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!