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 :-)