Sunday 28 December 2008

Brilliant website

I stumbled upon this website through Twitter (where I am @amandasalt)
Amongst many many useful things, the site includes a list of 25 tools that every learning professional should have in their toolbox, as well as an impressive Twitter Directory. Check it out!

Saturday 27 December 2008

Creating video resources for Learning and Teaching

Check out this SlideShare Presentation:

Friday 28 November 2008

my animation


The wonderful yahoo group that I am a member of,, is a great source of both actual resources and links to brilliant websites. One of the recent emails caused a bit of a frenzy within the group, when we were given a link to a video created using goanimate on the passé composé. It was truely inspirational and I immediately signed up to have a play. It is very much a work in progress but the site is proving very easy to use and I think it has great potential in the languages classroom.

Thursday 20 November 2008

nings and wikis

Well, if ever proof was needed that pupils are happier and quicker to embrace new technologies than adults, the proof is before my eyes. I set up a ning for fellow teachers with an associated wiki to share best practice and resources. Uptake has been slightly disappointing and use has been limited so far, although I still have great hopes for it. I then set up a wiki for my pupils and already we have 74 members! Let's see how contributions come in for this..

Tuesday 11 November 2008


My final session at the Isle of Wight conference appropriately was with Lesley Welsh, a new friend I had met over the course of the weekend. Of all the areas of ICT and new curriculum, the interactive whiteboard is the area I am most comfortable with, and most proficient at using, but I was keen to see what ideas Lesley came up with and any tips she was able to pass on. (Thanks to Lesley for her electronic copy of a lot of the ideas below!)

-Drag some pictures out of the resource library or import them from another application, revise them with pupils then move them around and get them to guess what it is under the spotlight. -Use the Primary resources in the resource library for MFL teaching
-Use the camera tool for importing images, thereby ensuring that you can enlarge the photo without losing the pixel qualities. -Make a team game using pictures of vocabulary, for example. Use the reveal tool and encourage two teams to shout out what they are seeing – the first team wins the point.
-Rub out to reveal. Put blocks of colour over certain words in a text, perhaps choosing those which relate to a certain grammar point you’re studying e.g. adjective endings. Pupils predict, then rub out to reveal the answer.
-Type a number of words onto a flipchart page. Pupils come to the front and rearrange them -Create a focus circle – give pupils some words around a circle and they need to come up with as many combination sentences as possible in a time limit (thanks to Ros Walker for this idea).
-Copy and highlight texts from the Internet. Use the fill tool to highlight certain words and use these with your classes. This can illustrate grammar points and keep pupils up-to-date on current affairs. -Use recordings from native speakers to liven up your presentations.
-Link to Internet sites with the latest news clips and music sites to show your pupils the real France/Spain, etc. -Use songs and lyrics to create a lively gap-fill exercise and do the feedback on the IWB. This will again help pupils focus on grammar points
-Use a voting system to ensure full participation and encourage shyer pupils to interact
-Use a variety of question types – test spelling, grammar, comprehension.. Use pictures and target language text to ensure that tests don’t become a simple translation exercises.
-Use the tickertape facility to play a memory game

Some of these ideas I use frequently, some I have used and had forgotten and some I never knew in the first place. The interactive whiteboard is a valuable teaching tool in the classroom, providing that the activities are varied and the teacher is guiding.

Monday 10 November 2008


As our Vice-Principal pointed out today, in Northern Ireland it is no longer the Revised Curriculum, it is the curriculum that we are teaching in First and Second Year at KS3. Whilst I believe that Modern Languages are and always have been very much 'Revised Curriculum', my colleagues and I sometimes struggle with the whole 'no marking' idea that forms part and parcel of Assessment for Learning. It was therefore with great interest that I went to Sharon Balch's session on 'AfL in Practice'. She covered the topic in great detail, and here are some of the points that she made:-
  • Clear objectives lead to better engagement and more effective learning which in turn leads to improved standards.
  • Lessons are objective-led, and a team (including pupils) meets weekly to see what is working and what needs further work
  • Learning Intentions should be pupil-friendly
  • A consistent approach across the school will see the greatest benefit
  • It is vital to recognise the importance of success criteria, and to develop strategies for effective plenary


  • Display visuals for WALT and WILF, including in pupils' books
  • Include the 4 key skills for MFL in WALT and WILF
  • Create ruler guides ie strips of paper to stick onto the back of a ruler with key vocabulary
  • Create a learning mat for each year group with an emphasis on evidence of each key skill, plus generic vocabulary
  • Provide extension activities to improve listening and writing skills on the back of the learning mats
  • Use target sheets and stickers to give feedback, or get pupils to use them and say why they think they are working at a certain level
  • Use traffic light stickers and statement banks for self- and peer assessment, so that pupils know that a green sticker means excellent work, etc
  • Use very structured task sheets for writing tasks, with detailed lists of what to include in each paragraph. Pupils can then tick off as they cover the point in their essay
  • Share success criteria with pupils for speaking tasks, and then use "2 stars and a wish" for peer assessment
  • Use a 'learning journey' sheet with pupils to gain feedback in a plenary
  • Type all the learning journeys up together to make an excellent revision guide for the pupils

Sharon has found the measurable impact of all of the above easy to see in results, with a huge impact on boys' writing in particular


This is a series of tools allowing pupils to engage with learning as never before, and with the teacher moving from being the lead to being a guide and support. It incorporates the idea of collaborative learning communities, with standards-driven and problem-based learning.The pupils start to set their own targets and to recognise quality learning.

In order to set CSP challenges, pupils should be given task roles, such as Facilitator, Recorder, Time Keeper, Resources Manager and Quality Checker. After the task, it is vital that pupils reflect back on their own work, with questions or a statement as guidance for what they did do as well as what they would do differently next time.

Sharon's presentation was excellent, crammed full of brilliant ideas and practical support. She is the first to acknowledge the vast amount of work that has gone into her fabulous resources but her talk has certainly given me plenty to aim for within my own department for AfL and CSP.

Saturday 8 November 2008


How many of us have a VLE in school? More and more, I guess, though it is not by any means standard, and even if you do, it can be dramatically underused. I went to this session prepared to be convinced about the benefits of Moodle and was blown away. Drew Buddie's use of this VLE appears to be as energetic and hands-on as the man himself, and as he led us through the various areas and applications, I was increasingly impressed. Here are some of Drew's tips and ideas..
  • Give your Moodle site a cool name. This gives it a personality and makes it much less clinical. is a website which can be useful here.
  • If your Moodle site is not an official school site, there is no need for a crest etc. The kids may be more likely to use it.
  • The calendar is hyperlinked so that if work is set, it is linked into the pupils' calendar.
  • You can start a course with closed eye, and only open it up once the pupils are in the room, then save and close the eye at the end of the lesson. This is useful for tests and for those subjects in new GCSE where they have to guarantee that the work is only done in that lesson
  • Alter the administration for permissions, to allow people to view
  • You only see courses you are enrolled for as a pupil
  • Turn editing on = how you add things
  • You can pack up your course leaving out pupil contribution and then reuse it the next year
  • Put past paper questions onto Moodle for that course.
  • Show parents the submitted assignments (or that the pupils haven’t submitted at all!)
  • You can mark on the document or give feedback and let them try again
  • If being strict with deadlines, then close the course for submissions at a given time
  • Export the submissions data for each pupil and you will have table with results for each answer
  • Sandbox area is a work in progress area and then move it once finished
  • You can store content on a memory stick and show people what you have done at courses or at 'Show and Tell' sessions
  • The course name can be too long so giev it a short name for the breadcrumb trail
  • Use an agreed code for the school Moodle e.g. MFL for all our courses
  • Students when log in see next ten things that affect them in school
  • Hot Potatoes tells you how many clicks it takes the pupils to get the answer right
  • Chat facility - ‘Next chat time’ sets when they can chat. This is good e.g. for the day before their A level exam. It is safe because only course members are on, plus there is a permanent record of what you chatted about, to protect the teacher. Also, pupils can cut and paste into a Word doc and then search for key words to find discussions they have missed
  • Choices are good for AfL e.g. ‘Have you enjoyed this weekend?’ Set options and then save and return to course. Once voted, select ‘Choices’ then select ‘View responses’
  • The forum can be used for example with G&T pupils, given pseudonyms, and Year 7 pupils discuss with Year 13 anonymously
    I think that Moodle has tremendous potential, although like anything Web 2.0, you only get out what you put in!

Thursday 6 November 2008


Kathleen Holton led this excellent session on using digital voice recorders (DVRs) in the classroom. Kathleen's school had got funding from CILT to do a project using the DVRs, in order to enhance performance in the speaking exam. Kathleen found that pupils didn't know how to revise for the oral element, and decided to take a more proactive and hands-on approach. The school purchased 9 Sanyo ICR DVRs, which have a good quality internal mic, as well as a battery recharging pack. The great thing about these DVRs are that they record as an mp3 file, wich makes them easy to upload and for the pupils to use.

-Upload individual conversation answers for each pupil
-DVD available from CILT Cymru, with 18 different case studies of ICT and MFL
-Record the conversation naturally, with teacher correcting mistakes. Pupils will benefit from hearing the mistakes when they revise.
-Introduce with KS3, to maximise improvement for the GCSE exam
-Practise dialogues in class then go out into corridor to record
-Start with name, so not confusing for the teacher when they upload
-When saving, change Track 1, etc, to pupils’ names
-Next lesson, start with their recordings – Excellent for AfL
-Build a positive culture for listening and evaluating – positive praise e.g. for not pronouncing stuff that shouldn’t be pronounced
-Use mistakes for AfL e.g. giggling
-Use recordings for departmental moderation e.g. ‘Is this an A? What is a variety of structures?’
-“Evidence at KS3” folder can be easily kept
-Recording dialogues = good for oracy
-Upload recordings to wiki
-Use a Voki to introduce your wiki home page
Go to Register yourself
Put a voki on your wiki and get kids to interact with the voki as a voluntary task
Send a voki back to reply
Select the ‘Text to speech’ box whereby they type and choose a French voice to read DON’T USE PHONE AS PHONING USA!! Mic or text as speech.

-Moodle. If you use Moodle, put links to department wikis and blogs in the right-hand sidebar To improve vocab. Type up vocab from AQA list. Familiarise/learn/test = excellent way to learn and test. Embed into wiki for maximum exposure

This was an excellent session, full of very practical and helpful advice that we can put into practice immediately. Even if you don't have DVRs in your department, free software such as Audacity could be used to do a similar job.

Sunday 2 November 2008


The inspirational Adam Sutcliffe led this session, based on his own experiences teaching at The Gordons School. He had loads of great advice to offer about blogging and podcasting both with and for pupils, and shared with us lessons he had learnt...

  • If emails, etc, are included in the definition of literary texts, then we as teachers must use them.

  • It is good to reflect in English on what you have done over the course of the term

  • Safety concerns –blogs are as safe as you make them. If the settings are right, posts cannot go online till approved.

  • 2 stars and a wish / ‘Rocks and Sucks’. Peer assessment of recordings by the pupils is very 'Revised Curriculum', and can produce great results, if prop[erly set up. Teachers should set up a comment bank to help them and provude a tick box sheet to use as they listen. Pupils can then use the tick box sheet to write a comment

PODCASTS - why use them?

  • Access for all, even long-term sick pupils
  • Production of resources
  • Blue tooth vocabulary guides to their phone, for example, if no Internet access at home
  • Excellent use of skill areas for languages. Production of podcast = listening (to it) speaking (production) reading and writing (script)
  • Pupil confidence - set A-level class to producing podcasts on –AR verbs for Form 1.
  • Transferable skills - Pupils don’t realise that the stuff they do on Bebo can be used in their classroom
  • Ease of use - Use podcast gadgets such as Utterli / gcast / gabcast to create a webcam or audio, then call a phone number to post to the blog. This can be excellent when used from abroad, on a school exchange, for example.
  • podomatic – create, find, share podcasts
  • VoiceThread – edvoicethread with unlimited student accounts, so that pupils can post work which can then be commented on orally by many viewers
  • – listen and write with a dictation facility. The big advantage of Voki is the anonymity of the speaker behind the avatar. Other uses include pronunciation of frequently mispronounced words and the spell and translate facility.
  • Exam practice – pre-record questions (set to music) with space for answer, or podcast conversations with the FLA (Foreign language assistant). For examples of this, see the Ashcombe School.

Thanks to Adam for an excellent insight into the work he does. See more at his site:-


Kathy Wicksteed is Subject Lead for languages for DCSF/ALL subject specific support for the new secondary curriculum. She talked about the new curriculum and how it benefits the pupils. Whilst we in Northern Ireland have the Revised Curriculum, there are many parallels between the two, and lessons to be shared.
Are we broadening pupils' horizons? The new curriculums offer excellent opportunities to give pupils skills and knowledge which will enable them to fly more than ever before. In order to do this, teachers are having to move away from structured, content-driven schemes of work, to more open topics, cross-curricular work and thematic units. This can be a big step for us as teachers, but the advantages for the pupils include the acquisition of tools for learning and the development of thinking skills and personal capabilities.
Kathy highlighted some useful websites for language teachers, which tie in with the idea of enriching experiences and teaching languages in context:

Kathy's presentation is available for download from

Saturday 1 November 2008

Belfast MFL Ning


In this workshop, Steve Whittle, the Assistant Headteacher of Hayes School, talked us through digital learning both in school and at home.

The Hayes School uses a Tandberg Sanako language lab, in conjunction with an MFL ICT technician who creates resources for the department. Routines are established with classes, free software is sought, and websites are listed. Every lesson that pupils come into the language lab, they get a Digital Learning Plan( (DLP). This lists the tasks pupils should aim to do during the course of the lesson, with files held on the designated server and linked from the DLP. I LOVED this idea, as it can be easy to finish a lesson on the computers and wonder what the pupils have come away with. Also, staff who cover a class booked into the computer suite invariably complain that 'all they did was play games!' whereas this gives an excellent structure to the lesson.

Audio files were created with Sanako software, which offers the possibility of bookmarking different words in the listening to go back to. This is a useful tool which could be used by all ages and abilities.

How can we extend the language lab outside school?
· EmbedVLE links from the main school website
· Use a VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) such as Moodle, which can be customised, with courses created for specific year groups and classes
· Create online vocabulary tests using sites such as
· Create a Wiki for your class - from Moodle, chat room
· Use the VLE for exam practice -Record questions and model answers for GCSE
· Incorporate SCORMS – self-marking tests Quizmaker
· Create an exam bank of sound files, etc, of past questions by topic
· Create authentic listening materials – songs: listen on Sanako, do the exercise in Word
e.g. matching Spanish and English
· Provide links for RSS feeds

The danger is that the language lab becomes a testing ground rather than an area of learning. It is important to have a team approach in the department, with each leading a course in the VLE, in order to spread the workload and maximise the potential.

Friday 31 October 2008


Mark Pentleton of Radio Lingua Ltd took us on an entertaining journey through podcasting as the experts do it..
Partners in Excellence
Mark talked of his time as Coordinator of the Partners in Excellence project. Projects included a PiE Cast with interviews and listenings as learning elements., with French verb podcasts, appealed strongly to me. Pupils were given a verb a night to learn, combined with relaxation techniques, and then were sent a text message during the day to test.

Radio Lingua Network
Mark talked us through the many and varied podcasts which are on offer through Radio Lingua, including Coffee Break Spanish and French, My Daily Phrase for Italian and German, and One Minute Languages – 10 lessons in Polish, Irish, Russian, Japanese, Catalan, etc.
Moving on from Coffee Break Spanish, now available is Show Time Spanish with Lessons 1-4 building up vocabulary to understand the soap opera each time.

Lessons learned

  • Ensure that content is presented in the learner’s context.
  • Access – if you point it out to them, then they just might use it
  • Learners learn most by making podcasts
  • Podcasts are brilliant for sharing information, e.g. collaboration for teachers
  • Best podcast = 4 min summary of your lesson
  • Consider scripted vs unscripted
  • echnical lessons –equipment, ‘respect the ear’ – make the recording as good as possible


Here is the first of my posts about my experiences at the Isle of Wight conference. The first workshop I attended was by the entertaining Chris Fuller, entitled “ICT- THINKING OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM BOX”. Chris talked about using ICT to motivate and to enhance learning, both inside and outside of the classroom walls. He himself has several blogs, both personal and for his school.
During the course of the talk, various questions were raised. One question was if the school had any issue with uploading videos / pupil work, etc, as this can be a common problem nowadays. A good suggestion to get around this if it is an issue in your school is to use puppets or masks.
The work does is very much in line with the new curriculums in Northern Ireland and England, with a strong emphasis on Assessment for Learning. Peer assessment takes place whereby pupils listen to their classmates and leave feedback in the form of 'Two Stars and a Wish'. Pupil improvement is an obvious outcome as pupils ‘steal’ the best phrases they hear when they listen to each other's work
Chris showed us the Flip Ultra camera which is easy to use, particularly given its USB port.
In fact, Chris made the whole thing look easy and it has inspired me to go back to school armed with this information to talk to the powers-that-be about our own school blog...

Monday 27 October 2008


I returned yesterday from the Isle of Wight conference 08, exhausted and overstimulated but with a heap of inspiration, an armful of notes to blog about and loads of new friends. It was a truely amazing experience and I look forward to sharing all that I learnt with you over the next few posts. As you may also have noted, it also prompted me to create my own wee me!

Friday 24 October 2008

Here I am in my hotel room on the Isle of Wight, getting ready to go out and meet fellow enthusiasts for the Isle of Wight Conference 2008. I am fortunate that my school have funded my trip here and I am excited about all the workshops I will be attending over the next two days. I will post here as soon as I am able..

Sunday 12 October 2008


My blog is going pink for October to raise awareness for Breast Cancer. See the website for more information and to support the cause!

Wednesday 1 October 2008

Whiteboard Challenge Task 3

I really struggled with this task, as I found it hard to come up with a meaningful task incorporating the 'transparency' feature. Of course, I could just have used it to make a fancy background to my flipchart page, but I wanted to actually do something with it. I finally came up with the idea of using it when teaching time to my Third Years.
I created a flipchart page in ActivStudio 3 and inserted six blank clock faces, with a time written in Spanish underneath each one. Pupils came up to the board to draw the hands on the clock, according to what it said underneath. I then used the 'transparency' feature to make the text disappear, and pupils then individually wrote the times in Spanish into their classwork books, before coming together to feed back on the IWB.
I chose to make the text disappear, rather than the clock faces, as it is obviously harder to produce Spanish than to recognise it. Therefore, in this way we started with the easier task of text recognition before moving to production.
I was pleased with the task although the process to make the text transparent was somewhat laborious - possibly I have missed a shortcut? I would like it to be one of the options when I rightclick on the text.
I am interested to see what other language teachers have done with this task, given my lack of inspiration at the start.

Wednesday 24 September 2008

Jing Project

I have just used Jing to screencast an explanation of setting up a course on Learning NI, the VLE within Northern Irish schools. It was very straightforward to use, and easy to store and view the files. Colleagues have complained that they find it hard to follow typed instructions so I am hoping that this should be really helpful, both for staff and pupils.
It is easy to be intimidated by the amazing blogs that there are out there, with people doing wonderful things with Web 2.0 tools and ICT in general, but I have decided that this should not deter me, and I am going to chat about some of the tools that I have only recently discovered, even if others have been using them for years!

Thursday 11 September 2008

Whiteboard Challenge Task 2

So I finally got to teach the lesson I prepared at the start of the week.. I decided to incorporate the use of sound files that I had learnt in Task 1 with the Infinite Cloning of Task 2. We are learning about 'En el colegio' and had previously learnt how to name the various subjects in Spanish. Today we revised the subjects , and learnt how to give opinions and reasons. We then did a listening activity, whereby the pupils listened to a series of statements I had recorded using Audacity. They then had to come up to the board and drag the appropriate symbols to reflect what had been said e.g. 'Me gusta el inglés porque es fácil' ('I like English because it is easy') Infinite cloning made the task easier for me in terms of making the flipchart, as the pupils had to use the opinions and reasons vocabulary more than once, so we used it as a 'Drag and drop' facility. I can see how I will use both these tools frequently in the production of flipcharts, although I am interested to see how others make different use of the Infinite Cloning tool

Wednesday 10 September 2008

when technology lets you down..

I have been trying in vain all week to complete Task 2 of the Whiteboard Challenge, but fate has been conspiring against me. The interactivity failed one lesson, then there was a fire drill and finally the cable from my data projector finally gave up the ghost! Overuse, I say.. Anyway, I am determined to complete it this week.
On a more positive note, we have accomplished a lot over the last week or so, in terms of Specialist School meetings with our community partners. Some of the primary schools are very excited at the propect of more collaboration, which is encouraging. If only we had time to carry out all the ideas we have had, we would be amazing ha ha!

Wednesday 3 September 2008


Well, classes are well and truely started so I decided it was time to meet the Whiteboard Challenge head-on, and tackle Task 1, which involved using sound on the IWB. This toned in well with recent posts on the forum I belong to,, about recording and the Modern Languages classroom.
I decided to target my new Lower 6 class, for a variety of reasons, not least because I have taught them for so many years now, that if it all went pear-shaped, at least we could have a good laugh about it! Also, it can be hard to use technology efficiently at this level. Here's what I did..

This was only my second lesson with Lower 6 this year, and we had just started with descriptions the previous day. I selected 12 celebrities, and I used the software to record a series of descriptions, both physical and otherwise, about 6 of the celebrities. The pupils had to listen to the descriptions, and select the appropriate person from the list of 12 each time. After we had checked the answers, the pupils then worked in small groups to write descriptions about the remaining 6 celebrities. For homework for next week, pupils have to prepare a presentation about someone they admire. They can either hand this in in written form, or record themselves using their mobiles and save it in LearningNI (virtual learning environment in Northern Ireland).
Now for the technical bit.. and as it is wont to do, the technology played me up a bit when I needed it, in that the internet was so slow, it took me about an hour to view Jess' video about the first task. Howver it was definitely worth it, as I then found it easy to follow her instructions about using Audacity with IWB software. We use Activstudio 3 in school, and it was very straightforward to record my own voice reading the descriptions, using only the inbuilt microphone on my laptop, and then export the mp3 files to the Resource Library in Activstudio.
I thoroughly enjoyed this first foray into the world of voice recording, and starting from these humble beginnings, I look forward to incorporating it much more widely in the future. No more complaints about a lack of vocabulary-specific listenings!

Tuesday 19 August 2008


As I mentioned before, I had the privilege to go to Boston this summer to attend the Building Learning Communities 3 day conference, where each day there was a keynote speaker, as well as a choice of around 10 workshops for each of the sessions. It was truely amazing and I got so much out of it.

I have of course been evangelising ever since ~I got back and some people (teachers) have been asking the question "But do you really think that their teaching, using these technologies, is better?" Well, the best way I can explain it is to pull together what some of the brilliant presenters said at BLC 08.The pupils we are teaching are like no other generation we have taught before. They are digital natives, whereas we are digital immigrants. We expose them to around 60 minutes a week of ICT/Web 2.0 tools, whereas at home they can spend up to 400 minutes plus on the computer. When a pupil takes more pride in their BEBO page than their English coursework, then we need to look at the way we are teaching and communicating with our pupils. Of course, it can all seem a bit too mind-boggling to even know where to start, but for me, the key is actually starting, no matter how small..
To this end, aside from starting this blog (a pretty major aside, I guess!), I have signed up for The Whiteboard Challenge on The idea is that the Interactive Whiteboard Challenge will run for 14 weeks initially, starting on Friday August 15th. Each fortnight there will be a new task set by someone who is an experienced whiteboard user. They will present their challenge in whatever way they like - it might be a short video, a screen cast a podcast. I then need to go and use whatever they have presented in my classroom that week. Ergo, at the end of the challenge I will have 7 blog posts about mywhiteboard practice, and lots of other blog posts on similar topics available to me to read.
Despite not having pupils until Monday 1st September, I am going to give this a go, and will post on this blog how I get on.

Wednesday 13 August 2008

Wow! My own blog!

After attending an inspiring conference in Boston, Building Learning Communities 08, I decided to start a blog, amongst other things. I have no idea where I will find the time, but Ewan McIntosh, one of the brilliant keynote speakers, assured us that it was essential for our teaching!
I heard so much during the various workshops about the huge variety of Web 2.0 tools that are available to use in our classrooms that I am determined to incorporate some of them into my teaching and evaluate their success (or not, I guess) through this blog.