Here are 5 things that worked for me this week.
I had forgotten about this website until one of my pupils said “I know the words I just don’t know how to pronounce them when I’m practising at home”. My internal, unvocalised reaction to this comment – a comment innocently dropped after 4.5 years of Spanish – is probably best summarised by the picture below:
In hindsight, my internal monologue should have focused on the positive “when practising at home”. However, it was at this point that Voki came to mind. Whilst not perfect, it does offer text to speech conversion. It also can help occasionally with individual Spanish words. Once you have set the voice to Spanish and the accent to a relatively clear one (our preference was for Javier). Just remind the pupils they don’t need to sign up to use it, and also not to get distracted on creating avatars.
For learning answers to questions, this is a particular favourite. The address is as follows:
It allows students to learn sentences and hide words to check their recall. The activities are scaffolded quite well. It would depend on the student who uses it as to how effective it is.
Students used to find this helpful in the days of controlled assessment. One has also thanked me for “saving” their GCSE drama coursework.
No snakes, no ladders (Idea from Gianfranco Conti / Dylan Viñales)
Secondary MFL facebook groups such as: Secondary MFL Matters, Secondary MFL in Wales, New GCSE 9-1 resources, Global Innovative Language Teachers and others) have taken over my news-feed. They allow some superb sharing of resources and ideas. However, lots of activities appear briefly and then disappear: balloon towers, one pen&one dice. This is one I want to keep. It involves speaking, listening, reading and translation. Students play in threes – 2 players and a referee. This is a refreshing change to the majority of MFL games, which seem to require a partner. Full instructions for No Snakes, No Ladders can be found here.
This is a slight variation on the MFL standard of battleships. Gives students a slightly larger grid (6×6) and tell them to hide some treasure somewhere in the grid. This variation worked in 98% of the pairs in my class. Sadly there was a kid who guessed it first time! 36 different squares! What were the chances?! I made sure that they had a rematch.
Quick Speaking Feedback
This next suggestion is a little bit embryonic. It is something I have tried with two classes and am still considering how it might work best.
There is a huge focus in UK schools on feedback, DIRT and responding to marking. The vast majority of DIRT I have seen on Facebook Groups and the TES relates purely to written work. I’ve written about that here.
I started to consider how I may give short quick feedback on speaking, a skill I believe to be substantially more important than writing. With two year 8 classes, I went around asking them to read a longer paragraph from a textbook page (Mira 2 or Listos 2). Whilst they were reading out loud, I scribbled one quick sentence in their book regarding their pronunciation. Some of the notes looked like this:
- Check “ci/ce” in middle of words – should sound like “th” eg: “vacaciones”, “francia”
- Remember ll = y
- Superb today, nothing to correct!
- Remember silent h when starting a word, otherwise fine.
To save time and workload, I wrote one sentence per student. It did not take long to go through the class.
For those of you wanting students to respond to it then there were two ways I tried to engender this. Firstly, I modelled the sentence and then they repeated it back to me. This helped some to understand how it should sound. Secondly, I wrote a list of 4-5 words in their book that I wanted them to say containing the same sound. Lastly, in light of everything I had heard, I planned a lesson around J and G in Spanish. This youtube clip was helpful in that lesson. It took the focus off of me and gave them plenty of examples. In that lesson I read out a list of words and students corrected me if I made a mistake. We had races of words involving Js and Gs along with trying a few tongue twisters corporately and individually.
What I noticed from this was that some students got a substantial confidence boost. Their ability to pronounce words was better than they perceived it to be. Others appreciated the quick feedback. Some appreciated being able to respond to the feedback without a lengthy redraft of a piece of work. They also appreciated the lesson working on the J and G.
I’m still mulling over where to take this and what to do to refine the process but it was well received by the students and did appear to have a positive effect.