5 Things to try tomorrow

Here are 5 things I have tried this week…

Los Meses Del Año en estilo Macarena.  

The kids loved this!  The trick is getting them to practise the lyrics before doing it with the actions.

 

Equipment check in TL

This idea was borrowed from an excellent seminar by Eva Lamb earlier this year.  When teaching students the items in the pencil case then get them to do an equipment check and stitch up their friend.

Persona 1: ¿Tienes un lápiz?

Persona 2: Si, tengo un lápiz.

Persona 1: ¿Tienes una calculadora?

Persona 2: no tengo una calculadora

Persona 1: ¡Señor, mi compañero no tiene calculadora!

12 sided dice revision

Teach a topic, such as family.  Then at the end of the topic go through with the students how the new speaking exams will take shape.  There is a general conversation section.  Get a set of 12 sided dice and set a GCSE group 12 questions of which they must ask their partner at least 7.  I found this was a great way of practising, ensuring spontaneity and helping them to learn to deal with unpredictability.  The students then peer assessed their partner using the following guidelines:

  1. Start low, ask yourself: did they do that?  If yes, move up.
  2. When you have reached the highest level.  Ask yourself: how well did they do?
  3. Pick a mark higher or lower depending on answer to Q2

12 sided dice were a great little investment and did not break the bank.

3 Minute KS3 Marking

 

Photo Credit: Leo Reynolds Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Leo Reynolds Flickr via Compfight cc

This is a variation on a strategy suggested by Ross Morrison McGill (known to Twitter people as @TeacherToolkit).  Normally the suggestions from Teacher Toolkit take 5 minutes; this one takes two!!    I cannot find the original link but I believe he suggested only 2 minutes per book.  I have been trying it this week with some success and no perceptible dip in quality.  If you can manage 2 minutes then even better.  Here’s the Math…

2mins x class of 34 = 68mins

3mins x class of 34 = 102mins

Now if you’re like me a class of 34 is a massive amount all at once but the principle really helps.  You can still highlight errors, write a positive comment and set 2-3 targets in this time.

My Favourite Spanish Alphabet Song

I have used this as a way of recapping the phonics we did in the first lesson (see Rachel Hawkes for Powerpoints on this).  The lesson consists of introducing the alphabet sounds and getting a handle on those.  Then I use it as a vehicle to remind the students of the sound and spelling links.  We then look at a verse from a song (without telling them what it is) going through how each word should be said.  If they know the rules, they can do most of the words, before concerning themselves with what song it is.  We use the first verse of this one below…

 

Everyday Grammar Fun (part 1)

Grammar teaching is an inevitable part of MFL teaching.  Whilst there are debates about how much should be taught and how it should be taught; there is no escaping it.  Grammar can be tougher to teach in some schools than others.  So below are a variety of ways that I have used to try and make it a little bit more memorable and enjoyable.

Verbs and Conjugation

Chocolate can be used to explain a fair number of grammatical principles.  Whilst it is ideally suited to the idea of singular and plural,  I stumbled across this one a while back.

Chocolate – In Spanish to conjugate any tense, one removes the AR/ER/IR ending on the infinitive and replaces it with a different ending.  It is a bit like having a bar of dairy milk (infinitive), ripping off the final third (ending) and replacing it with a piece of Yorkie. The bar is largely still a dairy milk (thankfully) but the ending has changed and so looks slightly different as a result.  I have found this can help some students to get the concept in their head.  If using this explanation it is best done visually with the chocolate bars themselves.  You can offer them to whoever works the hardest that lesson, or simply consume it yourself at lunch.

Throw – Normally this is a plenary activity.  I have seen a good number of MFL teachers throw some form of stuffed toy around a room with some differentiated questions to discern the level of understanding their pupils have attained or demonstrate what they have learned.  Equally you could use the stuffed toy to explain verbs, pronouns and ending changes.  I throw, you throw, he catches, she throws, we catch, they throw etc.  When moving into plurals you may need 2 animal toys…

Yo tiro    Tu coges   El/Ella tira   El/ella coge   etc

Ich werfe   Du wirfst     Er wirft   Wir fangen   Er fängt   etc

In AS & A2 German, I had a teacher who insisted that we conjugate verbs as a starter every lesson.  It would follow this pattern:

  1. Class call out verbs – the more varied the better: springen, streichen, schminken, treffen, lesen, lassen, sprengen, pfeiffen etc.
  2. Verbs listed down side of whiteboard with (W) for weak verbs/regular verbs
  3. Each verb would be chanted: “pfropfen, pfropft, pfropfte, gepfroft”, “denken, denkt, dachte, gedacht”, “singen, singt, sang, gesungen”.
  4.  She would demand snappy sentences with modal verbs in various tenses “i have to sing”, “i want to sing”, “I wanted to sing”, “I had to sing”
  5. After that came the recent grammar items eg: relative clauses “the man, who had to sing”.
  6. After the main part of the lesson began, the challenge was then to use them in written or spoken form later in the lesson.

It worked as I can still do it years after.  Admittedly the nature of German tenses makes it easier and rhythmic but maybe there is a way to do it in French and Spanish.  I have started to try stages 4 , 5 and 6 with Key Stage 3 and 4 in Spanish to get them combining verbs and infinitives.

Present Tense

Today at Wimbledon.  This is a nice one for Mira 1 after the modules on verbs, sports and weather all appear within a short space of time.  You will need to recap the verbs, particularly in the third person and then the weather phrases.

Students have to script the Today at Wimbledon programme to explain what is happening today.

eg: Hoy en corte número uno Roger Federer juega contra Bob Marley*.  Ahora es la una y media.  Esta manana hace sol y hace calor pero a las cuatro llueve.

*most of your class will only know a handful of tennis players but they seem to enjoy it when Roger Federer defeats the Headteacher in straight sets 6-0  6-1  6-0.

To extend them and prepare them for the idea of tenses, you could give them a conversion table for the key verbs for future and past tenses.  It might be helpful for them to see how the stem remains largely unaffected but the ending changes to indicate the time-frame.

jugó  ¦    juega ¦  va a jugar   ¦ jugará

Past Tense

Consequences is a great game whatever age you are.  Great for practising past tenses.  You give a kid a piece of paper and ask them to put their name at the bottom.  This is a really important bit of instruction but you would be amazed how many go on autopilot at this point!   The students write a sentence, folder the top of the paper over so it cannot be read and pass it on.  You may like to give them a particular verb to use or a time/manner/place phrase to fit into their sentence.  This is ideally done at the production phase of your lesson when they have acquired plenty of vocabulary and past-participles.

Anna hat Georg getroffen.

Anna und Georg sind ins Kino gegangen

Anna und Georg haben Krieg der Sterne gesehen

When you are finished with the story the students should be able to locate and return the original piece of paper to its rightful owner.  From there you could turn it into a translation task or a comprehension task.  You could set homework to produce a corrected or embellished version.

Songs – Songs get stuck in heads.  Fact.  One for French and one for Spanish below.  Enjoy!

Raps – I wish these guys would go slightly slower but they have added subtitles!

Future Tense / Conditional

The following two are definitely more for the practise/production phase of your lesson.

Bucket lists – The idea of making a list of things to do before you kick the bucket has been around for a long time and was popularised by the appropriately named Hollywood feature “the bucket list”.    Most students will be asked at some point about things they would like to do later in life, probably in a GCSE oral exam.  Depending on the level you teach you may want to warn them not to overcomplicate!

I will go to Disneyland – Ich werde nach Disneyland fahren

If you are going beyond the simple then insist on reasons with subordinate clauses or a new clause bringing in a third person “my friend will…”

Scenes we’d like to see – This was borrowed from a mixture of Frenchteacher.net and popular comedy TV show Mock the Week.  The TV show has a final round where comedians give short comments on topics they are given.  Here are some “topics” you could use in class:

  • Things the queen will do at the weekend
  • Things <insert teacher here> will never do – this one is dangerous in the wrong hands!
  • Things that will never happen – expect England team related comments here!
  • The new school uniform will be..
  • <insert teacher here>’s new years resolutions.

Imperatives

In French this is largely easy to teach.  The “tu” form for informal commands and the “vous” form for more formal.  If you have presented and practised the rules then you could do the following:

  1. Blindfolded directions – set your classroom up in a bit of a maze shape and get students to direct a blindfolded partner through the maze.  Teach them the word “step” so they can take two, three, four steps forward etc.
  2. School trail – give students directions to follow around the school.  They probably need a sound warning about behaviour.  You can get very creative with this.  Here is how:
    1. When students arrive at the location, they collect a new set of directions from the room of that particular member of staff.  Give another member of staff an envelope containing a second set of directions back to your room.  Alternatively blue-tac the envelope to the door
    2. If students study two languages then use both!
    3. Have an expert in your group.  Give one student an idea of the route they will take and have them occasionally advise the group on the right way to go.
    4.  On their return the group composes a new set of directions.  It is then given to another group to test out!
  3. Make paper aeroplanes/swans etc – give the students a set of instructions and a piece of paper.  Using their knowledge of conjugation and translation, students have to follow the instructions to make whatever paper creation you have decided upon.

Prepositions

In German these are trickier as they involve cases.  Most students do not struggle with accusative and dative ones.  The struggle is for the ones that could be either.  Explaining the rule of movement vs position helps massively. My university professor once took great delight in telling a class that my translation had me driving my car “into the doctor”.  He did miss a teaching opportunity for further practice with sentences such as “mein Arzt liegt auf dem Boden” or “jetzt bin ich direkt vor dem Richter”.  I find the following flowchart helpful:

Prepositions

Feel free to use this resource in your own teaching.  To alter a well-worn teacher cliche I would be “angry and disappointed” to find it on TES with a charge attached.  

Eclairs – My old German teacher finished a lesson on prepositions by positioning chocolate eclairs (the little ones, not the cream filled ones) around her classroom as a plenary task.  If you could explain where it was in German, you got it.  Instant engagement and a bit of a challenge.  Strangely, the class wanted to practise prepositions every week after that…

Frog – there is a really good powerpoint somewhere out there where a frog appears in different places in a room.  Students then have to produce the sentence on mini-whiteboards.  As I cannot find it anywhere then here is a link to a worksheet on the topic. For those who are au fait with Powerpoint,  it should not take too long to produce a powerpoint with a picture of a room and a frog that appears in different locations.  With the mini-whiteboards you do gain an idea of who simply knows the vocabulary and who can manipulate it.

Reflexive verbs

I would assume most MFL teachers would introduce this with a  few rounds of Simon says and a comic strip for homework.  My boss looked worried when I told a class to use a website called Strip Generator.  I really have no idea what was going through his mind…  Reflexive verbs are almost always introduced in this context.  One thing I will absolutely hammer throughout the lesson is that “me” only precedes the verb if it is “an action you do to yourself”.  When, or if, they start to giggle you can pretend to have no idea why they are laughing.  This is one way to get them out of the misunderstanding that me = I.  Sometimes I wonder if we teach me gusta etc too early and to our detriment.

There are probably a limited number of ways to make daily routine more interesting.  However, one way I have done it is this:

Third World Daily Routine.  Mira 3 does this quite well with a comic strip of life in a developing country.  Having lived there I will give pupils a text based on the experiences of a child I worked with.  You could give the text on paper or have it appearing in short chunks on a slide  with pictures to illustrate.  Students could then produce their own text, produce a script for a Tear Fund video that explains a little bit about the life of someone in a third world country or even do the old comic strip.

Adjectival Agreements

Definitely one of the times i can get boys engaged in working on their grammar.  For more details, read on…

Adjectival agreements are mostly introduced in the context of clothes and colours.  For Spanish, my lesson would have multiple present/practise/produce sections.  I divide the colours and other adjectives into 3 groups.

Group 1: O/A/OS/AS

Group 2: +ES

Group 3: + S

I will explain the first group, pointing out they are the trickiest and if they can handle that then they can manage the rest.  I show them some examples, do a couple of gap-fills and then with mini-whiteboards I ask them to describe a football shirt that fits the colours in group one.  We then do the same with groups 2 and 3 to embed the rules. At this point I then give the class a health warning regarding the next few football shirts.  Type into google “truly awful football shirts” and what will greet you is aesthetic anarchy.  The great thing is that they allow you the students to practise the rules they have been working on with both masculine (un jersey) and feminine (una camiseta) nouns. The starter for the next lesson will likely be another fashion disaster to see if they can still apply the rules a few days on.

Was he mocked endlessly by his mates?  Probably.

Known at the time as “the bird poo kit”, poor Norwich fans…

Described as resembling tube of fruit pastilles at the time.

 

 

Summer is here

It finally happened!  After a weekend that was full of fog, rain and dull weather, summer appeared.  I’m not sure if it is sticking around but it happened for all of 1 day.

If you’re not feeling summery enough then click here or here or even here before continuing to read.  Don’t do all three as that would be like mixing mint ice-cream, strawberry ice-cream and honeycomb ice-cream.  All the right intentions but it would end well!

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Photo Credit: `James Wheeler via Compfight cc

It’s the end of term so this blog contains some stats, a quick thank you and an update on what to expect from Everydaymfl.com in the future.

Stats 

Thanks to…

Thank you to all the people from the secondary MFL facebook groups for your encouragement and suggestions.  Thank you also to those who have commented on the site or have followed me on Twitter.  Thank you to Steve Smith for listing me on the excellent FrenchTeacher.net.

What’s coming?

Fun with Grammar– Since someone asked for it on facebook, I’ve wanted to do a post on quirky ways to make grammar rules stick and good grammar practice activities.

Teaching the new GCSE – I’ve done two posts on preparing for it here and here but as I’m teaching it next year then I need to reflect on things such as how well am I preparing the students for the exams they will face?

Teaching the new GCSE  content– some of the newer content.  I’ve trialled a bit this term such as customs, festivals, poverty and homelessness so there will be a blog on that.

A facelift for the site – This is something I consider every now and again but it hasn’t happened yet.

A guest blog? – Maybe you have been reading this thanks to the facebook groups and thought  “I wouldn’t want to run my own site but I could do that!”  Drop me a line here and let me know.

Sorting out the categories – there has to be an easier system.  I’m working on it!

 

Have a great summer!

Keeping Year 9 going…

New_Chums_beach_Whangapoua_Waikato.jpg

It’s that time of year again.  Year 11 have gone.  Year 10 are thinking about work experience. Year 9s become that little bit more difficult to teach.

I got lucky this year.  I got a rather nice year 9 group.  They are a group with a mixture of middle and top set characters with a handful of lower ones thrown in.  The words mixed ability make the range of abilities sound wider than it is.

Over the past 5 years I have not been so lucky.  This post is an exploration of the variety of strategies I’ve tried.  The following picture does not represent a strategy but is definitely reflective of how it has felt at times:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

9×4 teaching aid.

Prepare a presentation/poster

Sometimes we do not get enough time to cover the extensive culture and history that surround the languages we teach.  Students prepare a presentation in groups of two or three to be delivered to their class.

How to vary it:

  • Give students a choice of delivery styles: interview, powerpoint and speech, podcast recorded using apps like spreaker , giant A2/A3 poster for corridor complete with text and pictures.  If you are a school with ipads then a whole world of possibilities are probably open to you (leave suggestions in the comments section).
  • To use TL or not to use TL.  With groups where most carry on til GCSE then insist on some TL, otherwise make the activity about presentation skills (perhaps colloaborate with English).
  • Horrible Histories.  Having met Terry Deary, the man is on to something.  The more gory or wacky it is; the more kids  will read about it.  Perhaps get your kids to go after the lesser known facts.
  • Ban certain websites.  Wikipedia is not always correct.  At university when I looked up the Spanish Civil War it turned out it was Manchester United’s sub goalkeeper!  Encourage use of reputable sources.
History Culture Geography
Guerra de independencia Don Quixote Espana
Islamic Conquest of Spain Gabriel Garcia Marquez Bolivia
The Inquistion Cataluna Peru
Colombus Castilla y Leon Paraguay
Spanish Civil War El País Vasco Chile
Franco Flamenco Ecuador
Juan Carlos de Borbon Tango Honduras
Zapatero Bullfighting Costa Rica
Ernesto Che Guevara Galicia Puerto Rico
Simon Bolivar Bunuel Venezuela
Al Andalus La tomatina Colombia
Eva Peron San Fermin Los Andes
Evo Morales Pedro Almodovar El salar de uyuni
Diego Maradona Las islas canarias Patagonia

Spanish survival kit

Everything needed for the casual tourist.  What does a holidaying student need?

WEEK THEME
1 Introductions

Name ¿Cómo te llamas? Me llamo …,

How are you + opinions¿Qué tal? ¿ Cómo estás?

Numbers 1 – 20, Age ¿Cuántos años tienes?

Alphabet,

2 Personal information

Where live ¿Dónde vives? Vivo en …

Holiday dates, times

3 Food and drink

Basic vocabulary

Ordering in a restaurant/bar/café

Complaining – this is not what I ordered etc

Money and shopping

Currency

Asking how much

Understanding larger numbers and prices

I would like Quisiera …

I like/don’t like Me gusta…/ No me gusta …

5 Directions

Asking where places are in a town ¿Dónde está …? Esta … ¿Hay … par aquí?

Understanding directions

6 Revision

There are obvious benefits to this approach.  It gives students some revision of the basics and prepares them for holidays.  The downside is that it is too simplistic for some.

Start GCSE

This is this year’s idea.  As a department we looked at the new specs and decided there was some stuff we have never taught.  So we decided to give it a go.  The results have been surprising.  Most students seem to have taken to it as they appreciate it is necessary for their classmates.  Other groups with slightly lower numbers of GCSE students have found it a bit tougher.  They do however appreciate the more advanced themes (global understanding) and focus on being able to make up stuff on the spot.  Rachel Hawkes writes that students judge their TL abilities based on what they can say and she is right.

A Film

“But SLT would never allow it!!” I hear you scream.  You may be right but at the same time there is a lot to be gained, if it is handled well.

Things to consider:

  • Get permission from parents, HoD and SLT if needed.
  • Make sure it is already on your scheme of work!  History show films regularly, why not mfl?
  • Create a worksheet with questions to provoke thought.
  • Give pupils a selection of words to find and switch the subtitles on.
  • Give pupils a synopsis to translate sections of before starting.
  • Give the pupils some character bios to translate before starting.
  • Give the pupils some character bios to fill in during the film with multiple choice options.  Eg: Ramón es descapacitado / paralisado / activo
  • You could show them the trailer to give an overall picture.
  • You could give them a series of pictures from the film to put in order afterwards .(perhaps with a short Spanish explanation underneath.
  • You could write some true/false sentences for the students to work out.
  • You could make a multiple choice quiz based on the film using Kahoot to gauge their understanding of the film.

One of the most difficult GCSE groups I ever taught was spellbound watching el mar adentro.  17 boys, 2 girls and they were transfixed.  It also fed quite nicely into their Philosophy, Theology, Ethics lessons at the time.

Grammar Revision

If you have a group doing GCSE then take them on a grammar crashcourse.  I believe grammar teaching is important and it can be fun (post on quirky ways to teach grammar is coming soon).

Expo and Mira tend to cover something grammatical and then assume it is mastered at the end of that particular page.  The next time it is revisited, it will be similar but with something new added.  If you are following one of these schemes then you may find students are not quite as adept with the grammar as you would like.  Graham Nuthall (The Hidden Lives of Learners) suggests students need three exposures to new concepts before they start to embed them.  If you are using the above textbooks, it is entirely possible that students will only have had one exposure to some concepts.

The Euros and the olympics

The Euros are almost over but you can still find resources here.  The olympics are coming and there are resources here.  Use it as an opportunity to teach opinions and the future tense in the third person.

I think that Portugal are going to win

In my opinion France will win etc.

Perhaps you do something different entirely, leave it in the comments section below!

Outstanding MFL everyday.

‘Hypothetical’ conversation overheard in staffroom:

Experienced teacher 1: “I delivered a number of outstanding lessons today”

Experienced teacher 2 “Ha! Your definition of an outstanding lesson is you putting your feet up while the kids are standing outside!”

Experienced teacher 1: “you saw them then!”

I’ve seen a lot of requests on TES forums, Twitter and Facebook for outstanding activities or an outstanding lesson on (insert topic here).  I’ve probably wished for a few myself in the past.  There’s nothing wrong with asking for something that works when you’re low on time and your desk is covered by paper and looks like a scale model of the himalayas. What makes an outstanding lesson is highly subjective and is based largely on the observations of the person watching.  I think even OFSTED realised this recently.  OFSTED say they will no longer grade individual lessons or learning walks.  This is good news, although they have to deliver a judgement on quality of teaching and learning across the school so some form of grading still has to take place (in their heads one assumes). Teaching and learning still has to be judged as outstanding/good/requires improvement/inadequate.

This is not a post on “how to play the OFSTED game” as the only OFSTED game to be played is simply high quality teaching and learning.  It is a post about the key ingredients for an outstanding lesson and how we might apply those in MFL teaching everyday.

Before we look at the ingredients.  Let’s hear it from the horses mouth:

Inspectors will use a considerable amount of first-hand evidence gained from observing pupils in lessons, talking to them about their work, scrutinising their work and assessing how well leaders are securing continual improvements in teaching. Direct observations in lessons will be supplemented by a range of other evidence to enable inspectors to evaluate the impact that teachers and support assistants have on pupils’ progress. Inspectors will not grade the quality of teaching, learning and assessment in individual lessons or learning walks.

Inspectors will consider:

  • how information at transition points between schools is used effectively so that teachers plan to meet pupils’ needs in all lessons from the outset – this is particularly important between the early years and Key Stage 1 and between Key Stages 2 and 3
  • whether work in all year groups, particularly in Key Stage 3, is demanding enough for all pupils
  • pupils’ views about the work they have undertaken, what they have learned from it and their experience of teaching and learning over time
  • information from discussions about teaching, learning and assessment with teachers, teaching assistants and other staff
  • parents’ views about the quality of teaching, whether they feel their children are challenged sufficiently and how quickly leaders tackle poor teaching
  • scrutiny of pupils’ work, with particular attention to:
  • pupils’ effort and success in completing their work, both in and outside lessons, so that they can progress and enjoy learning across the curriculum
  • how pupils’ knowledge, understanding and skills have developed and improved
  • the level of challenge and whether pupils have to grapple appropriately with content, not necessarily ‘getting it right’ first time, which could be evidence that the work is too easy
  • how well teachers’ feedback, written and oral, is used by pupils to improve their knowledge, understanding and skills. 

Source text here P44.

Outstanding (1)

  • Teachers demonstrate deep knowledge and understanding of the subjects they teach. They use questioning highly effectively and demonstrate understanding of the ways pupils think about subject content. They identify pupils’ common misconceptions and act to ensure they are corrected.
  • Teachers plan lessons very effectively, making maximum use of lesson time and coordinating lesson resources well. They manage pupils’ behaviour highly effectively with clear rules that are consistently enforced.
  • Teachers provide adequate time for practice to embed the pupils’ knowledge, understanding and skills securely. They introduce subject content progressively and constantly demand more of pupils. Teachers identify and support any pupil who is falling behind, and enable almost all to catch up.
  • Teachers check pupils’ understanding systematically and effectively in lessons, offering clearly directed and timely support.
  • Teachers provide pupils with incisive feedback, in line with the school’s assessment policy, about what pupils can do to improve their knowledge, understanding and skills. The pupils use this feedback effectively.
  • Teachers set challenging homework, in line with the school’s policy and as appropriate for the age and stage of pupils, that consolidates learning, deepens understanding and prepares pupils very well for work to come.
  • Teachers embed reading, writing and communication and, where appropriate, mathematics exceptionally well across the curriculum, equipping all pupils with the necessary skills to make progress. For younger children in particular, phonics teaching is highly effective in enabling them to tackle unfamiliar words.
  • Teachers are determined that pupils achieve well. They encourage pupils to try hard, recognise their efforts and ensure that pupils take pride in all aspects of their work. Teachers have consistently high expectations of all pupils’ attitudes to learning.
  • Pupils love the challenge of learning and are resilient to failure. They are curious, interested learners who seek out and use new information to develop, consolidate and deepen their knowledge, understanding and skills. They thrive in lessons and also regularly take up opportunities to learn through extra-curricular activities.
  • Pupils are eager to know how to improve their learning. They capitalise on opportunities to use feedback, written or oral, to improve.
  • Parents are provided with clear and timely information on how well their child is progressing and how well their child is doing in relation to the standards expected. Parents are given guidance about how to support their child to improve.
  • Teachers are quick to challenge stereotypes and the use of derogatory language in lessons and around the school. Resources and teaching strategies reflect and value the diversity of pupils’ experiences and provide pupils with a comprehensive understanding of people and communities beyond their immediate experience.

So let’s have a look at those key ingredients and what they mean for us in the classroom:

Key Ingredient: What it means for MFL teachers:
Transition information We need a knowledge of where the children are coming from.  We need some idea of how much language tuition the children have had, what language and how effectively it was taught.  This is more applicable to year 7.  As far as year 8s and 9s are concerned, you will need an idea of where they finished at the end of year 7.
Challenge Is your work demanding enough?  I don’t mean simply sticking an extension task on a starter or a reading activity.  Are you sufficiently challenging that little lass who finishes the task seconds after you have explained it?  Should she have finished that quickly?  Are your tasks differentiated enough to keep all students challenged and engaged?  Could you give different students a different task?  How could you reward risk-taking with the language?
Pupils views ARGH?!   What would they say about your lessons?
Parents views Informed by the above as few parents have likely seen your superb lesson on the future tense!
Scrutiny of work From this I understand the following:

1)      Pupils must be seen to be making an effort and doing well and this should be seen through their exercise books.

2)      There must be some evidence that their abilities have improved.  You can do this through various ways.  Some staff will use charts with “can do” statements or it could simply be that there are less corrections in the book later in the year.

3)      There must be some work that is not “too easy” for them where they struggle.  Struggle is part of learning so that is not a bad thing.  If it is all ticked and correct then it could be interpreted as too easy.

4)      Feedback should inform and foster improvements in knowledge, understanding and skills.  For more on feedback see here

Subject Knowledge Must be evident along with questioning.  Questioning varies depending on subjects.  I think certain subjects have it easier than MFL but students could deduce a grammar rule if given sufficient examples and then go on to some structured practice of that rule.  If you are thinking of ways to develop your subject knowledge then look no further:  Keeping your languages up!
Effective Planning No time wasted and all resources readily available and accessible.  They may not want to see a lesson plan per se but would expect to see a well planned MFL lesson.  This is probably the best thing I have read on planning an MFL lesson.
Behaviour Management Clear rules and consistently enforced.  I would argue that there is nothing wrong with removing a student whose behaviour is detrimental to the progress of the rest of the class, even in an observation.
Adequate practice time Pupils must be allowed enough time to practice and embed what they are learning.  There must then be a definite increase in demand and evident progression in difficulty of the material covered in the lesson.  Practice in MFL will obvious take place through different skills but it is worth considering: how do they link to your overall objectives in that lesson?
Checking understanding Understanding must be checked and any misconceptions identified.  You can probably tell who will struggle so maybe set the class a short activity that they can use to demonstrate their learning, while you go and help those who need it.
Challenging h/wk Homework could consolidate, extend or prepare the students for future work.  It should do all of these.  More on homework here
Literacy and Numeracy Whilst numeracy is harder to shoehorn into MFL, literacy is very much the bedrock of what we do.  Start using grammatical terms and do not shy away from them.  You’re a language teacher and probably a fan of the odd reflexive verb, subordinating conjunction or relative clause.
Pupils know how to improve Pupils have to know how they can make their French/Spanish/German better.  What does their book tell them and what does your classroom wall tell them?
Challenging stereotypes As MFL teachers we are in an ideal place to do this and hopefully avoid situations like the recent awful match of the day video where the presenters butcher the French language.  I’m not giving you a link, as a football fan I find it embarrassing.

OFSTED’s descriptions miss out one major feature of teaching that I believe is key to delivering outstanding lessons and that is relationships.  Admittedly you can produce an outstanding lesson that meets all of the above boxes but there is likely to be one question in the observer’s mind that also needs answering: “would I be happy for this person to teach my kids?”  Your relationships with your students will answer that.  John Tomsett says: ‘Fundamentally students need to feel loved and I really don’t care what anyone might think of that, to be honest, because if I know anything about teaching, I know that is true.’

What could I do now? 5 things to try this term.

If you’re English then make a cup of tea before contemplating the following:

  1. Build those relationships.  Grab your seating plans or markbook and find 3 students per class who you are going to develop your relationship with.  How are you going to do that?  Will you be teaching those kids next year?  Who knows?  Do it anyway.
  2. Key Ingredients.  Pick one of the key ingredients that you need to work on.  In your planning for next week incorporate it into every lesson.  Yep, that’s every single one.  It’s all very well reading a blog post but you have to act on it.  My Headteacher likes the phrase purposeful practice.  To paraphrase Aristotle, “we are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence therefore is a habit not an act.”
  3. Share.  Share the OFSTED descriptors or key ingredients above with your department.  What ones do you want to work on over the coming weeks?  What do you need to put into place for next year?
  4. Gained time.  Can you devote some of it to CPD?  Who in your department is good at challenge, differentiation, target language use?  Who could you learn from?
  5. Power of praise.  I used to do termly phone-calls home to a parent to give some positive feedback on a student.  I’ve slipped on this and may well do a few in the coming half-term.  Shaun Allison writes about them here.  You could also do an email although make sure you personalise it.  One simple phone-call has massive potential in terms of relationship with the pupil, their parents and the parents of other students.
  6. Consider September.  Yep, right now!  September is where we set the tone, set the patterns and culture in our departments, what would you like an observer to see if they entered your classroom?  What needs to be part of your practice?
  7. Iron sharpening iron.  “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (biblical proverb).  I love this proverb as it applies to most areas of life. Another person can always be guaranteed to sharpen you and smooth out the rough edges.  Most NQTs have a mentor and most PGCE trainees do too.  Once we exit that process, we are on our own.  Who could you work with to improve your own teaching?  Can you get them to pop in and watch?  No notes, no agenda, no judgments and no threat, but just someone there simply to develop your practice.

Further Reading

Indicators of Outstanding – a blog post by education adviser Mary Myatt.

Great Lessons – a series of blogs by Tom Sherrington (Headteacher) on what makes for great lessons.

An Outstanding Teacher – short blog post by Shaun Allison

Six Steps to Outstanding – I read this when I was starting as an NQT and found it useful.

Bit of Fun IV

It’s half-term and whilst I have ideas for a couple of posts, I feel like enjoying the sunshine first!

German humour (not an oxymoron)

I have a couple of books by a German author Bastian Sick.  His speciality is highlighting those slightly comic, odd or just grammatically shaky moments you might see.  One rather helpful person has uploaded a few on Pinterest here.  My personal favourite is second down on the left!

Languages make your brain bigger

It’s nice to know that my cognitive function is far superior than the average person although watch the video and you’ll find the same can be said for all MFL teachers.

 

Bet you didn’t think you could understand Russian?!!

Not sure why the youtuber labelled this as French but it’s good for a giggle.

 

And you thought Ryanair was bad…

This popped on the Secondary MFL Matters Facebook Group.  I think every flight attendant does secretly want to do that briefing!

Le chat et l’ordinateur 

I think each one of these posts has had a video involving an animal so why break a winning formula.

Pupil Premium & MFL

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We’ll start with some words from Number 10 Downing Street:

“The Coalition Government introduced the Pupil Premium in 2011 to provide additional school funding for those children classed as having deprived backgrounds, and also those who had been looked after (by a local authority) for more than six months. The Service Premium was also introduced for children whose parent(s) are, or have since 2011, served in the armed forces.” Source Material for super keen readers.

Regardless of whether you agree with the idea of the Pupil Premium and the considerable emphasis placed thereupon, it is here to stay.  I have to be honest that over the past few years I have had mixed feelings and a lot of questions about it: what about children who fall ever so slightly above the threshold?  What about students with parents in the forces that actually do not access the funding and do not want it?  Can it make that much of a difference?  Are we in danger of over-emphasizing it?  One headteacher’s blog wrote about the disadvantage gap being a chasm.  It is a complex issue but not one we should shy away from.

Earlier today our SENCO shared this picture:

It reminds me that my job is a teacher is to ensure that every pupil has a chance to achieve.  For some those boxes in the picture will equate to extra funding from Number 10 and for others the boxes are the process of scaffolding and lesson planning.  For some pupils the boxes symbolise my teaching, my feedback and my attention or time spent with them.  Feedback has been covered here, support and scaffolding for lower ability has been covered here and here.  Today we are looking at the Pupil Premium.

Why Pupil Premium Students struggle:

Pupil Premium encompasses a variety of different situations.  It should never be confused or used as a synonym for low ability or behavioural difficulties.  Both might be true but they are not always the case.   I have done my best to list the struggles and the type of student in the table below.

Type of Pupil Premium Student Explanation
Free School Meals Eligibility for free-school meals is used as an indicator of poverty. It may be that such students eligible come from homes that do not support their education in terms of material resources, or in terms of assisting with homework.  Other needs might be more basic in terms of uniform, cleanliness or communication skills.
Service Children Children with parents in the armed forces are often eligible for the pupil premium. In my experience this presents slightly different issues in terms of T&L. Some students will be anxious as a result of the situation the parent is in and the infrequency of contact. Other students may need no help at all as the other parent works and provides for them.  There is a wide spectrum of need when it comes to this type of student.
Children in Care Inevitably these students will have varying issues. Much depends on the reason these students are in care, and at the same time, the quality of care they are currently receiving. Children in care are often quite well supported but struggle in other areas possibly in terms of development, communication and social skills, or mental health.
Ever 6 This refers to the fact a student may have been eligible for the pupil premium in the past 6 years.  It is worth knowing as whilst the student may no longer be eligible; there may still be needs that require meeting or they may only have moved slightly above the threshold for FSM.

What is suggested to be effective?

Having read OFSTED’s report on how schools are using the pupil premium.  They mention a number of ideas but many relate to SLT and governance.  The following are their suggestions for the classroom:

  • Effective teaching and learning for pupil premium students – just teach great lessons everyday.
  • Target support effectively.  How are you moving students forward?  What support do they have?
  • Know the desired outcomes for PP students, not always age related but higher.
  • Know your pupils.
  • Deploy your TA effectively  (see previous blog post here).
  • Enhance their thinking, study and revision skills (see blog on revision here).

They also say the following:

“Where schools spent the Pupil Premium funding successfully to improve achievement, they never confused eligibility for the Pupil Premium with low ability, and focused on supporting their disadvantaged pupils to achieve the highest levels and thoroughly analysed which pupils were underachieving, particularly in English and mathematics, and why.”  

Having read around the subject it appears there is a “no excuse” campaign going on.  Social deprivation, familial background, home situation, low attendance and level of need are not excuses (see 2013 presentation by OFSTED here).

In short, the pressure is on…

Photo Credit: Jack Zalium via Compfight cc

What can we do in MFL?

There are a lot of questions below designed to provoke thought and hopefully action.

Photo Credit: youflavio via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: youflavio via Compfight cc

Data tracking – Analysing data has become a necessary part of the job.  Whilst we may find it tedious, it is a means to an end.  The end should be answering the following kinds of questions:

  • Are your pupil premium students where they should be?
  • Are they attaining in line with their targets (3 or 4 LoP, FFTD, or whatever you use)?
  • If they are not attaining then you need to be asking why?
  • Is the underachievement isolated to MFL or is it more widespread?
  • Where are they achieving?  Why?
  • How can you use that knowledge to your advantage? What has that teacher or department done?  What are they currently doing?
  • Could another member of staff give a pupil a bit of encouragement that causes them to see your subject differently?

Seating plans – Some of my colleagues advocate seating all PP students in the same seat in their room so they always know who to go to.  Others advocate sitting them at the front of your classroom to enable them to seek help.  Yet more suggest surrounding them with pupils who can positively influence them.  It is up to you as a teacher to decide and you probably have your own views, but we have to know who they are and we have to be able to answer the question: how are you catering for their needs?

Resourcing in school – This could be hotly debated and there is a strong argument from both sides.  Lend them equipment or don’t lend them equipment, it’s up to you.  Similarly the  issue is the same with books, do you let them take it home?  Much also depends on the individual pupil.  For some pupils you will never see the book or pen again, others will have it back in the subsequent lesson.  Perhaps for those who persistently struggle the school could supply a pencil case that could be picked up from a central point and returned at the end of the day?  Rewards could also be used to ensure its return.

Bought resources

  • Revision guides?
    • A note on guides – having examined a few I am leaning towards CGP.  I just feel their explanations and layout are more accessible.
  • Revision workbooks?
    • Some exam boards offer these full of past paper style questions.
  • Photocopiable booklets from TES?
  • Learning websites such as samlearning.com and Vocabexpress.
  • Twilight sessions.
  • Revision sheets with QR codes containing links to good sites.
  • MFL revision conferences (one school in Peterborough did this – found via google)
  • Half-term revision sessions.

With all of this there is a caveat: you need to evaluate how effective and helpful it was.  This is very much something OFSTED and the DofE are looking at.  It is no longer simply a question of how are you using the  The assumption is you are using it but what effect is it having?

Resourcing the student with strategies and techniques

Do your PP students know how to revise effectively?  I hear from year 11s various comments on learning styles and about highlighters and gel pens however the research shows these to be largely ineffective.  If you are curious about how to make revision more effective then I suggest the following:

The Guardian – The Science of Revision – excellent article with links and research to back up.

EverydayMFL – GCSE Revision – Here’s one I made earlier, nothing like a bit of shameless self-promotion!

Classteaching – quality advice and backed up by research.

Anything to prevent the eventuality below:

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Relationship – Some students need someone to believe in them in spite of their home background.  They need that person who sees them for who they are and what they can become.  They need someone who sees them as a work in progress and who will not give up on them.  They need you to be the person who appreciates them just as they are, but cares too much to leave them that way.  I am not saying you have to be their best buddy but you can be the role-model, support and guide to life that they have lacked.

“Carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.”

Photo Credit: Macro-roni via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Macro-roni via Compfight cc

Teaching Assistants – Teaching assistants can be the unsung heroes and heroines of your classroom if deployed properly.  These are the questions you need to be thinking through:

If you have one then what is their remit in your classroom?

  • Do you direct them or leave them to it
  • Do they have a seating plan and know who they are meant to work with?
  • Do they have an order of pupils?
  • Could you promote independence by asking TA to move on after 1-2 minutes with a student?
  • Do they elicit or explain?
  • Do they guide to the answer or give the answer?
  • How well resourced is your TA?  Do they have your schemes of work?  Do they see a lesson plan or do you brief them on what is going to be taught?
  • Who is working harder: your PP student or your TA?
  • Could you get some planning time with a TA attached to a particular student?

Parents – Not all PP students have difficult family situations so get the parents onside.  Be careful not to patronise.  It is very easy to assume certain things when the label PP is on a seating plan or class list.  Parents evening is an excellent opportunity to build relationships, develop that link between school and home and facilitate learning and progress.  One parent recently asked me “what can they be doing outside of school as I don’t speak any languages?”  2-3 minutes later she left armed with strategies and places to find resources to help.  In terms of cost, it was minimal but there is a huge potential yield.

Marking Meetings – One of my colleagues recently suggested this at a meeting.  I’m quite keen to try it.  It used to be the norm when I was in school.  Certain teachers would call you up to their desk and go through your book marking it with you while the class were working their way through exercises. Would a pupil premium student benefit from some live feedback and a discussion of misconceptions?  Equally, this could apply to all pupils but if you’re going to work through a group, why not start with some PP students?

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Photo Credit: Jellaluna via Compfight cc

Any great ideas?  Leave them in the comments section below!