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.