GCSE: Current and future study

After a far longer break than planned, EverydayMFL is back.  Prior to this hiatus, I had worked my way through a number of the less desirable GCSE topics to teach.  After going through  global issues, customs and festivals and charity and volunteering.  I decided school and study should be next.  Kids have mixed feelings about the topic.  Teachers might also have mixed feelings.  It comes with some nice easy grammar in Year 7 but then it is less fun to talk about in Year 11.

Here are a few ways to make the school topic fun.

Who’s the greatest?

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Photo Credit: jtfmulder Flickr via Compfight cc

Flowcharts are used heavily in other subjects but rarely in languages.  I’ve often used one set out as follows to allow students to give their opinions on the best teacher.  It is also great CPD as you can find out the one they genuinely believe to be the best and then learn from them.  Quite often the one described as a “legend” is different from the one they feel they learn best from.

                                             Opinion phrase

Teacher

is the most …

because (positive reasons)                 because (negative reasons)

although he/she can be

positive adjectives                                 negative adjectives

You could achieve a similar effect with a writing frame but I think the flowchart gives a slightly different feeling of progression.

At the end you could get them to apply it to a different topic.  Whilst the phrasing is slightly artificial, it should show the students that the same structure can be applied across topics.

I think that <insert sport here> is the most … because … although it can be …

Hogwarts Conditional

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The majority of students still appreciate the Harry Potter books.  This allows you to teach conditional clauses: “if I went to Hogwarts, I would study …”  “If I were at Hogwarts, my favourite teacher would be…”

List of subjects here if you need them.

Alternatively …

If I were the boss

boss

Again teaching conditional clauses, you would be surprised how many students want to talk when they are given a writing frame on school improvement.

“If I were the head, I would…”

“If I had the choice, I would…”

“If I could, I would…”

Clause structures & Descriptions

Early in year 7 students are likely to have learnt how to describe people. It is often worth revisiting in year 10-11 but I have tried to do it with more advanced clause structures:

  • Not only…but also
  • Both … and …
  • Neither … nor
  • Regardless of whether … is …, I think that …
  • He/she can be … but can also be …
  • In spite of being … , he/she is also …

Germanists can have a field day here with “weder…noch…”, “egal, ob…”,  “zwar…aber…” and “sowohl…als auch”.  I’m sure French and Spanish teachers can come up with a few.

Describing your school

Image result for school floor plan

This has got to be one of the most tedious bits to teach.  I cannot imagine many students enjoy relating the facts that their school has classrooms, modern science labs and a small playground.  Here is an activity to make it ever so slightly more interesting:

Teacher gives half of the class mini-whiteboards.  The other half are given cards containing a description of a school (parallel text in both languages).  Starting in the top corner students draw in the rooms as they are told where they are.  The whiteboard is then passed to the other person to check.  They then rub out any wrong rooms and read those parts again.

You will need two sets of descriptions so that both people can have a go.

This could also be done as a whole class listening task.  You could even do the school you are in and get students to spot the mistakes you make.

After School Clubs

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Again, another topic to enthuse…

Essentially from this you want students to come away with a structure such as: “después del instituto”, “después de haber terminado mis clases”, “après avoir fini mes cours”, “am Ende des Tages” combined with the preterite/passé composé or perfekt tense

Have students look up some slightly more interesting activities in advance of this lesson.  Fencing, bungee jumping, quidditch, gaming.  They can then practice the structure you want them to learn.  I can imagine some quite creative efforts once you add in TMP (Germanists only).

Future plans Cluedo

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ah…the good old days

I was introduced to “who killed Santa” cluedo in my NQT year by two super language teachers I worked with.  The structure can largely be applied to anything.  Another popular language teaching website calls it mind-reading.

Give students the following table on a slide.

They pick three phrases and write them on a mini-whiteboard or in books.  The student guessing needs to read out the verbs at the top and the infinitives.  The person with the three answers can only tell them how many they are getting right.

I want to… I’m going to… I would like to
infinitive chunk
infinitive chunk
infinitive chunk
infinitive chunk
infinitive chunk
infinitive chunk
infinitive chunk
infinitive chunk
infi YOU nitive
infi GET nitive
infi THE nitive
infi IDEA nitive

This is great as you can recycle quite a lot of language and also three ways of talking about the future at once.

 

 

 

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European Day of Languages

It is that time of year again and it always comes around really fast.  European Day of Languages.  If your school does not take part then this is your opportunity.  It is great free publicity for your subject!  Not to place ideas in any of your heads but you could even call it “Languages Week”…

There are many ideas out there, resources on TES and even on the EDL website itself.  Here are a few I have seen work over the years…

Update: ALL have also produced some ideas here.

School site quiz quest.

This one requires some prior preparation, you will require: a quiz on paper, answers on paper, blue tac, sweets.  Give students a set of quiz questions with answers around the school in creative places. Put the answers up a few days before announcing to generate interest.  Any students who complete the quiz in their breaks and lunches get some kind of reward.  It is very likely you will have a fair number of keen year 7s for this.  Students collect the quiz sheets from you and hand in to an agreed location.

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Tutor time quizzes/videos.

Some schools do not have a tutor time programme so create one for the week.  Your other staff will often get on board if they are invited to take part.  If they are forced then they may resent it.  My experience was that 2/3 of staff would willingly go along with it.

We did the following:

  1. Quiz on a different European country each day.
  2. Video on a different European city each day.
  3. The register in a different language each day (modelled and practised in staff briefing of course).
  4. Staff used Digital Dialects to teach themselves and the kids a new language
  5. Some members of staff taught languages they knew such as Gaelic, Spanish Welsh and Hebrew.
  6. Some members of staff from other countries insisted on registers being done in the language in their classes!
  7. Some members of staff kept the language from registration going all day.

Who speaks what? Display board

Do you have pupils and staff from other countries?  Prepare a display with a photo and a short bio as to what languages they speak, how they learnt and how much they can still do.

Who speaks what? Video interviews

Get around your multilingual staff and interview them about their experiences of language learning.  How easy/difficult did they find it?  What are the benefits and advantages of speaking a language? You could show the videos in an assembly or tutor time.

Displays

Various famous people have learnt languages.  If you want a list then here are a few…  It didn’t take long to create a nice PowerPoint background, add a picture from the internet and a text box with the languages they have learnt.  These then went along the corridor.

  • Bradley Cooper – French.
  • Carlo Ancelotti – English, French, Spanish.
  • Mark Zuckerberg – Mandarin.
  • Zlatan Ibrahimovic – English, Spanish, Italian.
  • Tom Hiddeston – Spanish, French, Greek.
  • Tom Daley – Spanish.
  • José Mourinho – English, Spanish, Italian, French.
  • Natalie Portman – German, Spanish, Japanese.
  • Colin Firth – Italian.
  • Viggo Mortenson – Spanish, French, Norwegian, Italian.
  • Dory – Whale.*
  • Christoph Waltz – French, English, Italian.

*may not be a recognised language

Assemblies

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I appreciate that some readers may have visibly tensed up at this suggestion.  It is a great bit of free advertising for your subject!  Two years ago, I did an assembly titled “I never planned to teach languages”.  It went down really well.  We began with a quiz of film quotes translated into other languages (we used google, more on the evils of google here).  They got sweets for guessing  the film and the quote. Languages such as Portuguese, Dutch and Romanian are great for this.  Then I started telling a little bit of my story about how I got into MFL teaching and where it has taken me.  If you’re interested in that story, or in need of a good night’s sleep then you can read a bit here.

Dress up

One of my former colleagues is a little too keen on this idea… I’ll let your imagination take care of this one.

Foreign Food Stall/Tasting – courtesy of a great colleague from previous school.

Bring in plenty of foreign foods for kids to try at a breaktime.  Staff and students could contribute to this.  This could be run much like a cake sale with profits going to a language related charity or a charity run in a European country.  Efforts we had one year included Schwarzwaldkirschetorte, Tortilla Española, Tarte au Citron Apfelstrudel and Croissants.  You could even insist on orders being given in the foreign language.

Get the canteen involved.

If your canteen is up for it, then take over the menu for a week.  I’ve given each day a theme as they will know what is practical.  As nice as it may be to have a Croquembouche, it might be a little too much to ask!

  • Monday – French.
  • Tuesday – Spanish.
  • Wednesday – Welsh (that’s for Secondary MFL matters in Wales – you guys are great).
  • Thursday – German.
  • Friday – Portuguese.

Your canteen staff will probably welcome the opportunity to vary the menu a bit, just give them plenty of warning.

Language Learning Videos

Here are a set of videos with a pro-language learning theme.

 

Funny Foreign Language Videos

Who doesn’t love a funny or odd Youtube video at some point? Here are a few favourites from the past few years:

This one had the kids saying “poom” for a few days.

PE Department will approve of this one!

One semester clearly hasn’t convinced her…

 

What do you do?  Share your ideas on Twitter

The Obligatory World Cup Post.

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If you’re enjoying the World Cup then you’re probably a football fan or (at the time of writing) have Uruguay, Spain or Portugal in the staff sweep-stake.  If you’re not enjoying the World Cup then chances are you’re not a fan of football, or the staff sweep-stake left you with Morocco or Iran.

The World Cup does lend itself to a variety of activities to revise material you have likely covered this year…

Recapping clothes and colours

This is one of my favourite ways to teach adjective endings.  Football kits lend themselves to this task as the link explains.  This could also be achieved with the flags of the countries.

Developing opinions and reasons

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CCO Public Domain

Why not get each member of your class to write a prediction?  You could even involve yourself in this, particularly if you’re still bitter about the sweep-stake.

I think that          <insert country here>  is going to win

I believe that      <team that is not England> is going to win

In my opinion   <probably Spain> is going to win

You could change this depending on the ability of the kids.  Students could add a reason for their opinion “because they have better players”.  They could add superlatives “because Ronaldo is the best”.  More advanced students could use a subjunctive: “i hope that”.

How are you going to watch the final – future tense revision.

Students produce their plans for the day of the final.  There is an opportunity here for a short piece of writing involving time  phrases, opinions, reasons and the future tense.  If they are not planning to watch it at all then it is still good future tense practice.

Consequences Activity

Students write their name at the bottom of a piece of paper.  They write a sentence at the top, fold it towards themselves and pass it on.  They keep going until all the sentences have been written.  It can produce something amusing.  Watch the kids closely (you know the ones I mean).

In the morning I’m going to…

For lunch, I’m going to…

In the afternoon, I’m going to

For dinner, I’m going to..

After having eaten, I’m going to…

… and … are going to be in the final.

Phonics Practice

Image result for seleccion de peru

This is one I have used a number of times.  I always wonder why students can pronounce any footballer but then get every other word with the same sound patterns wrong!

For Spanish teams, pick one of the south american sides.  Far harder.  Most of the Spanish team will be well known to your kids.

Recap target sounds with students.  For Spanish this may be G, J, CE, CI, LL among others.  For French this might be silent endings or other sounds.  For Germany this could be sounds with umlauts, “ch” endings or double vowels.

Option 1: students announce the team to their partner as if they were on TV reading out the lineup.

Option 2: students race through the team trying to beat their partner to the end.

Option 3: teacher goes through lineup and students have to spot the mistakes made and correct them.

Song Activities

I think England could have stopped at that John Barnes rap or Footballs Coming Home

Sergio Ramos was involved in this beauty…

How to exploit it…?

Well, I had some ideas but then found this superb guide on Frenchteacher.net  Anything I write would simply be repeating the list.

Or use their Euro 2016 effort…

If you are a bit sick of the football, or your class is, then do the same with the song “Así Soy”  It worked wonders with my Year 10 class.

Comparatives/Superlatives Revision

Image result for greater than

The world cup is an opportunity to revise comparatives and superlatives.  Who is better, worse, faster, slower, uglier, less talented, more talented?  Who is the best, worst, most irritating?  There is a TES worksheet from a previous tournament that just needs a little bit of updating, as the Dutch did not make it this year.

Player Biography / Description

Image result for david de gea spain save

Mira 3 has a section on biographies of famous people.  Why not go for the footballers.  There is an opportunity here to practise the past tense with “he played for”, “he signed for”, “he was born in”.  There is an opportunity for the present tense “he plays for”, “he is a defender”.  I’m sure you can come up with even more ideas.

Read some tweets

Image result for twitter

The vast majority of international teams are on Twitter, as are their players.  You could screenshot a few and use them as a translation task.  Example below:

Listening Bingo

Image result for barry davis commentator

Give students a selection of football related terms.  You could record yourself commentating over a video clip, you could mute the clip and improvise on the spot, or use the original commentary (with advanced level)

Option 1: students select 5 terms and you play bingo.  First person to hear all 5 wins.

Option 2: students have a list and tick off as many as they hear.  People who get the correct number win.

 

 

 

5 Things to try tomorrow

These may already form part of your everyday teaching repertoire but here are five activities to try tomorrow.  Each has a differentiation and challenge added.

Quiz Quiz Trade

Everyone I know seems to understand this one differently.  I have seen it used in MFL and English in different ways.  It can probably be applied to other subjects too.  Here’s how I make it work in my classroom.

  1. Get the mini-whiteboards ready
  2. Project on screen 3 questions students have been learning.
  3. Students pick one of the questions and write it on their board.
  4. Students go around the room.  They must ask a question, answer a question and then swap whiteboards.
  5. They must perform 5,6,7,8 swaps before heading back to their seat.

Differentiation: You can differentiate this by getting students to write the start of an answer on the other side of the whiteboard.

Front of whiteboard:   ¿Qué llevas normalmente?

Back of whiteboard:    Llevo…

Challenge: You could have students put a word on the back of the whiteboard that has to be incorporated into the answer.   You could increase the variety of questions used or vary tenses used by questions.

Rewards: whilst the students are doing this, go around, listen and note down the ones who are going for it.  Reward them at some point in a manner of your choosing.

MM Paired Speaking

MM are the initials of the excellent teacher who showed me this.  It is an information gap activity but I like it as it practises speaking, listening, reading and writing.

  1. Students divide page into 3 columns
  2. Column 1 – write days of week in TL leaving 2-3 lines in between each
  3. Column 2 – pupils draw picture that represents vocab they have been learning such as places in town.
  4. Column 3 – leave blank.
  5. Project on board a question such as ¿Adónde vas el lunes? (where do you go on Monday?).  You could also project a model answer “el lunes voy al cine” (Mondays I go to the cinema).
  6. Model the activity with a keen student.  This stage is crucial for the activity to work well.
  7. Fiona asks Shrek where he goes on each day of the week.  When Shrek answers, Fiona uses her final column to write down exactly what he says.
  8. Shrek and Fiona swap roles.

Differentiation: Weaker students might need this printing out on paper.

Challenge:  You could increase the complexity of the sentence demanded by insisting pupils add an opinion.  This could be done by adding a column in between 2 and 3.

Car Race Quiz

I resurrected this little gem this week.  I cannot find the original car race powerpoint but you will find similar powerpoints here by the same author.  Car race, horse race or (at Christmas) race to Bethlehem should work.  For those of you big on knowledge organisers, this could be a different way to test them.

  1. Have a list of questions ready to test everything in a unit from key vocabulary to how to form various tenses or structures covered.
  2. Divide class into teams
  3. Teams take it in turns to answer.
  4. If they are right then click the car/horse/wise man (whichever you choose to download) and they will gradually move towards the finish line.  If a team is unable to answer, pass it to another team.
  5. Winners are first to the finish line.

Differentiation:  This can come through the questions you ask and how you tailor the activity to the students in front of you.

Challenge: you could turn this activity into a translation challenge.  First group to produce correct translation of a particular phrase gets to move their car forward.

Song gap fills

I don’t do these too often but a colleague of mine did one with a class recently.  Find a song and take out a variety of vocabulary.  You could look for words with a particular phoneme that you want students to practice or remove some verbs you have learnt recently. They listen twice or three times trying to put in the missing words and then you show them the lyric video for them to check their answers.

It is best done last lesson of the day or you will be hearing it all day.  Whilst my colleague suggested Kevin y Karla (check their Youtube channel out),  This one was a hit with my year 9s:

Differentiation: depends on the quantity words you take out.

Challenge: have two versions with words removed.  Remove significantly more from one version, or equally put the wrong words in and students correct them.

12 sided dice topic revision

If you have a set of these then great.  If not then tell students to roll a six sided die twice and add the numbers.

Set 12 tasks on the screen that link to the topic you have been studying. Give each task a points score according to complexity.

1 Simple vocabulary recall task

2 Explain grammar structure

3 Translate something

4 Make a sentence including …

etc

Differentiation: you could pair up students who are at a similar level.  You could turn it into a rally-coach task (the more advanced student does their own task but coaches a weaker individual to help them achieve).

Challenge: depends on the complexity of tasks set

GCSE: Customs & Festivals

800px-Santiago_Sacatepequez_Kite_Festival

Picture of Santiago Sacatepequez by gringologue [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The Spanish speaking world is full of a variety of festivals.  From the perilous San Fermín to the picturesque Fiesta de los Patios en Córdoba or contemplative Semana Santa.  If you look further afield you will find El Día de Los Muertos/El Día de La Muerte,  and El Yipao in Colombia.

AQA refers to this topic as “customs and festivals in Spanish speaking countries/communities”.

Pearson/Edexcel refer to it as “celebrations and festivals”.

WJEC refer to it as: “festivals and celebrations”.

The ideas discussed in this blog and inevitably the language used will unavoidably favour the exam board I’m currently preparing my students for.  Nevertheless the ideas themselves should be applicable to any exam board and adaptable to languages other than Spanish.

It is worth considering how a module like this one might be examined.  It could be tested by all four skills

  • Speaking: any of the three elements could include something related to this topic.  Your sample assessment materials should give you an idea.
  • Writing: write about a festival/celebration you went to or would like to go to
  • Listening: listen to an account of Carnival and answer questions (AQA SAMS)
  • Reading: same as above but text on page

Here are some activities I have tried over the course of teaching this module.

The VLOG

This was an idea from a colleague of mine and one of the best MFL teachers I know.  The ultimate aim is that students produce a VLOG (video-blog) in which they describe a Spanish festival.  A growing number of the students I teach want to be “Youtubers” so they welcomed this idea.  Students were told they can appear in the VLOG if they choose or they could do something similar to Tio Spanish.  The main rule was that it was them doing the talking.  The structures I wanted the students to be using included the following:

it celebrates, it takes place in, it is, there is/are, you can see, you can, it starts, it finishes, it lasts, it is one of the most … , it has, it involves, it includes, I would like to go, because it looks, i would recommend it because it is.

Part 1: 2-3 lessons of controlled listening, reading, speaking and writing practice ensued trying to recycle these structures as much as possible.  I had been reading quite a bit over half-term and wanted to try out some new ideas.  One source of ideas was The Language Teacher ToolkitThe Language Teacher Toolkit.  Another was the Language Gym Blog.   A number of these formed part of the lesson and I wrote a number of texts that recycled the target structures above.

Part 2: I took the students to the ICT room.  They researched key details about a festival from a selection I had produced.  No-one did La Tomatina because that was on the scheme of work for subsequent weeks.  After that students produced a script using as many of the target structures as possible.

Part 3: They handed in their scripts, which I marked.  They then corrected and improved it based on feedback they were given so that their VLOG recording is grammatically sound.  As part of this, they also had to underline any words that they felt were tricky to pronounce.   Those that finished this redrafting process worked with me on how to pronounce the words.  Others were directed to Voki.  Whilst not perfect, it will do the job.

Part 4: Students are currently recording their vlogs.

 

Festivals that match interests.

Sometimes it is worth investigating a little more to find out some more festivals out there.  UK textbooks tend to emphasise la tomatina or navidad.  I think the former because it captures the imagination and the later because students can relate to it.  One student was quite motivated by the fería de caballos in Jerez.  Another really enjoyed looking into la mistura peruana (Peru’s food festival).  Día de amistad (South America) was perceived to be a great idea by another student and they wondered why we don’t have it here.

PaseoPrincipal-FeriaJerez-MIN-DSC04582

Android Game

This was a way of practising the key vocabulary around festivals.  Here’s how it works:  Frodo draws 9 dots on a whiteboard in a 3×3 pattern.  Frodo then joins up 4-5 of the dots consecutively like an Android phone password.

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On the screen have 9 squares with phrases in.  These correspond to the 9 dots.

Sam’s job is to crack Frodo’s password.  Sam says the phrases on the screen trying to guess where Frodo’s password starts.  Frodo can only respond “si” when Sam has guessed the first one.  Even if he has said other parts of the pattern up to this point, he must get the first one.

The main aim here is repetition of vocabulary and familiarisation with the target structures.  You should advise students beforehand not to use their actual phone password.  You would think it might not need saying, but it does.

Trapdoor with lives

Trapdoor seems to be a staple of MFL teacher PowerPoints on TES.

trapdoor

Danielle was kind enough to let me use this example of trapdoor. You should visit her site: Morganmfl

The prevailing methodology seems to be that students restart when they get it wrong and go back to the beginning.  A slight twist I have tried recently is giving students a number of lives.  They then have to reach the end alive.  This means that they have a greater chance to use all of the vocabulary on the activity.  I tend to base the number of lives on 1-2 guesses per section.

For festivals I used the idea of a past tense account of the festival including the following vocabulary:

I went to, we went to, my friends and I went to, we participated in, we threw, a lot of, we ate, we drank, it was, we are going to go again, because it is, we are never going to go again,

Mastermind with lives

Image result for mastermind board gameAgain using the same principal as the trapdoor activity above.  Students have to guess what their partner is thinking.  They can only tell their partner how many they get right.  Place a table on the board with 3-4 columns.  The original game to the left uses four.  Personally, I prefer three for MFL lessons.  One student writes the target phrases in their book.  The other tries to guess the phrases that they have written.  This can be made quicker by giving students a number of lives.  It also means both students are likely to get a go.  Students seem to enjoy this one.

TL Questions and TL answers

La_Tomatina_2014

By Carlesboveserral [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons

This module has been great for training students to respond to target language questions with target language answers.  Using the AQA book, we covered la tomatina.  I wrote text about la tomatina from the point of view of “Marcos” who attended la tomatina.  There were then 8 TL questions with relatively simple answers in the text.  Part of the activity was to train pupils to look for language that is similar to the verbs in the question.

If this is the answer, what is the question

In the subsequent lesson, I jumbled up the TL questions and TL answers and asked students to match them.  The answers were on the left of the slide and questions on the right.  To increase the level of challenge in this activity, you could have students create the questions themselves.

Four Phrases One festival

Have four boxes of text on the screen.  Three of the boxes all partly describe a festival.  The final box should have some details that do not correlate with the others.  Students need to work out the festival as well as which box does not help them.  The idea behind this was to give them practice of filtering out the distractors when looking at higher level reading texts.  Depending on the level of your class you can make this as subtle as you feel is right.

Dice

I’m not quite sure where I would be without a set of 6 sided and 12 sided dice in lessons.  Aside from the rather popular “one pen one die” activity, you can do a variety of things.

Improvisation – students make a sentence based on prompt.  You could add a minimum word count to stretch them.

  1. Where was the festival?
  2. What was it about?
  3. What did you see?
  4. How was it?
  5. Who did you go with?
  6. What did you like most?

Roll, say, translate – Hugh rolls the dice and says the sentence.  Zac translates into English.

  1. se celebra en abril
  2. tiene lugar en Sevilla
  3. hay muchas casetas
  4. empieza dos semanas después de la Semana Santa
  5. la gente baila sevillanas, bebe manzanilla y come tapas
  6. Quiero visitarla porque parece bonita

etc

Extreme Snakes and Ladders

File:Snakes and ladders1.JPG

By Druyts.t [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons

I’ll be honest with you; it is not extreme but the name seems to have an effect on classes.  Find a snakes and ladders board.  Set sentence-making challenges for anyone who lands on a number ending in 1,3,5,7,9.  You could also add a snake stopper and ladder allower.  These should be tricky tasks.

1  Where was the festival?

3  What was it about?

5  What did you see?

7  How was it?

9  Who did you go with?

Snake Stopper: make three sentences about a festival that includes the words … , … and …

Ladder Allower: Describe a festival you wouldn’t go to and why

If you have managed to read this far then well done!  Feel free to tweet any ideas to @everydaymfl or leave a comment below.

 

 

 

MFL & Parents Evening

Perhaps this rings true for some of you.  I’m not sure how you see parents evening or how they work in your school but I’ll do my best to make sure that there is something for everyone.

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I firmly believe that strong relationships facilitate greater progress in the classroom.  Parents evening offers a unique opportunity to build two relationships.  Empathy and enthusiasm are crucial in those few hours.

1) Student – Teacher.  Parents evening is one of the few times you will get where you can talk to the child about their progress without their peers being around but with a level of accountability, as their parents heard it.

2) Teacher – Parent.  Parents might have heard from their offspring that you are a fire-breathing ogre with a volcanic temperament, liable to go off at the slightest infraction.  Conversely, they may have heard that you are a “legend”.  Either way, it is an opportunity for the parent to put a face to a name and to have a dialogue about their child’s progress.

Making the most of parents evening:

Preparation

In my current school students seek you out for appointments and you are encouraged to seek appointments with them.  They bring you a flurry of pieces of paper (these diminish as they progress through the years) and you try and pack them all into 3 hours.  Other schools do their appointments online and I’ve seen that be quite effective.

Once my appointments are written in then I do three things:

  1. Locate data and assessment results for classes being taught
  2. Look at the list of names and note the first few things that come to mind for each student.
    1. Penny – presentation, homework variable, good effort in class.
    2. Leonard – speaking good, needs to increase detail and variety in written work.
    3. Howard – off-task, focus, incident thurs.
    4. Raj – equipment, off-task, consider seating move?
  3. Make sure that I have a mug of tea ready.

Approach

I have seen a variety of approaches at parents evening.  Some teachers ask the student questions “how do you feel you are progressing?”  “How do you think Spanish is going this year?”  My feedback from students is that they do not enjoy this moment of being put on the spot and are not always certain about what to say.  Most students will likely opt for a conservative response irrespective of how they are progressing, as it will minimise fallout if they feel they are not doing so well.

Personally, I prefer the following:

Positive Appointment

  1. Know your student.  A couple of words about the student shows that you definitely know them.  “This is the second year I’ve taught Anakin”.  “Teaching Luke in year 7 and now in year 9, it’s great to see how far he has come”.  “What has pleased me most about Rey this year is how she has…”
  2. Data and progress.  Talk about how they have performed in assessments or data-drops.  Are they where you expect them to be?  If not, why not?  Was it the assessment or the revision?  How can they get there?  How can home be involved in helping them?
  3. What’s next?  Explain that there are a couple of things they could do “to really help themselves move forward”.  Keep it short, simple and to the most important stuff.  If a parent is writing notes then feel free to say more.  Consider that if there is a conversation at home afterwards then what do you want them to remember?   There may be more, but that parent might have had 7 appointments already.
  4. Any questions?  Leave a minute or two for the parents to ask any questions that they have.

With year 10s and 11s I have taken sheets of useful revision websites for parents to take away.  The students may have already been given this sheet but an extra copy at home never hurt!

Less positive appointment:

  • Know your student.  A couple of words about the student that shows you definitely know them and have caught them being good.  Even the very worst students I have taught have not been 100% bad for 100% of every lesson.  Key point to consider here: how can you build that relationship?  How can you involve home in bringing about a turnaround in fortunes for that student?
  • Data and progress.  Talk about how they have performed in class.  Are they where you expect them to be?  If not, why not?  How can they get there?  How can home be involved in helping them?  At this point, the student or parent may suggest something that would help.  Make a note of it and then deliver on it.  This could be a seating plan change, a resource, a need for greater help, checking understanding prior to starting a task.  This shows your intentions to secure the best outcomes for their child.  Actions speak loudly.
  • Issues.  If the issue is behaviour or homework then talk about where things need to improve.  Most parents appreciate honesty.  If the parent appears supportive then tell them you will give them a ring, or an email, in 2-3 weeks to review how things are going.  As you do this, write it in your planner and then do it.  Sometimes parents will engage positively with you at this point.  Others may choose not to.
  • Finish well.  Find a way to finish the appointment on a positive note.  No kid should feel like they are a lost cause.
  • Any questions?  The parent may well wish to question you further.  Do not be afraid to involve your Head of Department if you need to.  Perhaps warn them prior to the appointment if you know of a particular tricky parent.  If the parent is taking up undue time then politely suggest that you continue the discussion at a later date, possibly with your Head of Department present.

Take a sheet

In previous years I have brought copies of the following to parents evening:

  • Sheet titled “how to help my son/daughter succeed at languages”.
  • Sheet titled “effective revision techniques for MFL”.
  • Sheet with QR codes for revision websites.

Each one has gone down well with parents.  It takes a bit of prep time but you can reuse them most years.

Parents that care will likely read the sheet.  Those that do not care will not but I have seen them appear in Spanish books, or have heard that it was stuck to the fridge or useful later down the line.

What do you do when they say….?

  • “Why does he/she need languages?”
  • “He/she is never going to go to France/Germany/Spain”
  • “I was never any good at languages”
  • “Why does he/she have to do a language?”
  • “Everyone speaks English”
  • “You can give it up in year 9 anyway”

If you read my previous blogpost Blogging for Languages without nodding off, then you will have an idea of my answers to these questions.  Firstly, I started Spanish at university at the age of 18.  Secondly, I never planned to teach languages.  Lastly, I never thought I would ever end up in South America.  However, all of these things happened.  I find this normally works as quite a disarming start to a number of the above statements.  After this, I can then talk about the importance of languages, the doors they opens and the benefits for their child.  You will need to come up with your answers to these questions and similar ones.  If you want some statistics to back up your answers then have a look at the Year 9 Options post  or some things I picked up at the ISMLA conference.  The main thing is delivering them with empathy and enthusiasm.