Saturday 5 November 2011

The inaugural ICT and Languages Conference held in Southampton last February was easily one of the highlights of my year. There were so many facets to this, it is hard to explain.
It was difficult to choose which sessions to go to, there were so many choices, although many people blogged about the event which made it easier to find out about sessions you missed.Here is my blogpost. There was also a live Twitterstream with the #ililc hashtag which made it easy to see what was happening.
Aside from the vast amount of new information I learnt, the social side was a joyous bonus. Many delegates stayed in the same hotel, so the networking happened from the pre-event dinner on the Friday night, through the breakfasts and also with the all-important Show and Tell on the Saturday night.

I left ililc last year enthused, brimming over with ideas and notes on new resources, and buzzing with the feelgood factor of making new friends as well as meeting old ones, and with a desire to do it all over again. In fact, those feelings are flooding back just blogging about it now.

And so, it is happening. This year the plenary speakers will be Joe Dale and José Picardo and the workshop speakers are: Annalise Adam, Wendy Adeniji, Alex Blagona, Vanessa Burns, Joe Dale, Catherine Elliott, Stuart Gorse, Esther Hardman, Isabelle Jones, Helen Myers, Carole Nicoll, Juliet Park, Bertram Richter, Jo Rhys-Jones, Clare Seccombe, Lisa Stevens, Jenny Turner, Sara Vaughan and myself.

The great news is that the deadline for the Early Bird rate has been extended until 11th November. Register now for a place at

Wednesday 26 October 2011

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. ~William A. Ward

The title of this blogpost is a small nod of recognition once again to the wonderfully generous spirit that is Rachel Hawkes Today Form 4 and I had a brilliant lesson and the resources were all directly adapted from Rachel's many powerpoints available on her website.

We started with the "What's the question?" slide, after going through all the Spanish question words. This is an area which I think we often neglect as language teachers, focusing instead on the answers. It makes sense to ensure that pupils not only are familiar with question words but are comfortable using them.

This game is so simple yet brilliant for learning vocabulary. Pupils work in pairs, each with a sheet. They choose their options secretly then take it in turns to try to guess the options their partner has chosen. If they guess right, they continue. IF they get it wrong, play passes to their partner, and they must start at the beginning again.

As suggested by Rachel, pupils used post-its to write down as much vocabulary as possible on the chosen topic for 2 minutes and then swapped with a partner to see if they could add any in a different colour. They then had 1 minute to memorise as many words as possible from their list before sticking the post-it to the back of their chair and taking 1 minute to write down as much vocabulary as possible. This was a brilliant way of showing pupils how much they knew as well as working on developing memory skills.

We used this slide to ask questions in advance of viewing the next slide with the photo, again useful if only to get pupils comfortable asking questions in Spanish.

We finished with this slide, where pupils again worked in pairs, one speaking and the other listening. This activity is called 'Spend the words' with the idea that the speaker is focused on raising the level of Spanish spoken, as pupils hand over the words/phrases as they use them, ideally ending with none left.
This was a brilliant lesson, with lots of spontaneous Spanish being spoken, and a real buzz of enthusiasm for the tasks. And the best thing is, there's plenty left...


I know that there is a danger of me sounding like a sponsor, but since @bellaale talked about Triptico at the Show and Tell event at Cramlington Learning Village in September, I have been using it a lot in class, and thought I would share some of the ideas I have used.

The tiresome bit is typing up the class names, but once this is done, you can save the lists to load time and again.
Self-explanatory and worth its weight in gold in terms of focusing the class. This week, if working in groups, I have told them to appoint a time monitor to keep half an eye on the timer
Pupils love the novelty of the sound and visual aspect of this tool which allows you to choose the number of groups and also to remove any pupils who are absent from the list
This is a simple yet effective tool which adds a whole new level of competitiveness to group work
I use this for many different things
- when a group wins a task, they spin to see how many ballot tickets they have won, for the prize draw at Christmas
- I put irregular verbs on the spinner, and the pupils then had to write the 6 parts of the verb out on the mini whiteboards
- Put 6 different topics for AS Spanish and they talk for 1 minute on the topic, optionally recording themselves on the digital voice recorders
- For A2 literature, the six main characters are on the spinner, and pupils will talk to their partner for 1 minute about the selected character
I used this to great effect with both Form 3 and Upper 6 this week. Use the group selector to sort the class into groups, then open the Random Task Generator with tasks you have typed up before the lesson, setting how many groups you want. Once each group has finished one task, they come up and click the board to see what the next task is. All classes were totally focused and worked with energy and independently for the whole lesson.
Pupils had to select the ten irregular verbs, from a total of 15, similar to the TV programme Total Wipeout
Like 'Deal or no deal', this will appeal to the pupils although it does take a little more time to prepare
This is just a selection of the tools available, and doubtless you can think of many many other ways to use them. If so, please share.

Tuesday 11 October 2011


Those who know me know just how important Twitter is in my teaching life. The MFL Twitterati are always on hand to share advice and resources, and last night was no exception.
This year, our department is trying to use more 'real' resources and trying to encourage higher order thinking and more active learning. We all, pupils and staff alike, are enjoying it immensely but the preparation required is intense. I tweeted to ask if anyone had any kind of 'thinking skills' activity for KS4 jobs and @zaragozalass kindly obliged with an activity she had made using the maths software Formulator Tarsia
We started the lesson by recalling as many jobs as possible in Spanish. I then split the class into groups of 3 or 4 and gave them the sheets and scissors. They merrily cut the mini triangles out before settling quickly to the task at hand ie building a large triangle where touching sides linked information eg 'I like science and animals' linked to 'I want to be a vet'
I was amazed with how engaged the pupils were with this task, and how focused they remained, even when other groups had finished. This is definitely one idea I will be repeating.
NB you can download Marie's worksheets here entitled 'El mundo de trabajo'triangle puzzle.

Sunday 9 October 2011


Thought I'd do a very quick blogpost just to share some recent websites wih you: This section of the website has lots of videos of Spanish people living in different parts of the world This site is bright and eyecatching to look at and has some very impressive resources to download This site has over 20 interactive tools which are quick and easy to use This is an excellent blog, and this article is of particular interest to those who heard Chris Harte speak at Language World


Friday 30 September 2011


Alex (finally) decided to talk to us about a trio of tool He started with ClassDojo for rewarding pupils in real time, which he feels has increased engagement dramatically. Teachers create a class, with each pupil getting an individual avatar. There are awards for participation,creativity etc. The sanctions not really used as the positive are so good. You can also edit the positive and negative rewards. There is an end of class button for collective performance, with the possibility of a % performance download as pdf, and send to the form teacher, parents etc. There are Apps forms for Apple and Android phones. Alex suggests you make it a peer assessment tool as the next step.

The next tool, Lingro, turns any webpage into clickable dictionary resource. You simply paste the link into the box, choose thelanguage, then you go to the website and hover on the word.
Finally Triptico is a suite of tools for use in the language classroom eg word magnets, class timer, random group creator – you put the names in, it creates the groups, with scoreboards showing the results of up to 4 teams . Another option is answer boards, whereby pupils guess the question.

This was a brilliant session and the perfect way to end the perfect day.

#MFLSAT RENÉ KOGLBAUER Social Networks in MFL teaching

René talked to us about the use of social networks such as Facebook with pupils in the language classroom. The aim of the project was to improve boys’ writing. Initially email was used to exchange work and to create a dialogue for AfL.German Groups were then set up and used for feedback by staff and students on texts. Unfortunately Facebook was banned in school and the project had to end. It will be interesting to see how schools and education authorities approach the issue of social networking in the forthcoming months and years.

#MFLSAT ISABELLE JONES BY SKYPE Creative Partnerships with Art and Music

Unfortunately Isabelle was unable to join us in person but she was still keen to participate and joined us via Skype. She talked to us about a project she had done to enthuse and engage boys in her class who were anti-French. They brought a graffiti artist in to help the pupils create a 3 panel mural. In terms of the music, they worked on cognates, for the rap. Isabelle played us a snippet of a rap the pupils produced, which was very impressive.
Isabelle said that this project was great for raising the profile of French in collaboration with other departments. She pointed out that there could be other departments who want to collaborate, and we just don’t know it yet.

#MFLSAT SUZI BEWELL Speaking for homework in MFL using

Suzie Bewell talked about focusing on oral skills using Vocaroo offers the possibilty of creating audio recordings without having to log on or install software on your computer. Once the pupil has recorded, they should select the 'Send to my friend' option to email their teacher,then the teacher clicks on the link to go to the website. At this stage, the teacher can save it as a wav file (option at the bottom of the page)
Suzie also highlighted the site to record video in a similar way.
With such time pressure in the language classroom, anything which allows the pupils to record themselves speaking has to be a bonus, and something I look forward to trialling in the coming months.

#MFLSAT JOE DALE Exploring the educational potential of QR codes

Joe talked about using QR codes for language teaching. He started with a definition of QR codes, which can be scanned with a mobile device to get a link to an URL, video, audio files, texts or google forms, amongst others Joe suggested that Google form can be used as a form of questionnaire.
In order to use QR codes, first of all you need a QR code maker such as Sparqcode. The excellent Russel Tarr has created a QR treasure hunt generator, where the website creates the code immediately
Once you have created your QR codes, pupils will need a QR code reader such as i-nigma

In terms of other uses, Joe directed us to Dr Sarah Elaine Eaton who has written a blogpost with accompanying manual and webinar training on "How to Use Google Forms: A Step-b-Step Guide" Also, Kath Holton has used QR codes successfully with her pupils to play Zondle games. Some teachers have used a QR poster to display the results of favourite websites, others have used QR codes for marking homeworks, where kids write the homework and get it marked and then it is uploaded to blog. At this stage, the QR code of the blogpost stuck into the exercise book.

It remains to be seen whether QR codes are a flash in the pan, or the way forward in education. I personally am excited at the potential but schools will need to reevaluate their internet and phone use policies if we are to use them to their full potential.


Alex’s talk was inspired by teaching a somewhat unmotivated class. He decided to get them to ask themselves “What do I need to do to get better at French?” He took the brave step of asking the pupils to judge him at the end of each lesson, in terms of what they thought. He asked them to not be personal, but to look at the teaching and learning that had taken place. They did this by completing the sentence “I thought this lesson was... “at the back of their exercise book. How was this beneficial? Well as Alex explained, he was establishing a dialogue with the pupils by writing a comment back. In this way, he personalises the kids’ experiences of lessons, actively engaging them with their own learning. It is important to give them feedback vocabulary and ideas to a certain extent at the start to guide them, rather than just saying ‘it was funny’ etc
Doing this ensures that you can differentiate lessons according to the understanding that has taken place. You can give better feedback to parents at interviews and the pupils have more ownership of their own learning. This obviously adds value to their work. This was a really enjoyable talk, and one which I think I will adopt as we review the teaching and learning within our department.


This much-anticipated slot was not a disappointment, as Dominic whizzed through a series of tools that can make our lives easier whilst enthusing the pupils.
• Wallwisher – superb for pupil voice as well as genuine language in action
• Fakebook on -a safe way of harnessing the ever-popular social media tool
• Twister Fake tweets on – an excellent resource, I could use this with younger pupils for many different topics including Daily Routine and Personalia, as well as with A level pupils whereby they take on the persona of a character from our literature text
• Random name generator / ppt - to choose names or questions in class
• Random letter sequence generator
• Wiki
• Blog
• This cleans up Youtube pages, taking links off etc. NB It only works with Chrome and Firefox
• Puppets – popular with pupils and a great way of encouraging the shyer pupils to participate
• MOM or POP – the Mug of Misery / Pot of Participation with lolly sticks to choose pupils


Terri talked about Blockbusters, and how she uses it in many different ways within the classroom. She uses it once she has introduced vocabulary, as well as to build language as pupils start to get more vocabulary and can add opinions and tenses, and was enthusiastic in her promotion of it as an excellent classroom tool.


Thomas works for the Language Resource Centre in Newcastle University and was keen to talk to us about the many resources available through the university. These include: Podcasting for language learning LOADS of videos on the site, all checked for content


Simon‘s talk was hilarious and informative – most unfair, given his own admittance of a lack of preparation, but brilliant to listen to. He started with a clip of Joey from Friends ‘speaking’ French to illustrate how what we say and what pupils hear are often two completely different things. Simon suggests that is an excellent way of getting around this, whereby pupils can record themselves and hear how they are pronouncing it. He uses the Audioboo app on his phone and immediately uploads recordings to the website.


Despite the title of her talk, Emma has made more than a few small changes to overthrow the curriculum in order to do interesting stuff. We were blown away by the variety of topics that her pupils cover in KS3, and the novel approach she has taken to some of the more traditional topics.
• Sat Nav navigation using PPT and Audacity to navigate from their house to school, rather than straightforward learning of directions
• Feedback sheet with sentence starters to help pupils articulate what they have learnt
• Cognates text (quite long)then extended writing
• Cluedo game whereby pupils keep guessing who committed the crime, with what and where, until they have the whole sentence correct
• UNICEF video derecho/reponsabilidad sentences
• What am I? Pupils create a series of sentences eg I have a long tail etc for others to guess who or what they are
• Questions before listening activity
Despite Emma’s protestations of extreme nervousness, this was a superb presentation which ties in closely to Rachel Hawkes’ ideas on teaching at KS3, and which we are trying to adopt ourselves in Grosvenor.

#MFL SAT CLAIRE SECCOMBE @valleseco Reading books in KS1 and KS2

Claire is a passionate advocate of primary languages, and this session was no different, looking at ways that you can read with primary pupils. Many of the ideas are adaptable for KS3 and above too, of course.
• Originals or translations from English
• Vamos a cazar un oso, La oruga muy hambrienta


Lynn talked to us about using Thinking Skills in the languages classroom. Examples included:
• Odd One Out – making connections between words and languages
• Am I fit? Categorise sentences for Fit/Not fit category
• Words scattered round 3 columns without headings, pupils group the words and then give categories their name
• Map from Memory – pupils build/draw the house according to the sentences
• De Bono’s hats – pupils categorise sentences as positive, negative, facts or creative
• Photo of a famous Spaniard – use facts/positive/negative/creative to describe
• Plenary – pupils draw round their hand, fill in fingers what learned in language, write the skills they have used on their palm
I am a big fan of Thinking Skills and whilst I had used some of what Lynn talked about, most of it was new, and an excellent way of getting pupils to extend their thinking and improve their learning.


I thoroughly enjoyed this presentation by Samantha, not least because it is so easily ready to be used in the classroom. She starts each lesson with the Pasar lista song, with one pupil then calling the roll and a second pupil timing them. You can then follow this up with the rest of the class:
• ¿Cuánto tiempo tardó? Creo que tardó 29 segundos
• ¿Cómo fue? Fue + adjetivos
• ¿Por qué? Fue interesante/aburrido
• ¿Quién no está? ¿Por qué? List of reasons
As Sam explained, this routine expands the pupils’ spontaneous language re opinions, whilst the benefit of routine means that they are comfortable with what is happening. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to look at other options such as the Forfeit routine, but we were left with great ideas for making the ordinary administration much more interesting and appealing to pupils.


This was an active start to the SAT, with Mark demonstrating how he uses music to lift the mood and engage pupils, as a warm-up at the start of the lesson. Mark told us that it is all about the breathing, so we should get the pupils to pull in their stomachs and open the throat. Singing engages the pupils quickly and gets their attention, as they listen to you and repeat what you say.
Mark recommended that we read “The Element How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything” by Ken Robinson. We must look at teaching a curriculum which enthuses the pupils, where they are motivated by creativity. The benefits of singing are that it builds a class community, giving pupils a sense of a shared identity and the obvious benefits of this are that pupils who are comfortable with each other are happy to participate and contribute orally to a language lesson.
Mark ended his slot with Singing Praises. He makes up gestures to accompany the words for heaping praise on pupils’ heads, eg magnífico etc and then the whole class does it adding the person’s name with gestures too. This is probably easier to demonstrate through video, so if we adopt it in class, as I intend to do, then I will post the video here.


So the long-awaited MFL Show and Tell in Cramlington Learning Village was upon us. I had said farewell to my long-suffering family the night before, arisen at 5am (yes, seriously) and arrived safely at the school thanks to @wizenedcrone.
The idea of a Show and Tell is that people sign up in advance to talk about any topic of interest to them, for a maximum of 10 minutes. This time, there was also a Genius Bar, whereby a series of people talked to smaller groups about topics such as Twitter, Dropbox, Storybird, and Solo Taxonomy. Chris Harte did a sterling job of organising the whole thing, helped by his lovely wife, and the whole day went seamlessly, from the scrumptious food (with thanks to the sponsors) to the talks and Genius Bar.
The talks can be seen here

Monday 25 July 2011


I am a big fan of Edmodo and there have been many innovations on the site of late. Many thanks to Simon Haughton who first brought my attention to Edmodo's latest feature, using badges, when he blogged about them here
I started making some badges tonight, to reward pupils either for using Spanish or for being proactive in their use and uploading of web 2.0 creations.

In a new academic year where the school as a whole is focusing on independent learning, I am interested to see where our learning leads us, and am interested to see how much the bribe of a badge will push the pupils, reluctant or proactive, along the way.

Tuesday 12 July 2011

#LW2011 Chris Fuller Creative technologies for creative contexts

Inevitably, there are talks that you would love to see, but the timetabling of the conference means that you have to make very difficult choices. Here is Chris Fuller's presentation which I so wish I could have seen:

Monday 11 July 2011

#LW2011 concluding remarks

So that's it, all the sessions I attended blogged about. I feel at a bit of a loss now - oh no, that's right, I now need to decide what to incorporate into our schemes of work, where and who with, which projects and activities should be piloted this coming academic year and which I should push to the 'slightly ambitious at the mo, so let's think about it for a while' pile. The problem is that I'm an 'everything now' kinda gal...

There has been quite a lot of chat on Twitter and the MFL Resources forum about the conference, both from delegates and those who couldn't make it. Whilst I hope that my tweets and blogposts help those who couldn't make those sessions, or couldn't come fullstop, it definitely won't be the same. The dinner was great craic, and the social gathering afterwards a personal highlight for me.

In the same way as we all felt after the #ililc conference in Southampton earlier this year, there is a definite buzz about attending these events, a joy in meeting people off the forum and especially the MFL Twitterati peeps who have become true friends over the past months and years. We revelled in meeting up again, and I felt emotionally overwrought at leaving them all again late Saturday afternoon. As I said on MFL Resources, at the risk of sounding cheesy, they gladden my heart.

I hope I don't leave anyone out, but here is a shoutout to those true friends I saw again or met for the first time - follow them on Twitter if you don't already:
@lisibo @charte @ChrisFullerisms @blagona @wizenedcrone @icpjones @joedale @mrshampson @thwartedmum @sylviaduckworth @RachelHawkes60 @zenahilton @Chapeluser @HelenMyers and to new friends @IssacGreaves @StuartThomas3(and the Oscar dude, when he gets on Twitter!)

#LW2011 Vincent Everett & Kate Shepheard-Walwyn Snow, Chocolate cake & model aeroplanes

Vincent and Kate's talk was about their departmental approach to teaching languages. I had already read many of Vincent's contributions to the MFL Resources forum with interest, so I was keen to hear what was said.

Kate started this session, talking about the following:
• Flat Stanley, the character from children's books. Take pictures of Flat Stanley around town, then send them to penpals in the TL country.
• Using the green screen, with authentic backgrounds then added to the dialogue created by pupils
• Story/Picture books

Kate talked about the tasks set being big and authentic. Pupils at their school get a copy of 'The fridge shee't, which covers basic core grammar and vocabulary for the whole year. Other ideas included:
o Being Ben sheet where Person A says phrases in English and Person B translates into TL. As demonstrated, saying the TL is fine, it is the pupil’s ability to come up with content which is problematic.
o Scribble Talk = whilst their partner talks, the other person scribbles. When they stop talking, their partner stops scribbling
o Speed Dating
o Connectives dice (example below in Spanish) where pupils roll the dice to continue the story/speaking
1 y 2 porque 3 sobre todo si
4 por ejemplo 5 entonces 6 pero

Ski Slope

This is a simple yet brilliant idea which really took off on the MFL Resources forum and on Twitter when Vincent first mentioned it. The idea is that pupils start with a very short sentence and then write increasingly longer sentences as they 'ski' down the slope
Here is an exemplar ski slope:

Add to your kit
Vincent and Kate talked about a working kit for speaking and writing in the TL, and then encouraging pupils to take it to the next level
o Speech
o Imperfect
o Other people
o I should have
• Pimp my Spanish

Main Messages
o It is not the TL that is hard, it’s thinking up what to say
o You don’t need to learn more TL, you just need to get better at using it
o You don’t need to get better, just learn to use the helpsheet less

All in all, there were loads of great ideas in this presentation, and once again, we will look at our schemes of work to see what we can incorporate where.

#LW2011 Alex Blagona and Oscar Stewart Going global – Suffolk Enrichment Project

Alex and Oscar talked about a project that has been running successfully in their school with gifted KS4 pupils. The reasons for starting the project were:
• A need to raise the profile of languages and the project that they came up with.
• Opportunity to be more creative
• Raise awareness of global issues
• Promote language uptake at A level
• Real purpose rather than the exam

So what was it?
• 50 best language students in Suffolk (from 18 different schools)
• Apply for the opportunity to take part in project
• Away from GCSE topics, develop ICT skills
• Work effectively with other pupils from other schools in small teams
• Produce a product for other learners

• Letters to schools in September
• Application letters in TL by mid-November, endorsed by their own teacher
• Twilight workshop in December, one Saturday in February and one in March
• Project finished by the end of March

o Project coordinators and 6 tutors (2 per language) as facilitators
o FLAs help
o Cost £4000 (which was recouped)
• In the first session twilight session, pupils go into their language groups
o Introduction to the actual project. Give them a free choice in terms of their final product, or a choice of topic areas
o Within their groups, pupils have to research and produce a resource for other pupils based around a global topic of their choice
o Use new language which extends their knowledge
o Be creative, imaginative and productive
o Work collaboratively

Saturday workshops
o Imperative that they have chosen their projects
o Choice and range of projects
o Guiding and not teaching the students
o Use of ICT – camcorders, laptops, etc
o Creativity /imagination vs accuracy
o Internet, dictionaries, A level textbooks
o FLAs warned not to translate all

Pupils need to have an interest and enthusiasm for the topic; they need to be keen and motivated. Possible topics include:
o Racism and discrimination
o Fashion
o Role of the media
o Recycling
o Alternative energy
o Terrorism
o Child labour
o Cyberbullying
o Newspaper articles
o Video – documentary, drama, party political broadcast, soap opera, news broadcasts
o Radio play
o Interactive ppts/prezis
o Magazines
o Fashion show
o Websites

The gap between the twilight session and workshops 1 and 2 is to allow them to communicate and make stuff if they want to.

Role of the tutors
o Support the students
o Monitor the online element between sessions
o Offer linguistic advice and guidance – Oscar explained that this can be the trickiest bit, as you need to not spoon-feed. Steer them towards topics where they can find the language themselves.

How does this help the students?
o Working with pupils of similar ability
o Above GCSE level language
o Dealing with the unknown – language and people
o Teaches deadlines, working with others, etc

Online element
o Messageboard
o Wikis
o Blogs
o Facebook group – to meet online before they meet in real life

o A large majority go on to A level
o Dual linguist uptake increased
o Raised school profile

How to run it
o In school as an enrichment project
o Locally with partner and local schools
o Potentially expensive but costs are recouped through increased numbers coming to school for A level
o PGCE students as tutors

This was a brilliant session, superbly presented in a comfortable style and in a logical manner, making it all seem very manageable as a potential project for any school. Check out Alex's blog here

#LW2011 Isabelle Jones Olympic values & intercultural understanding

Isabelle talked about how we can use the fast-approaching Olympics to infuse our language teaching with the Olympic values and SEAL (Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning)
Olympic values
o Respect – accepting people’s differences, preserve human dignity
o Excellence – always try your best. Encourage language learners to be more resilient
o Friendship – getting to know other people, other cultures
o Inspiration – looking at others to find out who you really are
o Determination – not giving up
o Equality – accepting inter-dependency
o Courage
Check out the official site As Isabelle pointed out, there are loads of cognates in the values, which is good for getting pupils to talk about complex things in the TL
• The Know your values quiz could be adapted
• Fact file – teacher or pupils could design quizzes
• Picture story – match the values with the pictures
• Match the sound to the picture, we could get them to write the sport in the TL
• Soundtrack game – pupils take on the commentator’s role
• Image bank
• Posters available in Spanish
• Link with cooking around the world website

Other ideas
• Isabelle was keen to stress that we should teach the values with creativity and challenge ourselves. We are going to do an Olympic unit and I am keen to hear what others are doing
• Look at the Olympic symbols, talk about symbolism of the rings
Motto “Plus vite, plus haut, plus fort” - use this to teach comparatives
• Design motto and poster for favourite sport.
• Describe mascots, then design own
• Numbers, countries, colours, foods, exercises
Differences: names, handwriting, food, clothes, houses, school, music, traditions
The Intercultural Understanding Toolkit for Spanish names
• Use the song “Tout le monde il est beau” by Zazie
• Whilst you point out differences, show them the similarities “We have more in common than what divides us”
• Do a handwriting lesson (preferably with the squared paper)
• Give them a list of food, get them to google image them
Clothes – match the national costume to the name of the country (numbers at end)
• Pictures of contrasting houses
• Gulliveria website about Spanish festivals
• UNICEF respect RRS scheme Right respecting scheme

Thanks to Isabelle who came up with this plethora of great ideas with regards to the Olympics, I look forward to integrating them into my teaching next year. Isabelle has loads of great ideas on her blog

#LW2011 Chris Harte Languages Reboot

I had already seen Chris Harte do the Languages: Reboot talk and previously mentioned it here but when he promised us a Jerry Maguire version, I knew it wasn't to be missed. It is nearly better second time round, when you know the content but have had time to think about it all, and even put some of it into practice. The talk can be found at Chris' blog although to hear it live is mesmerising. There was a buzz in the room. Chris is off to Australia shortly, and his gain is our loss. The only upside is that with the wonders of modern technology, there will still be the opportunity to engage with one of the most inspiring practitioners of the MFL Twitterati. I'm going to stop now before his head gets too big to fit in the plane...

#LW2011 Greg Horton Active learning and Raising achievement

This was a more active session than I had anticipated, yet I should have guessed from the title, and from what I had heard about Greg in advance. We started with PE warm ups, with instructions in the target language. Greg suggested that pupils adapt their own model and lead future warm-up sessions. He also said that he uses this at any time to re-engage pupils in a lesson eg he walks round the room and will randomly shout an instruction to anyone not paying attention.

Kagan Timed Pair Share
Greg had a slide with pictures of different coloured eyes and the Spanish beside it: Tienes los ojos.. with colours. Put the music on, pupils circulate, having agreed in advance who talks first when the music stops eg the person with the biggest right hand, highest playing card, tallest person. Another option is to either do word lists when the music stops or person B gives feedback in TL to what person A says eg A gives personal details, B repeats it back to them in the 'you' form.

Greg's approach is making a physical response a routine part of the learning in his classroom. In this sense, it ties in closely with Rachel Hawkes' approach to teaching phonics, subject pronouns and verbs. Greg talked about levels of active learning:
o Word level (fun but..)
o Sentence level (manipulation and creativity)
o Conceptual (tense and grammar)

He teaches connectives with gestures in Form 1/Year 7, early on. Anytime anyone uses one, the whole class has to do the action. If you teach with gestures then read a text, they should do the actions.

Human word chains
These are particularly effective for a starter or a plenary. Give teams pieces of paper, so that each pupil has one word. Pupils can repeat their word but not show it, and the teams have to organise themselves into a sentence which makes sense. This activity reinforces basic sentence structure. If you wish to repeat the activity in the next lesson, make pupils guardians of their word, so that they need to remember their word and where they were in the line. At a higher level, the tecaher can add detail such as "I’d like the two adjectives to sit down” Then you can have runners run down the back of the line and shout the missing word(s) out in the appropriate gap in the sentence as the remaining 'sentence' pupils shout out their word in order. To take this to a higher lecel, construct, deconstruct, adapt and extend – invite the rest of the class to be extra words or punctuation. Kids can also choose the words they want to be.
Add gestures to this activity to make it more active; eg someone acting a connective or sequencing word does windmill action. The last person needs to be punctuation, eg the full stop sits on the floor, whilst the first person stands on a chair to illustrate that they are a capital letter.

Greg teaches his pupils Subject pronouns gestures, eg ointing to himself with one hand for I, pointing with two hands in front for You plural. To add to this, he suggests you use these with We Will Rock You music, where the teacher says the word on one beat and the pupils then do the gestures. Once pupils have got this, you can mime the pronoun and the verb, adding past or future once advanced, and pupils shout out the answer.

The clock times ballet
This is done to classical music, where Greg says the time, then pupils use their arms to represent the time on the second beat. This proved quite hilarious for our group, some of whom lacked the coordination to become a prima ballerina.

All in all, this was a really really useful session in terms of practical, immediate methodology which you could do at any time with little or no preparation, but which I think will prove to have a maasive impact on learning in the classroom.

Sunday 10 July 2011


This session was led by Rachel Hawkes, Jane Driver and Sarah Schechter and gave me so many ideas, my head was buzzing.
Routes into Languages promotes universities working with schools to enthuse and encourage young people to study languages from KS3 onwards.Sarah talked about the Supporter to reporter scheme, where the university has trained up journalists for the Olympics in the 3 languages. This made me think about doing something similar but on a much smaller scale, with our own Media Studies department.

We also learnt about Student language ambassadors and Language Leader awards within Rachel and Jane's school, Comberton Village College. Pupils learn how to teach primary pupils over the course of the academic year, although you could do it with younger pupils within your own school. This is something that we are definitely going to look at within our department in Septemberm most likely with Fifth Years and Sixth Years. As Rachel pointed out, the scheme is practical, it rewards language learning, it develops general communication and leadership skills and it teaches pupils empathy, self-esteem and confidence. The pupils practise their skills in peer groups in weekly lessons, develop lessons, create resources, trialling them with peers then they teach finally. At CVC, there are 3 visits – Autumn, Spring, Summer. Pupils plan in pairs or trios for a 1 hour lesson in the primary school, divided into 3 x 20mins, each pupil teaching their own 20 minute slot.
The following are the practicalities:
o Launch assembly
o Parent letter
o Completion/submission of application form
o Selection for September
o Carousel activity for younger LLs

Foreign Language Spelling Beeo
Jane talked us through the phenomenon that is the Foreign Language Spelling Bee, with the following as the basics:
o 1 minute competition
o Stage 1- Class competition
o Stage 2- School competition
o Stage 3 Regional competition
o Stage 4 National competition

The benefits of the the spelling bee are in terms of memory, phonics, pronunciation, alphabet and awareness of articles. In terms of the actual format on the day, the pupil stands with their back to the board, where the words are displayed. The teacher says the word in English, the pupil says it in the TL and then spells it in the TL alphabet. They spell as many possible in 1 minute. CVC's ML department runs it weekly with language student leaders (Year 9 pupils). They run training sessions, help organise the event and produce and manage the website.

Language on Film/Language from Film
This film-making project is another extra-curricular activity that the staff run for pupils at CVC. Expertise is brought in from the university with a group of teachers being trained up. Pupils need to approach this task exactly as the professionals would:
o Proposal and pitch
o Pre-production
o Production
o Post production
o Exhibition
In terms of other schools adapting this, it was suggested that it could take many different formats, eg collapsed curriculum, exchange day (in one language with subtitles in other language, making it periods 1-4 then watch them after lunch), with a lower ability group. I wonder if we could tie in to the Belfast Film Festival, maybe ask the A level Media Studies pupils to mentor re the technical side. Sarah has a DVD to show how to do it all and was happy to share with all.

This was one of the most inspiring yet most exhausting sessions I attended over the course of the two days. There were so many ideas here, yet it would be difficult to run them on a large scale without the support of an organisation such as Routes into Languages. I already knew how hard-working Rachel was, but to spend time in the company of these three ladies, as I had the opportunity to do on Friday, was to be awed, inspired and a little bit overcome. I asked Jane when she ate lunch, and she laughed..

I am unsure what we will take on board, I so want to do it all, yet bear in mind that my head was already buzzing from Rachel's previous talks and how we want to change our schemes of work. And there are other changes I want to make too, from other inspirational speakers. I'll keep you posted...

Saturday 9 July 2011

#LW2011 CPD: teachers working collaboratively

The first talk I went to was by Rachel Hawkes who recently came to Belfast to deliver a highly successful training day in conjunction with NICILT. Rachel covers so much ground in her talks that it was good to hear her again so soon after the last talk and process her many great ideas again.
Through LinkedUp , Northgate High School (Vincent Everett) and Comberton Village College trialled a scheme of mixed age language learning. Amongst the many advantages, Rachel commented that adults ask higher order questions, have high literacy levels, spot links and gently prompt younger learners to the right answer.Their pronunciation is better in that they try harder. By their presence, adults send a powerful message about language learning as they are giving up their own time. In terms of ICT they are behind the pupils, generally, but they generated competition and gave excellent feedback re clarity of teaching. Given their appetite for learning, Rachel and the CVC staff observed more learning outside the classroom.

Spontaneous Talk
This is where speaking in the language classroom is unplanned, where there is no script, where the questions and answers are unknown. Whilst as teachers we may worry about scaring the pupils, the CVC pupils commented that it‘shows what we really know’, and that they can talk ‘off the top of our heads’ There are many ways to promote Spontaneous Talk, according to Rachel, including:
o question routines
o 20 questions (Have you..? Do you like..? How..? Where..? Is..?)
o What are the questions? (give pupils a ppt with a series of answers, and they suggest the questions)
o Find someone who (great for practising the familiar 'you' form)
o using Piensas que…? for any statement, where their partner has to answer
o Elaborating
o Say something else
o Pimp my language! (eg Juego al tenis – what can you do to soup it up?)
o Have I got news for you (blankfill) NB Personalising it makes it work better
Pure or impure (impure CLIL = still has the focus on the linguistic aim, language, but using new and interesting topics)
o Focus on ‘new knowledge’
o Authentic materials
o Challenging texts
o High use of TL

There are a vast quantity of resources available on Rachel's website, including her CLIL water module in Spanish, with resources from the Western Sahara. She suggests using BBC Clips which has loads of clips on different themes which you can use to make T/F and gapfills.

As always, this was an inspiring journey through ideas and resources which are immediately available to use in the language classroom. Since Rachel's talk in Belfast, we have already overhauled our KS3 Scheme of Work, but looking at her website would encourage me to go even further.



Anna Turney opened proceedings telling us of her journey; a Paralympic Alpine Ski Racer, Anna Turney, finished 6th in the Vancouver Paralympics only 4 years after becoming paralysed whilst snowboard racing.
Nick Fuller, Head of Education, LOCOG, then went on to speak about the values of the Olympics and how we can bring them into our classrooms in the runup to the London 2012 Olympics. has free resources, including opportunities for blogging, cross-curricular language use re cooking, communication, enterprise etc, information about competing teams and the pre-games training camps available.
As a department, we had already decided to include a unit on the Olympics and this gives us the impetus to gather ideas and resources, as well as Jo Rhys-Jones' brilliant site


Tsk, tsk, I have just noticed that it has been too long since I last blogged here, though I did start up a Posterous blog for our school trip to Spain However, excuses over, many blogposts coming up soon, including a flurry to match the lovely Lisa's There is nothing like a language conference for that rush of blood to your head, with all the inspirational talks, and the ultimate feel-good factor of meeting the MFL Twitterati again for blogging again.

Wednesday 18 May 2011


After hearing Chris Harte talking about Solo taxonomy at ILILC in Southampton earlier this year, , I have been trying to get pupils to think more about language, its formation and the patterns they can see.

Having already done a similar exercise with Lower 6 a while ago, I decided to experiment today with my two Primary 6 classes in the local primary school. They have been doing half an hour Spanish a week with me since Christmas.

I divided the class into pairs or groups of 3, and distributed the sheets to the pupils. After a frenzied 5 minutes of cutting, the pupils were ready to go. I told them I wanted them to group the hexagons into honeycombs by putting linking words together. The bigger the honeycomb, the more links they would have found.

It was particularly interesting to see the difference in the two classes, in terms of those who found most links. The pupils chose their groups and the majority were same sex. In one class, two groups of girls 'got it' best whilst in the second class, it was two groups of boys. Perhaps obviously, it was those who generally contribute most verbally in Spanish class who made the most links, but oleasingly the activity drew in others who have not been so vocal or engaged.

It was fascinating to see pupils with a fairly limited amount of Spanish talk through reasons for their groupings, and see connections in language. It has enthused me to start using this activity more with my own pupils.

Tuesday 17 May 2011


Today our Head of Department turned the tables on us, delivering a 10 minute slot in Japanese entirely in the target language. The lesson included a handout, IWB and miniwhiteboards, with whole class and group work included.

It proved to be a bit of a double-edged sword. On one hand, he was happy to point out that we had coped with some fairly in-depth grammar including tenses, althouhg of course we are all linguists. Yet the discussion after the 'lesson' raised some interesting points about what it must be like to be a pupil in the language classroom, especially when we use target language.

I have no Japanese, and found the whole-class intro stressful, particularly when some others appeared to know a lot or 'get it' quicker than me. I was far happier and indeed quite enjoyed the challenge when presented with key vocab and a sentence to translate.

The reaction from the department was mixed in terms of how we felt as pupils, with some really enjoying it (including those who had a little previous experience of Japanese) and others sharing my feelings of stress. We all agreed that having some knowledge of pronunciation and basic vocabulary would have aided our comprehension and learnig.

Would I like to be a pupil in my classroom? I'm not sure, actually. I think I may be one of those who prefers to take things at their own pace, and process systems and patterns for myself. But at the very least, today's experiment has reminded me of the range of emotions felt by my pupils, and to tailor my teaching accordingly.

Tuesday 19 April 2011


The end of term also saw the advent of what has now become an annual A level Spanish Immersion 'Weekend' albeit not always at the weekend. This year, 21 Grosvenor pupils, along with 3 teachers, our assistants Vicent and Cristina, our student and a past pupil all spent 2 idyllic days at the residential centre in the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum in Cultra, Holywood.


Activities included a series of workshops focusing on listening, reading and speaking, as well as activities such as Dragon's Den, a treasure hunt, a quiz, DVDs and songs. The Dragon's Den activity this year was by far the best yet, with very imaginative ideas from all groups.

Group 1

LA GUARIDA DEL DRAGÓN 1 from Amanda Salt on Vimeo.

Group 3

LA GUARIDA DEL DRAGÓN 3 from Amanda Salt on Vimeo.

Here is the winning group with their product 'Ele-fuente'

LA GUARIDA DEL DRAGÓN 4 from Amanda Salt on Vimeo.

Some new activities included a group discussion of survival items after their boat sinking in the ocean, as well as a quiz where pupils had to pair up the teachers with the unknown facts which included a diverse range of topics from an all-Ireland rower to two false teeeth!

Pupils embraced the Spanish as never before, and all staff were delighted by efforts and enthusiasm. To give up 2 days' holiday as staff was part of the job, but for pupils to do the same was a big ask, yet those who came were a joy to work with and left us all energised for what remains of the academic year as well as being a good preparation for the pupils for the looming oral examination.

Here are some photos from the residential

Monday 21 March 2011

Popplet, a new way of thinking

On his blog Box of Tricks José Picardo assured us that "Popplet is a fun and intuitive web application that allows you and your students to create galleries, mind maps and diagrams quickly an incredibly easily. I mean it. Ridiculously easily." So I thought I would put it to the test..

Signing up was extremely straightforward, with immediate access to the account and the chance to launch straight in. Today I used Popplet with Form 4 (14-15 yr olds) as a whole class activity to change holiday activities from the infinitive into the preterite tense, in advance of their Controlled Assessment.

With Form 5, I put 3 bubbles, or Popples, onto the IWB and they worked in groups to prepare vocabulary for each one, before coming together as a class to build a set of vocabulary on Media.

Popplet is very intuitive in its functions, and appealed greatly to the pupils as a revision aid for independent study, as well as a useful class tool for collating ideas and vocabulary.

Wednesday 9 March 2011


Sometimes I am guilty of feeling that if a lesson hasn't taken me a long time to prepare and doesn't involve some sort of ICT, then it couldn't possibly be a good lesson.
Today I wanted to revise some basic vocabulary in our local primary before moving on to a new topic, so I grabbed my bomb and Rhoda as I dashed out the door. GGS pupils will be familiar with both, but this was the first time that I had used either with the primary pupils. We moved the desks to the side of the room and put our chairs in a circle.
I used the bomb (from the Pass the Bomb game) to revise the numbers 1-20 as a starter. If the bomb 'exploded' they had to tell us something about themselves in Spanish. Normally at GGS it is a harsher penalty, either asking someone on a date or mooing like a cow in a neighbouring class, but P6 aren't that used to me and I feared tears!

Pupils then moved to the floor when I brought out Rhoda, my sheet with different coloured squares. Each pupil had a marker and knew which square to aim for depending on the word I said eg. numbers were pink, etc.. The golden rule was that they weren't allowed to change their mind and move their marker. We started with 3 max per square and then cut it down as more pupils were put out. As pupils were disqualified, they then became my judges.

Pupils veered between terrified and thrilled in Pass the Bomb, and they all adored Rhoda. This was a lesson with no preparation and was low tech, yet all were engaged and learning tok place. Do the sums...

Wednesday 16 February 2011

High tech, low tech, let's get them talking

Further to my earlier post about encouraging speaking, there has been a lot of talk on Twitter about @dominic_mcg's Mug of Misery to pull pupils' names out in order to answer a question on the board. Despite my prowess as a near-professional shopper, I failed to find a mug that I liked. However I did stumble upon the following: LA MALETA MANDONA (The Bossy Suitcase)

The plastic pots contain lollypop sticks with the names of pupils in the various classes I teach. I intend to use them in conjunction with the fruit machine from generating oral questions or with images in a powerpoint. Let's see how the Maleta Mandona is welcomed to Grosvenor.


Our SMT rightly believes that the some of best training comes from within, and so today we had another staff day where peers talked to groups about what is going on inside their classrooms. Why am I blogging about it? Well, the notetaking session from our Psychology teacher tied in so perfectly with all that had been said at #ililc at Southampton in terms of independent learning, teaching and honing the skills so that the content falls into place. Stephen talked about building risk-taking and creativity in KS3 so that it happens more naturally on up the school. He gave us a series of useful frameworks and handouts, but the thing that stuck with me most was his statement that pupils are most creative when they are emotionally engaged. To do this, we need to enthuse the pupils, act as Devil's advocate at times, and push them to want to learn more.
Time to bring these ideas into the classroom...

Tuesday 15 February 2011

#ililc Inspiration in a hashtag

The ability to bottle the ambience from the weekend's ICT Links into Languages conference in Southampton could have made someone a large amount of money. To say that delegates were left enthused and inspired is an understatement.

It was such a pleasure to meet some of the MFL Twitterati for the first time, and it felt like meeting old friends for many of the others. It is the curse of the Northern Irish to constantly feel inadequate, but who could fail to be humbled in the presence of the demi-gods that are Joe Dale and Rachel Hawkes? Their keynote speeches were the perfect bookends to an excellent conference.

There were several noteworthy things about the weekend. Firstly, all the delegates seemed to be singing from the same hymnsheet. Aside from Joe and Rachel, Wendy Adeniji had so many excellent ideas on how to turn language teaching and topics on their head, Clare Seccombe made me want to pass her the contents of my netbook, as well as giving us loads of excellent sites to check out, Dale Hardy's G&T talk was truely thought-provoking and from Chris Harte came the superb 'Languages:Reboot' (yes, I know this post is all superlatives, but what can you do?!) which left us ready to throw out the textbooks and the SOWs, and embrace all that is postive about spontaneous language and pupil independence. Oh, and then there was the Show and Tell, the socialising and all the injokes that have left other non-attending Twitterati a little bemused.

On a personal note, I owe Joe Dale a debt of gratitude, for without his coaxing, reassuring and general cheerleading, I would not have presented, and would have missed out on the opportunity. Yes, despite the stress and the lack of sleep worrying, it was worth it. Though note to self, 'footery' is a Norn Irish word that has no meaning for anyone not from the wee isle, and no matter how slowly I think I am speaking, there will still be those who will fail to understand me.

Returning home from such a weekend can bring you down to earth with a bump, but the power of Twitter is such that #ililc must surely still be trending. People have been tweeting lessons they have taught using ideas from the conference, as well as tweeting and teasing online acquaintances who are now considered friends.

Stealing @charte's idea from his blogpost, a whole lotta MFL Twitterati love to the following: @bootleian @chrisfullerisms @charte @bellaale @blagona @lwelsh @lisibo @icpjones @suzibewell @joedale @froggyval @reesiepie @smaguire777 @sghani @wendadeniji @mariefrance @JulietDPark @purer_ethics @kath52 @mrshampson @estherhardman and those I have missed. I only wish I wasn't a plane ride away...

Sunday 30 January 2011


AS Spanish pupils worked in pairs to practise speaking on a variety of topics. One pupil spoke for a minute whilst the other assessed them, using the bingo card. With thanks to Rachel Hawkes for the bingo card idea and the person on the MFL Resources forum for the original plenary squares powerpoint