Sunday 8 November 2009


ImageChef Word Mosaic -
I saw Suzi Bewell's ImageChef heart on her blog and I couldn't resist. Alex Blagona had mentioned this last week in his A-Z of ICT presentation at the London Language Show (See for the full presentation) and I was keen to try it out, so I pasted a list of vocabulary for KS3 Spanish classroom objects, to see how it looked. I can see a lot of potential in this, for introducing vocabulary, where pupils look up the vocabulary within the shape that they don't know, as well as producing revision mind maps.

Thursday 5 November 2009

FLIP lessons and mindmapping - a new approach to learning

As a Specialist Language School, the spotlight is well and truely on our results at both GCSE and A level. That, combined with a deep-rooted desire that has always been prevalent in our department to constantly self-assess and improve, has led us to re-evaluate our approach to GCSE Spanish for Form 4 and 5.

We have never relied on textbooks, but this year we have brought in elements of from our KS3 booklets, such as breaking our booklet for each year down into smaller, more manageable topic booklets, listing that topic's GCSE vocabulary list at the front and including oral questions at the back of each booklet. The pupils have already commented that they much prefer this approach.

I am now dipping into each booklet, rather than laboriously ploughing through each worksheet. By doing this, stronger pupils are left with a series of worksheets for revision, avoiding that age-old lament " I don't know what to revise for the exam", whilst weaker pupils are not put off by the sheer volume of work facing them. I also want to work more actively with the vocabulary, bringing in some ideas again from KS3, as well as ideas I am picking up from others.

To that end, I decided this week to incorporate some ideas that I had heard at the London Language Show 09. We had already targeted some pupils in Form 5 who would benefit from smaller class numbers on occasion, and decided to split the two classes which run simultaneously into one larger and one smaller group once a week. The smaller group, of around 10, would look at approaches to grammar, writing and oral work in an environment which should encourage support and requests for help. The larger group will therefore work with me on a weekly basis, as well as a group of mentors, formed by 4 Upper Sixth pupils and 2 undergraduate past pupils who are volunteering in the school once a week. We are very fortunate to have access to a new laptop room, with 48 wireless laptops, and this has been booked for the purpose.

Listening to Chris Harte's excellent presentation at the Language Show, I discovered that he already had a name for the idea I was toying with, although he has taken it much further and with an integrated approach throughout the school. Read more at

My idea, strengthened by the inspiration Chris has provided me with, is that the learning is turned back to the student. ~They identify strengths and target weaknesses / areas for improvement. They can use the lesson to catch up with work they have missed through absence, go over something they didn't understand, focus on grammar, work their way throughRichard Hamilton's vocabulary drills, use some of the many online interactive websites available to them, record themselves using our new digital voice recorders, etc. Pupils will be encouraged to sign up for workshops on grammar, as well as work on an individual basis with the mentors on their pronunciation and oral answers.

The first lesson took place this week, and there was a surprising lack of chaos, given the large numbers in the room; 38 pupils, 6 mentors and myself. I had presented the idea to the pupils using a powerpoint presentation the day before, and they had taken the time to fill in a FLIP sheet detailing strengths, actions and success criteria. This definitely helped the flow of the lesson, and pupils settled quickly to work.

Lessons to draw from Day 1 would be that whilst we want to empower the pupils with choosing their own learning, I think that I will give some gentle encouragement to use the mentors more - pupils were reluctant to come and speak on a one-to-one basis, yet this obviously would greatly benefit their spoken Spanish and confidence levels in the long-term.

The second thing I did differently this week was to get my three KS4 classes to produce mindmaps of their topics (Region and Leisure) in advance of getting access to the vocabulary lists. I had really enjoyed Tony Buzan's talk at the Language Show, and was determined to start looking at language learning and memory. I asked them to produce separate mindmaps; for Region, they looked at geographical vocabulary, places, adjectives and opinions. For Leisure, they produced them for sports, pastimes and associated verbs. Pupils in all three classes really enjoyed the lesson, although the weaker class struggled more to put the vocabulary down on paper initially. It was a really beneficial exercise and one I will definitely repeat.

I look forward to continuing on this path, and to see how this impacts on the pupils and their progress in Spanish.

Wednesday 4 November 2009

MFL Flashmeeting 4

Well, here we are with the fourth MFL flashmeeting under our belts, and what a meeting of minds it was. Many 'old' friends were there, as well as some intrepid new souls who were warmly welcomed. Esther Hardman chaired the meeting and a variety of topics were covered.
Of course, first on the agenda was the London Languages Show which took place from Friday 30th October to Sunday 1st November, with a Show and Tell event on the Saturday night. This was the first year that I had attended the event, and I was truely impressed by the seminars on offer to me as an MFL teacher. I intend to blog about the sessions that inspired me over the next few weeks, but it was great to have an opportunity to discuss all that I had seen on Monday night, with others who had been there as well as with others who hadn't made it and were keen to learn more.
It was an excellent meeting, with the two hours quickly filled with animated discussion and simultaneous speed typing. The full flashmeeting can be viewed at

Tuesday 27 October 2009

Fun & Games in MFL

Check out my SlideShare Presentation of my talk to the PGCE students:


I was invited to speak to the MFL PGCE students at Queen's yesterday on the topic of games in MFL. In a department genuinely addicted to playing games to enhance motivation and improve learning, this was a fairly easy and straightforward task for me. As I started the talk, I thought back to sitting in those same seats, and how much I have learnt and progressed since then.
The list of games we play at Grosvenor is long and varied, and I intend to upload the powerpoint to share with others, but once again, this was an enjoyable experience in my teaching career, as well as a useful self-assessment exercise.

Thursday 1 October 2009


Well, we had our third MFL flashmeeting last Monday and whilst I participated less, with a blinder of a headache, it was still a stimulating and enjoyable experience, as well as being extremely benficial for my teaching.

Flashmeetings serve to remind me how much I have come to rely on the support of my online friends whom I have met through Twitter primarily, as well as at Joe Dale's IOW conference. They are a constant source of support and inspiration, and this flashmeeting was no exception.

The two areas I have decided to focus on, arising out of the meeting, are Spanish phonics and Edmodo. I still have a lot of work to do in terms of phonics and pronunciation, but José Picardo has inspired me to set up an account on Edmodo ( I have created course areas for each of my classes and have already posted some polls in Spanish and set some assignments.

When I was showing the setup page to the pupils, many commented on its similarity to Facebook, and the trendy look of the site. Several have already posted comments and queries on their course area.

I look forward to using Edmodo and will post soon on the progress we are making.

Wednesday 24 June 2009

Guest posting and my year of web 2.0

I was genuinely flattered to be asked by Ken Royal to be a guest author for his blog, although I asked him what he felt I had to offer as I really feel like a complete novice at this whole malarkey! It is true that I have a great enthusiasm for all that I use in my classroom, but I would never profess to be any kind of expert. I work on the theory that if I want to do something, it is surely possible, so it is just a matter of working out how So I settled down to it, and here is my post for Ken's site.

Today I led a whole-day event on ICT & MFL teaching and learning, which included my own department as well as 12 members of staff from several other schools. I have never led such an event before and therefore wanted to keep the numbers manageable.
Why did I even want to run such an event? Believe me, I was asking myself the same question last night, as I prepared the last of the handouts. But yet I am so glad that I did, for it has benefited me as well hopefully as those who attended. As teachers, we are told that we should be reflective practitioners, and yet it is rare that we have time to take stock and really evaluate what we have learnt over a given period of time. The aim of running this day was to show people some of the new stuff I have learnt over the past year, and let them have a go too. It was only when I started to map out the agenda that I realised just how much I have learnt since last July, when I had the extreme good fortune to be sent to BLC 08, in Boston. The November Learning conference was mind-blowing and I came home enthused, armed with a list of of sites to visit and web 2.0 tools to check out.
I followed the instructions of David Truss ( and Ewan McIntosh ( who both said that if we did nothing else, we should start a blog when we went home. This I did, with my "Languages and Learning" blog at I also joined Twitter, although I found it a lonely and pointless activity initially. I now find it to be one of my main sources of CPD (Continuing Professional Development) and also a place where people are generous with their praise and genuine in their concern.
A visit to the Isle of Wight for a languages and ICT conference, organised by the amazing Joe Dale (, added to my enthusiasm, and as I approach the end of this academic year, I have created a wiki for my pupils ( and also dabbled with Audacity, Goanimate, Voki, ToonDoo, Animoto and Voice Thread, amongst others.Today I ran workshops on all of these as well as an overview of blogging, Twitter and Diigo.
The format seemed to work well, with a very hands-on approach by the participants, and a vast quantity of helpsheets to take home. They were amazed that I did none of this before last summer, ut in a way, I think that reassured them. I do not profess to be an expert at any of these, yet I find my approach to teaching re-energised and my pupils highly motivated. I too have much to learn, and it is a true pleasure to show others all that this brave 2.0 world has to offer us.

Sunday 21 June 2009

MFL Flashmeeting

I cannot believe that I have not posted since the Flashmeeting, and apologies for not blogging about the meeting itself. It was amazing and a fabulous experience, and I am so glad that I took the plunge. I was very nervous beforehand yet once it started, I really enjoyed it. A few technical difficulties arose as I tried to log in, and I fear that I need to read my instruction book for the webcam, as I was in extreme closeup with no idea how to fix it, but otherwise I thoroughly enjoyed it.
The format is brilliant, although it took me a while to get used to listening to whoever was speaking whilst reading the comments at the bottom, and I had a headache after, from concentrating for so long on both!
The ideas were great and it was good to hear people explain things, pulling up websites for us as they talked. I contributed, although I don't know if what I said made much sense and I look forward to the next one. Joe Dale blogged about the flashmeeting with lots of notes, on, whilst Isabelle Jones is promoting the next one on Sign up here

Sunday 3 May 2009


My Twitter friends and I were 'chatting' last week and someone asked about Flashmeetings. Quite a few of us were in the dark and so those kind souls who are experienced in these things have set up a flashmeeting for us tomorrow night, Monday 4th MAy 2009 at 9pm. Yes, I know it's a bank holiday and we have school the next day but who cares? This is a first and I am very excited..
Well yes, actually I'm a little scared and freaked out too, but I guess that's part of the learning curve and it does me no harm to experience emotions similar to those my pupils must experience, and much more frequently. My head is buzzing with questions:
Have I book-marked the site? Check -
Do I have the necessary equipment? Check - bought fancy webcam with mic yesterday (much fancier than I probably need, but any excuse for a bit of retail therapy, even teaching-related)
Do I have the right software? Check - webcam installed and Flash downloaded thanks to @joedale
Do I know what I'm doing? No, but sure that's exactly why we are doing it!
Will i brush my hair and touch up my lippy at 8.55pm? Check and see!

Thursday 23 April 2009


A colleague came up with this brilliant idea, and I have been quick to adopt it. Pupils are put into pairs, and sit at tables numbered 1-11. One is the questioner, and the other answers. Each questioner has a set of conversation questions for their forthcomign GCSE, as well as a feedback sheet with columns for name, number of questions asked, comments and score.
Today my Fifth Year and I had a go at 'Multicitas'. They did rounds of 90 seconds, and I rang the bell each time to move the answerer on to their next 'date'. Halfway through the lesson, the questioners and answerers changed roles.
In feedback at the end, using the attached feedback sheet, pupils were quick to realise that the less questions you were asked the better you were at expanding. They were really generous in their praise of each other, and were the most engaged I have ever seen them.
As much as I love using all kinds of Web 2.0 tools, it is nice to remember that good old-fashioned oral communication is sometimes best of all.

Sunday 5 April 2009

Friday 20 March 2009

Creating a buzz

Pupils in various year groups have been using ICT in a variety of ways over the course of this year, and there is definitely a bit of a buzz about the place. They have been given the option for several homeworks of choosing to create a Voki, Toondoo, Goanimate or voice recording. Some of the results can be seen at, on the various class pages, as well as the Voki page.
What are the benefits to the pupil and to me? Well, there is the enjoyment factor, which can never be overrated, in my opinion. Pupils are enthused and are charging off home to do homeworks which they then email to me or embed directly into the wiki. Many of these homeworks come in early, and there is a definite improvement in terms of getting the homework done, and on time.. One of the great success stories of my year has to be the boy who showed an open dislike for Spanish last year yet has sent me the last two homeworks (created on Goanimate) early, and is visibly more relaxed in class.
The latest ICT project has been through the Virtual Voices programme we are engaging in, with podcasting being the focus of the Spanish department. In Second and Third Year (ages 12-14) pupils have been working in pairs or threes to create podcasts at the cafe, with an accompanying worksheet. Form 4 have recorded dialogues 'At the tourist information office' and again, have made worksheets to go with them. In all three year groups, we have then gone to the computer room for a period and worked individually listening to the various podcasts and doing the associated worksheet. Pupils have been engaged both at the creation stage and in the final process, which is a form of peer evaluation.
I am delighted with the efforts that have been made, both recording and creating the worksheet. The benfits are that every pupil has their turn in the spotlight without the pressure of performing tlive to their peers, and they are much more focused on pronunciation and grammar than they would be ordinarily.

Tuesday 10 March 2009

40 Ict Ideas In 40 Minutes

Check out this SlideShare Presentation:

Tuesday 24 February 2009

PGCE Presentation

Today I had the privilege of doing a presentation about blogging and social networking, with some extras such as the MFL Resources forum and diigo, to a group of MFL PGCE students. It doesn't seem like all that long ago that I was in the very same room and about to go out on my second placement, although it also seems like a lifetime ago, when I stop and think about all that I have experienced since then. Not only in terms of the wonderful schools that I have taught in, but also re how much my teaching has evolved over the years. I look back and wonder at all that I do now compared to what I did then. And yet at the time, you were still forward-thinking and innovative.
In particular, my teaching and the pupils' learning has moved on rapidly in this academic year. Yes, there is still room for 'chalk and talk' and getting back to basics, but it is the combination of that with the web 2.0 tools that I adore that makes it such a pleasure to be a teacher.

Tuesday 10 February 2009


We had a staff training day today, and I came away with two definite visions of how we are going to take podcasting forward in our department.
Firstly we are going to use podcasting with Form 2 (aged 12-13) to create role plays with a partner 'En el café'. With the new reporting coming in at Key Stage 3, pupils be assessed on Communication, Maths and ICT spread over a variety of subjects. Spanish is being used to assess Form 2 (Year 9 in Northern Ireland) in ICT. To that end, we are keen to introduce a variety of Common Assessment Tasks (CATs)over the course of Second Year Spanish, including Goanimate and podcasting.
Secondly, a meeting today with outside agents sees us signed up to an initiative in MFL and ICT, whereby we do tasks with pupils, reflecting on each stage, and evaluate at the end. Again, podcasting is the area I have chosen to focus on. I had already set my Lower 6 the task of creating revision podcasts, each taking a different grammatical point. They can also work in pairs, but must then cover two topics. I now intend to get them to also create podcasts for KS3 and KS4, in terms of vocabulary, grammar and study skills.
Let's see how we get on..

Tuesday 3 February 2009


First play!

Thursday 15 January 2009

Self help guides

After a mixed bag of results in the Christmas exams, my first year Spanish class and I sat down to look at where some of them went wrong, and how they could learn from their mistakes. They ended up making some excellent contributions and we compiled a series of advice sheets which 3 pupils then typed up and we posted them to our wiki,
I enjoyed the input from the pupils, and the fact that they were so keen to learn from their mistakes and improve. What started as a sponatneous feedback of the exam papers, ended up as a very worthwhile exercise and a perfect example of the Revised Curriculum in action!

Sunday 11 January 2009


Blogging about Adam Sutcliffe made me think back to Bob Sprankle who first introduced me to the idea of doing my own podcasts in the summer, with his website Bob has a lot of practical advice to give, and I have summarised it below:
• Podcast = living portfolio, archived, shows growth over time, available 24
• VERY Revised Curriculum with peer evaluation, group work and it's real life!
• Subscribe to podcasts you like through itunes rather than the sound file on a website
• Use the microphone on your laptop or mobile - you don't need fancy equipment.
• Use a blog to leave comments and engage your pupils.
• Set questions, which the pupils answer through the podcast
• Communication to parents
• Pupils become Global citizens/learners
• Constantly reflecting with larger community
• Self-directed learners
• Ask questions e.g. “How are you self-directed learners when you podcast?”
Reflecting on learning
• Who should be working hardest in your classroom? Reward students who really own the work/outcomes. Democratise your classroom - give power to the pupils!


I have been toying with the idea of podcasting for a while but as yet had not done anything. Then came the push I needed through the MFL Resources forum, with a post by the fabulous Adam Sutcliffe. He has created a series of videos on podcasting for the Learning and Teaching Scotland site For those of you who are unfamiliar with this site, it is an excellent site full of great ideas for enriching the curriculum and your teaching.
Adam's videos talk about the reasons behind podcasting, as well as giving specific advice and practical help.
The most helpful section for me was the video on ideas and practical examples for podcasting. Here they are listed below:
Vocabulary lists
Verb drills
Pronunciation practice
Grammar explanations , whereby you get pupils to produce explanations of the grammar point in their own words
Songs & poems created by the pupils
Exam practice – record model questions (& answers) or even an actual exam
Guided tour – use a site for text to speech such as for pupil scripts
Radio show on a topic pupils are studying e.g. Leisure
Conversations with/by FLA
School news in the target language
Cross-curricular collaboration

With the suggestions made in "Podcasting 3 - Ideas and examples" I now have the inspiration I needed, so off to Audacity I go. I will keep you updated with mine and pupils' creations.

Friday 2 January 2009



David's talk included how you should consider the following when you have a blog:
• Leadership
• Audience
• Podcasts
• Learning
• Blogrules – what pupils are expected to do
• Web 2.Oh yeah – students sharing ideas and thoughts with the teacher coming in. Bear in mind that the teacher intervening in a dialogue can sometimes stop conversation, but that they should be there to ask a question in order to steer the dialogue in the right direction, or to intervene if necessary

What did David learn in the first year or so of having his blog? He made the blog a private and sheltered environment. He created Wikispaces –, where the kids like to see cluster maps of visitors from around the world.

If we consider Bloom’s taxonomy, whereby
Higher order 6 Create
5 Evaluate
4 Analyse
3 Apply
2 Understand
Lower order 1 Remember
then using a blog and a wiki are excelllent tools for creation and experiment by the pupils.

Other ideas to arise out of David's excellent talk included:
• One pupil’s idea may trigger someone else’s e.g. blogging about science experiments
• Eduspaces – forum for social networking for teachers
• TakingITGlobal – online community for youth to get involved in local and global community
• Encourage contributors – check profile. Allow them to do assignment on paper if they want

Why blog? It is where we do most of our learning, connect with other educators, challenge ourselves to improve and link with other people

It is BLC 08 and in particular these 2 talks by Ewan McIntosh and David Truss, that I credit with the creation of this blog and my Spanish wiki
Here's to connecting with others and pushing ourselves further in 2009!


It was my privilege to attend the Building Learning Communities 08 conference in Boston this past summer. My New Year's Resolution (amongst others) is to blog about my experiences there. I start with the first keynote address to the whole conference..

Ewan's blog can be found at His talk included references to Twitter,, Flickr and Facebook, of which the only one I had experience was the latter.

Why should we use web 2.0 tools? Ewan stated that in the UK, kids spend 60 mins/week in school on computers, and 400 mins/week at home on their computer. When a pupil takes more pride in setting up their Bebo page than in doing their coursework, we need to take a look at how we are teaching these pupils. What we do with technology is key in the classroom. Of course, we can try to move forward, for example by setting up a school blog. The problem with setting up a blog in school is that their Bebo page more important to them. It causes them no stress, there are no deadlines, and they are publishing to and interacting with a large group of friends. We also need to look at the use of mobile phones in the classroom as the way forward for the future.

What did I take away from Ewan's talk? We need to have a “shared awareness” i.e. seeing things the same way as our pupils. Use the interests, knowledge and skills that they have to engage them and advance learning.