EverydayMFL needs you!

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Summer is here!  It is time for a break from teaching, feedback, GCSEs and lesson planning.  It’s also a time to recharge and be ready to go again in September (or August, if you are unfortunate with inset days).

Changes Ahead

From September, I will be taking on some pastoral responsibility in my school.  This means that blogging regularly is going to be harder to keep up.

Get involved!

It would be amazing if there were one, two, or six readers out there who would be happy to write a guest blog.  This little website averages 10,000 unique visitors a year.  These visitors come from all over the world, and many come back a second time!

You could offer a one-off post or a couple of posts.  I can be contacted via the “about me” section on the site, or via a DM on Twitter @everydaymfl.  The vision of any post needs to be practical ideas that people can use in their classroom.  I will do my best to publish any submissions.  You can put your name to it, or post anonymously if you wish.  I have put below a couple of posts I would love to see.  Equally, you are completely free to come up with your own ideas.

  • Latest from They Who Shall Not Be Named: Intent, Implementation and Impact.  How are you interpreting the three in your department whilst keeping workload down?
  • Scoring well in the conversation at GCSE.
  • Reducing workload in your MFL department.
  • A guide to planning a lesson for PGCE trainees.
  • Adventures in “Conti-fying” a scheme of work (according to Facebook group G.I.L.T it’s a verb).  How have you managed it and how has it been received?
  • A post with practical ideas and advice for aspiring Heads of Department.
  • Lessons about French/German/Spanish culture.  How do you do them with plenty of TL activities?
  • Assessment that works in MFL.
  • How we change pupil attitudes to MFL.  Maybe you moved into a department where it was not popular and things have changed since.  If so, there are plenty of people out there who would love to hear from your experiences.  Trust me they want to hear from you, WordPress shows the search terms that lead people to this site!
  • Starting well in Year 8.  We often spend a lot of time on a strong start in Year 7 but is there anyone out there with a great start to Year 8?
  • The next “one pen; one die”.  This game swept across the MFL Facebook groups.  Maybe you have the next activity that captivates teachers and pupils alike?
  • 5 Things to try tomorrow – there are plenty of these already on the site already but feel free to do one of your own.
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5 Things to try tomorrow

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My new years resolution of at least one post a month has not been kept.  Sorry if you stopped by in April looking for some MFL inspiration.  However,  here are 5 activities you can try with your classes tomorrow…or after the weekend!

4 in a row translation practice

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Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán on Pexels.com

This was inspired by a game on my old Nokia (the only one they made that didn’t have Snake on it).  Pupils draw a 5×5 grid on miniwhiteboards.  You project a 5×5 table of phrases they must translate.  The winner is the first to score 4 in a row.  It’s like connect 4 but you can start anywhere.  The translations could be into English, or into the target language.  My preference is for the latter.  This works well when when you want to do some structured production before moving on to something more creative afterwards.  The example below shows a close battle between two students.

table game

Considerably richer than you…

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This was inspired by a Harry Enfield sketch in which a character often pointed out to others that he was considerably richer than them.  Having recently taught house and home this works rather well.  Jed makes a basic statement such as “in my house I have …”.  His partner Leo then has to better the statement in some way.  This could be as simple as turning it plural or extending it.

Jed: “In my house I have a garage.”

Leo: “In my house I have 2 garages with a ferrari.”

 Jed: “In my house I have a bathroom.”

Leo: “In my house I have 4 bathrooms and a swimming pool..”

Scattergories

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Photo by Startup Stock Photos on Pexels.com

This is a good revision activity if you need a quick activity for year 11.  10 categories on a slide and then give them a letter to begin with.  Pupils have 1 minute come up with ideas.  If someone else in the class has the word then they get no points.  If no-one has it then they get a point.  This can be done in teams or alone.  An example list is below.

  1. animals you wouldn’t have as pets
  2. School subjects
  3. Colours
  4. Weather
  5. Hobbies
  6. Festivals
  7. Adjectives
  8. House
  9. Holiday
  10. Food

Slowing listening on Windows Media Player or VLC

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Students often find listening texts tough.  Some of the textbooks I have used over the past few years are exposing Year 7 to near-native speaker speeds and then give them a tricky activity to do!  A decent textbook that we often use had a good listening activity for practising directions but with a low ability year 8 group.  Groups like these often see listening as a test.  I slowed the track down to 0.7-0.8 of the speed.  It seemed to work, they found it slightly easier to pick out the language they were hearing and complete the activity.

In Windows Media Player, open any track. At the top there is are: file | view | play |   Under “view” you should see “enhancements” and then “play speed settings”.

If using VLC, then it is even easier.  Under playback look for “speed” and it has “slow” and “slower” options.

You will need to use your judgement for when this is appropriate.

Vocabulary Championship

man wearing blue suit jacket beside woman with gray suit jacket

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With exams approaching, I gave my foundation year 11 group a series of vocabulary tests consisting of common words from the exam board’s minimum vocabulary list.  We mark them, write in any that they didn’t know, glue them in books for revision later and then I collect in the scores.  There are prizes awarded as follows:

  • Top score in a single lesson
  • Top 3 at the end of the week
  • Top 3 scores of fortnight (this may not be the same three as end of first week)

The scores then reset from zero for the following week.  Each lesson, I would hint at the themes/topics for the next test.  Some students really will surprise you with their efforts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

GCSE: Marriage/Partnership/Relationships

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Photo Credit: The Quiet One Harumi Flickr via Compfight cc

I doubt the above picture will ever be the subject of a “qué hay en la foto?”, however it’s copyright free so feel free to use it in your lessons!

It is definitely time for another post on GCSE topics, which is another way of saying it’s half-term and I have some time to write.  Having covered GCSE topics such as school, the environment, technology, customs and festivals and social issues charity and volunteering, it was time to look at the marriage and relationships topic.

AQA calls it marriage/partnership.  Edexcel calls it “relationships”, as does Eduqas.  This topic is one that I believe requires a degree of sensitivity when teaching.  I have always found it useful to pre-warn students when there are upcoming lessons on this topic.  For some, family relationships, divorce and arguments are the last thing they want to talk about because they are living through it.  The last thing you want is to dredge up unpleasant memories or experiences.

I’ve tried a variety of activities to make this topic more enjoyable for students and will share a few below.  Before starting this topic, it is really worth considering what you want your students to be able to say at the end and how it might be assessed.  You might think “well I do that all the time”.  However, are we thinking in terms of grammar, chunks of language or set phrases?  From a brief look at AQA’s speaking sample assessment materials.  Students should be able to…

  • give their opinion on marriage and appropriate age to marry
  • to explain a cause of divorce
  • talk about their ideal partner
  • state whether you believe marriage is important

You could also imagine how the topic is likely to appear in writing, listening and reading.

Here are some activities I have tried with groups on this topic.

Word Family Matchups.

Give students a list of nouns, verbs and adjectives.  They should all have very similar meanings eg: “love”, “to love”, “loved”  or  “girlfriend/boyfriend”, “to go out with”, “dating”.  Students have to match all three.  I found this was a good start to the topic as most students started picking up the spelling and meaning links between the phrases and gave them a good base of vocabulary for future lessons.

Synonyms match up around the room.

Give students a list of words.  Around the room you will have synonyms with a TL definition.  Students have to work out which synonyms go together.  This is best done with higher level groups after pre-teaching some basic vocabulary around the topic.

Ideal partner modal verbs

This topic is ideal for revising modal verbs (most common verbs).  If you are a fan of Sentence Builders à la Conti, there is plenty of potential here.  I’ve put two examples below.  Feel free to adapt them to French/German/Spanish/Italian etc.

I want                              to meet          a man              who         is                     adjective

I would like                                            a woman                         can be           adjective

I hope

Or

My ideal partner          should be                    adjectives

would be                     more adjectives

would have                 nouns

You can then do various games and mini-whiteboard activities based on these.

Consequences ideal partner.

I have used the above phrases in a consequences style activity.  Give out A4 paper, one between two.  Fold in half lengthways and chop.  Students put their name at the bottom of the paper.  Give them a sentence to create.  They write it at the top, fold towards themselves and pass it on.  Give them another sentence.  Repeat until most of the paper has been used and then return to original owner.  The original owner now has two jobs.  Job 1: translate what has been produced.  Job 2: write out a version correcting  anything they deem not to suit them.  For example, if their piece of paper says “my ideal partner would have brown hair” and they would prefer otherwise then they need to change it.

This vocabulary would also lend itself to a trapdoor activity!

Starts and Ends

I have always found this a good pre-writing activity to see how much students can produce independently.  Give them the start of a sentence that they must finish or the end of a sentence that they need to start.  It goes some way to mitigating the tension that arises when a student is asked to produce 40-90 words on this topic.

Mi novio ideal ______________________________

_____________________________________________ me hace reír

Semi-authentic Texts

I have a love/hate relationship with authentic texts.  With some topics I love them (food, restaurants etc) and find them helpful.  With some topics I cannot seem to find any that would better what is in the textbook.  This is where you can create your own (highly patterned and flooded with language you want them to learn, naturally).  I recently had some success with Fake Whatsapp.  Rather than an authentic text where you cannot select the language, here you can, in a way that looks authentic.  Add in some French textspeak, German textpspeak, or Spanish textspeak if you dare.

How can you turn this into something about relationships?  Let’s return to our earlier bullet points:

  • Your opinion on marriage: Produce a short conversation between two people discussing it.
  • What is the right age for marriage?  Produce a conversation between two people about a friend getting married.

Do every roleplay and photocard on this topic you can find

My experience of the new GCSE so far shows me that when students are confronted with a roleplay or photo card on school, free time, holidays or healthy living then they are largely fine.  When confronted with one on marriage or family relationships.  They panic.  In class I would make sure we have a go at these topics and trust them to be ok with holidays and school.  As there is only one of you and potentially 20-34 students in your room.  I have found some success using the following process for doing roleplays and photocards in class.  I have copied it verbatim from another blogpost on marking here.

  • 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 omnishambles 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

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

5 things to try tomorrow

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Here are 5 things that worked for me this week.

Voki.com

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:

Image result for anger

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.

Imemorize 

For learning answers to questions, this is a particular favourite.  The address is as follows:

http://imemorize.org/download.html

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)

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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.

Treasure Hunt

Treasure chest

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:

Speaking Feedback

  • 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.

 

 

New GCSE – one year in

September 2016 heralded the start of teaching the new old GCSE in MFL.  It was quite a bit to prepare for and necessitated two blog posts: this one and another one. Having taught a mixed ability Spanish group this year, it seemed like a good time to look at what has worked, and what I would like to do next.

Keeping Going

Key Language Sheets

Students have these in the back cover of their exercise books.  They have proven to be invaluable tools and they do use them.  The sheets need some tweaking as my section of fancy language was titled “frases para conseguir 1 o 2”, having completely confused the top and bottom grade boundaries!  These have been regularly used in class and at home.  There is a box at the bottom with key conjugated/modal verbs and infinitives allowing students to take one, follow it with the other and then add an opinion.  I feel a section is required on justifying opinions so a few tweaks to the sheet will be my homework at some point.

Photo Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/127406279@N06/31460315762/">christopher.czlapka</a> Flickr via <a href="http://compfight.com">Compfight</a> <a href="https://www.flickr.com/help/general/#147">cc</a>

Photo Credit: christopher.czlapka Flickr via Compfight cc

100 Most Common Words

Setting these as a vocabulary learning homework was…illuminating.  Even after 3 years of Spanish some of the students did not know the 100 most common words in Spanish. The list on Vistawide is pretty good albeit not authoritative.  I set 25 per week to get through them rather quickly. I told the group it was their new 5-a-day and still left weekends free.  The reaction was muted to say the least!  They were then tested on 20.  I tried to vary the methods of testing to see if they had really learned them.  It did work and the students did find it helpful.

1-5 Gap fill/anagrams

6-15 English –> Spanish

16-20 Spanish –> English

Roleplays & Photocards

Students are seeing at least one roleplay and photocard task with each topic that we cover.  My way of managing to get them into class was to model how the task should be approached, give students some preparation time and then they complete the roleplay or photocard with two different people, with the unpredictable question being varied each time.  They then calculate an average of their scores, thereby reducing any impact by over-generous or overly harsh markers.  A full explanation of how I do this can be found on this post here.

Reinforcing the need for effective vocabulary learning

In the book “Why don’t students like school?”  Daniel Willingham makes a number of points that have influenced my approach to students learning vocabulary:

  • “Memory is the residue of thought”
  • “Proficiency requires Practice”

P210 Why don’t students like school? – Daniel Willingham

Our homework is set online so attached with the list of words is a document detailing effective learning techniques, mostly sourced from the above book, personal experiences and The Language Gym website

Students need to understand that learning and memorising does not occur through merely reading or some imagined osmosis process.  The more I can get them actively practising the vocabulary; the better it will be for them long-term.

Moving Forward

Regular Revision lessons

Every month I plan to do a revision lesson of one of the topics covered in year 10.  If I have planned it right then I can do topics 1-7 at least once by February.  This lesson will likely place a strong focus on the listening, reading and translation side of the exam. It will allow a refreshing of vocabulary and also emphasise the need to retain everything as they could be tested on anything.  Previous exams have had questions on guide dogs for the blind, phoneboxes in Spain and nordic walking.  The greater the emphasis on retaining vocabulary from previous topics; the better-prepared they will be for these weird and wonderful question topics.

Recycling

Schemes of work can be relatively linear, however that does not mean that vocabulary and grammar from before cannot be revisited.  Some advice from Gianfranco Conti’s website was particularly useful:

Problem: “in typical secondary school MFL curriculum design as evidenced by the schemes of work – and the textbooks these are often based on – which in my view seriously undermine the effectiveness of foreign language instruction in many British secondary schools.”

“Solution: include in the schemes of work a section in each unit headed ‘recycling opportunities’ and include activities aiming at consolidating old material.”

To help combat this the revision lesson should help, but I have also added a section on my scheme of work to take the opportunity to revisit certain grammatical elements that are pivotal for students.  Research by Graham Nutall (The Hidden Lives of Learners) suggests that students often need at least 3 exposures to new concepts to start to internalise them properly.

I will also be setting vocabulary learning on units not directly related to what the students are studying.

Vocabulary Championship and/or Ipsative Vocabulary Tests

To add an element of competition and purpose to vocabulary learning, I am considering a championship whereby their scores are noted down.  Some form of reward will be given for the student who attains a high score each week but also the students who maintain an average of 75% or more per half-term.  That figure was just plucked from the air so may change.

Ipsative assessment was a new word learnt from one of our SLT.  It refers to the idea of comparing oneself to previous results.  Athletics taps into this all the time as runners try to equal their personal best.  I have experimented with this in a lower ability year 8 group.  Their aim with each vocabulary test is to equal or better their score.  Students have so far responded really well to this idea but we are only 3 tests in.  It will get tougher later as they will need to maintain higher scores.  I could picture this working well with lower ability GCSE groups as they would have a chance to succeed regularly.

Decipher the Question starters

The reading and writing papers feature target language questions.  Similarly parts of the speaking exam prompts are in the target language.  A starter activity might be to translate the question and some bullet points.  The students may not actually complete the question but it gives them the feeling or working out an exam question in a short space of time.

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Photo Credit: Lily Bloom Flickr via Compfight cc

Strengths / Weaknesses Audit via GoogleForm.

Prior to Christmas, I intend to send out a google-form requiring students to submit their responses to a number of statements eg:

I can understand questions in the target language   1   2   3   4   5

I can translate single sentences into English              1   2   3  4  5

I can use the preterite eg: fui, hice, tuve etc

This should give me an idea of their areas of strength and weakness and allow me to target my teaching better, and plan twilight sessions tailored to the individual student.  It will also show me if my teaching has not sufficiently covered any of the challenges presented by the new GCSEs.  The Google-form method allows me to conduct a quick analysis of their areas of strength and weakness as it automatically can produce graphs etc.  If I am feeling really brave, I might add a box for their own comments.