoring it!!

So farewell, MFL Sunderland.  You are gone, but you will never be forgotten.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

It all adds up to Languages

Here is the presentation It all adds up to Languages that I gave yesterday at ALL Language World 2014.  Just as useful for Key Stage 3 as for Key Stage 2!

and here is the link to the Pepsi Numbers ad that I showed: