Making marking work

Photo Credit: BenjaminCookDesigns Flickr via Compfight cc

Time to get out the red pen

This post should probably start with a disclaimer.  My marking is not perfect.  I do my absolute best to make sure the pupils get the best feedback on their work but it will not always yield the seismic improvements that one might hope.

Before we discuss marking and feedback, I think it is worth pointing the reader towards this document produced by Sean Harford HMI.  Yes, he does work for “they-who-shall-not-be-named” but you really do need to read it.  You could also follow him on Twitter as he is quite good at busting the various OFSTED myths that fly around.

Over the past few years, I have seen a variety of marking policies in my own school and in visiting others.  Out there, there is a plethora of feedback and marking styles such as “comment only” marking, highlighter marking, DIRT time, group feedback, whole class feedback, flipped learning, self-marking online assessments, self-assessment, peer-assessment, raw scores, averages, levels, flightpaths, progress indicators, RAG etc.  Don’t worry, this post is not going to cover all of those!  Instead, here are three that have really worked for me, and my students, in the classroom:

Whole class feedback & Individual Feedback.

Whilst marking a set of books I will formulate a series of targets to be placed on a PowerPoint.  In the book, I will simply write something that the student did well along with T1, T7, T8.  There is an example below.  The following lesson will probably follow this pattern:

1) Whole class feedback or starter activity relating to an issue most struggled with.

2) DIRT time – students have opportunity to act upon individual targets.  Extension tasks available for those who finish.

3) Remaining time refreshing material from previous lesson or preparing for subsequent lesson.

The activities in part 1 above could be…

  1. Grammar exercises
  2. Spot the errors / Correct the errors (anonymously lifted or amalgamated from work marked)
  3. Match present and past tense verbs so that students are clear which is which.
  4. Spot the correct sentence from a choice of 3.

An example of what students will see in part 2 above is below.  I have found that the “what it means” and “what to do” leaves no room for excuses of “I don’t get what I have to do”.

feedforward

Feedback needs to be about improvement and development, not simply error correction. That is my hope behind targets 2,4,6.  However, where some heavy error correction is needed, then I still want them thinking about it (see T1,T3).

T5 allows me to challenge, and insist on improvement of, any poorly presented pieces that I may not notice from across the room during the lesson.

T7 allowed me to work with one to one with a student who was miles ahead of the rest of the class and teach them something they can add to their work.

T9 was to give a student time to catch up on work missed through no fault of their own.

This approach massively shortened the time I spent marking and still allowed me to deal with misconceptions and give specific, personalised feedback that led to definite, visible improvements.

Highlighter Marking

Mentioned in a full length post  a while back, I still think this is one of the best ways for boosting confidence of students.

Underline an entire piece of work in two highlighter pens.  Green if it’s good.  Yellow if it needs work.  Immediately a student can see what is good and what is not.  If the overwhelming picture is green then it can be a massive confidence boost.  If they realise that the yellow is a repeated error, then we are on the road to eradicating it.  If there is a substantial amount of yellow then maybe a rewrite is in order.  Sometimes the yellow would not be underlining anything, to demonstrate that there was a need to add something.  To show students bits of their work that were particularly good such as a wenn clause (German), a reflexive verb in the passé composé (French), or use of the imperfect subjunctive (Spanish), I simply double-ticked those parts.  

I have tried to demonstrate the visual impact below:

Gestern Abend habe ich mit meiner Famille ins Kino gegangen.  Dort wir haben “Fast and Furious 14” gesehen.  Es war toll.  Ich mag Actionfilmen, weil sie sind spannend

Advantages include how well it combines with marking codes and it is speedy. Disadvantages include that one needs a constant supply of highlighter pens or felt-tips!

Self/Peer Assessment

Peer assessment is something I struggle with in MFL.  Sometimes I find that the students do not have enough knowledge to effectively assess the work of another.  You find comments such as “great use of connectives”, when there were none in the work at all.  I think it works best when the students have sufficient knowledge to draw upon, or with a reasonably restrictive mark-scheme. 

I have tried a little bit with the new GCSE roleplays.  The following pattern yielded some success.

  • Teacher shows students mark scheme and script for roleplay.
  • One student is selected to conduct the roleplay.  Teacher plays role of student
  • Roleplay is then performed by teacher and student (in reversed roles).
    • Teacher (as student) produces a roleplay that can be described as a shambles full of mistakes, hesitation, use of English, use of Spanglish, use of French, adding O to any English word to make it sound Spanish.   
    • Teacher (as student) produces a half-decent roleplay that ticks some boxes but not all.
    • Teacher (as student) produces a roleplay that would knock the socks off the most examiners.
  • After each the students are asked to give numerical scores.  The AQA mark-scheme is extremely helpful in this as for each element of the roleplay there is a score of 0, 1 or 2.  Their language says “message conveyed without ambiguity” or “message partially conveyed or conveyed with some ambiguity”.  In short:  2 = job done   1 = partly done  0 = was it done?   Students are then asked to give a score out of 5 for quality of language.  The teacher can guide them towards this one a bit more.
  • Students then have silent prep time for a roleplay on the same theme but with different bullet points.  10-12mins.
  • Students conduct the roleplay in pairs with script on projector screen.  After which, they assess their partner’s performance.  When they switch over, you need to switch the unpredictable question to something else!  Or generate a new task for the other.  
  • They need to repeat this so that they have two sets of scores.  They can then calculate an average.  By doing so, hopefully any overly generous or overly harsh marking is minimised.

Example:

Joe gives Martina   2+2+1+1+1   /10   +3   /5     = 10/15

Kelsey gives Martina 1+2+1+2+2  / 10      4/5     =12/15

Average = 11/15  

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Plenty to come from EverydayMFL

Dear all.

It’s the summer holidays so I’m taking a few weeks off.  From September there will hopefully be more regular posts as things got a little sporadic towards the end of last term.

In the meantime you can have a read of the following:

Top post:  Outstanding MFL Everyday

Second most popular post: GCSE Revision

Third most popular post: Feedback and marking.

Least popular posts: 5 Things to try tomorrow and 5 ideas to try this week

One for the NQTs: First Lesson of the year

Posts to come in the new academic year:

  • Making marking work
  • Teaching the new GCSE – reflections at the halfway point.
  • What is going to be different this year (lessons learnt from The Language Gym)

I’m sure there will be others but those are the three I’m working on.

Have a great summer!

 

Teaching the weather

Weather phrases in foreign languages are odd.  I have never really understood quite why “il fait” or “hace” makes more sense than “it is”.  However, we have to teach them so here are a few ways to make it more interesting.

Predict the weather

As a plenary activity students write 5 sentences predicting the weather in various locations on the day of your next lesson.  As a starter in the subsequent lesson, they check if they were correct / incorrect / bit of both.

The maps on El Tiempo.es are really good for this.  See exhibit A belowweather

Photo Response

Show students some photos and have them write sentences quickly on mini-whiteboards.  If you use Spanish speaking countries you can generate quite a bit of interest as pupils will inevitably ask “where is that?”  Exhibits below include Peru in the height of summer and Bolivia during rainy season.  That falling grey mass is rain, not a tornado, as one of the kids thought.

perubolivia

Today at Wimbledon / Euros / World Cup Scripts

Students in year 7 cover present and future tense.  It will take a little bit of revision of verbs but they should be able to produce the following using the near future

va a jugar        va a ganar        va a perder        va  a llover

va jouer            va gagner         va perdre           va pleuvoir

They have hopefully covered simple time phrases such as “today”, “tomorrow”, “later on”.

All of this leads to being in a position to present a TV programme.  Students need to produce a script for the Today at Wimbledon programme.    Click here for the theme tune, which will remain in your head for hours afterwards.  They should include

  • Weather today
  • Who plays who today
  • Weather tomorrow
  • Who is going to play who tomorrow
  • Opinions on who is going to win or lose.

 They then perform this and can peer-assess each other on whatever criteria you set.  Personally I would go for the following with scores out of 5 for each:

  1. Fluency – does it flow? Can they sound natural?
  2. Confidence – do they come across confidently?
  3. Communciation – can they make themselves understood?
  4. Pronunciation – How strong is their knowledge of phonics?

Translation Tandems

This idea came from Greg Horton on a CPD course about 2 years ago.  He used it for vocabulary tests so this is a small tweak.

Hold an A4 piece of paper portrait.  Divide the piece of A4 paper. into 2 halves down the middle.

¦   ¦   ¦

Students write sentences alternating between English and TL.   Students then fold the piece of paper down the middle and sit facing each other.  They have to translate whatever sentence their partner reads out into the other language.  This is a great activity to practise translation both ways.  It does require a fair bit of pre-teaching so that it is challenging but not demotivating.

Mira 1 Rap

Mira 1 has a listening text that might be a song or a poem.  It can be found on p103 and works rather well as a rap.  Challenge your class to turn it into one.  A good rap backing can be found for free at this link here on TES.  If you have VLC media player then you can alter the playback speed and slow it down if needed.

Real life listening

I experimented the other day.  I listened to a weather report on eltiempo.es and the guy was super fast.  I picked out 10-15 words that my students might pick up from the video, and then added some more that were not there.  I challenged them to listen and see how many of my words on the board they would find.  I was pleasantly surprised with the results, and so were they.

If you have managed to read this far then this weather report did make me chuckle.

 

 

Everyday Questioning

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Photo Credit: Ekspresevim Flickr via Compfight cc

A lot of subjects rely on questioning.  Teachers of English, History, Geography, Science and RE can elicit huge amounts of discussion, understanding and thought through questioning techniques.   Maybe your SLT are keen on Blooms, SAMR,  lolly sticks, think/pair/share or pose/pause/pounce/bounce.  It is first worth remembering that MFL is very different.  This quote sums up much of my thinking around questioning:

“language teaching is not like the teaching of, say, mathematics or history. Much of our questioning is of a special type, with the purpose of developing internalised competence with grammar, vocabulary and, ultimately, fluency. Language teachers must therefore treat the most recent recent pronouncements on questioning technique with at least a degree of scepticism.”  Quote from Steve Smith Frenchteacher.net

Steve mentions scepticism, not rejection.  I believe that other subjects do have a few things to teach us and some of the CPD I have experienced around questioning can and has been useful.

This post is about some ways to sharpen your questioning in MFL lessons in the classroom.  Some of the thoughts come from experience, others from seeing other colleagues.

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Hands up or no hands up?

In one school that I trained in, hands up was considered pure evil, you simply did not do it.  In the other school, hands up was fine. Since training and teaching I have tended to take a 50-50 approach.  I personally like to see the enthusiasm and speed of recall that hands up reveals.  I also like to challenge my students and keep them on their toes.

It seemed worth summarising the three approaches in a table below so you can make your own decision:

Hands up 50-50 No hands up
Pros Enthusiasm clear.
Students rewarded for effort.
Clear engagement and participation.
Effort rewarded.
Opportunities to build confidence.
Keeps pupils on toes whilst rewarding
keenness.
Keeps everyone on their toes.
Clear engagement
Students forced to pay greater attention.
Might be less likely to pick same kids.
Cons Some students will not put their hands up.
Tendency to pick the ones who know it.
Some students remain unchallenged,
Students will not always be clear on which
is required.
Some students find it very disconcerting.
Could be demoralising if they genuinely do
not know.

Think/pair/share

A much-used technique from other subjects that we can use in MFL.  Tom Sherrington writes about this as “washing hands of learning”.  I was slightly alarmed by the title but I see his point.  This can be a really useful technique when you have presented students with a grammar structure and you want them to work out how it works, rather than simply telling them.  Here is how it works:  THINK:  Give them at least 30 real seconds thinking time on their own (“teacher seconds” are a completely diifferent time frame). PAIR: discuss with partner or table group.  SHARE: share with the class or another group.  Tom writes “in doing this you are creating a small bubble of security around each pair; a safe space where they can think for a while and say whatever they like.”

Going off topic for a second.  Tom Sherrington was a headteacher and his series of pedagogy postcards and great lessons blogs were really useful in my first few years of teaching.  Worth a look.

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Targeted questioning

Who are you selecting?  Who is contributing in your lessons?  One of my colleagues (who will probably read this), talks about first responders and second responders.  I have tried to emulate this.  First responders are any of the following:

  • Pupil Premium, underachievers, disengaged.

Second responders are the rest of the class.

  • More able.
  • English as an additional language.
  • Special educational needs & disabilities.
  • The rest of the class.

Random name generators

Targeted questioning could also be brought about by random name generators.  I’ll be honest.  I am not a massive fan of lolly sticks.  It seems like a lot of preparation every year, you have to have somewhere to keep them and there is a yearly cost implication.  I used to use random name generators and have not used them for a while.  So that is my mission for this week.

Super Teacher Tools is a personal favourite

Classtools.net  has an excellent one

Have you tried stacking the generator slightly?  The first of the two above websites allows up to 40 names and maybe your class is only 28 strong.  Some names could accidentally find their way in there twice or three times.  If the kids start to question this then perhaps remind them that random means the same name could come up 3 times in a row.

You might want to consider when to use these generators as they will not always be appropriate:

Steve Smith (author of The Language Teacher Toolkit) writes the following:

“I understand the theory that we should have the same expectation of all students and that students need to be challenged and ready to respond at any time, but I also believe that as teachers we should be using our skill and knowledge of our students to pitch questions at an appropriate level. This is sensible differentiation. Each student can be challenged at their own level and we know all too well how great the variability is in language learning aptitude.”

With that in mind, let’s look at the next bit…

Planning your questions

There is a story that suggests a child was asked by an inspector what their favourite part of a lesson was.  The child replied “the plenary”.  The inspector was impressed that the child knew the word and pressed them as to why.  The child responded: “because that’s the bit when we get to pack up and go home”.

Most language teachers will conduct a plenary at the end of a lesson.  How many of the plenary questions do you genuinely plan ahead of that time?  Similarly, when you are teaching grammar, what questions have you planned to check understanding?  How are you going to seek the answers?  Who are you going to ask?  What questions could you add to challenge your high achievers?

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No opt out

This comes from Doug Lemov’s “Teach like a Champion”.  Doug insists that “I don’t know” is not an acceptable answer.   I would largely agree unless you have asked a question that all students might not know the answer to.  Looking at his ways of implementing this, my personal preference would be for formats 3 and 4.

Format 1. You provide the answer; your student repeats the answer.
Format 2. Another student provides the answer; the initial student repeats the answer.
Format 3. You provide a cue; your student uses it to find the answer.
Format 4. Another student provides a cue; the initial student uses it to find the answer

Source: teach like a champion field guide sample chapter

Occasionally on a reading text when going through answers I may accept that a student didn’t know the answer on number 3 but will tell them that I want the answer to number 8.  They have until I get there to find it.  This way you maintain your standard of everyone trying hard but accept they may simply not have found the answer.  You know your pupils and can decide when this is appropriate.

5 Things to try tomorrow

Number, Five, 5, Digit

It has been a while since writing one of these (or anything) so here are 5 things to try tomorrow.

Everydaymfl has been a little bit quiet of late but posts in the works include one on questioning and possibly one on the new GCSE – what I learnt teaching it so far.

No writing lessons

Writing is one of the easiest skills to show progress with.

  1. Student writes something
  2. Teacher corrects
  3. Student improves

However, students are used to a lot of this.  It really is quite something for them to have a “no writing” lesson in a subject they will typically associate with writing.  An entire lesson of speaking and listening is not a bad thing as it reminds them how important the skills are.   Some groups will be noticeably more enthused by this idea.  It is quite heavy on the planning and paired activity so you may want a settling activity at some point – perhaps hands up listening.

Group Model Essay

After my year 10 group seemed somewhat intimidated by the 150 word task in the new GCSE, I thought I would approach it gradually.  Here is what we did:

They were given a 150 word task from the AQA textbook.

In groups of 4 they drafted the best response on mini-whiteboards that they could come up with.  After some feedback from me, they improved the draft on mini-whiteboards.  One member of the group put it on to paper.  They handed them in and I typed them up on a word document with significant amounts of space around them.  I annotated the work highlighting tenses, good bits of grammar (comparatives, superlatives, subjunctives) and double ticks for anything that particularly stood out.

This was really well received and sometimes it is helpful to know “what a good one looks like” but also to know that you were involved in producing it.

Micro-listening enhancers

I have read a lot about these on Gianfranco Conti’s website.  I have found myself using them quite a bit recently as my speakers are kaputt.  The pupils did seem to be gaining confidence from them.  In teaching the perfect tense in Spanish, it seemed to have a positive effect on the pronunciation of “he” and “ha” et al later in the lesson.  Well worth a try and something I am looking to do a bit more of earlier on.

Photo Credit: immaculate-photons Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: immaculate-photons Flickr via Compfight cc

MM Paired Speaking

Possibly one of my favourite activities.  The MM refers to a lady I worked with on my PGCE.  In my mind the activity is named after her for two reasons.  1) I have never seen anyone else do it.  2) I’ve no idea what to call it!

Students divide their page into 3 columns.  If they don’t have a ruler then gentle folds work well.

  • Column 1: days of the week or time phrases in a list going down.  3 lines between each approximately
  • Column 2: draw simple picture representing an activity
  • Column 3: leave blank.
  1. Person A asks question for example: “Qué hiciste el lunes”
  2. Person B responds using time phrase and makes sentence based on picture “el lunes fui de compras”.
  3. Person A notes down in the empty column what their partner did on Monday.

You can add challenge by getting Person A to write in the third person on step 3.  You could differentiate for weaker learners by getting them to write a quick note as to what they heard.

This is a very versatile activity as it can be adapted to different tenses and languages easily.  It is good speaking and listening practice at the same time.  Both students should have that last column filled by the end of the activity.

The Future Tense Three Musketeers 

This came from a teacher I used to work with.  She would teach the future tense telling students that there are three musketeers.

Musketeer number 1 has 6 moves in Spanish.  Musketeer number 2 always does the same thing. Musketeer has different disguises but you can always tell it is him by looking at the ending.  The three can never be separated.  Once the concept has been introduced you may then move on to some mini-whiteboard practice.  Telling students to check musketeer number 1,2 or 3 seems to be quite effective.  It also seems to eradicate “voy a juego” or “voy a hago”

1                       2                                            3

Voy                  a                   ______________AR/ER/IR

Vas

Va

Vamos

Vais

Van

 

Some light reading

Books to improve your practice

It might seem odd to some teachers out there to read a book about teaching, particularly during the holidays, when one should be relaxing.   However, there is definitely a lot to be gained from some of the literature out there.  Here are the ones I have learnt the most from when it comes to MFL teaching.  To some readers, it may come as a shock that “The Language Teacher Toolkit” is not on there, however I have only just purchased it and have only read a couple of chapters.

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The Craft of the Classroom – Michael Marland (1934-2008)

This book was immensely helpful in my PGCE, NQT year and early years of teaching.  Although it was written in the early nineties, the wisdom it provides is timeless.  The late author covers relationships, discipline, establishing habits, parents, pressure, classroom layout, displays and more.  Michael Marland, the author, comes across as a man who loved teaching.  This book leaves nothing out.  The effects of adverse weather on pupils is noted and the presence of plant-life to brighten up the classroom is suggested.  His emphasis on the power of positive strong relationships comes across throughout.  Having lent the book to an NQT, I am indebted to the Guardian for the following quote from the final page of the book:

“The craft [of the classroom] won’t work without a spirit compounded of the salesman, the music-hall performer, the parent, the clown, the intellectual, the lover and the organiser, but the spirit won’t win through on its own either. Method matters. The more ‘organised’ you are, the more sympathetic you can be. The better your classroom management, the more help you can be to your pupils.”

Michael Marland Obituary

Photo Credit: Richard Ricciardi Flickr via Compfight cc

Student reactions to speaking activities.

Target Language Toolkit – Allison Chase

Target language use varies widely between classes, teachers, students, lessons and schools.  This book has 90 ideas to increase TL usage in the classroom and is great to dip into for ideas occasionally to avoid getting stuck in a rut.  Having picked it up again recently I am very tempted to try the following:

  1. List of 100 phrases.  This is a list of 100 phrases or utterances that all pupils should be able to use.  I think a mixture of testing and rewards may get them to use them more.
  2. Talk Time – 5-10mins speaking at the end of a lesson using whatever prompts the teacher brings.  This could be objects, photo, music, something to eat.  The author mentions she tried a blindfolded taste test of dark, milk and white chocolate with learners having to explain which kind they were eating, and which they preferred.  I may make this one a teacher-led activity!
  3. Emergency flashcards for TL-shy classes – series of flashcards with the most basic phrases “yes”, “no”, “please”, “thank you”.  I may adapt this slightly to have pronunciation on there too so that the learners can build their confidence.

Other areas covered include routines, games and activities, developing TL beyond the classroom and having a department wide TL policy.  If you are considering a purchase, a longer review can be found here courtesy of Steve Smith.  You can also follow the author on Twitter @AllisonChaseMFL.

Photo Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/35844974@N07/4635579067/">Arthur Schneider</a> Flickr via <a href="http://compfight.com">Compfight</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/">cc</a>

Photo Credit: Arthur Schneider Flickr via Compfight cc

Why don’t students like school? – Daniel T Willingham

This is quite simply a superb book.  The blurb on the front says “a cognitive scientist answers questions about how the mind works and what it means for the classroom.”  It sets out this vision and sticks to it.  A selection of chapter titles includes:

  • “Why do students remember everything that’s on television and forget everything I say?”
  • “How can I help slow learners?”
  • “Is drilling worth it?”
  • “How should I adjust my teaching for different types of learners?”  This  chapter ripped apart the Learning Styles Theories that I was taught on my PGCE.

The questions above are ones teachers ask themselves regularly!  Each chapter is easy to read and answers the question it poses.  Some chapters contain examples that the author explains.  Sometimes there are examples that he lets you follow and work out, before presenting you with the answer, along with how your brain got there.  Each chapter concludes with “implications for the classroom” and the book concludes by turning its attention to the reader.  It asks the questions we should ask at the end of any educational book: What have you learnt?  And what are you going to do about it?

German French Spanish Flags

Upgrade your French / German / Spanish – Margaret Jubb, Annemarie Künzl-Snodgrass, Silke Mentchen, Abigail Lee Six.

30 days of grammar, vocabulary and language development lie within the pages of these books.  The books are generally designed for those between Sixth Form and University to shore up the basics of their language use.  I would suggest they are excellent for MFL teachers who wish to work on their weaker language, but cannot access evening classes or are pressed for time.  They may also be a good resource for your G&T students or native speakers.

Self-testing quizzes allow you to track your progress and see how you are doing. Answers can be found in the back.  The first week of the German one is as follows:

  1. Cases
  2. Describing people -acquaintances, hairstyle, eyes, glasses, character, attitude, being keen on someone
  3. Pronouns
  4. Family and Society – genitive and possessive pronouns
  5. Nouns – genders and plurals
  6. Leisure – sport, verbs using fahren, meeting up with friends,
  7. Relative Clauses

 

Photo Credit: inspirationsyouth Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: inspirationsyouth Flickr via Compfight cc

Cracking the Tough Class – Bill Rogers

Bill Rogers is a bit of a favourite on PGCE courses.  None of the books on behaviour seemed to deal with some of the classes I encountered.  This one gets close.  It looks at the features of tough classes and how to deal with them.  There is an entire chapter on how to establish the right environment with a tough class at the outset and how to effectively follow up disruptive students.  One of the later sections suggests how more experienced colleagues might support members of their department.  An idea – from this book – that changed my practice was having my tougher classes in teams that worked together.  There would be a prize for the top two at the end of a term, and a transfer window at the start of a the new term.  This book will not solve all your problems, but it might help you to find some solutions.  If the picture that headed this review summarises how you feel, when that group (you know which one) appear on the timetable; it may well be worth a look!

 

Everyday Revision

It’s getting light in the mornings now so that means it is probably time to look at revision.  This is a new post that is attempting to improve upon an older post.  Here’s how I’m planning to drag  help my year 11s through their final listening and reading exam.

Make a plan

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My plans tend to work like this.  As I’m running a fast-track course then we probably have no more than 1 lesson per common topic on the Edexcel Spec.  Therefore my students need vocabulary, listening practice/reading practice and things that they can actively take away from the lessons and try.  The following is an example:

Topic to be taught Vocabulary Focus L/R Take away exam technique Take-away revision technique
General interests Sports, hobbies, free time. L Dealing with the picture questions Mindmapping
Lifestyle (healthy eating) Foods, drinks, gern/nicht gern

Gesund/ungesund etc

L+R Dealing with multiple choice (pick 4 from list of 8) Flashcards
School and college Subjects, likes/dislikes, L+R Dealing with past/present/future questions Make a Tarsia

Vocabulary – Revise / Refresh / Build

The listening and reading exams are essentially one massive vocabulary test of 2 or 5 years worth of learning (depending how you run your course). Therefore most lessons need to begin with some refreshing of vocabulary.

I have the following principles when it comes to selecting revision activities:

  1. The students need to be made to think or to listen carefully
  2. It has to involve the students using and hearing target language
  3. How much do students gain from it?

Here are a few go-to ideas:

Worksheets – For a few years it was almost heresy to suggest a worksheet but if it is a good worksheet then use it.  The benefit is that the students have something to take home to revise from and they may appreciate not having to write things down for a bit.

Last man standing bingo – students write five words from a vocabulary list and then stand up.  Teacher (or willing student) calls out the words.  If all five are called out the student sits down and has lost.  Winners are those left standing.

Environmentally friendly strip bingo – students write a list of seven words on the mini-whiteboard from a vocabulary list.  Teacher (or willing student) calls out the words.  Students may only rub off the top or bottom word when they hear it.  Winner is the first one with a clean whiteboard.

Normal bingo – You’re reading this and you’re a language teacher.  I’m not going to explain this one!

Vocab battles – Students have two lists of vocabulary and test each other.  Winner is the one with the most correct.

Wordsnakes – Students have to separate the words in the snake.  Here is one for work and work experience topic.  If doing German, you will probably need to remove the capital letters.

arbeitspraktikumchefgehaltbedienenkundigen

Tarsia puzzles – This involves chopping up a sheet of A4 into 8 pieces and writing matching English and German along each inside edge.  The idea is to put the paper back together again with every English and German definition matching perfectly with no text around the outside.  They can be automatically made here.

Dictation – minimal preparation.  Read out sentences from a past paper transcript or textbook reading activity.  Students have to write down exactly what they hear.

Discovery Education PuzzlemakerThis was a staple of my NQT year until I accidentally and rather dramatically exceeded my photocopying budget .  I only recently remembered its existence.  Well worth a look and free to create simple puzzles involving vocabulary.

Vocabulary Toolkit – These are some rather old but still  very good books in our department.  They are sadly out of print but perhaps purchase a few for PP students.  The book in question is here.   Whilst it will not relate exactly to your exam board they are good little tools for revision.  German and French versions only I think..

Collaborative Mindmaps – Students work in a group of 3-4.  Start with the topic area in the middle and give them 4 branches out.  They have a minute to add whatever they can before passing it on to the next person.  Rinse and repeat.

It is worth mentioning that in the above activities I will probably focus on non-cognates over cognates.  Most students can deduce a word such as “telefonieren” but may struggle with “anrufen”.

For more ideas of games that work then head to Frenchteacher.net or this page (shameless self-promotion).

Teaching Exam Technique – some thoughts on past papers.

This technique of going through past papers is something I have found valuable.  My thanks to Chris Hildrew’s website for this:

PQRST Past Paper Method

Preview: revise the topics before tackling the paper

Questions: now do the paper.

Review: see questions below

Scribble: note any new vocabulary on the paper that was not known.

Test: test yourself two or three days later on that vocabulary to check retention.

Past papers should not just be an end in themselves.  Completing a past paper is good but using it to push revision and learning forward is better.  Students should be looking at the following after completing a paper:

  • What new vocabulary is there that I didn’t know?
  • Did I miss out on marks from misunderstanding the question requirements?
  • Did I miss out on marks because I didn’t know the material?l
  • Did I miss out an answer – the crime above all crimes on an MFL paper.  When the odds on a correct answer are 33% or higher, missing answers out is silly.

General Exam Technique Teaching Ideas

  • Teach features of language such as prefixes and suffixes.  For example, “ent” always implies removal of something in German (entfernen, entspannen).
  • Test them regularly on the little words and the negatives “jamais” “rien” “personne”.
  • Use the listening 5 minutes well.  Model it on a visualiser if you have one or get your entire group stood around you while you do it and invite their contributions.
  • Have a twilight with your higher level students where you practise the target language question at the end of the higher reading papers.
  • There will be a question on tenses – can they spot them?  Sometimes time markers play a role here.  Students need to be aware of the features of each tense.  Chris Fuller made a good point that anything future adds and anything present/past takes away in French and Spanish.  If they  spot an infinitive it is likely a future tense unless preceded by an opinion phrase.
  • Higher level papers will often mention all three of their multiple choice options.  The trick is working out the right one.  Two are probably close to right so listen carefully the second time to the ones that appear similar.
  • Exam boards have to promote SMSC just as schools do, students need to remember the exam is written for teenagers.  When the question says “What are Karla’s views on smoking?”  The answer is unlikely to be “it is harmless and we should all just light up now”
  • Remind students that Edexcel exams follow a peak-trough model where harder questions are preceded by easier ones.  They need to make sure they do not give up too quickly.  Question 9 can be a walk in the park after question 7 on nordic walking or the training of guide dogs.
  • Leave nothing blank!  I’ve had a student get 5 extra marks in past paper as a result.  When the kid said he got an A, he shocked most of his classmates!  He later admitted not answering 8 questions but guessed them and was rewarded for it.
  • Some subjects have introduced walking/talking mocks.  I prefer to brief students before they do they paper, allow them to make any notes of reminders and then let them go.

Remind them that they have been preparing for this for 2-5 years but shouldn’t assume that they can just do it without revision.  Make the following your mantra:

dont-be-upset-poster

EverydayMFL’s typical revision lesson

As a teacher of a mixed ability group on a fast-track 2 year course.  Here is a lesson outline that I would use.  There are so many good revision activities out there and I’ve seen all sorts of ideas on the Facebook groups involving balloons, jenga, trivial pursuit etc.  You will notice that these do not feature heavily in the plan below.  It is simply that with the time pressures of such a course, I’ve had to prioritise listening practice and as much vocabulary input as possible.  The final lesson will generally involve some revision fun and German or Spanish food.

Topic: Healthy living and lifestyle

STARTER: activity that refreshes their memory of large amounts of vocab eg: odd one out, make a mindmap, 30 word vocab test German–> English or English–> German.

MAIN:

Present: a revision activity students could do at home on any topic but model it with this one.  Students do the activity building in vocabulary from the starter and what they can remember.

Listening practice using past exam questions or revision workbook questions.  Immediate feedback and discussion of where the marks were won and lost.  Suitable for both higher and foundation although leaning towards higher.  Sometimes completed with transcript.

Split class into two groups

Highers do some practice reading questions on the topic while foundations do practice listening appropriate to their level on the topic, then they switch.  Students doing the listening will be talked through how to approach the question, what the question is looking for and any handy strategies that come to mind.  We then attempt it.  Those doing reading are largely left to it.

Set homework: revision via vocabexpress / samlearning / past paper / make a mindmap / make a tarsia puzzle / languagesonline / linguascope / language gym workouts etc

PLENARY: 

Students then may face one more listening text (because you can never practise this skill enough) or another vocabulary building activity based on my experiences over the course of the lesson.

Students on study leave – what to do when you cannot do anything to help them anymore!

  • Make sure they know what constitutes effective revision – for a blog that changed my practice, click here.
  • Mail a document on useful ways to revise for languages to the parents.
  • Set them up some vocab lists on Quizlet / Memrise / Vocabexpress.
  • Give them a pack of past papers to work through and the mark schemes.
  • Give them a sheet of QR codes leading to language revision websites.
  • Make them purchase a revision workbook or guide to help them revise prior to study leave.

All the best with the final furlong.