Friday 16 November 2012

PUPPET SHOW (and show and show..)

Form 1 got very excited this week. Not only did we do dialogues using puppets but we used my iPad to record it. Result! (apparently) On a serious note, using the puppets meant that the shyer pupils including those with conditions that make them reluctant to participate in the whole class scenario fully embraced the whole experience. You can view all 87 pupils (or rather their puppets) here


I have been doing a lot of reading re coaching recently , as well as my daily Twitter fix. The two met nicely this week with this blogpost as well as @fullonlearning's blogposts about Marginal Learning Gains which tied in with the concept of a 'preferred future' when coaching, whereby coachees envisage what they want their future to be like and how they will get there. I will leave it to the others to explain the detail much better than I could, but we started our journey in Grosvenor this week with my Form 5 and Upper 6 classes. We talked about the marginal gains which contributed to the huge success of the British cycling team. I was impressed how much they already knew and how attentive they were to the discussion. They then got a bicycle wheel template to fill in. Form 5 filled one in individually after a quick chat about the key areas to consider. Theirs is in preparation for their speaking controlled assessment. The idea is that by the time they leave the room at the end of the speaking exam, they will have ticked off every segment of their bicycle wheel. We talked about what they would do in class, at home, considering the mark scheme and practical things such as drinking water and stress busters.
They are going to do a general one, for their Spanish GCSE. Upper Sixth are also going to prepare their own individual wheel but as a (small) class, we decided to make a wheel similar to the King Lear one here to prepare for the literature essay. We are looking at the mark scheme and breaking down essay techniques as well as looking at other things we can do to achieve our preferred future. I'll post the completed wheel here. The exciting thing is that other teachers in school are enthused by this too and it will tie in so well if the pupils are able to connect their learning in this way.


When you have 3 sets each of Forms 1-3 with 26 pupils in each set, there is quite a lot of marking involved. And with a renewed focus on presentation in our department (yes we are quite fussy about all that) then what better way to save your nerves and your red pen, than to order yourself a customised stamper courtesy of
For those who don't speak Spanish, it says "Date, title, ruled in red" As I said, it's the little things..

Sunday 21 October 2012

The Teachmeet presentation that never was

Here was my possible presentation I prepared for Friday. I am undecided whether the gods smiled on me or not, given the week I had had. It is nearly worse sitting through the whole of a teachmeet waiting to see if the random name generator throws your name up or not!

Saturday 20 October 2012

Teachmeet Belfast 2

Last night saw the second teach meet in Belfast this year, an impressive feat given that it was also the second teachmeet ever in Northern Ireland. And for those not in the know, no, Teachmeet is not a teacher dating agency, as was suggested at one stage, but a gathering of educators and interested others wanting to share ideas that work and be inspired by others. See for more details and the presentations from the March Teachmeet, also in Stranmillis thanks to Tom Jackson of Miscrosoft Partners in Learning.

There was a certain irony that the wonderful Daithi Murray was thrown up first by the Fruit machine, given that he didn't get to speak last time, ad also given that he and Barry Corrigan are the two movers and shakers behind the whole event. Daithi talked about how his department are using the Flipped Classroom model, creating videos for pupils view at home, with deeper learning then enabled  in the classroom.  As Daithi pointed out, in this way, content delivery is enabled outside classroom which means that teachers have more time to spend one-to-one with pupils, helping them with difficulties.  The VLE Edmodo comes into its own, with pupils able to ask questions about their learning. Those pupils who struggle can watch the video as many times as they want or need to and there is more time for higher order thinking skills. Daithi's final words were reassuring:  the flipped classroom is not an all or nothing experience. This is one idea I will definitely be incorporating. 

Kierna  Corr talked about the amazing outdoor activities that the kids at her nursery do (which parent in the room didn't think "I wish my child went there"?!) whilst Heather Watson talked about Stem at KS2 using the brilliant Dublin Science Gallery.  Damian Watson did a presentation on using data effectively with students, taking into account the Department of Education report "Every School a good school" I liked the report generator  and the use of green, yellow and red in the spreadsheet to highlight strengths and weaknesses. Damian uses mail merge to produce a report to email to students
telling them what they have done well, the areas which need a little more work and topics causing difficulties. 

Barry Corrigan ended the first session with his two minute talk "Life of Pi" about drawing on the Northern Ireland curriculum's 

The Big Picture Rather than give pupils the answers, this encourages them to ask themselves "How can I make it work?" Barry uses Scratch with the pupils which works on c2k. In terms of peer assessment, pupils checked out each other's games and helped each other with issues. 

After the interval, Corinne Latham talked about her favourite apps for the iPad. Videoscribe is an app for creating videos, Glibe is a writing tool and Creative Book Builder where you make your own books and make them an iBook. Corinne also mentioned the humble voice memo as an excellent tool for giving personalised feedback. 

Next was Alex Bellars, the wonderful @bellaale of MFL Twitterati fame, joined us via the wonder of Elliminate, and talking about "Fun with a cheap visualiser" Amongst other ideas, Alex talked about using the webcam button for screen shots, doing live writing for the whole class to see and importing a screen grab to IWB.  This is such a clever idea for Assessment for learning, where you can show a pupil's work to the whole class or sharing answers produced using 'ini whiteboards in whole class or group activities. 

The charismatic and inspirational Damian McHugh was up next talking about using Voicethread with his Geography classes. Pupils comment on the photos using voice, video or text. The Voicethreads Damian shared included feedback from people living in earthquake zones and Vietnam War veterans. I loved this presentation and it filled me with enthusiasm for Voicethread all over again. 

Richard Mulcahy did a brief but brilliant talk on Movie plenaries. He put a chair in a net tent, pupisl one by one ran in, shouted one word at the camera to represent their learning and then jumped off the chair, as the next ran in. A simple yet brilliant assessment of learning and one which I fully intend to adapt for my own classroom. 

Another gifted speaker up next, Tim Manson who spoke about the 3 habits of highly effective teachers with reference to Steve Covey. Here are his key ideas:

  •    Be creative - teach each lesson in a different way , never teach the same lesson twice 
  •    We show it so it comes back at us. Model it, scaffold their thinking and response 
  •    John Tomsett - never do in the classroom what you can do when students go home
  •    Have a regular mechanism of dialogue with pupils, get feedback re activities - did they like it?
  •    Learning conversations. Listen. What can I do better? Your impulse is to defend yourself, but bite your tongue and take the feedback. 
  •    ETI reflective teacher Did I make a difference today and how do I know?
  •    Own your own professional development 
Simon McLean came up to talk about Digital storytelling, with the aim of developing narrative, thinking about the plot, and to mature their writing. Simon is a great fan of the Toontastic App, with the Story arc, where all parts of the story are visualised.  The second app was the great Rory's Story Cubes app and lastly came Comic Life for iPad. 

To finish off the evening Chynel McCrink showed us an excellent video she made with iMovie using the newscast theme about the VLE Edmodo Chynel invites parents to view their child's page, she uses the calendar to set key dates and work, the quiz to assess learning and she adds links and google docs. Whilst using Edmodo, she ends up teaching netiquette re appropriate online behaviour. 

I cannot enthuse enough about how amazing it is to come to events like these, to leave enthused and inspired by your peers. The next one in Northern Ireland is taking place in The Nerve Centre in Derry, organised by @medv2 and @dmchugh675


Wednesday 17 October 2012


So we were told last week that we would have visitors from China in school this week and so I set to work for my 3 observation lessons. The #MFLTwitterati came to the rescue as usual when I tweeted questions about bedroom descriptions, birthdays and favourite days.

With one Form 2 class (12-13 yr olds) we made up a rap for the positions and then used Triptico to sort the class into groups. The groups were given a sentence in English and all had to translate it correctly into Spanish on their individual mini whiteboards. The first two groups to get it 100% correct got a point each, again using the Triptico team score tool. At the end of the lesson, they got ballot tickets equating to the number of points they had won. These tickets go into the draw for a selection box for each class in December.
With the other Form 2 class, I used the tweets re bedrooms, which I had collated onto photocopied sheets, Each pupil had to work on their own for 5 mins with a highlighter, marking the vocabulary they knew. They then worked with their partner to exchange knowledge for 4 minutes before going to groups at their table. After these 3 stages, I then read the tweets. Pupils had to shout stop if I read a word they didn't know. There were pupils who were able to translate for others at this stage and only a few words that I had to help with. As a plenary, pupils wrote their names on post-its and stuck them to a massive arrow on the board to indicate their grasp of house and position vocabulary in Spanish.
Pupils were very taken with the tweets and were fully engaged throughout the activity which was pleasing. 

Form 1 have done greetings, numbers and names but little else. After a PPT about the days, we then looked at the tweets about favourite days which I displayed on the IWB as well as giving to the pupils to stick into their books with the reading comprehension questions.

Some pupils launched straight into the activity, others panicked at the sight of so much Spanish that they didn't know. However some reassurance and guidance re looking for cognates, plus a translation of Me gusta and off they went in groups to tackle the task before coming together to check the answers. A quick AFL quick with closed eyes and holding fingers up between 1 and 10 to indicate how proud they were of their work that period finished the lesson. 
Whilst there is part of me that despairs when I am told I am being observed, at the thought of the extra work, there is also a big part of me that enjoys the challenge of planning a detailed lesson and evaluating my own teaching and the pupil learning. These lessons allowed me to bring 'real' Spanish into the classroom and move pupils along the path of independent learning and self evaluation. 

Sunday 14 October 2012


Tomorrow I am revising names and ages with Form 1 and describing bedrooms with Form 2. Inspired by the amazing blog I tweeted two questions earlier this evening. As always, the amazing #mfltwitterati came to my rescue

I am going to use the personal details to prompt oral work with Form 1. With Form 2, I am going to do an old favourite: 4 mins to read on own, highlighting everything they know, 3 mins with a partner to discuss unknown vocabulary, 4 mins in groups at their desks then we will all come together. I will read and they shout 'para' when I come to a word they still don't know. This has worked well in the past and they love the fact that it is 'real people' who have tweeted for their Spanish class :-)

Sunday 2 September 2012

Saturday 1 September 2012


Here is the Prezi I have made for my (GCSE and) A level pupils re maximising their Spanish:

Friday 31 August 2012

Here is the Prezi I have made based on the blog from my previous post: 

Sunday 26 August 2012


I have been very fortunate to find the following blog and it has provided me with a lot of inspiration over the past months. Recent posts include First day back which inspired me to create my own Prezi, a post about cognates to enthuse pupils about how much language they can recognise already and one about learning intentions
I feel enthused and ready to hit the ground running next Monday. Thanks, Kara and Megan!

Saturday 23 June 2012


The school year in Northern Ireland ends at the end of June so our internal summer exams are long over and reports written and checked. SMT rightly tell us to keep the pupils working until the end of the year. The problem is that there are so many different trips out and activities going on with different groups of pupils that it can be hard to find activities to do that are both fun and meaningful to engage tired and oft excited pupils who are counting down the days to the long summer break. To add to this, I have picked up two classes from a colleague who has gone on maternity leave whom I have never taught before, so I am trying to learn their names too. So what to do?

Form 2 have been learning about sports and pastimes so they are off to make short video clips of themselves talking about what they like to do in their free time. I am then intending to make a Talking Wall like the one Kelda Richards tweeted and blogged about, inspiring many of the #mfltwitterati to think about how we can do the same. I am also pricing Talking Postcards to add another facet to the Talking Wall. Said wall name prompted much discussion on Twitter in terms of how to translate it into Spanish. Any ideas? La pared que habla or La pared hablante seem most popular..

 Form 3 have been learning about the Olympics so I decided to let them work on a project whereby the groups are preparing videos promoting our school Grosvenor Grammar as a possible venue for the 2020 Olympics. They have been very focused, with some off recording clips round the school including teachers saying Me gusta plus their favourite sport, whilst others were creating the logo and slogan, as well as pulling the clips together. Some are using Movie Maker and Photo Story, some have stuck to Powerpoint whilst others have favoured Animoto as there is now a facility to incorporate video clips. The projects are due in this Tuesday, and I will upload the finished videos to our and our wiki as well as playing them on the plasma screens in school.

 Form 4 produced scripts on their work experience last week. Some have chosen to record them using Audacity and upload them to our class page on Edmodo. Others have elected to record them on their phone and then email them to our blog by Tuesday. I tried to use both Vocaroo and Lingt Language but we had temporary connection issues due to the school network so I will try again in the new academic year with these two promising sites. The whole school focus for the next academic year is oracy which ties in perfectly with our departmental decision to concentrate on speaking confidence using the likes of the Group Talk strategy by Greg Horton. These projects dovetail perfectly with this. Speaking the language with confidence is what all pupils yearn to do and what can knock their confidence most so the more activities like this we do, the more they will see Spanish in action.

Friday 6 April 2012


"Learning is finding out what you already know. Doing is demonstrating that you know it. Teaching is reminding others that they know it just as well as you. You are all learners, doers, teachers" - Richard Bach

When I started to think about this blogpost, this quote jumped off the (virtual) page at me. The main aim of our 2 day residential is really to inspire our A level Spanish pupils by showing them how much they already know as well as letting them see how they can work round it if they can't think of the word.

As usual, we did a vast number of different activities this year with our group of 25 students. As well as the 3 Spanish teachers, there was our Spanish assistant from last year, Vicent, as well as two past pupils, Rachel and Jonny. We led 45 minute workshops with groups of 8 pupils. Mine featured some thinking skills activities on Eva Perón, thanks to the wonderful John Connor, as well as using the Spanish Talking Photos I found on the MFL Twitterati Spanish Dropbox and a series of plenary topic cards.

As well as the workshops, we had a series of activities aimed at encouraging the pupils to speak.We had a treasure hunt and teambuilding activities as well as watching a Spanish DVD.
This year's survival activity was to choose the top 5 items if your plane crashed in Canada.

We awarded spot prizes for the text speak activity:

By far the highlight of the immersion each year, this year's Dragon's Den style activity was to produce a toy using the resources provided:

This is the group who made a theatre

This group made a rocket

This group pitched an idea for a safari jeep

The winning group went for a car. We felt that their pitch included the most Spanish and that was what pushed the final decision

Other activities that we had planned but didn't have time for included a team building activity

as well as a language activity

I cannot stress enough the amount of enjoyment I personally get from our immersion residential. The sense of pride in seeing pupils blossom, the realisation that some are struggling and need a little more attention in class from now til study leave, the joy at seeing the change from Lower to Upper 6, no matter what the level, the sheer energy that 25 pupils gathered for a common purpose can bring to a group, and the love of a language that we share. If you are thinking about doing something similar, don't think - do it!


Of all the sessions I went to, this was the one that I thought "Boom! I can use this on Monday morning with my pupils" Jen crammed this session with loads of tips for approaching the controlled assessment tasks using the technology that is available to help improve pupil performance. It's all about developing memory and speaking skills.

 Digital voice recorders/mobile phones. Phones are better because they pretty much all have them, and headphones. Most pupils will have smartphones with Apps, but even without, they will have voice recorders. Jen's advice is that they record every marked paragraph that they do.
 Songify (iPhone) makes spoken word into song! I used this several times over the course of the following week, to show my Form class as well as my three GCSE classes and my A level pupils.
 Songsmith for Windows is a bit like Audacity, pupils speak or sing into it, then they can add sound effects, beats etc. It is free for the first 6 hours of recording.
 is great for Edexcel's picture prompt. It is free, you upload a picture, record a soundfile for the photo, share it etc
 Voicethread – all pupils record on the same picture
 Text to speech to upload their drafts to controlled assessment with It is less creative than Voki but gets them to concentrate on the language. Dragon Dictation is speech to text
 Record yourself talking. Make sure you select the right language.
 Put text in, hit go, watch it scroll, test themselves how well they know their answers if learning off by heart and see if they can go faster
 Linelearner (iPhone app) Pretend it’s a play. Use the techniques that actors use. There is not much space on the lite version, so it is probably better to buy the app
 Jen has a video file of memory tips from actors – Zena is going to put it on the blog
 Advanced flashcards. Copy and paste as much as you want. Choose the number of blanks you want, have the first letter of the words etc. Might help them develop their 40 words sheet in terms of the words they continually stumble on. It won’t save it for next time unless you save it as a website

Unfortunately I had to leave Jen's session slightly early to get ready for mine, but she has blogged about her session including the resources here

I have added her tips to our Spanish wiki here

#ILILC2 BERTRAM RICHTER “Can we put that on the blog please?” Getting students blogging

This was a really interesting session by Bertram who gave us the reasons why he decided to start blogging with his pupils first of all:
 Learning community feel
 Authentic audience
 Differentiation
 Reading and listening
 Reflection and debate
 ICT skills
 Creativity showcase
 Authentic material
 Multiple feedback loops
 Outside expertise
 Vokis have really helped with punctuation
There were a lot of interesting tips given by Bertram re blogging. He pointed out that the threaded comments tool parallels mark schemes at A level – the pupils respond to comments. Blogspot has just introduced threaded comments. In terms of choosing where to put your blog, he commented that email blogposts are easiest to manage as they are low effort and high impact.

Bertram started by publishing their work for them where ‘work’= anything embeddable eg Worldes, tagxedo, storybirds, vokis, tripline, linos. He recommends that you teach the pupils to find the embed code, thereby training them to do it themselves in the future. Other tips included setting challenges such as "First three to email it get on the blog" and having a class vote for the best three to go on the blog. Give them the criteria and use Poll anywhere for the vote. 2 stars and a wish is a routine feedback system in their school so the pupils were very comfortable with this feedback.

Bertram has a GCSE Controlled assessment blog where a checklist for AfL is a sidebar on the blog. Pupils put their year group and first name as the blogpost title. Feedback was done in class so Bertram moderated as they went.

The A level wordpress posts were posted by email. The pupils write a comment, the teacher comments, they correct and comment back. Bertram notes that there is a pride in belonging to that blogging group.

Posterous is perfect for speaking posts. The pupils use a phone, etc to record then the language assistant marks the speaking work.Bertram gets previous assistants to leave feedback too.

Bertram's summary comments were as follows:
• Start small and with your best class
• Make the most of email publishing and threaded comments
• Blog their work for them, they do the assessment
• Get parental permission – check school policy. First names only etc. School email

This was a really useful and enjoyable session. Whilst we do have a departmental blog and wiki, we are still a long way from the independence that Bertram's pupils are showing and this session inspired me to look at where we go from here.

Thursday 5 April 2012


Catherine talked us through making a stop motion animation. The benefits of making stop motion animations include a strong sense of audience, brightening up less stimulating topics and the pupils paying more attention to detail re their written language.
The main drawbacks are that it is time consuming and the frustration for pupils of the limitations of their language. Time saving resources include finger puppets from IKEA and Playmobil figures eg Playmobil in the classroom.
Technical advice included:
• Webcams – look for ones you can manipulate how you want
• Need specific stop motion animation software eg “I can animate” though you need to export it to put music in etc
• Zu 3D £30 for single user license
• Talk pupils through stuff like bringing the ‘actors’ on
• Each pic is a frame, 12 is a good speed to select
• Onionskinning is a great tool to let you see the previous frame so you can line scenes up
• Bluetack down your background
• Pupils need to think about what is happening in the background re sound as they move
• Remember the Undo button
• Sound tab on control panel as well as credits
• File - Make movie defaults to wmv

This was a hands-on session where Annalise Adams and I made a quick movie on asking directions. Our conclusion was that this was something we would foresee doing with an afterschool club rather than during classtime.

Monday 2 April 2012


Sunday morning was the night after the Show and Tell on the Saturday night (a whole post on that to follow at a later date) but the lure of Jose Picardo talking about social media in education was strong enough to see a full house at an early hour on the second day of the conference.

José started off by pointing out that the new tecnologies being used in some classrooms is comparable to reaction of society with the advent of post boxes, pencils, etc The same can be said re the use of internet and it isn’t going anywhere. Yet in this day and age, many teachers are pedagogically unconvinced of the benefits of the internet.

The first point to bear in mind is that our pupils still need to be taught how to use the technologies. Bear in mind that it is perfectly alright to learn along with your students, points out José. Do not be friends with your pupils on Facebook as you are exposing yourself and them to unacceptable risk. However it is good to have school and/or departmental pages.

José moved on to talk about "the people formerly known as the audience" As teachers, we need to bear in mind that they have editing suites in their pockets and that we do them a disservice if we ban mobile phones, given that we are then abandoning them to their own fate. The benefits of using the pupils' mobiles, etc, are that these are free tools for the school so there is no financial investment. As José asks, were we that different when we were young? Same behaviour, different tools...

In Jose's school, phones are allowed, with 6th years hooking into the school wifi on their own devices. The school recognises that there is a need to avoid inappropriate behaviour of course but that pupils are more likely to be bullied in the school corridor or on the bus. By banning mobile phones, schools are ensuring that pupils use them on their own without guidance and without rules of practice.

As a profession, teachers themselves not always good at using social networking appropriately but we are learning as we go. José comments that we are not too far from considering social media as normal in education, and teaching is evolving to catch up with learning

A key question is if we should we teach ICT in schools or if it should be embedded in the curriculum through other subjects? There is a new skill set coming up and currently pupils are having to learn by themselves. José is not advocating giving up on all that is going on in your classroom, by any means. Social media can be used to knock down the school walls and bridge the gap between home and school. Yes, there is a lot of inappropriate material on the net but they are fully exposed to that at home so by ignoring that, we are sticking our fingers in our ears.
Possibilities include:
• Learning on demand eg VLEs
• Voki was never designed for education but has been used for that purpose
• Blog
• Comments on peer assessment
• Blog on trip
• Flickr page
• Learning environment
• Twitter
• Facebook
• Edmodo

This was a great keynote, lots of food for thought for those of us who still have a long way to go before we reach the point in the road that José's school has got to, but with the promise that we should all get there, hopefully sooner rather than later..
And to end on a silly note... Alas, as we all went into near-hysteria at the thought of the impending pronunciation of 'Edmodo', José taunted us and refused to say it. However, the canny Zena Hilton saw us right, and a roomful of females swooned as the bashful Sr Picardo said 'the word' It was worth coming to Southampton just for that!

Tuesday 20 March 2012

#ILILC2 Cheap and Cheerful Songwriting by Stuart Gorse


By far one of my favourite sessions at ILILC, Stuart asked us ‘Why use songs?’
The answer is primarily for a change of focus for students and for a change of atmosphere.Nowadays it is very easy to make exercises such as gap fills and reordering using software such as Taskmagic. Stuart adds that you need to go with the instincts of the students and teacher.
The end result can then be uploaded to YouTube Stuart uses for rhyming words and suggests that we and/or the pupils make up lyrics, even if ridiculous, to a familiar tune in English.
Others are now catching on to the popularity of this idea with Arsenal, for example, running their Double Club competition in advance of the Olympics. As Stuart pointed out, it is a catchy tune with an attractive prize and very topical - a winning combination!
Other ideas included taking a short story by Guy de Maupassant and then make up a song to Hotel California; The Ramones and El Pueblo Song about their town; using the Muppet Show theme tune to answer the question "¿Qué tal?" with ‘Fenomenal do do de do da’; Mamma Mia for the topic of Daily Routine; and Green Day Good Riddance for “My personal favourite.. of all time” video on Youtube channel

This was a hilarious yet insightful glimpse into the world of songwriting with Modern Languages as well as a taster of just how enjoyable it must be to be a pupil in Mr Gorse's classroom. I'll leave you with this gem..

Thursday 8 March 2012


It was brilliant to see Lisa after her fairly recent departure to Switzerland, although it must be said that we were too busy playing with the iPads to make many notes! Lisa gave us a quick tour of the iPad and offered just a selection of the many uses that language learners can make of it with guidance from the teacher. We had a chance to play with the iPads as well as check the Posterous blog Joe Dale is creating, There is more information on Lisa' website as well as documents to download.

Tuesday 6 March 2012

#ILILC2 Stepping away from the textbook Sara Vaughan
Sara talked about crosscurricular work, links and resources and the benefits of a content-free curriculum at KS3. Our challenge is to design a curriculum to address the needs of learners as individuals, to prepare them better for KS4. With cross-curricular learning giving learning a wider context, Sara pointed out that this suits languages better than most. There is a possibility of accommodating ‘local’ learning eg by designing SOWs for local interest eg the ferry company that provides employment for most people in the area. It is also important to embrace skills and processes by teaching them what language is about rather than lists of words, something which is close to our own department's heart.
So how do we throw out the textbooks? Sara pointed out that planning is key to ensure academic rigour and enjoyment. In her school, they had done a unit called "Le Chateau Mystère" with Year 8, involving a break-in. Pupils could choose if they wanted to work in groups or as individuals etc although all had to produce a murder book. A key advantage of the unit was pupil motivation as they found it a compelling context, which improved their language learning skills, developed their use of tenses and offered more creative outcomes. These outcomes included a police file, with clear assessment criteria and a checklist of minimum content. This content included:
 Plan
 Description and area
 Plan of crime scene, before and after
 Chronology of events –past tense
 Listening tasks completed
 Witness statements
 Lineup with descriptions
Other resources included a news reports, with short news bites. Pupils picked out vocabulary and made up a word wall. There was a body outline in corridor. Teachers found that pupils were using question words, opinions and suppositions. Whilst there is a recognition that there is a lot of vocabulary they will never learn again, the point is to build confidence in using and manipulating language.
Other possibilities include:
• Roleplay eg phoning the emergency services, record someone doing a witness statement for listening task
• Interview each other like police interview
• Suspect line-ups inc Hugh Grant
Sara pointed out that there are many potential cross-curricular links:
 Science – fingerprinting
 PSHE Crime and punishment
 DT for house construction
 Drama for crime reconstruction

Another option was a unit called Bon appétit whereby pupils created a cookbook. Pupils could print and sell, or blog a recipe a day. Grammar includes adjectival endings, imperatives and at the café for transactional language. For cookery skills, Sara and the other teachers took them to the HE dept.
A suggestion was made to consider a unit at the Grand Prix with possibilities including countries, nationalities, tenses, colours and forms, time, transport, simple future for who would win the race, places in the town, commentaries and roleplays for the lost tourist who can’t find the hotel.
"The Great Dinner debate"
• Which 5 people would you invite to dinner and why? Pupils would prepare physical and character descriptions to justify their decision,with a table plan. Pupils could then debate in class who should be invited and why.
Relocation, relocation
Create a dossier for a French family relocating to England.
• Tied in to PSHE of economic wellbeing on buying a house
• Facilities, chosen a house, get an estate agent to judge the best dossier
Fantasy football portfolio/WAGs
• write a biography, where you are located, etc
A day in the life of ..
• Teach daily routine and pastimes, then write a longer piece of work.
• Outcome A3 poster, get them to present wearing the mask of that person
My dream holiday
• Give them a budget, book tickets, accommodation
• Make them stick to real life re departure times etc
Compare and contrast TL countries eg a child in Burkina Faso
• Healthy living manual
• French gov website loads of stuff that is accessible
Protecting our Planet campaign
Sporting Event dossier: Tour de France, World Cup, Olympics

Where to begin:
• Identity the required content first
• Design the ‘theme’ around it
• Keep ‘themes’ generic so you don’t alienate the pupils
• Have clear learning outcomes
• Plan for progression within a unit
• Plan for progression across a Key Stage

Sunday 4 March 2012

#ILILC2 KEYNOTE Joe Dale "Turn on, tune in, Dropbox out"

Joe Dale kicked off proceedings on the Saturday morning with a great keynote which belied his poor health of the week leading up to the ICT Links into Languages conference. Joe Dale set up the Twitter list of MFL teachers affectionately known as the MFL Twitterati which has gone from strength to strength, and Joe addressed the power of collaboration in this keynote.
Joe talked about the shift in governmental thinking, round to technology in education including a call by Michael Gove for a Wiki curriculum in the Guardian to better enable a collaborative approach as well as his call at the BETT Show 2012 for teachers to be trained to best use the technology available.
Joe talked about the #pencilchat Twitter phenomenon which had us laughing out loud as well as nodding our heads in agreement to the Twitter thread which had focused on attitudes to technology:

He then talked about our pupils as 'prosumers', producing as well as consuming social media and being saturated by it. Social media is the #1 pastime for teenagers and we need to use that in our teaching.
As a facet of this, the fabulous Deputy Mitchell was encouraging all to blog on 29th February. Deputy Mitchell's Twitter blurb reads "Quadblogging/ founder, keynote speaker on mission to get kids everywhere blogging to a GLOBAL audience" His aim is to get pupils to think about the power of an audience,something which is a no brainer for linguists who are constantly aiming to show pupils the relevance of our subjects. The idea behind quadblogging for those who are unfamiliar with the concept is that four schools from around the globe get together and blog about a like-minded theme. Joe talked about further ways to show pupils the relevance of languages such as his experiences on the European Day of Languages,at the Ashcombe School, where he did a live 1 hour broadcast.
Moving on, he then talked about his current blog where Joe produces a 2-3 minute podcast giving a tip a day about using iPads.
Mentioning the site Joe encouraged all language teachers to find a class to share educational goals with you. This tied in nicely with Suzi Bewell's TES article Modern foreign languages – Skype makes sense
Alex Bellars got a shoutout with the excellent tools that he had talked about at the Show and Tell in Newcastle namely Class Dojo, Triptico, and Lingro And finally in this section, with another article SecEd ICT in MFL Suzi Bewell talks about using Vocaroo as a way of spicing up language learning outside the classroom by doing a speaking homework. Joe tied all of the practical examples into his talk by saying this is what Ofsted is looking for according to their guidelines.
The final section of Joe's talk was called 'Dropbox out!' The aforementioned #MFL Twitterati is now at maximum capacity with 500 on the list. All conference attendees were invited to ‘join the conversation’ All would agree that support is the biggest and most important aspect of Twitter for the #mfltwitterati.We have set up a generic Dropbox for Modern Languages, as well as separate ones for French, German and Spanish. Get in touch with any of the MFL Twitterati if you are interested in joining.
Other areas of support include aPLaNet which is European funded,and which has a huge number of resources to help ML teachers with resources, mentoring and to help those who don’t normally use social media. Joe talked about the MFL Show and Tells that have taken place around the UK, as well as digital sharing of support and ideas via which you can receive free by email, full of the best tweets, links and ideas each day. MFL Digital Stories got a mention as well as the wonderful MFL Storybirds
The final mention went to QR codes in education. Ideas for include sticking the QR code into the pupils' exercise books once kids have had their work marked as well as
Kelda Richards' amazing work with QR codes and Aurasma. See Kelda's blogpost Le Mur Parlant The note I typed when Joe mentioned this was "DO THIS!!"
Joe drew his keynote to a close saying that one in three is overwhelmed by technology whilst promting the study of languages with Barack Obama's quote "If you have a foreign language that is a powerful tool to get a job… you are so much more employable, you can be part of international business" Joe had tweeted in the weeks leading up to #ILILC2, asking us to tweet our pupils' favourite method of learning, using the hashtag #groovymfl. Ironically, most responses favoured a more low tech approach. The lesson we must learn as language teachers and tech lovers is that a blended approach works best, rather than throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Wednesday 29 February 2012


So my second visit to Southampton for the ICT Links in Languages was much anticipated and did not fail to impress. There was much excitement amongst the attending members of the #MFLTwitterati on Twitter in the weeks leading up to the conference, both from those of us lucky enough to have attended last year, and those who were coming for the first time.
There was a gathering of the clans on the Friday night, with the unveiling of the wonder that is Suzi Bewell's #mfltwitterati t-shirts.

This set the tone for the whole weekend. The workshops and talks were excellent, led by Joe Dale and José Picardo's fab keynotes, and the chance to network, meet new enthusaistic language teachers and chat was superb. I am going to blog about the brilliant workshops and talks I attended over the next week or so, but suffice to say there was plenty of expertise, stimulation and humour on show.
The highlight for many was the Show and Tell on the Saturday night, with just the right level in terms of weightiness of topics combined with singing, dancing and general euphoria. It is enough to mention human dominoes, Tchik et Tchak, turnips and barmen to provoke sniggers and laughs from all who were there.
In these days of pressure and stress, #ILILC2 was a much needed tonic and a wonderful opportunity to catch up with many of my PLN whom I now consider true friends.

Monday 27 February 2012


Here is my presentation on how we will incorporate the Olympics into our teaching at KS3. I am heavily indebted to Rachel Hawkes, Neil Jones and Greg Horton amongst others, who kindly gave permission for me to adapt resources they have made

Tuesday 7 February 2012


Today I used Triptico with Forms 2 and 3 (Year 8 and 9 in England) to spice up our verb work after several weeks of working through the basics and doing a lot of written practice.
Initially I used the class sorter to put pupils into groups, then the spinner to choose verbs and the scoreboards to keep track of points. When the spinner stopped on a verb, one pupil in each group had to conjugate the 6 parts in the present tense using a digital voice recorder. The first two groups to successfully replay their recording to me with correct pronunciation won the points. They had to switch the person conjugating each time which meant that all were involved, and the shyer pupils felt more confident without the spotlight shining directly on them. The kids loved it and I felt they made real progress both in terms of knowledge and pronunciation.