Sunday 31 October 2010


Sometimes it's about the low-tech stuff as much as the whistles and bells of web 2.0 and its associated benefits. Our department are all great fans of mini-whiteboards, and use them for a variety of activities.
  • Put the pupils into groups, each with a mini-whiteboard, then say a sentence in English. The first group to all write it out correctly gets the point. It will amaze you how long it takes them to all have the same thing written on their whiteboards
  • Do the same activity on an individual basis - possibly better for A level pupils
  • Practise verb conjugations, adjectival agreement, whatever grammar point you wish to reinforce
  • For vocabulary practice, say the word in the TL and the pupils need to draw something which represents the word
  • To practise numbers, call out a sum and the pupils write down the answer
  • Use the mini-whiteboards in carousel activities for Hangman or Pictionary
  • If you can afford it, invest in class sets of magnetic letters, and use them with magnetic mini-whiteboards - most of the games above can be played with the magnetic letters

In terms of practicalities, I would do the following:

  • ensure that you have enough mini-whiteboards for at least one between two
  • invest in a class set of whiteboard markers
  • Get board erasers. A cheaper version is to cut up sponges or dishcloths.
  • set ground rules, such as no writing messages to each other, or silly answers. Be firm the first few times, and they will soon learn that one moment's attention from the class is not worth doing exercises from a text book for the rest of the activity
  • Have a box to store the boards in, and get pupils in the habit of collecting and returning them quickly and without fuss

Playing with magnetic letters, my classes and I have evolved a set of rules which work well for us:

  • letters cannot be set out in alphabetical order or in groups of the same letter
  • they can be set out according to colour (apparently this helps the brain?)
  • First 3 individuals/groups to get the answer, win the point (points equal stars for the star chart in my classes)
  • If you win one go, you sit out the next (so winners don't discourage others)

Investing in mini-whiteboards and magnetic letters was one of the best decisions I ever made, and an investment which will stand me in good stead for years to come.

Wednesday 6 October 2010


Someone posted a query this evening on the MFL Resources forum about teaching literature at A level. Here are my thoughts, for what they are worth:
I am really interested in this, as our ML dept seems to vary greatly in their approach. I tend to get the pupils to copy chapter notes into the book plus any of their own insight in advance, then spend the double period discussing the chapter in terms of why we have picked things out. I have a workbook of exercises they then do. I also give them a set of mindmap sheets, each with a topic the exam board has listed to cover, and they keep these updated with info as we meet in in the course of the novel, using colours for different types of info eg quotes.

None of this is wildly exciting, but I do do some activities such as Random Name Generator (RNG) where they need to talk or write for a minute about whatever topic/character the RNG throws up. You can also do activities such as cutting up a sheet with a lost of events and then placing said events into chronological order, or where you read a statement and they need to write the character it refers to on a mini whiteboard. With Como Agua Para Chocolate, I get the pupils to take a character each and do a MySpace page in Spanish, writing the blog as if they were the character. You can also do group work where one lies on the floor and others draw a body outline round them, then they write all the pertinent information on the shape for that character, quotes in one colour, adjectives in another, facts/events in another. Finally, tools such as Goanimate and Toondoo are useful for showing storylines and character development