Thursday 12 December 2013

Reflections of an iPad classroom 12/12/13

 This past week or so we have been dabbling in lots of different things. Form 1 who are absolute beginners at Spanish thoroughly enjoyed creating cartoon dialogues using the Puppet Pals app to practise their oral questions and answers. They only had 30 mins so I bribed them (I prefer to call it focusing) that whoever created and uploaded their video to Edmodo would get positive behaviour points on Lesson Monitor. Intense activity followed. What pleases me most is the intuitive nature of all this, as they selected, saved, published, uploaded, etc.. Only one couple struggled and were aided by another who had finished. 
Form 4 used Voice Record Pro to record their oral answers and uploaded them to Edmodo so I could check pronunciation. 

Lower 6 used Kidblog as part of their target setting, incorporating their marginal learning gains wheel into the blogpost. Today, they used the Educreations app in conjunction with Apple TV as we moved round the class, each pupil displaying their translation for a specific sentence and the rest offering feedback re grammatical accuracy. It was amazing to watch as each iPad took control of Apple TV and then sentences were corrected as we contributed feedback. 

Finally, our student and past pupil Megan created our first Aura using augmented reality app Aurasma. We videoed some Form 1 pupils talking about Spanish in Grosvenor then snapped their photo. Megan assures me it is easy to create the marvel that is the talking photo we ended up with, so tomorrow I become the pupil and my past pupil becomes the teacher! 

Tuesday 3 December 2013

Reflections of an iPad classroom 3/12/13

Today was a spur of the moment iPad lesson with my AS Spanish class which proved very beneficial and produced the comment "Miss, you've made me love iPads" from a former paper-and-pencil declaree. 

I wanted to conclude the topic of technology by looking at the advantages and disadvantages of the internet, social networks and mobile phones. I set up 3 separate Linoit pages, posting the link each time onto the Lower 6 class page on Edmodo. The pupils each had an iPad and jumped on to the sites, posting advantages on yellow post-its and disadvantages on red post-its. They moved between the three separate pages. I took screen shots of the pages and dropped them into a PowerPoint which I then uploaded onto Edmodo; some pupils are happy with the Linoit links whereas others will want to print the PowerPoint off. 

We then took a past paper essay with its 3 bullet points. Again, I set up three Linoit pages and put the links on Edmodo. They typed up ideas for each bullet point and we then went through the points, correcting the grammar as we went (they told me the mistakes and/or how to fix them) Again the pupils were fully engaged, the level of the language was high and there were many more contributions than if we had planned at the board as a class. I am moving the class from high dependency for essay planning towards the ultimate goal of planning the essay themselves under pressure during the exam. This was an excellent halfway step and the pupils felt it really helped them. 

This lesson required no preparation in advance and yet it was one of the best lessons we have had this year in AS Spanish. The pupils were fully engaged and the quality of ideas and language was much better than in previous essay planning lessons. 

Reflections of an iPad classroom 2/12/13

Today Lower 6 and Form 5 used the teacher app for Socrative to create quizzes. They logged in using our Spanish departmental email and password and created their quizzes on the Present tense for L6 and Leisure for Form 5. We created a list of sub-topics for each and pupils signed up on the board for which one they wanted to do. They saved their quiz with the subtopic name plus #5 or #L6 followed by the number of their iPad (they always use the same one)
We then used some of the quizzes with the pupils using the student app for Socrative this time. I ran teacher-paced quizzes, student-paced quizzes and the extremely popular Space Race.
This was a great way of getting the pupils to look at their learning by creating questions and then showing their knowledge in the quiz stage.

Friday 29 November 2013

Reflections of an iPad classroom 28/11/13

Well it took longer than expected and we are still waiting for the paid apps, BUT the 17 iPads are in my classroom and Srta L has hers to see how she gets on with a one iPad classroom. I'm going to aim for a quick blogpost each week on some of the stuff that has worked or not.. 
An issue has been the lack of flash with Safari so I am looking forward to getting Puffin for some websites as well as creating on the likes of Animoto. 
A hot favourite this week has been Kahoot. You create an account on and create your quiz. You select play and with iPads, pupils then go to on Safari and enter the pin. They absolutely loved the bright graphics, ease of functionality and competitive edge provided by scoring more points for speedy answers. I used it for Form 1 for the topic of family, Form 4 for daily routine and Lower 6 for the subjunctive, as well as oral stimulus for conversation. Pupils answered a series of 6 questions about the internet and social networking, then went into smaller groups to discuss the questions in more detail. 
Quite apart from the whizzes and bangs of activities with kahoot, the iPads have proved invaluable for basic things like the wordreference app to look up words with several definitions provided in context, as well as to allow pupils to check verbs conjugated in the different tenses. Pupils from Form 4 and Lower 6 have been swift to avail of this when working independently. 
Next week I am looking to use Linelearner and Voice Record Pro to help pupils learn answers for their oral exams which are imminent as well as Kidblog for a bit of self-reflection at AS level. 

Sunday 10 November 2013


A basic yet effective game I read about on Edmodo. Needed: two sets of word/phrase flashcards on your chosen topic/s two teams Divide the FCs equally between the two teams You say a word/phrase in Eng, they shout Soy yo (It's me) and hold it up. First team gets the point, point to the other team if they are wrong. Simple but they absolutely love it.

Sunday 6 October 2013

#mflsatcov (or MFL Show and Tell Coventry if you want to go old-school)

This weekend I had the pleasure of travelling to Coventry for the MFL Show and Tell organised by Emma Bains (@bains_1) Bertram Richter (@bertramrichter) and Garry Mills (@pelado) with no small help from James Padvis (@jjpadvis) The attendees were plentiful including a large number of the #mfltwitterati who had travelled up to 4 hours each way to be there. The location was great, the wifi was free and the lunch was hot, all boding well for the day. It was so wonderful to catch up with old friends and lovely to meet some new people. 
Here are my notes from the day (tidied up a bit for public viewing) 
Chris Fuller, @chrisfullerisms, kicked us off talking about putting the onus on pupil input in the classroom. Too often, we can see the teachers doing all the work, not the pupils. He talked about activities which develop skills and getting pupils working things out. Chris has a Google doc on introducing new material without standing and delivering from the front. Ideas he mentioned included:
- Dual language texts. Look for specific vocab. Then do translation 
- running translation. Then use the language and look at the structures 
- "harder texts" such as the legalization of drugs in Uruguay - low level Year 8, highlight cognates. Positive impact on pupils once they have managed a text this length. 
- make their own vocab lists, inc 5 infinitives etc 
- vocab mats - these allow for huge amounts of creativity and personalised learning 

Farid Charidine,@fcharidine, was next up with an ICT based project he did, of a virtual tour of Paris. Pupils were given several tasks. eg create a Voki with dialogue along the lines of "I'm lost in Paris, can you help me?" which they then had to embed in wordpress. In the same blog, his Voki told them the directions to follow on Google maps and they had to take a screenshot of where they ended up. Finally pupils stood in front of a green screen to record a dialogue. Despite some initial teenage indifference to the idea, Farid says the pupils thoroughly enjoyed this task and produced some excellent work. 

Dominic McGladdery, @dominic_mcg, talked through our difficulties as language teachers trying to translate all the weird and wonderful vocabulary the pupils want to know. He showed a Google translate mistranslation before showing us the wonder of Wikipedia whereby you search in English and then change the language once you have searched to find out how to say it in Spanish, German, French etc..The Académie française blog Dire, ne pas dire is a great source of the latest vocabulary pupils want to use. I'm now off to check the Academia Real page for a similar concept.. 

Emma Bains, @bains_1 went low-tech (tho high impact in my humble opinion) with her tabs for pupil exercise books. Pupils stick in various tabbed sheet grids for perfect tense, connectors etc, throughout their exercise books. These are identical to the dictionary info that they will have at controlled assessment and the pupils consistently refer to them. She uses yellow and green tabs for writing and speaking work that was good. Emma's school also uses green pens in school for literacy, improving work etc. She gives pupils a green checklist of Punctuation points for writing whereby they score 1 point for putting in full stops and commas, up to adding connectors etc. 

Lisa Stevens, @lisibo, talked about her primary school's learning journeys and this term's topic of mythical monsters. She does a song for parts of the face as well as a Spanish kids' story "¡fuera de aquí, horrible monstruo verde!" She made up a story "Señor Cabeza Naranja" and the pupils then made up a story with 2D shapes. Finally, using Book creator, pupils can make an ebook, even recording their voices as part of the story. It is incredible to hear of the kind of links and connections these primary pupils were making re grammar and language, and something that is easily transferable to post-primary. 

Helen Shaw, who is not on Twitter and a self-proclaimed technophobe, was a music teacher and then taught primary languages, before moving back into secondary education. 
She uses puppets to introduce dialogues (firstly just her as the teacher doing both voices and then with the pupils) She now uses them right up to GCSE and says particularly the weak kids loved it. She has a kids' book on animal noises and sounds to get them using correct French pronunciation. She uses "The Hungry Caterpillar" to introduce days of the week or gets the pupils to hold up realia as they hear it in the story and then asks them to retell story. Finally Helen talked about Chatter packs, with different scenes and characters, she chooses a scene and gets them to describe the characters and create scenarios. This could be very useful for those first weeks and months of L6 with your FLA as pupils work to attain confidence and fluency in speaking. 

Bertram Richter, @bertramrichter, talked about one of our sponsors, Language Perfect, recounting how excellent Language Perfect is for language acquisition and retention of vocabulary. In the Language Perfect World Championships, kids compete against each other and round the world. Bertram enables them to come during break and lunch, as well as some registration classes, and pupils have the chance to win some nice prizes. He reminded us that there are free codes for these championships available through ALL and Joe Dale's website. 

James Padvis, @jamespadvis, talked about his feedback sheet with points he uses for extended writing pieces. Once pupils have their feedback, they go to look at the Connectives pyramid if they didn't score on it, the Sentence openers Pyramid etc which are displayed around the room. He also has a sheet with the acronym PROF on it; passé, raison, opinion, future. No writing is to be handed in to him without all 4 of these. Other resources include an opinion mat to develop opinions and Kagan mats on the desks for group and pair work. Finally he talked about building vocabulary using the phrases "Je sais que c'est.. Je pense que c'est.. J'estime que c'est.. " for all year 7. Time to redo my wall displays... 

Simone Haughey, @simonehaughey, talked about lots of fun, active games: 
- Fun balls, stick vocab on them and hide round classroom. Pupils go round with their clipboards with the English, looking for the TL. She also has a Walking dictionary with key vocab stuck to them or wearing at shirt with the key vocab. 
- Fun balls 2 - pupils do a running dictation until they can make a sentence
- Cold or hot (we call this Hunt the flashcard) whereby pupils repeat new vocabulary for the pupil who has come in to the room, getting louder as the pupil gets closer to it and vice versa. 
- Lambdarts- the teacher puts the flashcards in a circle on the board, they say the word and the pupil throws the stuffed toy (lamb) at the correct FC. 
- Boys vs girls, repeating vocab, teacher points to the team who says it perfectly. 
- Kagan mix, pair, share. Pupils practise a dialogue, maybe using Audioboo, then start the activity. The music stops, they find a partner and do the dialogue before moving on. 
- Animals - pupils find an animal with the same first letter as their name. The first pupil says "Bonjour Simone le serpent, je m'appelle Lou le Loupe. Bonjour...and adds the next pupil's name." They then say "Bonjour Lou le Loupe, je m'appelle.."
- Balls - eg basketball, each person says one word of the sentence " I play basketball" in the TL and passes on the ball for the next word in the sentence 
- Repetition in voices or sounds eg use the tune from the Go Compare ad for saying the word éléphant 

Anthea, also known as @baboohaz, talked about spontaneous speaking. She loves doing the activity "Juste une minute!" where she gives them the instructions, a whiteboard, a pen and a whistle. Their challenge is to speak for a minute, their partner blows their whistle if they hear repetition or hesitation. The pupils have the key language to encourage them not to pause or repeat. 

Amelia wasn't going to speak but gave a quick demo of Puppet pals for creating dialogues which encourage the pupils to speak and lose their embarrassment. 

Joe Dale, @joedale, talked about Audio QR codes. He uses the QR reader i-nigma and likes Audioboo- the pause facility means you can have multiple people on one recording. Once you have recorded, you hit Publish to save and upload. You can do it in the app or on the web version - Add .mp3 to the end of the web address when you copy it into the QR code maker tells you how to get a QR code from a website. 

Amanda (whose surname I didn't catch) uses a Talking grid with 3 columns and 8 rows as a starter. Pupils make a sentence using one from each column and she tells them non, non, non or non, oui, non, if they have one right, etc. She gives them 5 guesses. After this, she then gives them the table in English and they test each other translating the sentences into the TL. 

Joe Dale, @joedale, delivered a Genius Bar on using Voice Record Pro. He reminded me of the brilliant website to use in conjunction with Voice Record Pro as well as the free app Line Learner Lite which enables pupils to learn dialogues eg for Controlled Assessment. 

Suzi Bewell, @suzibewell, gave a brilliant Genius Bar talk about Flame (ALL) She talked about avoiding pupil boredom re lessons on pets etc Her PGCE linguists got together with the PGCE scientists, planning a German unit of work on Space eg weather. There is a CLIL for teachers website. Another option is to teach vocab we have always done eg health but also teach infectious diseases to make it more interesting. Suzi also mentioned the York Theatre Royal PET project for drama, doing a Blanca Nieves (Snow White) panto in school as well as the Great MFL Bakeoff, using recipes from Austria and Senegal in the language, and a 5 min presentation at the end per group . Another idea was tapping into the Fair trade fortnight 24/2- 9/3 such as giving pupils Fairtrade facts, calculating travel miles etc. Another project with a museum was using the App-builder Blippit. There are loads of target language magazines eg from Mary Glasgow which have great topics eg Citizenship. Suzi suggested that we look at teaching traditional topics eg family, pets through the rights of the child. Take the same topic with a different angle Eg consider the right to education when doing the school topic, re the Work topic, show pupils how kids can't go to school as they are working instead.
Online photo collections include Toys around the world, Bedrooms round the world and Peter Menzel's Material World. Ask them questions such as "What do you think of these photos? If you were that child, what should you do?" Etc. Another idea is to do Art with 3 schools round the world and Skype them after looking at 3 artists. Using music, the PGCE created their own songs to different tunes. One made up a La Voz (X Factor-type show) SOW on an Argentinian version and pupils gave their opinions on the songs
Suzi concluded her talk reinforcing the idea that secondary pupils are too constrained in seats and that we should not let our fears about breaking away from the textbook chase the pupils away from studying languages.

Gary Mills, @pelado, talked about how he uses Zondle including having a Champions League leaderboard and how there is an overview for the pupil scores which let's toy see the times they play etc. He often sets a HW where they create a game, if it is good enough, he lets the whole class play. 

A lady whose name I didn't catch but who taught for 5 years in Ecuador talked about the very active projects she does with pupils eg for the Home topic, they made houses and labelled in TL. This was set as HW over 3 weeks and pupils had the choice of doing it in a poster style with flaps, create them using cereal boxes or made of MDF or similar. For Fashion week, they did a fashion show, using clothes from home or from the costume store. For the whole year group topic of Joseph, she taught numbers using the brothers, colours using the colours of coat,etc. When teaching Animals, she gets them to make animal puppet. 

Finally, Kathy Wicksteed talked about ALL, the Association of Language Learning, with reference to Primary languages. 

I learnt so much over the course of the day and was reminded of other little gems I had forgotten. I'm now off to beg and borrow some of the resources here and make those I can't get... 

Saturday 17 August 2013

Bring on the iPads

I have the most amazing fortune to have been given 18 iPads to trial in our school, to see how they can aid pupil learning and how I can embed them into the teaching and learning in my classroom. 

With this in mind, I have been thinking about activities which I will use. Obviously it will be a steep learning curve but I will try to blog about both the ups and the downs as I go. 

Here are my initial activities I have prepared with apps I was already familiar with, Make Dice Lite, Decide Now! and Flashcards. 

With Make Dice Lite, you choose the dice colour and add the content to each side. I already had made some for pronouns and for verbs, which I roll together so that the pupils must conjugate the verb in the selected part. Another idea has been to make a dice on the topic of Holidays, for example, and pupils must work in groups to write me a list of 15 accurately spelt words on the selected subtopic (weather transport, countries, etc) as a starter activity. The picture above is a starter for GCSE or AS, whereby pupils work in pairs, one speaker and one listener for the selected side eg 30 seconds talking about One Direction. Ideally, the listener will have a checklist to improve the quality of the spontaneous speech. 
The Decide Now app is great and very easy to create. Again you can use it for a starter for written revision or a speaking activity. I have wheels for lots of different topics including the one above where pupils will need to name two teachers who teach that subject. The idea here is to use it at the start of the school topic, to show the pupils how many cognates there are in this subject, before we meet them formally. 

This is a list of idiomatic phrases using parts of the body in Spanish which I got from the website I made Flashcards using the app of the same name, with the Spanish idiom and an exemplar phrase in one side and the English translation on the other side. 
Right, off to check out some more stuff, will blog again ASAP. 

Monday 3 June 2013



This weekend saw the arrival of the much anticipated MFL Show and Tell organised by the fabulous Suzi Bewell, @suzibewell on Twitter. I flew over for the weekend as I knew it would be more than worth it and I wasn't disappointed. Firstly tho, I was put to work by Suzi, packing bags for the delegates on the Friday night. The buzz of #mflsaty on Twitter started to increase around the same time..

 Saturday brought the excited arrival of lots of old friends from the #mfltwitterati (with some notable absences whom we missed deeply) as well as meeting people I had only tweeted before, and some totally new friends. Bob Harrison @bobharrisonset kicked off proceedings with a starter addressing the theme of preparing schools for the learners of today and tomorrow, posing the question to us "How do we get from where we are now to where we will end?" He talked about the dangers of technology for teaching,not technology for learning, which is a trap all teachers and schools need to aware of. He also asked the audience to role play explaining to a child what a disposable camera is. These questions and scenarios were all designed to make us change our mindset. Schools will be totally different by time our kids leave school yet we are building schools of the past for children of the future. Bob finished all with a quiz of 30 questions each worth 10 points. I was quite proud to score 230; the quiz was a bit of fun with serious point. Our children are immersed in a world of digital technology and we need to ensure that our teaching and their learning reflects that. 

 After the starter, Suzi used a cool little app called Tap roulette to randomly select the speakers. First up was Tom Allison aka @TAllisonMFL, talking about You can create the class lists on Excel and import them into Kidblog. It is a secure environment and all in the class can see and comment on each other's posts. Tom uses it with his tutor group, giving them 5 stamps in tutor time for posting a comment on articles eg An article on a globetrottting Briton leading on to What are your ambitions? 

Second came Marie O'Sullivan who is @reesiepie on Twitter. She talked about adapting familiar tunes using sites like to access tunes. Select the Karaoke version, then choose your level for gap fill activities. AlexTV is very like my favourite Spanish band of the moment, Kevin Karla and La Banda, all of them taking very popular English songs and doing their own version in the target language. Marie finished her talk with references to Greg Horton's talk at Language World. You can find out more on her blog BLOG 

 Next was the very brave Martin Wheeley who is only starting his PGCE with Suzi this September. @martinwheeley on Twitter, he talked about Christmas in Catalonia with the Caganer (The Pooing Man) representing fertility and luck for the new year, as well as Caga tío (The Pooing Log) Martin's point was that by talking to pupils about tales like this, you can capture their interest as well as increasing their cultural understanding. And kudos to Martin for speaking to a room full of teachers and trainee teachers too. 

 David McDermott, @davidmcdermott2 on Twitter, talked to the group about using Learning mats in the classroom. He asked the question "When kids get distracted by the games, how do we get the learning in?" Learning walls are great at primary, but how can we use them at Secondary with so many different classes? David showed the English learning mats to scaffold talking and expressing selves and how they help implement the Group Talk initiative. There is a need to reintroduce joy into MFL and to move away from the obsession with levels. Spontaneous speech will do that. David recommended going to the TES site and searching for "mat" I particularly liked the one where the 5 min lesson plan has been adapted, so that pupils annotate as they go through the lesson. Where Ofsted are looking for the journey of the series of lessons , learning mats tie this in. 

 Will Strange went next with Group Talk Poker, a simple yet excellent idea where pupils have to talk about topics and there is a chest in the middle where they collect the coins from if they win. 

 After Will came the always-wonderful Isabelle Jones, who needs no introduction as @icpjones. Isabelle talked about jazzing up revision at GCSE. A key concept is obviously effective time management - the pupil should be relaxed but not too relaxed! Isabelle suggests mixing and matching strategies including past papers, core vocab booklets, false friends, prefixes, make your own words, songs (songs and grammar in songs), videos (where you give them a taster and they look at it at home ) and using jokes. As always, there was plenty of food for thought. 

 Lisa Gibbs @lisamgibbs was up next talking about changing their Year 7 SOW to use the video "Kirikou et la sorcière" Given the mixed previous learning of their pupils, they start in September, looking at cultural background etc They do a quiz on the film, intros as characters, T/F activities, sort vocab,create mind maps, storyboards and learning mats. Extended learning includes HW and independent research. Their summer work is on Henri Rousseau (artist whose work inspired some of the images in the film) 

 The legendary Mary Cooch (@moodlefairy)talked about adapting Vincent Everett's Google Street View activity which sent pupils on a treasure hunt round Paris.Street Mary put it on Moodle and automated the google street view mystery. Pupils follow the street views, click on tick boxes, unlock listenings, answer questions and get their score then transcript appears. In terms of piecing it together, they need to go back and re-interview one revealed person. If you go to, the mystery is there. Check also 

To make me feel old but also very proud, past pupil Ricky Gibson came up to talk about his blog and using Google. He makes a Google quiz on Google forms then embeds it into his blog. There are loads of different question forms to use and you can get script gallery flubaroo to mark the test for you. Another option is to use Conditional formatting to highlight a column, use the "answer contains" box to type in the right answer and wrong answers. This is something I am keen to use quite soon in my class. 

  Clare Seccombe, the fab @valleseco on Twitter and the brains behind MFL Sunderland, talked about categorising vocabulary for example, using Venn Diagrams with topics such as Alcohol, drugs, smoking. She also introduced me to the idea of Tesoro o basura? whereby pupils get laminated sheets in pairs with a treasure chest and a bin on it and a load of words from different categories inc phonics. Pupils should decide whether the vocabulary, literature concept, etc is relevant to the title or topic selected. As someone famous once said "One man's trash is another man's treasure" 

 Next came Claire Hampson @mrshampson who was speaking for the first time (not that you'd know it, she was as calm as a cucumber!)Claire did an active presentation on singing. Alluding to unpacking a packet of seeds, Claire pointed out that you can't just put a packet of seeds in the ground. Similarly, you can't just put a verb into a sentence. Verbs are like flowers - stem, petals of parts. To help her pupils learn grammar, Claire loves writing a song using backing tracks from a website eg on Claire suggest recording it and showing it to the world. Use Audioboo and upload it to the web. Claire then gives them a QR code to stick in their books. To demonstrate, Claire got us singing IR verb endings to Abba's Money Money Money tune. You can find out more here 

 Dominic McGladdery @dom_mcgladdery asked us why use the iPad? Would paper be just as good? If so, why use it? It makes you stop and think about the learning behind the teaching, a point which dovetailed very nicely with Bob's opening speech. 

 Alicia McKenna @aliciamckenna gave an energetic and stimulating talk on making the learning visible for our pupils. She uses the Tarsia discussion wheel as follows: Step 1 arrow on table, start and end time of class at each end. Vocab sheet and task sheet, write the words they know on their arrow and write new words on arrow as progress Groups finish at different times, go back to vocab sheet and arrow, play games. Eg memory games, mini whiteboards, etc. exploiting the resources, use the wheel as dominoes, follow me cards, make a human wheel Teacher calls out the item of vocabulary, give the card as a prize, the team with the most wins. After every task, update the sheet and the arrow Step 5 Identify vocab in text, use vocab in sentences, paragraph with X words from the text, engage in a learning conversation - what have you learned? How did you learn it? Who taught you this vocab? Differentiation: task sheet, personal targets, 2 sided sheet with easier ones on the first side, mixed ability groups, job roles, sense of achievement Stretching the most able: Bogus cards, blank cards, vocab sheets with gaps, give the the Eng vocab only Next lessons - timer, word chain. Peer /self assessment. Identify vocab in a text. Jenga This talk was fab and I am off to make an arrow template for my pupils' books! 

 John Bidder from Blippit ended the day talking about his app creator Blippit. Much promoted by Jen Turner @msmfl, this holds a lot of interest for me. Blippit will have its own App Store soon. In terms of practicalites, John assured us it was just a matter of: Create new app Give it a title Enter contact email Save and close Drag and drop the writer widget Save and close Choose theme from selection Publish app! This then comes to the school administrator who approves it before it goes live. These ideas made it worth the cost of the flight alone, but add in the networking, bonding, laughter and general craic and you can understand why I flew in from Belfast for the weekend. Long live the #mfltwitterati!

Wednesday 22 May 2013

BARCA 2013

We are rapidly approaching the school trip to Barcelona. We will be moblogging this trip using a mobile to post photos and comments on a daily basis

Wednesday 1 May 2013

“Play is the highest form of research.”~ Albert Einstein

Having tapped in to the genius idea of Jenga thanks to @elvisrunner I am now going to try out two ideas by her sister, @valleseco, both based on TV game shows.
Firstly, there is Pointless. For those who haven't seen it, the aim of the game is to score least points by providing the least common answer.  I am going to get the pupils to play in pairs with mini whiteboards. They will read the question, write their answer and then award the points according to my answers on the slide. If their answer isn't on the board, they will score the maximum 100. This isn't ideal but I can't see any other way round it.

Secondly, we are going to play Blankety Blank. In order to involve more of the class, I am going to have two teams of 3, with the others all being panelists. The pupils in the two teams will view the slide and write down their answer at the same time as the panelists. They will then score a point for each panellist who has the same answer. The winning team will go through to the Supermatch game. They will choose 3 panelists to write down the answer at the same time as them. They win if one of the panelists has the same answer as them. I will let you know how it goes.

Jenga explained in detail

I've had a few queries so here goes..
I numbered the Jenga sets in  their own plastic box with 1-6 in different colours on the box lid. I then numbered the Jenga blocks 1-48 with a felt tip the same colour as the box lid. eg Set 1 had 1 written in red on the lid and all the blocks were numbered 1-48 in red.
Pupils take it in turns to remove a block using one hand only and answer the question of the number on the block. They then place the block on top of the Jenga tower before play passes to the next person in the group. If they can't answer it, they need to remove another block. If they knock the tower over, have a forfeit ready like everyone else in the group gets a sticker or they have to sing a song...
Hope this helps..

Monday 15 April 2013

Towers of knowledge

Just to feedback on the Jenga activity. Each of the 6 groups got a plastic box with the numbered Jenga blocks and a laminated sheet with 48 questions or tasks to do. These varied from speaking for 30 seconds on a given topic or answering a question, translation into Spanish or English or listing items of vocabulary on a given topic.
The pupils relished the challenge although one group was rebuked for messing about, and it was great to hear loads of Spanish on a wide variety of topics at this stage of the year.

Saturday 13 April 2013

#ILILC3 Show and Tell in practice 1

There were some little gems buried in the hilarity of the ICT links into languages Show and Tell evening. Here is one of them I am going to put into practice this week.
@elvisrunner talked about using Jenga in her classroom so I jumped onto eBay and bought six minisets at £3 each. I am going to number the blocks (in different colours so I can keep track of the sets) and them make a series of sheets to go with them. I reckon I'll cover basic questions right up to A2 plus do some that are topics, names of famous people etc. The idea is that when they push the block out, they check the number on the sheet and answer the question, talk for 1 minute on the topic, list 10 things you can buy in that shop, list 10 colours, etc. I need to think of a suitable 'punishment' if the tower block topples!

Wednesday 27 March 2013


This is the second time I have heard Emma Bains (@bains_1 on Twitter) talking and she is so inspirational. She started with KS3 talking about speaking. For her first lesson, pupils have to process a lesson in Dutch on the seed, filling in the missing line. The pupils as a rule rise to the challenge so Emma then questioned if they are able to do this, why are we teaching pencil case items?  With Year 7 some of the topics include UNICEF and Angels and Demons. The latter is actually about school but brings in behaviour with rights and responsibilities. There are still lots of ways to teach gender, nouns, plurals, etc.

Key points and ideas Emma talked about include:
  • Pupils like getting up and moving round. 
  • Give them longer texts with loads of cognates 
  • Being able to give opinions enables them 
  • Get them to highlight the words they know. Let them realise that they don't need to know everything to understand text/gist 
  • 2nd lesson - same text. Change key verbs to green. They copy verbs, replace the content 
  • Even with new topics, you can still teach vocabulary etc 
  • Cluedo - add opinions at the start of the slide.Teacher picks person, item and place then they guess.   "Que yo sepa" makes it excellent to teach the subjunctive 
  • UNICEF tenemos el derecho a + noun Choose cognates Work through masc, fem, etc Tenemos la responsabilidad de + verb Watch video and pupils tick off list as they hear words Tienes el derecho a video 
  • Listening material is generally hard to find 
  • Advertising topic: Fernando Torres. What do you expect this video to advertise? Questions in advance - eg how many times will we see it? Listening box to make notes rather than questions. Vanessa Burns suggested using Pinterest to get resources. What makes a good advert etc? Anuncios which sounds different to what pupils expect. 
  • Get pupils to use Audioboo and Vocaroo to record themselves. They can get texts out of Spanish magazines (check the back for nudity!) 
  • Give them questions with answers to be found on  texts stuck up round the room 
  • Fashion Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety nine per cent inspiration The Factory Game (online) gives them10 mins to make hats, you then buy the acceptable ones off them. Then they need to buy products. 
  • Trip to Barcelona activity - Show the pupils a slide "Contents of my handbag" with taxi receipts, metro etc. They need to tell you what you did for your day according to the tickets etc You can strategically place times on it.
I came home inspired and after seeing an exchange between Emma and @pelado on Twitter last week, I have made a first attempt at rejigging our KS3 SOW. I'll let you know how it goes...

Tuesday 26 March 2013


OK, listen up,for I am going to say this only once. If you teach A level languages, you need to do an immersion. You will get as much out of it as your pupils. We have just had a brilliant two days despite the massive setback of snow and powercuts meaning that we couldn't do our usual residential at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum at Cultra. We hastily made the decision to run it in school, given that the rest of the school had only a halfday left so we would have more or less full run of the facilities. We just had the Subway lunches and Chinese dinner delivered to school instead of Cultra!
We did a vast range of activities over the two days, including a treasure hunt round the school, Mentiroso game, a quiz, lots of song blankfills, Grupos Atados (where they had to wrap a present and write a card, tied to each other's wrists in groups of 5 or 6), a Guarida del Dragón activity based on Dragon's Den and of course, a DVD to finish the first night. This year we watched Volver.
Over the course of the two days, the staff delivered their same workshop four times, to a different group each time. I focused on Las Redes Sociales, using a visual jokes powerpoint from the #mfltwitterati Dropbox, as well as Tarsia to match definitions of social networking to the phrases or words and a series of questions to finish off.

All the staff had whistles which were used when we heard English. The perpetrator then had to sing in Spanish as 'punishment'.

Whilst there is no doubt that we put a vast amount of work into this immersion every year, it is worth its weight in gold both in terms of the pupils' spoken Spanish and also the rapport you build with the pupils and staff who participate. The buzz I feel tonight is hopefully being echoed around Greater Belfast as I type. Ánimo, you can do it too!

Sunday 24 February 2013

A level listening

With very many thanks to Helen Myers for this email to the fabulous MFL Resources (a Yahoo group - join it if you haven't already!) about using Euronews in class. The links are below for a variety of languages.  To get transcripts, click ‘about’ then ‘more’ (although sometimes they appear underneath automatically)

For French:

For Spanish:

For Italian:

For German:

For English

For Portuguese:

For Russian:

I have already posted the Spanish link for my A level class on Edmodo. I am asking them to do one a day at home either with or without the transcript (we don't have Youtube in school) The potential for the conversation exam is also excellent.

Tuesday 19 February 2013

#ILILC3 A tweet a day, Bertram Richter

The ever fabulous Bertram Richter @bertramrichter did not disappoint this year again. Head of a thriving department, Bertram seems to constantly push the boundaries of ICT in the class as in his words, ICT levels the playing field.
ReTwitter, the pupils like the fact that it is not a live audience. Why Twitter? It is authentic. Bertram urges us to show them the real thing and its power. You firstly need Twitter unblocked. He then set up Twitter MFL account with a google email account, designing a small number of generic names, passwords and usernames eg Waterlooroad1 @waterlooroadun password waterlooroadun
The question teachers most often ask themselves is "Is it safe?" Bertram has produced a Code of conduct, he monitors the email stream, he protects the tweets and he keeps the passwords. He can see all the kids' messages inc DMs. Bertram logs them in so they can't change settings. He advises using a TL word so they can't guess it. His A2 pupils are in charge of their own account, signing the Code and a copy goes home to parents.
Using Twitter has taught pupils unique vocab eg uploading. With junior classes, he groups them with at least one sensible person per group, only need to log 5 on.
Bertram then talked about some uses of Twitter. With A level A2 Communism Bertram throws famous quotes and statements at them and they have to respond. He is able to tease things out, and he finds pupils open up much more and develop ideas.
Another topic with KS4 was AfL - How is work in German schools assessed? They respond and this is great for Cultural understanding. The teacher can correct their tweets, and indeed is able to correct more than in real time
Pupils can use Twitter as a research tool, using the hash tags to index exam topics. When they see something online they tweet it using the hashtag for that topic. If you use Hootsuite you can embed that stream into the blog. Using the Twitter hashtags is a way of bringing order into the chaos of social media. It provides a structure for exams, as they can't lose it.
Again at A level, Bertram has set HW to meet from 5-5.30pm on Twitter. Bertram sees the HW as it happens. If there is a topic that they struggle with, then they tweet about the same topic that night. They tweet role playing characters such as one who was betrayed, one a soldier, one who betrays, etc. You could easily do the same for literature, taking a character each.
Bertram is acquainted with @GermanAtAston on Twitter. They tweeted the class in class time. It was easier than Skype for half an hour. They had questions to ask and looked at her answers. This then set the work for the next couple of weeks, looking at her answers. She pitched language well for A level.
They use Twitter once a fortnight. With they have to read and feed back. They could do a newspaper using their tweets. At KS4 they have competitions and it is very clear who has answered in what order.
This was a superb talk and has left me very inspired re Twitter and its potential in the language classroom.

Saturday 16 February 2013

#ILIC3, "When ideas are shared, the result is always greater than the sum of the parts" Rich Willis

Those who follow me on Twitter or have read previous posts on this blog will know that I am a huge fan of the annual ICT Links into Languages conference (ILILC) held in Southampton. And not without cause. This event is a superb form of CPD, no matter what your level of ICT proficiency or years of teaching experience. There are a wide variety of talks and workshops, offering delegates the opportunity to put new ideas into practice and ask for help if needed. Over the next week or so, I will blog about the workshops I attended as well as the two I delivered. There are also two keynote speeches as well as the now legendary Show and Tell on the Saturday night.
Joe Dale's keynote looked at ICT and the need to move on. He talked about the use of iPads in the classroom, referring to @elearninglaura as well as pointing us towards with research into the use of iPads in education. Pupils learn best when there is a perfect balance between "have to", "need to" and "want to" Joe also pointed out how information overload is affecting our learning and that it is important to have time off. There are 10 million active Twitter users in UK - as educators, we must consider the importance of how we move education on in light of this. Should we ban or embrace mobile technology? There is an issue of kids with no home Internet, even with lunchtime access and we must remember this. At this moment in time, there is a lot of stress on teachers, lack of professional consultation although Joe did point out that Gove is pro MFL.
Joe tied his talk together by mentioning crowdsourcing to get ideas and feedback, such as #mflstar by @bellaale It is important to "harvest"your own CPD and go for authenticity in the classroom. We have to stick together, ask for help, share ideas.
Of course as the affable "Godfather" of the MFL Twitterati, Joe Dale knows better than most the value of sharing ideas and inspiration. The ILILC conference once again proved that the MFL Twitterati are as close in real life as on Twitter, that as teachers we have so much to offer each other in terms of ideas and support, and that a little bit of love and shared enthusiasm can take you a long way. People are already talking about #ililc4..

Thursday 3 January 2013


The comment is sometimes quite rightly made that pupils are not all digital natives, and some of them find using websites totally baffling. We are heading to the computer room tomorrow to create some individual work on a topic of their choice. Given that I am giving the pupils free choice re the website they use, I am anticipating that some may struggle. Bearing this in mind, I have made some quick 'how to' notes for each website and put them on our wiki with the embedded link to said website. I have posted instructions for the lesson and the link on Edmodo and am hoping in this way that the pupils will learn and work more independently before they call on me for help

Wednesday 2 January 2013


For the past two years I have been fortunate enough to talk at the ICT Links into Languages conference in Southampton. It is a weekend of learning, sharing, collaborating and sheer unadulterated joy. This year's conference will be taking place on 9th-10th February 2013 and you can sign up for it here This year's theme is ‘Jail breaking the MFL Classroom’ and the keynote speakers are the fabulous duo of Joe Dale and Isabelle Jones. I am delivering two talks/workshops. The first is called "Triptico Tips to jailbreak the languages classroom" This session will illustrate how to use the Triptico resource application to liven up your classroom and turn learning on its head. There will be practical demonstrations of the organisational tools such as the group sorter, timer and score board. I will also demonstrate the higher order thinking tools such as the hexagonal Think Link resource and show how it can be used for promoting Solo taxonomy. The session will give specific examples from my own classroom practice as listed here and here as well as feedback from the pupils. There will also be plenty of time for participants to create their own resources which they can then take away with them, as well as showing them how to access the files already created in the likes of the Twitterati Dropbox. The second session is entitled "LITERALLY JAILBREAKING THE LANGUAGES CLASSROOM" This session will look at how to move the pupils' learning outside the languages classroom with practical examples which I have done with my own pupils including using Posterous to moblog a language trip, Voicethread to collaborate with other language learners around the world, Animoto to create videos such as the videos my pupils made on why our school should be the venue for the 2020 Olympics and QR codes to create a speaking wall with videos created by pupils on a variety of topics which other pupils can then access using their mobile phones to scan the QR code. This conference is an excellent opportunity to meet like-minded language teachers, learn some new stuff, share ideas and enjoy the excellent atmosphere. The Show and Tell event last year had us tweeting for months afterwards! If you want to catch some of the buzz in advance, search for #ililc3 on Twitter or join the MFL Twitterati