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

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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.

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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!

5 things to try tomorrow

It’s the start of the year and perhaps the caffeine is wearing off…  Stuck for something to do with a class? I would say look no further, but that would mean ignoring the rest of this post.  Read on my friend…

Doble identidad.

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We’ve all done activities where students talk to various people in the class.  Tell your class they are practising their skills for joining MI-5 (not 9-5).  How about having them create an alter-ego, a spy identity.  They have to convince people that they are indeed Bastian from Bremen, that their birthday is 24sten Dezember.

Fonetica con fútbolistas

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I have tried introducing more phonics this year to some boy-heavy classes to hopefully eradicate “choo ay go” (juego) and various verbalised atrocities.  La Liga has been immensely useful.  Teach them the vowels first and see how long it is before they realise they’ve been saying the names wrong.

Bomb Defusal

bomb

High stakes activity.  Students are given 4 questions on the screen.  Each question has 3 possible answers. Their partner selects an answer for each.  They have 5 attempts to guess their partner’s selected answers or the bomb goes off.

¿Adónde vas normalmente de vacaciones? + 3 more similar questions.

  • Voy a la playa con mis amigos
  • Voy al campo con mis padres
  • Voy al extranjero con mi familia

Alphabet Song

Year 7s absolutely love it!

If you have VLC media player then use the dial in the bottom right hand corner to speed up or slow down as appropriate.  You will hear this in your head all day, guaranteed.  “Ah Bay Say Day Uf Eff gzay Ash…” etc

Deny Everything Baldrick

Taking inspiration from a British comedy classic.  The start of Mira 2 has students practising verbs with questions and answers e.g: “¿escuchas música?”  “¿Sales con amigos?” etc.  Give your class the command to deny everything and introduce them to negatives such as no, nunca, ya no, jamás, nadie, ni…ni….  Insist they use each over the course of their answers.  More advanced groups could add reasons.

  • ¿escuchas música?  Ya no escucho música
  •  ¿chateas por internet?  Nunca chateo por internet

First MFL lesson of the year

Everyday MFL

The one thing my PGCE never prepared me for was what to do in the first lesson of the year.  I’ve now had 3-4 attempts and each time have tried to do it differently.  As for September, I am still undecided.

Admin first approach

The pros of this approach is that everyone starts from the same point and all the necessary stuff is done.  Rules are established and students are very compliant in this lesson, often regardless of ability.  My main issue with this is that sometimes there is not enough time for a language based activity or fun.  This means that students are left waiting until the next lesson for the real learning to start.  A lot of subjects also take this approach and it can get a bit monotonous after having done it 5 times before they reach your lesson.

Lesson learnt: if showing the kids what to put…

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First MFL lesson of the year

The one thing my PGCE never prepared me for was what to do in the first lesson of the year.  I’ve now had 3-4 attempts and each time have tried to do it differently.  As for September, I am still undecided.  My only certainty is that I want to use as much TL in that first lesson as possible with all groups.

Admin first approach

The pros of this approach is that everyone starts from the same point and all the necessary stuff is done.  Rules are established and students are very compliant in this lesson, often regardless of ability.  My main issue with this is that sometimes there is not enough time for a language based activity or fun.  This means that students are left waiting until the next lesson for the real learning to start.  A lot of subjects also take this approach and it can get a bit monotonous after having done it 5 times before they reach your lesson.

Lesson learnt: if showing the kids what to put on the front of their book never write an example name like “Lionel Messi” as some year 10s don’t know who he is…as a result I taught Lionel Messi for a year, and she did alright in Spanish.

Information gleaning approach

Often following shortly on the heels of the “admin first” approach, the teacher may set the students a series of questions to answer in the back of their books such as:

  • What aspects of language learning have you been good at/struggled with in the past?
  • Which skills (speaking, listening, reading, writing) do you feel you are good at, and why?
  • If your previous teacher were here, what would they say about your performance in their lessons?

This can often be quite useful as long as students are silent when doing it.  The information needs to come from them unaffected by their peers.  If you refer to the information gleaned in subsequent lessons then this shows the students you value them.

Lesson learnt: really effective if kids are silent but also if they are lazy then they will probably not finish this.  That in itself is information enough.  

Engage then admin.

In my second year of teaching I tried this approach of having a normal lesson first with a number of good fun activities to start the year.  It really worked with a couple of year 7 groups and year 8 groups as it allowed them to have a sense of achievement and the emphasis was on learning rather than admin.   We then completed the admin in the second lesson.  A short summary of rules were given and I made sure students kept to them.  There was a focus on speaking and listening as students had no paper to write down anything.

This may not work with all groups but I am tempted to try it again this year.

Lesson learnt: Short summary of rules is crucial and mini-whiteboards need to be available.

Things for new teachers to consider before the first lesson:

Consider the student.  Some students will already have written your subject off.  Consider painting the big picture briefly at some point.  How is this subject useful?  Draw on experiences you or others have had.  I could line up 20 teachers in my school who openly have expressed regret at not learning a language.  How can you convince them that learning languages is: fun, relevant and useful?  They need a feeling of “can do” and success in the early weeks.

Seating arrangements.  You can do this entirely in the TL and then point out to the students a few minutes later that they’ve survived despite the fact you haven’t spoken any English yet.  This works with excitable year 7s and top sets.  I may try it with a bottom set this year.  As for how to sit/group your students, that is best left to another post.

Have every resource ready and accessible.   Be prepared and look calm.  Most groups will likely be quite compliant in this lesson.  Do not be fooled, most students will push your boundaries over the next few weeks.

Smile.  I personally don’t buy the “don’t smile til Christmas” approach if you take it literally however the sentiment of being firm and fair is one that I would definitely support.

Do not go easy on them and do not lower your standards at all.  It may sound harsh but will pay dividends long term.  I learnt this the hard way in my first year.