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 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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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.

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

Improving teaching so my students don’t wish they went to Hogwarts.

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Over the summer I worked my way through Daniel T Willingham’s book “why don’t students like school?”  It is an exceptionally readable book.  Willingham introduces the principle that underpins the chapter, developing it with explanations, examples and humour before applying it to the classroom.  The cognitive psychology presented is therefore easy to understand, yet remains academically satisfying.  I’ve learnt a lot from this book and would recommend it as excellent CPD.  The book considers questions such as “Why do students remember everything that’s on television and forget everything I say?” “Is drilling worth it?”  and “How should I adjust my teaching for different types of learners?”  The final chapter then directly challenges teachers.  It is also greatly helped with a summary table at the end that sets out the cognitive principles of each chapter, a question to prompt your thinking regarding your students and important classroom implications.

What am I taking from the book?

◊ Changing the way I do starters.  My starters often take the form of testing some knowledge from last lesson to see if it has been retained.  Now, I want to assess further back and make sure that the starter tests the requisite knowledge for the lesson I am about to teach.

◊ “Memory is the residue of thought”.  How can I get my students to think more?  I’m planning to make sure I give more time for thinking rather than simply picking a fast-thinking student.  More think-pair-share might be used in eliciting grammar rules that I present students with.  What would a mentally demanding MFL lesson look like?  Would my students be able to cope with it?

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◊ Proficiency requires practice.  I’m planning to set longer and tougher homeworks this year (in keeping with school policy).  I wonder if sometimes homework does enough consolidation.  I also want students to take more responsibility for their learning outside the classroom and Teacher Toolkit has an idea of “takeaway homework” that I would quite like to try.  Why is it that the musical students are happy to learn their lyrics or their scales but cannot apply the same drive to vocabulary or conjugation?  Is it a question of payoff or do I need to tailor the practice to them in some way?

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Photo Credit: madabandon via Compfight cc  evocative of my own piano playing…

◊ Proficiency requires practice 2.   I’ve also considered experimenting with DIRT time (directed improvement and reflection time).  Some very funky editable mats can be found at the mathematics shed.  Willingham suggests thinking about what material students need in their working memory and long term memory and practising it regularly over time.   Spreading out the practice (or interleaving schemes of work) is something I need to consider.  The idea my students need to gain is:  “It is virtually impossible to become proficient at a mental task without extended periods of practice.”

◊ Relationships are key.  Willingham reminds us throughout the book that the “emotional bond between students and teacher – for better or worse – accounts for whether students learn”.  He also makes the point that this has to be combined with a teacher who makes boring material interesting and accessible.  I want to make sure that every child in my classroom gets some of my time.  I’m planning to trial live marking with a class this year.  Live marking is where the class work on a task while you go around marking some books allowing students to see what you think and discuss it with them.  As well as marking and handing back books that I have done after school, I want to give this approach a go here and there, particularly with the students I feel get less of my attention.

Lastly, if you appreciated the photo at the top of this blog, then check out Hogwarts’ OFSTED report.

Fighting the language decline – Answers in your classroom

Shortly after results day the Guardian ran a piece here reporting a continued decline in students taking GCSE languages.  They also ran an analytical piece (crowd sourced from Twitter) investigating reasons for the decline.  Both were interesting reads although I think Jennifer Beattle’s and Sara Davidson’s points were the most pertinent from the point of view of a teacher.  I have endeavoured to summarise the thoughts of a typical student in the table below, as I felt this was slightly overlooked.  There are likely some factors I have missed but I hope it provides a useful summary.

The Student View
Reasons for Reasons Against
Enjoyable lessons Oral exams
Useful skill Memorisation
Good for CV/Uni Fear of speaking in front of others
Mixture of exam and coursework Not feeling competent enough
Cultural interest Too hard and too much writing
Holiday use “Never going to go there”
All-round skill improvement Easier options around
Cognitive challenge Everyone speaks English belief

Table generated at http://www.tablesgenerator.com/html_tables#

Rather than further provide reasons for the decline or talk about how to increase the profile of languages in schools, I think the answer comes from the individual classroom.  Students need a feeling of capability, enjoyment and progress.

Creating a feeling of capability

“Capability” is often seen as a negative word in the teaching profession and understandably so, however our students need to feel that they “can do” something. Students equate their capability in a language with their oral and aural competence. Can they say what they want to say?  Can they understand what is being said? In my experience, reading and writing do not appear to enter into their equation to any great degree. The following are comments I have heard from students, friends, colleagues past and present:

  • “I was no good at languages in school”
  • “I couldn’t do languages”
  • “I’m not good at languages” (uttered by a year 7 September 2014 in his first ever Spanish lesson)
  • “I can’t do languages.”

All of these statements beg one question “compared to who?”  My first memory of using a language in a foreign country was ordering ice-creams in a small village in Germany.  It essentially required remembering the words “ich möchte” and reading off the menu.  We need real-life scenarios in our classrooms where students can try and practise things.  This will lead to a feeling of “can do”.  Our students need interactive episodes that simulate real life or situations that allow them to talk for extended periods.  Here are 3 activities I like to use whenever I can:

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Debates (based on group talk) – Watch the video and note how the talking situations are cyclical.  There is not actually an end to the discussion.  You can get students to add in a new question or take the discussion in a different way.  When I have done this kind of activity with students there is an immense feeling of satisfaction in the room that they have spoken French/Spanish/German for 3-4 minutes non-stop.  For example: school subjects – there are enough subjects to keep them going for quite a while!  If not, just add in “defensa contra las artes oscuras”, “transfiguración” and “pociones”.

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Drama – The hard bit is getting the balance between scriptwriting (which some groups will take ages to do) and practising/performing.  Ideally a lot of pre-teaching, listening and roleplaying will help with this.  Students tend to enjoy it as they feel they have survived a real-life situation.  Restaurants, asking for directions, 112 calls, meeting and greeting can all be done as dramatic episodes.

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“I can’t help noticing I’m considerably richer than you” – based on the Harry Enfield sketch where a couple boast about being considerably more well off.   Students need to better the previous person’s use of the TL when talking about a topic.  They can add reasons, linking words, other tenses.  The idea is that what is constructed is significantly better than what went before.  Together the students will construct something better while teaching and helping each other in the process.

Engendering a feeling of Enjoyment

Enjoyment is not a synonym for games.  I have seen a variety of games in the past few years but when using them the question has to be: how much TL is this going to involve?  What learning return is the whole class getting from the game?  If students are sat there and their brains are doing very little during a game, is it worth doing or could the time be better spent?  Games that involve collaboration, competition, mystery, intrigue and humour are great.  I was going to list a few but I think I will direct you towards this list and put my favourite below.  I really like the look of “alibi” and “press conference” and will try them in a few weeks time.

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Battleships – probably my favourite in class game.  Minimal prep and maximum TL

Real Progress

I ran out of alliterative titles for the last section but if you think of one put it in the comments section!  Students need to feel that they are progressing in a language.  Sublevels and levels do not appear to have a massive effect on this.  Daniel T. Willingham’s superb book “Why don’t students like school?”  looks to have some thoughts with regards to this but I haven’t finished it yet!  There will be a post when I do, as it has been an excellent and eye-opening read so far.

In the meantime I find the following help to engender a feeling of progress among students:

  1. When a student has improved over time, praise them quietly for it.
  2. Comments in books referring students to their previous work and comparing it with improved work you have seen.  Show them the results of their learning and that they actually have made an improvement.
  3. Parents evening is useful particularly if you met the same parents the previous year eg: “Abigail has really come a long way since we last spoke.  Her work has improved and she is also contributing more frequently in class.  I was particularly pleased with her preparation and result in the recent speaking assessment.  It showed just how far she has come.”
  4. Use your own experiences as we were not all born with the ability to speak a language.  Tell them that it has been hard at times, explain how it feels to “plateau” for a while and then when you noticed the improvements.  Students need to know that the person in front of them has fought the same battles with understanding that they are currently fighting.
  5. Share the nature of learning with them.  The conciousness/capability model was something Louis Van Gaal mentioned in an interview and I think it helps to some degree in understanding the process of learning.  My students seemed to appreciate it.
    1. Unconcious & Incapable (don’t know it – can’t do it)
    2. Concious & Incapable (know it – can’t do it)
    3. Concious & Capable (Know it – can do it)
    4. Unconcious & Capable (Know it – can do it unthinkingly)

Ultimately the goal of any language teaching and learning is to get the students to stage 4.

I guess the point of this rather lengthy, meandering and reflective blog-post is a call to myself and maybe other teachers out there to absolutely go for it from September. There is a decline in languages uptake at GCSE nationwide.  Whilst there is a national battle over the future of language learning; there is a local battle to be won.  I firmly believe that generating a feeling of genuine capability, real enjoyment and visible progress in our own learners is our best bet at winning that battle.  When September starts I will have at least 360 kids enter my room and that is what I’m going for.

Bit of fun part 2

Blogging during the holidays, you cannot be serious?!!!  A while ago I did a post of favourite MFL youtube videos.  It’s the holidays and I’m not doing any work yet so enjoy the light-hearted fun below:

French

German

Spanish

Multi-language

5 ideas to try this week

Sorry for the lack of posts, things got busy at work so here is a double whammy.  One of the 5 ideas to try series and the other is a collection of thoughts on GCSE revision.

1) No ICT at all

I think we can become too dependent on computers.  The phrase “death by Powerpoint” is not a new one.  Kids are largely unsurprised by anything we can do with a computer.  So how about turning it off for a lesson (apart from your register of course).  The other day with my French class we had a lesson with no ICT at all.  They did not have to even look at a screen.  It was great!  Everything was old-school.  We had flashcards, card sorts and all manner of activities but nothing involved a computer.

2) Giant scrabble

Great way of stretching pupils thinking skills and knowledge of vocabulary on a particular topic.  Put as many mini-whiteboards together as you can.  Start with a word in the middle.  Pupils get a point per letter for their word and a point per letter from any word it bisects.  You could make it a team effort if you have large classes so two pupils work cooperatively.  My old German teacher used to do this on an OHP, we loved it but the mini-whiteboard version allows everybody to be involved.  I’ve also tried adding challenges such as: include words on the theme of … (double word score), include a particular grammar item (triple word score).  The possibilities are not endless, as that is a cliché, but there are quite a few.

3) Differentiated dice speaking.

I might have posted this one before but it keeps with the no-ICT theme above.  Give pupils dice.  If you can buy some D12s (12-sided dice) then do.  You then have the following options.

  • Put 2 sets of  numbers 1-6 with vocabulary (eg me gusta and school subjects) pupils roll the dice twice, say the phrase and their partner translates
  • Give them a task per number of the dice to revise material covered over the year.
  • Give them a task per number of the 6 sided dice and then a modifying element with the twelve sided (heavyH on prep but great for stretching the kids).

4) 50-50 Hands up/hands down

I’ve seen some classes where the rule is no hands up and others where the rule is hands up all the time.  I’ve been trying a mixture of both recently and it’s working.  It maintains the engagement as both other methods have two distinct problems.  The no hands up rule is great but only if the teacher makes a point of picking on all class members.  It can easily lead to picking on the brighter ones,  further the learning and progress of a class.  The latter has an issue as it allows the quieter members of our class to hide.  I find this one neatly counters both.  It shows you who is keen but allows you to keep all members of the class on their toes.

5) Murder mystery  https://www.tes.co.uk/teaching-resource/murder-mystery-lesson–food-and-drink-6091212

Brilliant resource by the exceptional rosaespanola  on TES revising foods, likes and dislikes.  My only concern is that my bottom set did a better job than my top set.  The language was quite challenging  and the task is not particularly easy.  If you use it then give it the 5* rating it merits.

“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

ANIMATEDGLOBE

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.

5 ideas to try this week

Dear readers

Just a few simple ideas this time.  Thank you to whoever is tweeting this site as the views go rocketing up.  I haven’t ventured on to Twitter yet but it might happen soon.

Extreme battleships

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 You’ve probably done the normal mfl version with a 4×4 grid and phrases that students have to use to sink their opponent’s ship.

How about an 8×8 grid with two people playing against two other people at the same time using the same board?  It sounds mental but it can work.  You need a very competitive class, very clear instructions and a certain arrangement of desks.

Differentiated Quiz Quiz Trade with mini-whiteboards

Get students to write a question on their whiteboard and the start of the answer on the back of the whiteboard.  Students must ask and answer a question before swapping whiteboards.  I tried this with ¿Qué estudias? and ¿Qué vas a estudiar?  Students had “estudio” or “voy a estudiar” on the other side so when the person was answering, they had help with their answer.  Went down well with a low ability group.

Extreme holiday consequences

featured-extreme-sports

A fair amount of pre-teaching of verbs needed here.  Give students a long piece of paper, tell them to put their name at the bottom (this throws them a bit).  Then lead them through the following insisting that they fold over and pass the paper on each time.  At the end return it to the original person.  Writing and reading task in one 🙂

  • Somewhere you went
  • who you went with
  • how you got there
  • el primer día + 2 activities
  • Opinion
  • el Segundo día+ 2 activities
  • Opinion
  • el ultimo día + 2 activites
  • Volví en + transport

You can adapt this to your heart’s content.  This could work with what you do at the weekend, what you plan to do at the weekend.  It could be done with school.  Very flexible activity that allows for a high degree of creativity and teaches some useful phrases at the same time.

30 second summary

A great plenary activity that allows you to check on the learning of a class or even better an individual.  You know how some students do not give much away by their facial expressions, set the class the task of summarising the content of the lesson or explaining a grammar point in 30 seconds.,  Go over and listen to that particular student.

Youtube

There is a lot of dross out there but if you find something good, make it part of your practice.  I am not a massive fan of songs given that my ability to sing is …well.. “limited” would be putting it kindly.  The school insurance probably does not cover the resultant broken glass.

Particularly enjoyed using these two recently:

We exploited them by listening, gap fills, finding phrases, and then trying to sing it.  If you have VLC media player you can slow the play speed (0.85 is good)

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

Photo Credit: Leo Reynolds via Compfight cc

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.

Teaching School Subjects

Before I start, thank you to the handful of regular readers and the ones who shared me on twitter (something I have never used) , it precipitated a massive spike in viewings in the UK and further afield so thank you!  I hope the material and ideas are useful.  Enjoy half-term.

School is a topic we cover a number of times.  If you’re following Mira then it comes up in years 7 and 9.  I find in year 9 it is a lot harder to make it engaging.  The students are going through that stage where school means hard work, drudgery and the novelty value the topic had in year 7 is all but lost.  We then often revisit it on GCSE syllabuses so I guess it is worth having some good ideas.

Here is a selection of things I’ve tried with both years.

Options discussion.

Great way to revise school subjects, opinions and reasons without it seeming like repeating year 7 material.  ¿Qué vas a estudiar el año que viene? or ¿Vas a estudiar …? This lends itself to a nice discussion in fours where the students have to see which group can keep discussing options the longest in Spanish.  If you have done various activities to revise the subjects, opinion phrases and reasons, they should be able to keep this going.  A speaking frame is also helpful.

Options discussion in pairs with flowchart.

Give students a flowchart on powerpoint.  They can then work through the various stages

I’m (not) going to study… because…

it is … (positives)                               it is … (negatives)

and

the teacher is ….  (positives)               the teacher is … (negatives)

Hopefully the flowchart makes sense although wordpress does not permit the use of lines and arrows, just imagine they are there.

Good student/bad student

A lot of textbooks take the opportunity to teach verbs with this topic.  Why not have a diary of a good student or a bad student and simply get your students (presumably good and bad) to create the opposite one?

Describing your school

Students in year 9 seemed very happy to do this once I said you can talk about Waterloo Road or your primary.  They spend every day at your school, the difference made it more fun for them somehow

Rate your teacher/favourite subject

Very simple activity probably for year 9 although for year 7s following Mira it could work.  Who is your favourite teacher and why.  Conduct a class survey and note the responses.  For those of you facing OFSTED and having to evidence numeracy, get some graph paper from your maths or science department and get them to produce a graph.  You could equally do this with school subjects.

Harry Potter Extension

Very simply give any year 7 a timetable that looks like it came from Hogwarts and tell them you want to know what subjects are when.

aritmancia, estudios muggles, adivinación, estudio de runas antiguas y cuidado de criaturas mágicas, transformaciones, encantamientos, pociones, historia de la magia, defensa contra las Artes oscuras, astronomía y herbología.

Then they can also pretend to be the characters and explain their like or dislike for various subjects.

Say something else

Ban the following words if students are relatively able: “good”, “nice”, “interesting”, “boring” and “fun”.  Your English department probably already operates on this policy but it is a good opportunity to use dictionaries and make their language more interesting.

Bit of fun

Some of the blog posts have taken a serious tone.  So here are some links to a bit of light relief with a foreign language theme and who knows maybe you’ll learn something.

French (if you don’t like cats skip the first three)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KIePsbJSS04    Dansons la capucine

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJaGUmjlGuc    Mission Imposible

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xXnaN5U43F4   Les miroirs

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fbJ1PHloeoQ    Je suis en bonne forme

German:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Hw1ndNXTdM  Volkswagen Advert from Germany.  Stereotyping at its best.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0MUsVcYhERY   Why learn languages?  No further argument needed.

Spanish:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ngRq82c8Baw  The first semester of Spanish love song

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=glLWYv8X9eg   Just a lively catchy happy song with some nice guitar playing

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LHxnqP9Dh9o  Preterites and imperfects getting you down?  They also do por/para and ser/estar.

Fighting the menace of google translate

I’m going to be up front here.  I’m not a fan of google-translate.  I’ve tried various techniques over the years to get students to avoid it and here they are.  I have seen arguments such as: “I only use it for single words” or  “it’s ok for short phrases if the students can explain the grammar”.  I have to say I completely disagree as they are not producing the work themselves.  It is the languages lesson equivalent of copying and pasted a flawed Wikipedia article and presenting it as your work on the life of Leonardo da Vinci.

My all-time favourite use of the website was a student who handed in this perfect piece of work in Dutch.  They wholeheartedly admitted their use of google for their German homework, failing to realise that Dutch and Deutsch are two very different things.

1) Point out how ridiculous their work sounds. 

Malinda Kathleen Reese on youtube is excellent.  Whilst she sends her long lyrics through several layers of google, it still makes the point that machine translation is extremely fallible.  Current favourites with classes include “let it go” and “do you want to build a snowmale?”  If you can tolerate the tune in your head all day then do it.

Update: she’s produced this…

2) Don’t tolerate it.  Sanction it.

I’ve always taken the approach that typing it into google and hitting print is like getting a friend to do your homework for you.  You know you shouldn’t and therefore don’t.  They will learn quickly.  Make them do it again is always a good policy.  Mention that you do not tolerate it in the first few lessons of the year .  Some will try and push this.  When you sanction it; it will put off the others from trying.

3) Drill them in modal verbs and infinitives on a half-termly basis.

Germanists will be familiar with modalverben.  If you teach Spanish or French then consider phrases that you can start a sentence with that require an infinitive.

Je peux / Je dois/ Je voudrais / J’aime etc

Quiero / Me gusta / Suelo / Solía  etc

My old German teacher used to start every lesson with a 20 minute drill of verbs and modal verbs in all sorts of tenses.  They built up over time.  She would use silly sentences or translations and a variety of activities but it got our verbs sorted.

4) Teach them to use verb tables and have a big wall poster explaining how to look up verbs.

This could save any amount of “yo jugar” pieces of work.  There is a superb resource on TES on this in the Spanish section but it could be adapted to French (less so German).  The resource involves a fairly well sequenced set of exercises and instructions on how to find verbs in a dictionary.  Equally you could take students into an ICT room and teach them how to use the verb conjugator on http://www.wordreference.com

I’ve found that a lesson on using verb tables helps but again it needs regular drilling.  Students also see it as hard work but if they understand the potential that it has then it can be effective.