You want us to write how much?!

This Blogpost was inspired by a Twitter conversation I have seen over the past week or so and posted a whole year later.  Sorry it took so long! 

The 150 Word Question appears on the higher GCSE paper.  It is the showcase question.  This is where 5 years of hard work in Spanish needs to appear on the page.

Irrespective of whether you follow a 2 year or 3 year Key Stage 3, I tend to introduce this in Year 10.  Below I will explain how I did it.  The suggestions are similar to some suggestions by two teachers on Twitter.  I will say now that the similarity is entirely coincidental and it was quite reassuring to read their tweets, as I means I might just be doing the right thing!

Here is how I went about getting my class ready for 150 Word Questions:

  1. Show class a question.  Explain to them that this is the showcase question.  It has to show them at their best and what we have spent 4-5 years teaching them.
  2. Translate question in pairs, then share answers.
  3. See if class can divide the two bullet points into three, four or five sections.
  4. Divide 150 by number of sections to give approximate and more manageable word counts  (3 x 50 word sections sounds more achievable)
  5. Go through how it is marked, including how many opinions, justifications etc are needed.  Unpacking phrases such as “narrate events” is also worth a few minutes of your time.
  6. Divide class into groups of 3-4.  They write the best section they possibly can on mini-whiteboards or on paper with alternating lines (any means that allows editing).  This means tenses, opinions, reasons, conjunctions, adverbs.  Remind students that if they have speaking prep that matches the bullet point then they use it.
  7. Remind students of their core language sheets and encourage use of them when writing.
  8. Remind students of their Top 10 Complex Language sheets and encourage use of at least 2-3 phrases from it.
  9. Students compose sections, If they finish then they can try another section.
  10. Hand in mini-whiteboards.
  11. Teacher types up student contributions into a 150 word answer.  Mark it and annotates it with why it scores high marks.  If you have a visualiser, you could do this live.
  12. Students then attempt a similar question in subsequent lesson.  They are allowed their example one, along with core language and complex language sheets.  They cannot copy but can adapt it.  They do this on their own.  You could then mark it or take in a few and give generic feedback.  Students do appreciate knowing how they scored on a first attempt.

Explaining a couple of terms above:

  • Core Language Sheets – idea from Rachel Hawkes.
  • Complex Language Sheets – basically A* language from use back in the day (wow I sound old) of controlled assessments.  Mix of simple memorable subjunctive, past tense, future tense phrases “cuando sea mayor”, “si tuviera la oportunidad, iría a…” etc or “bien que ce soit”

What happens next?

Probably, I will get back to teaching the course, as later in the year they will likely have a mock exam or an assessment point so they can do one without support then.  They also have two good versions to revise from!  Combining the graduated approach above, along with regular practice of 90 word questions should help in preparing for that.  

Other thoughts

  • Encourage students to avoid duplication of vocabulary.  Ban the boring adjectives!  “boring”, “nice”, “interesting” and “fun”.  Instead things can be pleasant, enjoyable and exciting.  
  • Remind them that the poor examiner has to read loads of these and they are all 150 words long!  Encourage them to make it different to the average student.  Tell them they play piano in their room rather than football at the park.  They do not “go to the park with my friends”.  They “go to the cinema with my little brother who is <insert adjective here>”.  Again an opportunity for a more interesting adjective here (but not too interesting)
  • Remember that avoid does not mean you can’t use them when your mind goes blank.
  • Cutting the question into manageable chunks is always helpful.  Can one bullet point be divided into two?  To some of our students 40+40+75 does not sound as bad as 75+75.   
  • Lastly: make a plan.  What language am I going to use?  How can I show off?

 

 

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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Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

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

writing notes idea class

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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Photo by Song kaiyue on Pexels.com

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

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Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

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: Current and future study

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

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

Who’s the greatest?

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Photo Credit: jtfmulder Flickr via Compfight cc

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

                                             Opinion phrase

Teacher

is the most …

because (positive reasons)                 because (negative reasons)

although he/she can be

positive adjectives                                 negative adjectives

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

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

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

Hogwarts Conditional

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

List of subjects here if you need them.

Alternatively …

If I were the boss

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

“If I were the head, I would…”

“If I had the choice, I would…”

“If I could, I would…”

Clause structures & Descriptions

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

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

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

Describing your school

Image result for school floor plan

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

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

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

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

After School Clubs

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Again, another topic to enthuse…

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

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

Future plans Cluedo

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ah…the good old days

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

Give students the following table on a slide.

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

Image result for greater than

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

Player Biography / Description

Image result for david de gea spain save

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

Read some tweets

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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.

 

 

 

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.

trapdoor

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

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

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

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

Mastermind with lives

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

TL Questions and TL answers

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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.

 

 

 

GCSE: Social Issues. charity and volunteering.

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Photo Credit: mypubliclands Flickr via Compfight cc

The new GCSE confronted teachers with some topics they may not have ever had to deal with in any great depth.  This post looks at ideas for teaching our GCSE students about volunteering, helping charities and good causes.

Before I start, you should be aware of the following:

  • AQA refers to “social issues” and refers to “charity/voluntary work.”
  • Edexcel calls it “bringing the world together” and names this topic “campaigns and good causes.”
  • WJEC simply refers to “social issues”.

I have done my best to put ideas that can be applied to all boards.  There will be a lean towards one in terms of the language used as that is what I am currently teaching.  There is certainly no intent to promote one above the other.

My enthusiasm for this topic stems from my year abroad.  I spent a year working in a home in Cochabamba, Bolivia, for kids who had lived on the streets, were orphans or suffered abuse at a young age.

Cochabamba, Bolivia

So how to teach the topic?  I have tried to include a mixture of listening, speaking, reading and writing activities.

Synonyms Match-ups 

Students need to learn a lot of words that they have not come across before.  Two of my go to starters are gap fills and match ups.  This week I came across a match-up of synonyms which was really effective.  Students matched up two sets of words looking for the words with the same meanings.

Narrow Reading: spot the difference

This is a phrase I learnt from Gianfranco Conti’s blog.  The philosophy behind narrow reading can be found here.  The idea I chose to use was called Spot the Differences.  I produced a text about working as a volunteer, copied it, pasted it twice and then made subtle changes.  Students had to say how each text differed from the other ones.  The vocabulary that differed included phrases I want them to know for subsequent lessons.  My experience was that students focused far more closely on the text rather than merely skim-reading it until they found the relevant detail.  Definitely a keeper for future classes.

Find the phrases

This is a stock favourite of all GCSE textbooks.  “Find the French/Spanish in the text for…”  I gave students texts based on some real charities that I had contact with.  The fact that these were real people, that I knew or worked with, seemed to motivate them more.  One website used to help produce this was Manos con Libertad , another was Mosoj Yan.  Both are Christian organisations that work with people in Cochabamba.  Whether you have a faith or none at all, these organisations do some great work with people in tough circumstances.  I used others as well but they don’t have websites!   The excerpts were written from the point of view of someone who worked there and talked about what they do.  Great opportunity to revise daily routine and reflexive verbs.

Textbook Speaking Grids

Questions verbs complement and other
details
etc 
tend quite  lots
to often  of
appear in this  stuff
here bit  here

Many textbooks often give a grid and a few questions and answers to use.  It is not the most exhilarating paired speaking task.  I got thinking about how to spice it up a bit.

Method 1: Points for going beyond the grid.  On your projector screen put a list of things that “go beyond the grid”.  Students work in pairs.

Student 1: Asks questions and notes down a score of anything that goes beyond the grid.

Student 2: Answers questions trying to add other tenses, verbs, conjunctions, adverbs etc

Method 2: Beat your partner.  If you have a tricky class you may wish to change the name here to prevent any wilful misinterpretation!  Every student notes down 5 phrases from the grid without their partner seeing.

Student 1: asks the questions.  This student receives 2 points each time the other uses on of their phrases.  Maximum of 10 but probability of phrases being used is lessened.

Student 2: answers the questions, trying to use their pre-chosen phrases.  This student receives one point per phrase used.  Maximum of 5.

Method 3:  Play a role.   The grid in the textbook involved the questions ¿trabajas como voluntario ahora? and ¿Qué haces exactamente?  along with a few others.  Students were given a card with a role.  They then had to pick answers using this perspective.  The roles included:

  • Charity Shop Assistant
  • Eco-warrior
  • Care Home worker
  • Aid worker in Haiti
  • Aid worker in Sierra Leone.

Ethiopia, Tribe, Africa, Culture, Omo, Tribal

Third World Diary

Mira 3 red does a brilliant diary of life for someone in the developing world.  If you have access to it great.  If not then use this site for inspiration.

You could produce a short diary script and then attempt any of the following:

  • You could display the script and read it out loud.  While you do this, miss out some words.  Make the students write down the ones you miss.
  • Use the desktop version of Imemorize  and enter your own quote.
  • Put your script into Cueprompter and have students read it out loud with you or alone.
  • You could have multiple choice parts put in the script and students have to write down the one you read out.  Por la mañana / tarde / noche me despierto a las siete y media / seis y media / cinco y media.
  • You could remove a whole sentence and have students fill it in as a dictation/transcription exercise.
  • You could even chop the text into pieces and give it to students to rearrange while you read it out loud.
  • Go to Voki.com and put it into their text-to-speech converter, setting the voice to Spanish.  Then challenge your pupils to see who can do a better job than Javier or Carmen!
  • Be creative, there are so many options when it comes to a listening text.

Students could produce their own diary as a homework task.  You could set a list of “ridiculous requirements” to challenge your high-flyers.  For example: 7 lines of text, 6 reflexive verbs, 5 conjunctions, 4 clock times, 3 french hens, 2 higher level phrases and one subjunctive just for good measure.

The website was also tweeted to me at some point.  I have yet to use it yet but it looks good, particularly if you are considering display work.

Newspaper Clipping Generator

Verbs & Infinitives

This chapter is a great way to practise all those verbs that are followed by an infinitive:

  • I’m going to raise money for..
  • I would like to donate to …
  • I can give £1 a month to
  • I’m thinking about going to…
  • I hope to help …
  • I want to work with …

A game of TRAMPA / TRICHER would be a great way to practise this.  Students take a piece of A4 paper and divide it into 8.  In pencil, on 4 or 5 of the sections they write a sentence like the bullet points above.  On the remaining 3 or 4 they write “Trampa” or “Tricher” (cheat).  Cards are then shuffled and dealt out among their table.  Students say what is on the card before putting it face down in the middle.  If the card says trampa they have to convince the other players there is a sentence on the card.  They do this by making a sentence up and placing the card face down.  If a student thinks another is cheating then they can call them on it.  If the student was indeed cheating; the cheater picks up the card.  If the student was falsely and wrongfully accused in a heinous miscarriage of justice; the accuser takes the cards.  Winner is the first person to get rid of all their cards.

If you have had any great ideas then please leave them in the comments section below:

 

 

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 Literary Texts

After a couple of blogs titled getting ready for the new GCSE and getting ready for the new GCSE: the sequel  (clearly I’m great at naming things).  I thought it was about time I made some headway with the various elements required in listening and reading.  Literary texts are making an appearance in the new GCSE.  Regardless of whether you think it is a good idea, they are coming and this means an opportunity to make the best of it.  The government state the following:

“Pupils should be taught to read literary texts in the language [such as stories, songs, poems and letters], to stimulate ideas, develop creative expression and expand understanding of the language and culture”National Curriculum for Languages

Before going overboard on new resources, budget allocations and looking at every single website for a satisfactory literary text, we need some perspective.  It is highly likely that this element of the new GCSE will only be tested in the reading paper.

This blog will look at how we can incorporate the demands from the DfE into our normal teaching practice.  Readers of this blog should be advised that my main languages are Spanish and German so French teachers may be slightly disappointed but I would encourage them to head to the excellent Frenchteacher website.

Texts

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Our textbooks are technically full of literary texts:

  • Listos 2 p 92 – biographical text on footballing legend Diego Maradona.
  • Mira 2 p101 Barcelona Te Quiero – song about Barcelona.  One of my former colleagues convinced the kids that this song won Eurovision!  To be fair, it is probably better than some Eurovision entries.
  • Expo 2 Red p93 La Marseillaise – The song that most people know the first bit of!
  • Klasse 3 – every chapter has a “Lesepause”, what more could you need?!

If your school is on a bit of a “move away from the textbook” crusade then I would encourage you to make use of the texts that are in those books.  There is no shame in using a book!  You are also doing your bit to promote literacy so on this occasion your use of a textbook is entirely justified.  You can also guarantee they have been through proof-reads and revisions, which lessens the time you may spend correcting the errors on a power-point found on a resources website.

Stories

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It is likely the story will be only a short excerpt.  I would be amazed if they could fit a whole story into an exam paper!  To access stories your students will need the following:

There are many ways you can incorporate a story into your lesson plan.  Here are some

  • Teaching Past Tense:  How many past tense verbs can you find in …?  I do this with an excerpt from Harry Potter.  It tells you if they have internalised the verb endings.
  • Teaching Present Tense: A day in the life of …
  • Teaching House & Home: A short text about where someone lives.  I normally use Papa Francisco as he could have lived in the Vatican but chose a small modest flat instead.
  • Teaching Future Tense: pick an unfinished story and get students to write sentences about what will happen next.
  • Teaching School: A day in the life of …  Pick a student in your class with a good sense of humour and write as if you are them.
  • Teaching holiday experiences: write a tripadvisor review or borrow a real one.  Could the students then create their own?  Could they take your one and make it better?

Songs/Poems

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If a song is catchy or cheesy it will probably stick with the students.  Here are some sources:

  • Lexibexi – German versions of English songs.
  • Wiseguys – German songs with some English ones rewritten.
  • Gypsy kings – Spanish songs in Spanish but very clear pronunciation most of the time.
  • Lyrics Training – gap fill of pop songs.  You may need to censor the videos!
  • Navidad – Christmas is a great time for using songs.

What can you do with a song?

  • Gap fill lyrics.
  • Multiple choice questions – which word did they hear?
  • Make them learn it.
  • Get them to perform it.
  • Use it to internalise pronunciation rules
  • Write another verse.
  • Predict the vocabulary used in the song – listening bingo
  • Rearrange verses

Remember we are talking about songs in the context of literary texts so at some point the students will need to encounter the lyrics.

Letters

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My assumption is that these will be letters of complaint, emails about holiday experiences and emails asking for information about a job.  I think we would do well do let these topics arise as they normally do on our scheme of work.

What I would recommend is giving students a crash-course in letter writing.  This can be as simple as teaching phrases like “dear”, “yours faithfully” and various similar phrases. Some weaker students might struggle with “un saludo cordial” as cordial in their minds is something you drink.  I really do not think we are treading any new territory here in terms of reading.  However, given that the curriculum also mentions registers then students may well need to write a letter using formal or informal modes of address.

Other literary texts

Literary texts may not be encompassed solely by the above so here are some other options you could incorporate:

  • Newspaper articles eg: Cholita Fashion (clothing unit), Quinoa (healthy eating) or Messi.  You could also Prepare your own.  After Rosaespanolas superb murder mystery lesson my trainee produced a newpaper article for the students to use so they could write their own.
  • Websites – one of my ICT-minded colleagues made a brilliant lesson where students were given a budget on an excel spreadsheet and had to buy an outfit for a particular occasion using Galeria.
  • Signs, adverts and notices:

 

5 Things to try tomorrow

5 Things to Try Tomorrow

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I’m snowed under with marking, reports and grades at the moment.  So here’s 5 ideas which helped me procrastinate, which you may like to try tomorrow…

Target Language Answers

How do your pupils respond at the end of starters, reading activities, listening activities?  I’ve started getting my classes to use the following:

  • creo que es …A,B,C etc
  • pienso que es
  • podría ser …
  • Estoy seguro que es …

It’s a simple way of drilling in key phrases and it keeps the lesson in the target language. I thought it might slow things down but it hasn’t.  Even better is that students are using them and they are appearing in their work.

Dice

Such a simple thing but so versatile.  Get a set of 6 sided or 10/12 sided dice.  Try any of the following:

1    me gustaría trabajar                                 con animales

2   mi amigo le gustaría trabajar                 en una oficina

3   mi profesor debería trabajar                   como domador de leones

4   no me gustaría trabajar                            al aire libre

5    mi mama debería trabajar                      con la gente

6   mi papa debería trabajar                          como profesor estresado

Or 

1    Give an opinion about … using ich denke, dass

2   Give an opinion about .. using gefallen

3    Give an opinion about … and add a weil clause

4   Give an opinion about … using gern

5   Give an opinion about …. that adds a sentence in another tense

6   Give an opinion about  … using meiner Meinung nach

Or vocabulary revision

1/2  Partner names 5 words on topic of …

3/4 Partner gives 5 adjectives on topic of …

5/6 Partner gives 5 verb phrases on topic of…

or create your own…

“Hide your whiteboards.”

The credit for this one goes entirely to a trainee teacher who gets better and better with every lesson.  She insists that students keep mini-whiteboards under their chins once they have written and then they raise them on her instruction.    Copying other people is one of my pet hates and this eliminates it and also forces the “less motivated” (bone idle) to work harder and produce something or it’s really obvious.

 DIRT mats.

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Our school has introduced DIRT time.  One pupil suggested it be called “time for improvement, reflection and development” but then realised that “TIRD” had a slightly unappealing ring to it.  During that time, my focus needs to be on the students with genuine questions about how to improve their work.  The rest need to get on.  These mats are editable and really easy to adapt.  Despite the fact they are aimed at KS1 and KS2 they can be adapted and used with all years.  My experience so far is that the younger years like the Pixar one and my 10s & 11s feel that the force is strong with the Star Wars versions.

 

Hands up listening

This came courtesy of Nick Mair on a course.  It is incredibly versatile and quite effective in terms of assessing the skill of listening.  It also shows you who your best listeners are.

The teacher talks in the target language.  Students have 3 options: left hand , right hand, both hands.  You assign something to each hand.  Maybe it is “opinion”, “reason”, “two tenses used”.  Or “sensible”, “idiotic”, “mixed”.

Here are two examples using Mira 1, which would lead to students putting both hands up.

  • “En mi casa hay un salón, un comedor y una cocina.  Había un baño en el jardín.”
  • “En mi casa hay un salón, un comedor, una cocina y un baño.  Arriba hay un dormitorio, el dormitorio de mis padres y el dormitorio de mi tortuga.”

 

Credit to www.cooltext.com for the cool text effects.

 

Everyday Homework

Leading headteacher Tom Sherington writes on his blog “great teachers set great homework”.  In fact, he dedicates an entire blogpost to it.  I thought I would do the same but with an MFL slant.  I’m sure I have set some good homeworks and some bad ones in my time.  Below is a buffet of homeworks.  It will allow you to add to your plate the ideas you like, whilst avoiding those that you don’t.

One of the best bits of the blog mentioned above is this:

“The research by Hattie et al shows that homes make more difference to learning than schools. So, take away homework and what do we have? Essentially, homes with the greatest cultural capital, typically more affluent and middle class, will just fill the gap with their own family-education as they always have. They’ll be fine. Meanwhile, children from families where home-learning is scarce or simply doesn’t happen are left without structure or resources to fall back on. The same inequalities that give children such different learning orientations from pre-school persist. I’d argue that homework for all is a basic element of an educational entitlement; it is a leveller – provided that schools offer support for ‘homework’ to be done anytime, any place.” – Tom Sherrington September 2nd 2012

So, how can Everyday MFL teachers such as you and I make sure that learning continues outside the classroom?  Just as feedback and marking should drive learning forward; homework should do the same!

Vocabulary learning

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Well that was obvious wasn’t it!  As MFL teachers, we know the value of vocabulary learning but how can you ensure that they have actually learnt it.  One method I have used in the past particularly with lower ability learners or year 7s is the look, cover, write, check sheet.  You can find an example on the TES here.  There is also one that I would recommend with your weakest students at this link.

Sites such as Languages Online, The Language Gym, Linguascope, Memrise, Duolingo, Pons Vocabulary Trainer all have their place and role to play.  The Language Gym focuses quite heavily on conjugation.  This excellent with the advent of the new GCSE and the greater focus on being able to manipulate language.  Memrise I  like as it forces the students to type the vocabulary and produce it, rather than simply reading.  I’m a big fan of the phrase “reading is not revision” so this site is right up my street!  Languagesonline is also excellent.  The only issue I have with these sites is you cannot see which students have done the work!  I believe Vocabulary Express does allow such things but have yet to try it.

Rachel Hawkes suggests that students should achieve a certain amount of points from a selection of activities to prove they have done their homework, using a variety of different techniques.  Too many students will simply stare at the words and assume that some osmosis will occur unless they are given specific tasks to do.

I tend to teach the students as much as possible about how to learn vocabulary early on.  Look, cover, say, write, check can be very effective.  Flashcards and mindmaps equally so.  By testing it, you will give it value.  By sanctioning unacceptable performance, you will find students are more likely to do it.  I’m not going to give a minimum acceptable level as sometimes that can vary depending on the student.

A couple of colleagues in another department have recently experimented setting the same vocabulary for 2-3 weeks with lower ability classes.  They have tested them each week but only taken in the marks on the third time.  Looking at the books, they have found that the students improved and their confidence was boosted by this process.  I would argue the amount of reinforcement also helped.  You could do this with some high-frequency language for your weaker groups.  It is an experiment I would certainly like to repeat.

The multi-skill homework.

Currently my favourite!  Why set homeworks that test only one skill??!  This epiphany came to me at some point in the middle of a lesson!  It has only taken 5 years to have it.

Slow German, Audio Lingua, Conjuguemos and the websites previously mentioned might allow you to set a variety of different tasks.  My current year 10 were set the following last week:

  1. Listen to this podcast on audio-lingua
  2. Complete following exercises on languagesonline and samlearning
  3. Produce dialogue for … situation

I’m allowed to set up to 50 minutes worth of work so I might as well go for it!  I was not exactly popular when I did this.  Once the rationale was explained, most students went for it.

Exam boards also have past papers on their websites, that would easily allow multiple skills.  Again the specimen papers for the new GCSE could be used in this way.  Admittedly speaking would be out of the question but listening, reading and writing would all be possible.

The worksheet

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There are some brilliant worksheets out there on websites such as TES and the excellent Frenchteacher.  Having said that, you might have a low photocopying budget so I would encourage you to create your own or borrow bits from other people and condense it on to a single page.  The big question with the sheet is: does it make the students work hard?  Does it take them from a level where they might follow a model to get the answer to being able to apply the grammar rule?  With the appearance of translation in the new GCSE, this could be a place to include it?

 

 

The paragraph

Produce a paragraph on … Produce two paragraphs on …  These can often be effective as it gives the student time to work on something using what they have learnt.  However, beware the evils of googletranslate.  This website, long the bane of the Everydaymfl teacher, is getting.  Students shouldn’t need to recourse to it if they have been taught how to use wordreference.com correctly, or if they have sufficient resources on your VLE, in their book or on paper.

Have you considered a point scoring paragraph?  Higher point scores generally indicate better work…

5 10 20 25
Simple connecting words More complex connecting words More complex structures
um…zu
ohne..zu
ausser…zu
ni…ni
bien que…
The amazing mindblowing structures
to really impress examinersKonjunktiv II
Konjunktiv I
Si hubiera pensado…
French subjunctive
Simple time phrases More complex opinion phrases More of the above More of the above
Simple adverbs Less common adverbs Less common adverbs More of the above

Another idea would be to ask students for an ASL calcuation.  Average Sentence Length.  They need to divide the amount of words by the amount of sentences.  Scores of 7+ indicate they are probably using opinions.  Scores of 12+ indicate they are justifying those opinions.  Scores of anything higher and they might need to consider the occasional full stop!

Have you considered banning certain words from their paragraphs?  Some of the below would be top of my list!

French German Spanish
ennuyeux langweilig aburrido
interessant interesant interesante
amusant lustig divertido

The example sentences

Regularly I will set my learners a task to produce some examples using a grammar point we have worked on.  This is mainly because I want to see if they can do it outside the classroom without me and also to reinforce the material at a later date.  The Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve suggests they will have lost some of it after the lesson so this is my attempt to fight the curve!  Perhaps suggest a theme for their example sentences:

Future tense: “what Homer Simpson will do at the weekend”

Past Tense: what”insert celebrity” did last week

 

The Culture Homework

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Photo Credit: Arttesano via Compfight cc

I tend to set one of these once a half-term (homework is weekly).  Students are naturally curious and like to learn about the country.  I remember, when I was in school years ago, a couple of homeworks from my language teacher: “find out what you can about who won the election in Germany?”  Gerhard Schröder was the answer, which seems like a long time ago now, probably because it was!  Students  like to know about the place, not just the language.  However, we are language teachers and so the homework should be proportional to what we do.  I would also counsel that you tell them to avoid the blindingly obvious and go for a more horrible histories style in their research.  “Madrid is a city in Spain” is the kind of thing you can open yourself up for if not careful!

I have highlighted my favourite one in orange.  Google it, you will see why it is such a cool festival!

French German Spanish
What is “la marseillaise” actually about? What is Karnival? What happens at “la tomatina”?
Find out 10 facts about the French Revolution Find 10 facts about the fall of the Berlin wall Produce a poster showing what happens at “las fallas”
What is Bastille day? Who is Angela Merkel? What is Yipao and why is it celebrated in Colombia?
What is Mardi Gras? Produce a timeline of major events in
German history starting from 1800
What is día de los muertos all about?
How do the French celebrate Christmas? 10 Facts about any German city Produce a short biography of Franco or another famous  figure from Spanish history
Who was Marie Curie? Who was Hans Riegel from Bonn? Who is the current King of Spain?
Find out 10 facts about a city that is not Paris. Find out 10 facts about a city that is not
Berlin or Munich
Find out 10 facts about a city that is not
Madrid or Barcelona

Flipped Learning

I’m a bit of a skeptic at the moment when it comes to this.  John Hattie claims that along with effective feedback; clarity of explanation is crucial in our teaching.  Most youtube videos teach a grammar rule and then explain EVERY exception known to man.  If you are not confused by the end then it is because you got up to make a cuppa 2-3minutes in.  I think there is a place for it, but video selection needs to be carefully done.  Then the students need to do something with the knowledge to reinforce it, otherwise it is just another video.  The questions the teacher needs to ask are as follows:

  • Is this better than explaining the concept in class with worked examples?
  • Is the person on the video easy to listen to?
  • What will I do about students who do not watch the video?
  • Should I use the video to introduce or consolidate?
  • Is the video clear, too fast, too slow?

 

If you have read this far then well done but don’t forget it’s half-term.  Enjoy yourself, rest, have some fun, have some more fun and be ready to go again on Monday.

 

 

Teaching around the town

Coming up soon in Expo 1 and a bit later in Mira 1 is that topic of what there is in your town.  Here’s some ideas to make a slightly drab topic slightly more exciting.

Videos

In my town video   This is a great little video for year 7s.  I tend to give them a list of places and they check off the ones they find.  Equally you could give them a variety of spellings and they could select the correct one.  You could then ask pupils to prepare their own version if you have access to smartphones and the like.

Colombia video   Complete with traditional South American music and there is a degree of cultural knowledge to be gleaned.  Perhaps give the pupils a script to gap fill or some questions to answer.

Visit … Advert

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Pupils could make a radio advert using spreaker or audacity.  This is best done at the end of the topic.

Google street-view directions.

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I have tried this recently and to an extent it worked.  I made my own using the city of Madrid and getting students to follow the directions I gave them.  I allowed the weaker ones to use LINGRO to turn my exercise sheet into a clickable dictionary.  It can work really well as long as your students have some staying power.  If you’re unsure as to how to put one together then a highly rated example can be found here.

Talk and draw.

Great for practising prepositions, listening and speaking.  Student 1 has a mini-whiteboard and a working pen.  Student 2 has a brain and vocal chords.  Student 2 puts a building in the centre such as a football stadium.  They then begin to describe their town “a la derecha del estadio hay un parque” and the other student starts to draw a plan.

Past and present

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Antes había… ahora hay…

Antes era … ahora es …

This is a great way to introduce students to some basic past tense phrases and also go a little cross curricular with a historical picture of their town.

SIM City

SIM City was a simulator game where players had to build a city.  Students could do the same.  They would produce a town map, a description of each building or area of town.  I’m sure some could do it via audio or visual means if you choose to let them have that freedom.

 

 

 

5 Things to try tomorrow

Happy New Year to you all.  With the term imminent I thought I would offer the following 5 things to try tomorrow.

Shake up the seating

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College classroom — Image by © H. Armstrong Roberts/CORBIS

Most teachers change the seating plan when the class is not working how they would like.  It happens when they realise that little Brendan and little Alex are a positively toxic combination, or when you realise that little Chardonnay has fallen out with little Sinead.  However, maybe there is a sound pedagogical reason for changing the seating.  This post by David Didau has really caused me to think and I might well experiment with my classes.  I have 8 tables of 4.  What if I rotate them half-termly?  It means the pairings stay the same but the location changes.

Didau writes…

“A few years ago I became aware of a very strange and as far as I know, unresearched phenomena. If I taught a lesson where students knew something in that chair, they would not necessarily know it in this chair. Simply asking students to move seats in the middle of a lesson was enough to disrupt their ability to recall and transfer.”

So give it a go.  Didau himself goes on to say:

“So I started experimenting with moving students about and giving them a greater variety of sight lines and thus a greater and more unstable range of visual cues….And guess what? Their ability to transfer what they’d learned within the classroom improved. Now, I would, of course, hesitate to make a mountain out of this molehill, but it does seem worthy of further investigation.”

As they say on BBC News, more on that story later…

Tarsia

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This is one of my favourite plenary activities.  It works particularly well if you are the kind of person who has objectives in the “know”, “understand” and “be able to” format.  You need to download their generator here.  You can then create puzzles like a triangle of triangles.  The aim is to get the English and Spanish words to match up with no text around the outside edge.  Other shapes are possible.  You could equally do sentence halves etc.  Make sure that the format is set to “text” otherwise it will squish (yes that is a word) all your words together.  Allow 5 mins for an able group and 10mins for a less able group.  I might suggest also printing the “solution” tab, or copying it into word to be printed as it will save you massively on photocopying!

Word Association

Simple but great for seeing what vocabulary students can recall over time.  Give them a starting word and see how long they can go for.

Gallery Critique

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I wrote a post on peer-assessment ages ago.  I have always thought that for language teaching peer-assessment is extremely hard to do effectively.  The statistic mentioned by Shaun Allison rings in my head every time someone mentions it.  Even if pupils are trained well, I feel it is risky and potentially detrimental to weaker learners.  One student once wrote “excellent use of connectives”, which was not a bad comment but there were none! MFL is not like English where one can suggest additions to their argument.  And it is not like history or geography where you can examine how closely someone has answered the question.  With gallery critique it is my understanding that Student 1 produces work.  Students 2,3 & 4 comment on it and then student 1 reviews the feedback using it to develop their work.  The same process will be happening with students 2,3 &4.  Hopefully there will be some kind of triangulation that leads to more accurate peer-assessment.  After all, 8 out of 10 cats did prefer Whiskas…

Starters to make them think more.

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I’m a big fan of gap-fills, anagrams, matchups, odd ones out etc but they do get stale after a while.  My new favourite is giving pupils sentences that they have to alter in some way to make their own.

Dans ma ville il y a une gare.  – transform this into a sentence with 10 words.  

No me gusta el inglés porque es aburrido – say something nice

En mi familia hay cinco personas – say it in a different way

No hay una piscina en mi casa – Change this while keeping the sentence on the same topic.   You may not use any words from the original apart from “casa” and “piscina”.

 

Bit of fun part 3

Made it!  Term is over.  Sometimes we all just need some light relief.  So here it is…

Free Rice!

This is a website with some small vocabulary tests featuring a very random word list, however every correct answer gives a grain of rice to a needy family in the developing world.  It’s a nice way to keep kids busy in the ICT room when they have finished everything you want them to do.  The worst bit is having to tell them to stop as you feel like you’re depriving a starving family of food!  The kids will tell you this.

Parole du chat

Plenty of fun for those of you who like French and cats.  Mindfulness is big in UK schools at the moment so you could make a tenuous link there…

Do you speak English?

I like this purely for sheer level of irony involved.

Lauren

I think I’ve taught this kid…

Das Erwachen der Macht

Doesn’t quite sound the same but I was running out of ideas for the 5 bit of this blog!

9 ideas para Noel/Navidad/Weihnachten

Christmas is approaching.  I’m fairly certain most MFL teachers have done the following over the past few years:

  1. Make a Christmas card
  2. Christmas Wordsearch
  3. Christmas crossword/sudoku etc
  4. Break out the DVDs…if SLT are reading, I didn’t suggest this…

Here’s some ideas that go beyond the minimal with years in brackets as a guide.

Cluedo: who killed Santa? (yr 7,8,9,10,11)

Prepare three columns of phrases on whiteboard.

  • People (Santa, Herod etc)
  • Places (santa’s workshop, lapland)
  • Murder weapons (tinsel, christmas trees, presents, satsumas).  You will need to pick one of each in your head.  Students then give you their opinion on who killed Santa, where, and what weapon.  You tell them only how many they get right or wrong.  Brilliant game for teaching deduction and reinforcing opinion phrases such as “a mon avis” or “pienso que”.

 

Euroclub schools (yr7,8,9)

Take them to an ICT room and complete any of the pdf quiz worksheets on http://www.euroclubschools.org.uk/page2.htm.  French, Spanish and Italian are on offer here.  Whilst not huge on the TL; it is brilliant for their knowledge of culture.  Some exam boards are looking at increasing the cultural side of the new GCSE so it cannot hurt.

La pesadilla antes de la navidad

Lyrics are in the description, exploit to your hearts content

Gap fills, multiple choice, missing sounds or letters, translate bits.  Over to you…  Lamentably, months on, all your students will remember are the words ¿qué es? ∏ë

Letter to Santa (Yr 7,8,9,10,11)

The new GCSEs have writing tasks that involve “write a letter to” (at least one of the sample assessments does).  Why not introduce this with a letter to Santa.  It is also a great opportunity to revise tenses.

El año pasado recibí …  aunque quería …

Este año quiero/me gustaría …

Lots of potential and easily transferable between year groups.

 

Food-tasti5829330676_ea38ec69d0_mng

Some students will never get to try turrón or stollen, why not bring some in?  If finances are stretc
hed then you could ask for a voluntary contribution…or hand the receipts to your HoD to claim back under “vital lesson resources”.  Serious point: check for nut allergies otherwise a great lesson and experience for the children will end up in the headteacher’s office, putting a downer on any festive season cheer.

 

Real Christmas (yr 9,10,11)

Typical Spanish animated cartoon telling the story of the nativity.

Madagascar Penguins (7,8,9,10,11)

3025125260_20ae058f42_mThis has been my stock Christmas lesson for a couple of years created by sanferminuk on the TES website who has a number of excellent resources

Link to Madagascar Penguins

I know, I know, I made a comment about DVDs but this is an entire lesson planned around understanding a 20 min video in the target language.  Surely that’s a different thing, right?!  The video clip can be found on Youtube.

Origami santa (Yr 7,8,9,10,11)

For the grammar-lovers out there some revision of imperatives might be in order…

There are plenty of others out there but this might help get you started. Practice makes perfect so get practising!

The Great British sing off (yr7,8)

With names like that I should clearly get a job naming things…  Anyway, team up with a couple of colleagues who teach at the same time as you.  Each group learns a song and then a sing off is had with an impartial judge.  Plenty of carols and songs can be found on youtube.

 

 

5 things to try tomorrow

5 things I’ve tried this week.  You could try them tomorrow…

Picture Starters

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Mira 1 gets students describing their teachers.  I wanted to see how much my year 7s  could remember so I demanded between 3 and 5 sentences based on a picture I showed them.  Initially I typed in angry teacher into google and used one of them before using an image of Robin Williams from Dead Poets Society.  I was pleasantly surprised what they were able to generate.

Me gusta el inglés porque el profesor es interesante

En mi clase hay un profesor interesante

Odio el inglés pero el profesor es interesante 

This one came from Greg Horton.  You can learn more about the work he does here, the big O seem keen on him.

Hands up listening

In an era of no hands up being in vogue this one goes against the grain.  The teacher can prepare the listening phrases and it is really good in seeing who in your class has the best auditory processing skills and is an effective listener.  It may well surprise you.

Mano derecha Opinión positiva
Mano izquierda Opinión negativa
Dos manos no hay opinión

You read out a sentence and depending on the content, the students put a right hand, left hand or both hands up.  This idea came from Nick Mair and I’ve tried it a few times since.  It also can be massively adapted with tenses, negatives, comparisons, conditionals etc

Forms and Functions

An idea from the effervescent Rachel Hawkes.

1) Past A) Future plans
2) Present B) Uniform
3) Future C) School rules
4) Negative D) description of school
5) Comparison E) Teachers
6) Conditional F) Other students
7) Sentence with two tenses G) Homework
8) Sentence linked with subordinating conjunction h) Stress

The students could do this with mini0whiteboards or a series of exercises could be set on the board and students work quietly through them.  The teacher demands a 1A sentence from the students.  This might mean that the student has to write about future plans whilst incorporating a past tense in there somewhere.  5E might be easier as students would simply compare two teachers.  It is great getting them to think about content, meaning and including the right things in their work.

Literary texts

My year 8s are reading Peter Pan together.  I picked it up for 75 centavos.  I’ve taught them about reading around both sides of an unfamiliar word (deducing meaning from context).

Deducing meaning from what has gone before

Bob entered the kitchen and saw his son doing the dishes.  His son threw a ______ at him.

The most obvious suggestions the students generate are dishcloth and sponge, along with some other, rather imaginative ones…

Deducing meaning from what has gone after.

Bob entered the kitchen and saw his son doing the dishes.  His son threw a ______ at him, which hit Bob and shattered into pieces.

Why do it?  It is mainly to stop them getting hung up on the one word they do not know.

We have also done a fair bit of work on infinitives and knowing the little words such as “de” “el/la/los/las”  “un/una”  etc.  Someone reads out loud before we look at what is going on.

Authentic Texts

The hotel boca juniors powerpoint on the TES was good for getting students working with some authentic material.  Here are some I am looking to try out:

Quinoa – bit of reading for healthy living and food topics

Farting cows – animal/environment topic maybe?  Might need simplifying…

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Photo Credit: blackcatcara via Compfight cc

 

 

 

5 things to try this week

Half-term – where did that go?!

Anyway, here are 5 simple things to try this week…

Mini-whiteboard Vocab Scrabble

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You need some large tables, mini-whiteboards and pens.  Start by writing a word across the middle (a long one).  Students score points for the following:

  • Point per letter
  • Point per letter of word they create and the word it bisects
  • Double points if the word links to the topic from the previous half term (another way of making it stick).

Alternatively you can use paper but mini-whiteboards are more environmentally friendly 🙂  If you’re feeling nostalgic you can do it with a whole class and an OHP.

 

 

Odd-one-out remix.

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Photo Credit: david.nikonvscanon via Compfight cc

Give students a line of 4 vocabulary items on the same topic and a big capital letter at the end.  They have to invent the odd one out.  Again you could demand that they recycle knowledge from a previous topic.

 

livre    cahier   professeur  etudiant           M

 

Find 5

Great way to build vocabulary.  If you have access to dictionaries, picture dictionaries or Usborne’s first thousand words.  Get students to find 5 of something so they broaden their vocabulary.  Try to avoid them getting hung up on finding the duck!

Taboo

Talk or write about a topic without using certain words.  In the cases of one or two students, I’m going to declare war on the next individual who uses interesante, aburrido, bueno, malo, emocionante.    

Mark – Plan – Teach

I’ve been reading a little too much on the Teacher Toolkit website but I like this one.  It should be the way we approach marking.  I have just marked a set of year 8 assessments and whilst most did what was asked of them, there are a number of errors that I want to sort out.

  • It would appear most of them have great command of possessive apostrophes in English but these do not exist in Spanish yet nowhere in Mira 1,2, or 3 does it cover this.
  • Me gusta + Me encanta are often followed by conjugated verbs so that needs sorting.
  • ie and ei keep getting confused so some phonics drilling is probably in order.

Making it stick!

Possibly the biggest lament of language teachers in my department and across the country is this: why do my students insist on writing “me prefiero”, “me gusta juego” and “mi gusta”?!  Is my teaching really that ineffective?  Are my students so inattentive?  What on earth is going on?!!!

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Photo Credit: rnav18 via Compfight cc

Making it Stick – 5 ideas for increasing the right kind of retention

Palabras importantes

At the end of the unit I talk my students through the key vocabulary that they need to take into the next one.  I go through on the board what the most important phrases are and put them into groups.  For year 7 Spanish it might look as follows:

Verb phrases Little words Question words Others
(no) Hay el/la/los/las Como y
(no) Tengo un/una/unos/unas Que también
es de Por que
necesito en Cuando

They are then set homework to learn these phrases and tested on them in the subsequent lesson.  I find it gives them value and increases the likelihood of remembering the key vocabulary rather then being able to say “lápiz” and “monedero” but not being able to do anything with them!

Palabras importantes part 2

2-3 weeks later I test them again on the same words.  It adds value and reinforces their importance.

Flowcharts and process

Students are used to these in other subjects.  They use them in technology, science, maths and even history when composing essays.  I have been teaching my year 9s the future tense and the conditional.  They have a sheet in their books that has the endings and the persons along with a table of irregulars.  Breaking it into steps is working even for the weakest ones.  Chris Fuller made a pertinent point in a webinar: the past and present take away from infinitives; whereas futures and conditionals add to them.  Most of them in a middle set can now take the majority of Spanish verbs and turn them into a “will” or a “would”.  On the whiteboard, I put a flowchart which simply says 1) “what is the English action?” 2) “what is the verb in Spansh?” 3) “go to table in book” 4) “who is doing it?” 5) “add that ending”.  The issue now is sorting out the past and present tenses!!

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Photo Credit: orangejack via Compfight cc  Scarily I can see my students working their way through this process in their minds!

Practice, practice, practice.

I have increased the amount of grammatical practice in my lessons this year and it is gradually working.  There has been a lot of animosity in schools towards textbooks, however they often have some very good exercises and I have seen multiple powerpoints on the TES resources ,which replicate the book word for word.  Even Elodie, Patricia and Gert are still in the exercise on the PowerPoint!  So why not just give the kids the book?!  Again, with my year 9s, I have increased the practice they do using a combination of books, Languagesonline and the Language Gym websites.  It is taking effect with the dedicated ones.  The question is now what to do about the less-dedicated ones but that is another blog post!

Clarity of Explanation

In a survey of teaching by John Hattie, the following things were found to be most effective:

Daniel Willingham writes in his book “Why don’t students like school” (i’ve blogged on this book before) that “deep knowledge must be our goal”.  This is borne out by the effect sizes above of instructional quality and quantity.   Willingham explains the following two principles:

  1. We understand new things in the context of things we already know.
  2. We therefore need to ask “what do students already know that will be a toehold in understanding this new material?”

I teach German and one thing I have been trying to do is to link new learning to old learning at every opportunity.  For example, we tackled weil with a nice animated powerpoint showing the verbs moving to the end of the clause.  We then considered “wenn” and “obwohl” before tackling “ich denke, dass”.  Before I introduced ,weil we looked at what they knew of clauses in English and introduced the idea of a main clause and a sub clause.  This might sound very basic and something that you do all the time but I find that quite often textbook schemes of work do not have this link from one element to the next.  For example: Mira 2 introduces tener que, poder, querer and “le gusta” in the space of two pages.  The next chapter does not reinforce them at all.  Neither do the three after that!

Teaching numbers, dates, days of the week & the basics

Bored of doing the same thing year after year.  Have a look below, be brave, dare to be different!

Numbers

I have blogged  on this before, you can find it here

Photo Credit: <a href=

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“Burro” – students are in a group of 4 or 5.  They count up to whatever number you choose and down again.  They can say one, two or three numbers at a time.  Any student made to say a number in a particular times-table (of your choosing) gets a letter.  If they spell out “burro” (donkey) then they are out.

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Last man standing – Sometimes called Irish Bingo.  Students write down four numbers in a given range and stand up.  Teacher or a student calls out numbers.  If all four of their numbers are called out, the student sits down.  The aim is to be the last man standing (or woman if you are being politically correct).

Write either side – give students some numbers but they have to note down the numbers either side, rather than the number itself.  This tests comprehension and recall.

Photo Credit: <a href=

Photo Credit: StreetFly JZ via Compfight cc  If M&Ms did calculators….

Sums – make them do maths.  Or better still make them create sums for their partner to do.  Insist that they can be as nice or cruel as they like.  It generally depends on how much they like the person next to them.

Months

Ordering – possibly one of my favourites.  Students put themselves into birthday order using only the TL.  Teach them phrases like “to the left” or “to the right” and how to say their birthday.  Do it by academic year or calendar year.  It allows the July born ones to not feel quite so young!

Class surveys – students go around interviewing people.  Avoid them going straight for their friends by insisting that they cannot talk to people in their tutor group, or their English class, or people with the same colour eyes, hair etc.

Days of the week

Yabba Dabba Doo!!!!!!  The kids will likely have no idea what memories this song evokes but they’ll sing along anyway.

 Repetitive but scarily effective.

Key verbs

Avoir = Mission impossible works for this.  Unfortunately there is not a youtube video, you will have to sing!  Failing that…

Etre = Oh when the saints works reasonably well with this

 It’s that bad it deserved a mention!

Tener

Ser

 Latin American Spanish so misses out vosotros form.

 Catchy and fun song.  Never used this one before so I’m going to give it a whirl this year.

Teaching the alphabet can be found here.  If you’re already ahead of the game and looking at present tenses then try this page.

Is there anything I have missed?  If you can think of something then add a comment and share it with others!

“Sir! When are we going to the computer room?”

Whilst not a pre-requisite to good teaching or good learning, some ICT room input is useful every now and again.  Students enjoy the occasional trip to the computer room.  I should use it more and my classes often remind me to do so!   Here are my regular ICT room lessons.  If you have a good idea drop one in the comments section below.

Sell your sibling (thanks to a former colleague for this one)

https://www.tes.co.uk/teaching-resource/Sell-your-brother-on-Ebay-6193621

Surprisingly, I have never got into trouble for this and the kids love it.  If they are an only child like the writer of this blog then suggest they sell their teacher.  Currently I am for sale on the wall of my own classroom.  In the event that your pursue the latter course, you may wish to correct any factual inaccuracies that ensue from the pupils description of you (which can often best be described as skewed, misinformed or just wrong).  If you’re wondering, I went for €1500.

WANTED

Great way to reinforce descriptions.  Give the pupils a helpsheet with phrases like “armed and dangerous”, “do not approach”, “reward” and then get them to find a celebrity and go for it.  A good plan is to tell them they are doing this lesson and have them think of someone beforehand, otherwise the normal battle of pictures vs content ensues and content loses out.  Ideally, they should probably avoid doing one of their teachers but if they’re learning and being creative with the language don’t stop them.  Display it in the corridor for maximum effect!

Gap Year

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Students plan a gap year using the future tense.  They need to explain where they are going to go, would like to go, intend to go etc and why.  If you have access to www.youtube.com then “where the hell is matt 2008” could provide some inspiration, although it might have more of an effect on your travel plans this summer.

Students could add more details and description.  The trick is to get them to focus on the language first and the pictures later.

Lebenslauf

Designing a CV.  Great way of teaching a range of vocabulary and revising a variety of topics.  Microsoft word has some good templates for this that can be customised.  You could set homework prior to this lesson so the pupils find the vocabulary they need and then produce the CV, or equally do it the other way around and teach them how to use http://www.wordreference.com properly.

Audio guide using audacity

Students produce a radio advert to encourage people to visit their town.  This can be done using the program audacity (free to download – or it used to be).  The difficulty is recording it.  Most students will happily do it but in an ICT room it does mean there is a lot of background noise.  Maybe suggest they do it at home or if your school allows then use http://www.spreaker.com/

Past listening exam papers

If you have a mixed ability group the ICT room is a great place for these.  Give the pupils the papers and put the listening tracks on the system or intranet where they can access them.  It also allows them to control volume and work through at their own pace.  This is good when you are developing exam technique.  Obviously some in-class or exam hall practice is good but this helps build confidence.  It allows you to cater to higher and foundation students if you have a mixed group.

Google Earth Directions

Why not create some directions that the pupils have to use google-earth to follow.  They could also create directions for their friends.  If they get to the right place then clearly they understood the directions – very easy way to evidence progress. There is a good resource on the TES for this but if you know where you are and where you are going then do your own.  I tried some with Madrid and got pupils going around the main square before being dropped elsewhere in the city and having to find the Bernabeu stadium.

Languagesonline.org.uk and samlearning.com

Both of these are superb websites and are improving all the time.  The former has recently been improved to facilitate use of tablet and smartphone.  The latter is gradually building up its stock of listening practice.  Languages online is free to use and has a lot of good exercises for practising grammar.  It also offers the explanations and hints to remind students of the rules they are practising and links well to Key Stage 3 schemes of work.

Little explorers picture dictionary

Great resource for early years or lower school.  My students have recently found this a great help on the house and home topic.  Whilst they see the title of “little explorers” as patronising, the website is very good.  Useful resource for weaker learners and perhaps getting students to make their own vocabulary lists.

Christmas Webquest 

Worksheets 1 and 2 are great for developing cultural knowledge.  I’ve only just discovered the rest of the site and there looks to be some really good material for French, German and Spanish.

Making writing more exciting

I personally feel there is too much of an emphasis on writing in GCSEs.  In spite of this it is a good means of checking understanding, encouraging creativity and developing literacy.

This is a short summary of 5 things that you can try and apply next week. You can judge my maths abilities at the end!

Writing Points.

Give students a grid of phrases with various points for various things.  It is similar to a writing frame but encourage them to use the more complicated material by giving it a higher points score:

5                              10                                                 20

me gusta              reason with porque   es     double reason with porque

me encanta         reason with porque son       use of “en mi opinion”

no me gusta        creo que                              use of connecting word not y/también/pero

odio                     pienso que                          use of negative in reasons given

This works really well with year 8-9 boys and a set time limit.  It also gets numeracy into your lesson.  It is really easy to differentiate by ability.  If you have a top set, stretch them, maybe 20 points should be for another tense.  The example above is for year 7s and links in with last week’s post.

Writing Bingo

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Photo Credit: Leo Reynolds via Compfight cc

Same as above but the mission is to use everything in the grid whilst still making sense.  Winner is first one to use them all.

 

Writing frames

These can be effective however they need to be tailored to the relationship you have with your group and material you have covered.  I have seen a number of excellent ones on the TES website but sometimes they need altering, correcting or rewriting for another topic as the layout is good but the material doesn’t help you!  If you know of particular interests within the group then consider playing to those.  For a more able group, the key to a good one is how much it forces adaptation and develops creativity.  For a lower ability group the question should be how it helps them to sequence their work and does it help to prevent the phrases such as “me lamo” “me prefiero” or “me juego” and the ubiquitous “me odio”?

Silly sentences

Photo Credit: Marcus E. Thomas via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Marcus E. Thomas via Compfight cc

This works, my old German teacher used to practise grammatical concepts by increasing the difficulty of what we were expected to produce.  Emily’s horse said that it did not want to be eaten (passive, modal verbs and konjunktiv I – she had high expectations).

Pupils love it but it is about practising structure and aiming at automaticity with the structures.  Can students manipulate the language successfully?

 

Scenes we’d like to see

Borrowed from the popular jocular television show Mock the Week.  This is excellent for future tense or present tense writing.  “Things … will not do at Christmas” (insert name of celebrity or royalty).  “How Katniss Everdeen will spend her weekend.”  It really helps if you use mini-whiteboards as you can check that pupils have grasped the structures.  I made the mistake of allowing the kids to use me for the first one.  The results were interesting to say the least…

Flow Charts

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Students are used to these in other subjects such as technology.  So use them to your advantage in structuring an argument.  Say for example you want the pupils to debate the environment, work experience etc.  Start with a variety of opinion phrases so that students make a point, explain it, add a contrasting view with “einige Leute denken, dass” and then add a further opinion and reason.  The exam boards say “express and explain a range of ideas and points of view.”  This is ideal for that very aim.