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!