Saturday, 24 September 2016


So I'm sure most of you have heard of Quizlet as it's been around for ages. But we in the languages department have really only tapped into its huge potential in the last year or two. We have all the vocab for each year group loaded so that pupils can learn the vocabulary in a fun and competitive way. It's also an excellent way of promoting independent learning at home.
However, it's only in the last few months that excitement has reached unseen levels with the introduction of Quizlet Live. NB You need access to a class set of PCs or tablets / phones. As a teacher, you go to and select the set of vocabulary you want to drill / test. You select the Live option and then create the game in the new browser window with a mere click of a button. Share the code with the pupils who have gone directly to, they enter their names and you start the game. You can randomly assign teams or select them. The website cleverly picks up on the language so the team names will be in Spanish, etc. 
The pupils work in their teams to answer the questions / translate the language. Each pupil has 3 or 4 possibilities but only one will have the correct option. If they get it wrong, the team loses all their points and has to start again. The first team to gain 12 points wins. All my classes love Quizlet Live and clamour to play it every lesson, no matter what age they are. As a teacher, apart from the massive engagement factor, the benefits are that they are drilling the vocabulary if they get it wrong and at the end, it shows you what pupils were consistently getting wrong so this informs your planning for the next lesson. 
I cannot recommend Quizlet enough, I really look back a year or two and wonder what I did pre-Quizlet! 

Tuesday, 14 June 2016


Today I have the honour of presenting at NICILT's Digital Language Learning day at Queen's. Here is my presentation. 

Friday, 1 April 2016

Everyone is a genius.... A little bit of differentiation

This year as a staff we are looking at differentiation, what we currently do and sharing good practice on staff days and in departmental meetings. I personally would say that I struggle with the challenges of differentiation in the traditional terms of multiple worksheets to choose from, etc.  However I am enjoying the different ideas we are coming up with and seeing how pupils respond to them.

A fairly recent arrival to the Spanish Department is our Challenge Grid. I first spotted a tweet by Jake Hunton and Jake kindly emailed me his template to use and adapt. The basic premise is that pupils should see how many points they can accumulate in 15 mins. This is one for our Form 1 pupils on the topic of physical description (obviously when it is displayed as a powerpoint, there won't be underlining)

Another option is to give them a worksheet with sentences with different points values and tell them they need to score a certain number of points, as demonstrated here by my colleague's worksheet.

A third idea we are trialling around choices is an Extension PPT. My colleague has made this first one and I have then made another for the Form 3 topic of clothes.

Another staff focus this year is marking for improvement. And surely there is no greater differentiation than tailoring the learning to suit the individual pupil. As part of this, I am looking at feedback inc highlighting the correct work in A level essays rather than showing what's wrong and witholding their score until they have had DIRT time. The pupils have really liked the positive highlighted marking and they are now learning to apply the mark scheme better as they look at what they have done well and write their own www and ebi

I am building DIRT time into lessons at all levels, including using our purple pens for self-reflection. It is enlightening and rewarding, for the pupils and for me.

Another marking and feedback idea I am excited to try out is LIFT, one of many ideas I have magpied from the great Gianfranco Conti
"LIFT, or Learner Initiated Feedback Technique .... consists of questions about linguistic items they are using in their written pieces that they annotate in the margin of the page they are writing on. For example, if they are not sure whether a clause requires  the subjunctive or  conditional mood, they will underline or circle the verb and write on margin: “Is this verb supposed to be in the subjunctive? Why/Why not? This year, I have used it more consistently, extensively and, more importantly I have insisted on higher quality questions. It has made me enjoy giving feedback more and my students have reported benefitting from it"
Further reading I've really enjoyed on marking and differentiation can be found at as well as

As well as these newer ideas, there are strategies that I have been using for months or years that are also individualising the learning and hopefully therefore differentiating. By creating iBooks at A level and some at GCSE, I am allowing pupils to work at own speed and choose their activities. The drawback from the pupil perspective is that some pupils may not be good at timing and pacing themselves and I have found that some don't cope so well and need more of a guiding hand to stay on task. The same has happened with setting their own HWs at A level. It has been excellent for many pupils but I need a better system for checking what pupils have done and some don't want to choose their own homeworks or don't do it and try to get away with it. At the moment they have a choice of a Learning Log or a simple tick grid.

We also have Challenge Corner with Challenge Cards,  Jenga with accompanying Spanish sheets, Spanish novels, translations of books like Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Harry Potter, magazines and comic books. This year I've also brought in the idea of Cushion Corner, so that pupils who finish first aren't 'penalised' by being given another worksheet but can choose what they would like to do from any of the above to extend their learning.

An idea that is bandied about a lot now on Twitter is Takeaway Homework or giving pupils a choice when it comes to CATs and that's something that we would like to look at as a department. For me the difficulty is balancing the choice for the pupils (which I love) with the need for CAT scores for report cards, so we'll need to look at that.

Finally if you haven't seen it, check out, 81 slides of differentiating ideas for the classroom.

A few wee gems for engaging learners

Ok so it took a little longer to blog than I promised but here I am and raring to get back to work. For those not on Twitter or Facebook with me, I broke my ankle on 2nd January (don't ask, a random act of kindness gone wrong) and was off until the last week before Easter. It really took all my energies to get into work that week and catch up with where all the classes were so I'm looking forward to teaching properly this week. One advantage of being off is that I've had time to check out some cool websites and make some nice resources.

Some people may have heard of the brilliant kids' game Dobble (Dobble Game on Amazon) There are a number of different ways to play including dealing the cards out and the players turn the card one at a time, trying to find the image their card has in common with this card. At the time, I wondered about using the game in class but the icons are tricky enough in the target language. Then a month or so ago,  I happened to spot a link to a Dobble card generator on Twitter Here are the cards I have made for Form 2 Spanish after I have introduced prepositions

Meme Generator
Coffee with teacher friends yesterday and one of them happened to mention her new favourite app. Which is now mine of course. Within a few minutes, I had created these four memes to illustrate Si clauses for my A level Spanish classes. (For those non Spanish speakers, they translate as "If I study, I get good marks", "If I study, I will get good marks", "If I studied, I would get good marks" and "If I had studied, I would have gotten good marks") I foresee hours of fun ahead..


This is an online quiz website which allows you to play in real time or to set it as homework. You can browse and duplicate existing quizzes which obviously can save you a lot of time and select two, three or four options. You choose how many questions you want in the quiz.

Once you have finished, you then can play live or set it for homework. Useful features include jumbling the questions for the students (which avoids too much collaboration between computers 😀) and a Quiz Review whereby the students see all the answers at the end of the game. 

As a teacher, I can see how students answered the questions which enables me to better inform my teaching for the next lesson.

This is another quiz website, similar to Quizizz and Kahoot. Again, you can browse for existing quizzes to use or adapt and you choose how many questions you set.

The quiz adds a competitive element as with Kahoot, as the students gain more points, the faster they answer. Whilst some would argue that this is detrimental, it does add to the ambience in the classroom and can engage boys particularly.

Interestingly, when you set up the classes and assign quizzes to them, it does this via  which also allows you to assign Kahoot quizzes to the class as well. I really like the look of the post-quiz features such as 'who needs help' and 'what we need help with'  NB A word of warning that the free account only stores the last five quiz results.