EverydayMFL will return…

Due to the small matters of a wedding, honeymoon and a new school in a new area, EverydayMFL will return in the autumn term.

Enjoy your summer!

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

Blogging for Languages

The following is the transcript of a talk I gave at the ISMLA Conference Feb 2018.  The talk was titled “Blogging for Languages”.  It is a long read.

Blogging for Languages

I was invited by John Wilson of the ISMLA to talk this morning about “Blogging for Languages”.  My plan is to go through 5 things.  Firstly, who am I.  Why blog?  What have I gained?  Can you do it?  What’s next?

Question 1: Who are you?

My name is Dave.  I teach MFL in a secondary school in Devon.  I have taught German, Spanish and a little bit of French since starting in late 2011.  In that time I have served as Second in Department and also in a pastoral role.  I didn’t ever plan to be a language teacher.  I went to university to study English and German.  My first English lecture convinced me that I needed to be doing something else.  A number of friends I had made in my halls were studying Spanish ab initio, so I joined them and it carried on.  This led to a year abroad spent in a mixture of München, Bolivia and Marburg.  I completed my PGCE with South West Teacher Training, and got a job teaching languages.  I’m now just an everyday MFL teacher.

Question 2: Why blog?

I came across the idea of blogging sometime into my third or fourth year of teaching.  I had started looking at a couple of websites called Classteaching, a blog by a teacher called Chris Hildrew (who is now a Headteacher and occasionally blogs) and Frenchteacher.net.  They were all great for ideas and I wondered if I could do the same, so I did.  Everydaymfl started life as North DevonMFL.  It was a place to store activities and teaching ideas. It attracted a few visitors each week.  I was quite proud of my 20 or so readers.  Aside from a blog called Dom’s MFL blog and the aforementioned Frenchteacher.net there was not much giving practical ideas for teaching topics, grammar and ideas to use inside the classroom.  I wanted somewhere to store ideas that was not going to get lost, disappear and was easily accessible.

After the first few months, I changed the name to reflect the nature of the blog and also because I had started looking around for jobs elsewhere.  If I were no longer in North Devon, I didn’t think I could really retain the name.  Over time the blog has grown from 1000 views in 2015 to 10,000 unique visitors in 2017.  The United Kingdom leads the way with an overwhelming majority of views.  The top ten does include the USA, Ireland, UAE, Spain, Austrailia, France, Brazil, Canada, Malaysia and Italy.  I’m still awaiting visitors from Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, Iran and Cuba.

The vision behind the blog was practical ideas that teachers can use every day.  On Everdaymfl you can find ideas for teaching a variety of topics, how to help pupil-premium students, feedback and marking, questioning and some thoughts regarding approaching a visit from “they-who-shall-not-be named”.

Question 3: What have you gained?

I have gained a lot from doing this.  Composing a blogpost makes me reflect on what works, allows me to imagine ideal situations and helps with retaining ideas I may have had and filtering out the ideas that didn’t work.  I have also found it hugely helpful in working out what I believe about language teaching.

Regarding what works, there are plenty of posts on ideas that I have tried in lessons.  I have written a series of posts titled “5 things to try tomorrow”.  If you really want clicks on a website then it needs that kind of title!  I have refrained from the clickbait titles you see on some websites such as: “I did this activity with my students and you wouldn’t believe what happened next” or “the reaction from students to this lesson broke the internet”.  If we’re honest, what happened next was probably SLT on a learning walk, or that the bell went!

In terms of ideal situations, I have written about options, Parents Evening (is currently in the works) and keeping year 9 going after options .  Some of the ideas in the blog are things that I would like to do but thought of weeks after a meeting where a decision was taken; others are things that we have done in the past that still have merit but perhaps we no longer do.  Sometimes the ideas might not work in our context, or might be rejected in favour of something else.  That does not mean that it will not work for someone else.

When it comes to retaining ideas, I now have a post on charity and volunteering to help me remember how to teach it the next time around, along with social media and the internet.  The most recent one was a post on the environment.  It is a tough enough topic to make engaging anyway but hopefully will spark my thoughts and imagination in future years.  Posts can jog my memory and makes me remember the activities, along with the lesson, which can often provoke further memories.

From reading other peoples’ blogs I have gained a huge amount in terms of knowledge about second language acquisition and schools of thought regarding it.  It has helped me to develop my ideas and principles about language teaching.  At some point I will put these to paper but have not got around to that one.  It has encouraged me to reflect on what I was taught and how MFL teaching was modelled in my PGCE.  This has then led to me ditching certain types of activity because they don’t promote learning enough or don’t encourage students to use the language enough.  It has led to me trying out new activities on a weekly basis and even in the past few days such as the Card Stealing activity seen on the Global Innovative Language Teachers Facebook Group.

Publicising the blog on Twitter and various Facebook groups have put me in contact with other professionals.  They also have helped to massively bump up the visitor numbers.  The Global Innovative Language Teachers Facebook group caused a massive spike in views when one of my posts was shared there by someone else.  The post concerned marking and feedback.  Forty something comments afterwards; it had proved slightly divisive but provoked a debate.  The blog has also put me in contact with some extremely helpful people such as Laura Simons who runs the Secondary MFL in Wales Facebook group, and also Steve Smith (author of Frenchteacher.net) who kindly reviewed the blog.  I felt some trepidation when I discovered the next post on Frenchteacher was a review of my site!  He was very complimentary so I will return the favour by suggesting you have a look at his books on Amazon.

Question 4: Can I do it?

The answer is simply yes.  If you are happy using a computer, can search for images and are willing to read a little bit about hyperlinks and sign up to Twitter then you can.   There are a variety of sites out there that will help you compose a website and get it up and running.  The main ones seem to be WordPress, Blogger and Wix.  I went with WordPress having seen other people use them.

The next question you need to ask is do you have the time?  I have managed less blogs this year than previous years due to a variety of new demands on my time.  If you have time then you need to consider subject matter.  What are you going to focus on?  Taking the blogs out there you have Jess Lund’s blog which elaborates on what happens at Michaela School.  Gianfranco Conti writes a lot about research on second language learning and how it impacts upon his classroom practice, which is well worth a read.  Steve Smith writes about issues facing language teachers and shares lots of good ideas for lessons.  Helen Myers has a blog with useful information concerning Ofqual, the new GCSEs, the Association for Language Learning and various other bodies.  John Bald mixes language and literacy in his blog.  Chris Fuller used to write about some crazy ideas and different ways of teaching the same old topics.

If you have a subject then you need to consider frequency.  At the moment I am averaging one post a month and would like to do more.  Having said that, one of the great things about a WordPress blog is that you can set the blog to upload at any time of your choosing.  This means you could write a few and then let them upload at different points in the month.  It will then share it across your social media platforms if you let it.

As for how to get started, Teacher Toolkit is a great place to go if starting to write a blog.  It used to be a member of SLT in a UK school writing about his practice.  It has since grown quite considerably, but somewhere in there the original posts about having a blog should be available.  My main gains from Teacher-Toolkit were to have a Twitter handle and use it for publicising and use of the website compfight.com to provide copyright free photos.  If you do not own the rights to the photo then you shouldn’t be using it.  You also need to make sure the photo is properly accredited.  It has been very useful, although google have now also introduced this as a search feature.  I have also had to be very careful about where the ideas come from.  Most of the time they are easy to attribute: “this came from …’s website” or my PGCE mentor was a big fan of this activity.  Credit is sometimes very hard to give as with social media things can move very fast.  One person shares an activity on a Facebook group and then suddenly every teacher is doing it.  I’m still completely unaware as to who developed the idea of Spanish revision balloon towers or the more recent “one pen one dice” activity.  It is then hard to give credit to the people who deserve it.

Lastly I feel I should mention a little bit on safeguarding.  Initially, I chose to leave my name off Everydaymfl, as I didn’t want my students finding me.  Whilst some of my writing may come from experiences involving students you will find no names on my site.  What you will find are replacement names borrowed from TV series and films.  Joey and Chandler, Sheldon and Penny etc.

Question 5: What next?

The first aim is to blog more in 2018 than 2017.  I have no idea yet what the topics will be but have a few in the pipeline including one on parents’ evenings that needs finishing along with another “5 things to try tomorrow”.

The second is to possibly offer one or two guest posts to maintain the momentum from this year.  It also might allow someone to share their take on something or ideas they have had.  If you are keen then please drop me an email via the “about” page  I currently do not teach A-level and there is definitely a space there for sharing effective practice and favourite activities, particularly as there have been changes to A-level and I’m sure teachers out there would appreciate some practical ideas.

The final aim is to keep writing, keep reading, keep learning, keep reflecting and developing as a teacher.  Ultimately we all want to be at our best in the classroom, achieve the best results for our students and give them a really good experience of languages and hopefully I have helped the MFL community in doing that.

The second “what’s next?” is for you the reader.  What kind of blog could you create?  It could be personal, departmental, whole school, or even for your students?  I am aware that St Bernadettes’ School in Bristol posts their CPD on their blog.  I have heard of teachers start a blog listing resources for students (this may be more appropriate at A-level).  You could create an online portfolio of excellent work.  With schools using Google then you could create a google-site.  This would be accessible only by those who have the link.  The aim could be personal, educational or professional or a mixture of the three.  What really counts is what we do inside the classroom, trying to be the best and deliver the best for our students every day.  I know blogging has helped me improve my practice.  If Everydaymfl has helped colleagues around the country in delivering the best for their students then I would say that’s a very pleasing outcome.

 

Some gems from ISMLA

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I was recently invited to lead a seminar titled “Blogging for Languages” at the ISMLA conference in Cambridge.  I had a great time, met some great professionals and learnt a lot over the course of the day.  The following are some gems that I picked up from Jocelyn Wyburd, Wendy Ayres-Bennett and Jess Lund from the Michaela School

Jocelyn Wyburd (@jwyburd) 

Jocelyn was the first speaker at the conference.  She is the Director of Languages Centre at the University of Cambridge.  She spoke about how the landscape in the United Kingdom currently looks for languages and language learning.  There are some points from her talk that are particularly relevant and encouraging for us as MFL teachers.

Jocelyn mentioned referred to an article in the Washington Post, shared on the Transparent Language Blog that stated most important qualities required to work at Google were being a “good coach, listening, empathy, problem solver, communicating well, insights into others and critical thinker.”  STEM came last on this list.  Jocelyn’s view was that a language develops all of those qualities that Google look for.

The British Academy wrote in 2017 that half of global leaders have a arts/hums/social science degree, along with 58% of FTSE 100 CEOs and 62% of UK election candidates.  This goes against what might be expected given the current push for STEM subjects.  Jocelyn then referred to research into languages that the UK needs post-Brexit.  A summary of that research can be found here courtesy of the British Council.   There is also a report on Languages for the Future which was cited in Jocelyn’s talk.

Jocelyn’s spoke strongly about how the UK needs more MFL to remain globally competitive, how the CBI (confederation of British industry sees languages as a “valuable asset to businesses” and how the Financial Times when reviewing the book Languages after Brexit spoke of a need for greater “cultural agility”.  Again this cultural agility is something MFL teachers are developing in our lessons, departments, displays and trips.

Lastly, she mentioned 300 different languages are spoken in London.  I would imagine this situation is slightly reduced but similar in other large cities.  The MET benefit greatly from police officers with language skills.  She also highlighted the MOD, GCHQ and armed forces as recruiters who see the value of languages.

I have always been of the view that languages are important and develop a variety of skills.  Jocelyn’s talk has reminded me of how much unseen development occurs in our students, the value of languages to employers and given me some really up-to-date stats, facts and information to share with my year 9s.

Wendy  Ayres-Bennett – Multilingualism: Empowering Individuals, Transforming Societies

Wendy spoke about the MEITs programme (Multilingualism: Empowering Individuals, Transforming Societies).  Here are some nuggets of information taken from her seminar:

1 in 5 UK school children have a language other than English as their home language.

90% of UK primaries do French but transition is variable and often poor in state sector.

Cognitive Benefits of learning a language were demonstrated in a study in Canada.  The study involved 230 dementia patients.  50% were bilingual.  The bilinguals developed dementia 4 years later.  This study was then replicated in India in 2016.  Another study showed that bilinguals recovered twice as well from strokes.  Greater detail can be found in Wendy’s blog here.

Jess Lund – The Michaela Way

The Michaela School has divided opinion.  The Guardian called it Britain’s Strictest School”, Tom Bennett writes “I left, as I have before, impressed. The kids are happy, and totally loyal to the school. Parents for the most part love it.”  From what I have seen, they have a strong belief in their approach and a desire for their students to be the very best they can be.

Jess’ presentation was delivered at the kind of pace that makes speed cameras flash.  It was informative, humourous and engaging.  What came across was her love of language teaching, her passion for her pupils and her belief in the Michaela Way.

The biggest take-away for me personally was the acronym: “PROFS” (past, reasons, opinions, future, subjunctive).  How had I not come across this before?!  I introduced my year 9s to it on the Monday after the conference and they are getting the idea that PROFS = better work and higher marks.

Other ideas I took were:

  • Dotting silent letters in French to improve security with pronunciation.  Unfortunately, my French class did tests in the lesson before half-term so I have not had an opportunity to try it out!
  • Constant phonics and over-pronunciation.  I do fairly regular lessons on phonics but perhaps something more systematic and targeted would help my students even more.
  • Teaching high frequency structures earlier on.  This is something I had been trying with my year 8s but not in quite the same way.  Jess’ sets of “awesome top 10s” definitely go further than I have.  They are something I am starting to look at.

Jess’ presentation made me question a few things about language teaching:

  • Should we be teaching high frequency structures in year 7 as student enthusiasm is higher?  Also teaching the language that makes the biggest impact earlier could lead to greater long-term retention.
  • They attempt to have “no wasted time” in their lessons.  This got me thinking, out of the 50 minutes I teach, how many might have been lost?