Teaching the weather

Weather phrases in foreign languages are odd.  I have never really understood quite why “il fait” or “hace” makes more sense than “it is”.  However, we have to teach them so here are a few ways to make it more interesting.

Predict the weather

As a plenary activity students write 5 sentences predicting the weather in various locations on the day of your next lesson.  As a starter in the subsequent lesson, they check if they were correct / incorrect / bit of both.

The maps on El Tiempo.es are really good for this.  See exhibit A belowweather

Photo Response

Show students some photos and have them write sentences quickly on mini-whiteboards.  If you use Spanish speaking countries you can generate quite a bit of interest as pupils will inevitably ask “where is that?”  Exhibits below include Peru in the height of summer and Bolivia during rainy season.  That falling grey mass is rain, not a tornado, as one of the kids thought.

perubolivia

Today at Wimbledon / Euros / World Cup Scripts

Students in year 7 cover present and future tense.  It will take a little bit of revision of verbs but they should be able to produce the following using the near future

va a jugar        va a ganar        va a perder        va  a llover

va jouer            va gagner         va perdre           va pleuvoir

They have hopefully covered simple time phrases such as “today”, “tomorrow”, “later on”.

All of this leads to being in a position to present a TV programme.  Students need to produce a script for the Today at Wimbledon programme.    Click here for the theme tune, which will remain in your head for hours afterwards.  They should include

  • Weather today
  • Who plays who today
  • Weather tomorrow
  • Who is going to play who tomorrow
  • Opinions on who is going to win or lose.

 They then perform this and can peer-assess each other on whatever criteria you set.  Personally I would go for the following with scores out of 5 for each:

  1. Fluency – does it flow? Can they sound natural?
  2. Confidence – do they come across confidently?
  3. Communciation – can they make themselves understood?
  4. Pronunciation – How strong is their knowledge of phonics?

Translation Tandems

This idea came from Greg Horton on a CPD course about 2 years ago.  He used it for vocabulary tests so this is a small tweak.

Hold an A4 piece of paper portrait.  Divide the piece of A4 paper. into 2 halves down the middle.

¦   ¦   ¦

Students write sentences alternating between English and TL.   Students then fold the piece of paper down the middle and sit facing each other.  They have to translate whatever sentence their partner reads out into the other language.  This is a great activity to practise translation both ways.  It does require a fair bit of pre-teaching so that it is challenging but not demotivating.

Mira 1 Rap

Mira 1 has a listening text that might be a song or a poem.  It can be found on p103 and works rather well as a rap.  Challenge your class to turn it into one.  A good rap backing can be found for free at this link here on TES.  If you have VLC media player then you can alter the playback speed and slow it down if needed.

Real life listening

I experimented the other day.  I listened to a weather report on eltiempo.es and the guy was super fast.  I picked out 10-15 words that my students might pick up from the video, and then added some more that were not there.  I challenged them to listen and see how many of my words on the board they would find.  I was pleasantly surprised with the results, and so were they.

If you have managed to read this far then this weather report did make me chuckle.

 

 

5 Things to try tomorrow

Number, Five, 5, Digit

It has been a while since writing one of these (or anything) so here are 5 things to try tomorrow.

Everydaymfl has been a little bit quiet of late but posts in the works include one on questioning and possibly one on the new GCSE – what I learnt teaching it so far.

No writing lessons

Writing is one of the easiest skills to show progress with.

  1. Student writes something
  2. Teacher corrects
  3. Student improves

However, students are used to a lot of this.  It really is quite something for them to have a “no writing” lesson in a subject they will typically associate with writing.  An entire lesson of speaking and listening is not a bad thing as it reminds them how important the skills are.   Some groups will be noticeably more enthused by this idea.  It is quite heavy on the planning and paired activity so you may want a settling activity at some point – perhaps hands up listening.

Group Model Essay

After my year 10 group seemed somewhat intimidated by the 150 word task in the new GCSE, I thought I would approach it gradually.  Here is what we did:

They were given a 150 word task from the AQA textbook.

In groups of 4 they drafted the best response on mini-whiteboards that they could come up with.  After some feedback from me, they improved the draft on mini-whiteboards.  One member of the group put it on to paper.  They handed them in and I typed them up on a word document with significant amounts of space around them.  I annotated the work highlighting tenses, good bits of grammar (comparatives, superlatives, subjunctives) and double ticks for anything that particularly stood out.

This was really well received and sometimes it is helpful to know “what a good one looks like” but also to know that you were involved in producing it.

Micro-listening enhancers

I have read a lot about these on Gianfranco Conti’s website.  I have found myself using them quite a bit recently as my speakers are kaputt.  The pupils did seem to be gaining confidence from them.  In teaching the perfect tense in Spanish, it seemed to have a positive effect on the pronunciation of “he” and “ha” et al later in the lesson.  Well worth a try and something I am looking to do a bit more of earlier on.

Photo Credit: immaculate-photons Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: immaculate-photons Flickr via Compfight cc

MM Paired Speaking

Possibly one of my favourite activities.  The MM refers to a lady I worked with on my PGCE.  In my mind the activity is named after her for two reasons.  1) I have never seen anyone else do it.  2) I’ve no idea what to call it!

Students divide their page into 3 columns.  If they don’t have a ruler then gentle folds work well.

  • Column 1: days of the week or time phrases in a list going down.  3 lines between each approximately
  • Column 2: draw simple picture representing an activity
  • Column 3: leave blank.
  1. Person A asks question for example: “Qué hiciste el lunes”
  2. Person B responds using time phrase and makes sentence based on picture “el lunes fui de compras”.
  3. Person A notes down in the empty column what their partner did on Monday.

You can add challenge by getting Person A to write in the third person on step 3.  You could differentiate for weaker learners by getting them to write a quick note as to what they heard.

This is a very versatile activity as it can be adapted to different tenses and languages easily.  It is good speaking and listening practice at the same time.  Both students should have that last column filled by the end of the activity.

The Future Tense Three Musketeers 

This came from a teacher I used to work with.  She would teach the future tense telling students that there are three musketeers.

Musketeer number 1 has 6 moves in Spanish.  Musketeer number 2 always does the same thing. Musketeer has different disguises but you can always tell it is him by looking at the ending.  The three can never be separated.  Once the concept has been introduced you may then move on to some mini-whiteboard practice.  Telling students to check musketeer number 1,2 or 3 seems to be quite effective.  It also seems to eradicate “voy a juego” or “voy a hago”

1                       2                                            3

Voy                  a                   ______________AR/ER/IR

Vas

Va

Vamos

Vais

Van

 

Everyday Revision

It’s getting light in the mornings now so that means it is probably time to look at revision.  This is a new post that is attempting to improve upon an older post.  Here’s how I’m planning to drag  help my year 11s through their final listening and reading exam.

Make a plan

40767.jpg

 

My plans tend to work like this.  As I’m running a fast-track course then we probably have no more than 1 lesson per common topic on the Edexcel Spec.  Therefore my students need vocabulary, listening practice/reading practice and things that they can actively take away from the lessons and try.  The following is an example:

Topic to be taught Vocabulary Focus L/R Take away exam technique Take-away revision technique
General interests Sports, hobbies, free time. L Dealing with the picture questions Mindmapping
Lifestyle (healthy eating) Foods, drinks, gern/nicht gern

Gesund/ungesund etc

L+R Dealing with multiple choice (pick 4 from list of 8) Flashcards
School and college Subjects, likes/dislikes, L+R Dealing with past/present/future questions Make a Tarsia

Vocabulary – Revise / Refresh / Build

The listening and reading exams are essentially one massive vocabulary test of 2 or 5 years worth of learning (depending how you run your course). Therefore most lessons need to begin with some refreshing of vocabulary.

I have the following principles when it comes to selecting revision activities:

  1. The students need to be made to think or to listen carefully
  2. It has to involve the students using and hearing target language
  3. How much do students gain from it?

Here are a few go-to ideas:

Worksheets – For a few years it was almost heresy to suggest a worksheet but if it is a good worksheet then use it.  The benefit is that the students have something to take home to revise from and they may appreciate not having to write things down for a bit.

Last man standing bingo – students write five words from a vocabulary list and then stand up.  Teacher (or willing student) calls out the words.  If all five are called out the student sits down and has lost.  Winners are those left standing.

Environmentally friendly strip bingo – students write a list of seven words on the mini-whiteboard from a vocabulary list.  Teacher (or willing student) calls out the words.  Students may only rub off the top or bottom word when they hear it.  Winner is the first one with a clean whiteboard.

Normal bingo – You’re reading this and you’re a language teacher.  I’m not going to explain this one!

Vocab battles – Students have two lists of vocabulary and test each other.  Winner is the one with the most correct.

Wordsnakes – Students have to separate the words in the snake.  Here is one for work and work experience topic.  If doing German, you will probably need to remove the capital letters.

arbeitspraktikumchefgehaltbedienenkundigen

Tarsia puzzles – This involves chopping up a sheet of A4 into 8 pieces and writing matching English and German along each inside edge.  The idea is to put the paper back together again with every English and German definition matching perfectly with no text around the outside.  They can be automatically made here.

Dictation – minimal preparation.  Read out sentences from a past paper transcript or textbook reading activity.  Students have to write down exactly what they hear.

Discovery Education PuzzlemakerThis was a staple of my NQT year until I accidentally and rather dramatically exceeded my photocopying budget .  I only recently remembered its existence.  Well worth a look and free to create simple puzzles involving vocabulary.

Vocabulary Toolkit – These are some rather old but still  very good books in our department.  They are sadly out of print but perhaps purchase a few for PP students.  The book in question is here.   Whilst it will not relate exactly to your exam board they are good little tools for revision.  German and French versions only I think..

Collaborative Mindmaps – Students work in a group of 3-4.  Start with the topic area in the middle and give them 4 branches out.  They have a minute to add whatever they can before passing it on to the next person.  Rinse and repeat.

It is worth mentioning that in the above activities I will probably focus on non-cognates over cognates.  Most students can deduce a word such as “telefonieren” but may struggle with “anrufen”.

For more ideas of games that work then head to Frenchteacher.net or this page (shameless self-promotion).

Teaching Exam Technique – some thoughts on past papers.

This technique of going through past papers is something I have found valuable.  My thanks to Chris Hildrew’s website for this:

PQRST Past Paper Method

Preview: revise the topics before tackling the paper

Questions: now do the paper.

Review: see questions below

Scribble: note any new vocabulary on the paper that was not known.

Test: test yourself two or three days later on that vocabulary to check retention.

Past papers should not just be an end in themselves.  Completing a past paper is good but using it to push revision and learning forward is better.  Students should be looking at the following after completing a paper:

  • What new vocabulary is there that I didn’t know?
  • Did I miss out on marks from misunderstanding the question requirements?
  • Did I miss out on marks because I didn’t know the material?l
  • Did I miss out an answer – the crime above all crimes on an MFL paper.  When the odds on a correct answer are 33% or higher, missing answers out is silly.

General Exam Technique Teaching Ideas

  • Teach features of language such as prefixes and suffixes.  For example, “ent” always implies removal of something in German (entfernen, entspannen).
  • Test them regularly on the little words and the negatives “jamais” “rien” “personne”.
  • Use the listening 5 minutes well.  Model it on a visualiser if you have one or get your entire group stood around you while you do it and invite their contributions.
  • Have a twilight with your higher level students where you practise the target language question at the end of the higher reading papers.
  • There will be a question on tenses – can they spot them?  Sometimes time markers play a role here.  Students need to be aware of the features of each tense.  Chris Fuller made a good point that anything future adds and anything present/past takes away in French and Spanish.  If they  spot an infinitive it is likely a future tense unless preceded by an opinion phrase.
  • Higher level papers will often mention all three of their multiple choice options.  The trick is working out the right one.  Two are probably close to right so listen carefully the second time to the ones that appear similar.
  • Exam boards have to promote SMSC just as schools do, students need to remember the exam is written for teenagers.  When the question says “What are Karla’s views on smoking?”  The answer is unlikely to be “it is harmless and we should all just light up now”
  • Remind students that Edexcel exams follow a peak-trough model where harder questions are preceded by easier ones.  They need to make sure they do not give up too quickly.  Question 9 can be a walk in the park after question 7 on nordic walking or the training of guide dogs.
  • Leave nothing blank!  I’ve had a student get 5 extra marks in past paper as a result.  When the kid said he got an A, he shocked most of his classmates!  He later admitted not answering 8 questions but guessed them and was rewarded for it.
  • Some subjects have introduced walking/talking mocks.  I prefer to brief students before they do they paper, allow them to make any notes of reminders and then let them go.

Remind them that they have been preparing for this for 2-5 years but shouldn’t assume that they can just do it without revision.  Make the following your mantra:

dont-be-upset-poster

EverydayMFL’s typical revision lesson

As a teacher of a mixed ability group on a fast-track 2 year course.  Here is a lesson outline that I would use.  There are so many good revision activities out there and I’ve seen all sorts of ideas on the Facebook groups involving balloons, jenga, trivial pursuit etc.  You will notice that these do not feature heavily in the plan below.  It is simply that with the time pressures of such a course, I’ve had to prioritise listening practice and as much vocabulary input as possible.  The final lesson will generally involve some revision fun and German or Spanish food.

Topic: Healthy living and lifestyle

STARTER: activity that refreshes their memory of large amounts of vocab eg: odd one out, make a mindmap, 30 word vocab test German–> English or English–> German.

MAIN:

Present: a revision activity students could do at home on any topic but model it with this one.  Students do the activity building in vocabulary from the starter and what they can remember.

Listening practice using past exam questions or revision workbook questions.  Immediate feedback and discussion of where the marks were won and lost.  Suitable for both higher and foundation although leaning towards higher.  Sometimes completed with transcript.

Split class into two groups

Highers do some practice reading questions on the topic while foundations do practice listening appropriate to their level on the topic, then they switch.  Students doing the listening will be talked through how to approach the question, what the question is looking for and any handy strategies that come to mind.  We then attempt it.  Those doing reading are largely left to it.

Set homework: revision via vocabexpress / samlearning / past paper / make a mindmap / make a tarsia puzzle / languagesonline / linguascope / language gym workouts etc

PLENARY: 

Students then may face one more listening text (because you can never practise this skill enough) or another vocabulary building activity based on my experiences over the course of the lesson.

Students on study leave – what to do when you cannot do anything to help them anymore!

  • Make sure they know what constitutes effective revision – for a blog that changed my practice, click here.
  • Mail a document on useful ways to revise for languages to the parents.
  • Set them up some vocab lists on Quizlet / Memrise / Vocabexpress.
  • Give them a pack of past papers to work through and the mark schemes.
  • Give them a sheet of QR codes leading to language revision websites.
  • Make them purchase a revision workbook or guide to help them revise prior to study leave.

All the best with the final furlong.

 

The Options Lesson

These next few weeks, we’re trying to convince the year 9s to carry on with a language or two.  Here’s my thinking for…

The Options Lesson.

STARTER: Brainstorm every reason to learn a language.  Could be done as a Think Pair Share.  Students can then share with the class.  Some commentary from teacher probably required to clarify, explain and correct.  Typical answers include

Travel, teaching, interpreting, translating, fun, challenge, interaction with others, live abroad, get girls, get guys etc.

MAIN – 3 sections of approx 10 minutes each

Section 1: English is not enough

Quiz using powerpoint from TES.  Slides 8-12  On this powerpoint you will find:

  • Guess the amount of speakers
  • Guess the percentage of people in Europe who speak…
  • Match the language to the people who speak it

The last activity may require some updating so modern multilinguals include Roger Federer, Bradley Cooper, Tom Hiddleston and more found here

The percentage question and the guess the amount activity could be done on mini-whiteboards so every student has to think about the answer.

You could also share some quotes from celebs found on the internet if you so choose.  Mandela is my personal favourite:

Section 2: Skills and Business

Explain skills that can be gained by learning language using above PowerPoint.

Give pupils a list of 10 jobs and work out how a language could be useful in those jobs. Alternatively ask them to generate a list of jobs, give it to another group who then suggest how a language could be used.

Here are some if you are pressed for time:

  • Walkers Crisps Employee
  • BMW Employee
  • Easyjet Steward/Stewardess
  • Hotel Receptionist
  • Surf Instructor
  • Civil Servant
  • MP
  • Firefighter
  • Police
  • NHS Frontline staff.

Get pupils to generate a list of French / German / Spanish companies that have links with the UK.  The list below is just to get you started.

  • French: Christian Dior, L’Oreal, Michelin, Peugeot, Renault, EDF, Agence France Presse, Bugatti.
  • German: Audi, Siemens, Mercedes, BMW, Volkswagen, Adidas, Haribo, Aldi, Lidl, Puma, Hugo Boss, Bauhaus, Bayer, Carl Zeiss, Bosch, Kraft,
  • Hispanic: SEAT, BBVA, Santander, Iberia, Alpargatas, Topper, CoronaExtra

Ok, maybe don’t mention that last one…

This section of the lesson finishes with this:

Section 3: What about Brexit?

“Brexit means Brexit” we were told.  Most students seem aware that we will leave the E.U and some believe all sorts of weird and wonderful things about what this means. Regardless of your view when it came to leave or remain, and regardless of what kind of Brexit we go through, languages will remain vital to trade, business and growth of the UK economy.

Share the following statements with students.  The links to the original websites have been added so that you can fact check the statements.

“Language skills are vital for our exports, education, public services and diplomacy.” – All Party Parliamentary Group on Modern Foreign Languages.  Article found here

Lack of language skills costs the UK £48,000,000,000 a year in lost trade- Department for Business, Innovation and Skills).  Quoted in The Guardian here

30% of UK businesses have no need for foreign language skills – Confederation of British Industry.  Also found in Guardian here.  Conclusion from this one, 70% would welcome someone with language skills

¨If I’m selling to you, I speak your language.  If you’re selling to me, dann müssen sie Deutsch sprechen” – Willy Brandt

75% of the world speaks no English. -Routes into Languages quote this statistic in a helpful article here

“Brexit means higher priority for language skills. If we found it challenging to deal with the 24 official and working languages of the EU and the Single Market, let’s consider that there are 164 members of the World Trade Organisation.  Each potential trading partner and regulator will be requiring precise negotiations. New relationships require trust, reliability and cultural empathy – those soft skills that come from knowledge of other languages and cultures.”- Bernadette Holmes MP.  Original article here

PLENARY

Coming in to land now… I will try and explain what the GCSE entails and how they make their choices.  All the normal warnings “don’t pick subjects based on friends/teacher preference/perceived ease/novelty”etc will be given at this point.  We will conclude with a video:

Finish off with Options Girl

And/Or finish with Lindsay.

And/Or Alex

 

During my “research” for this lesson.  I stumbled across the British Council video below.  It sadly does not fit in to what I plan to do, however their series of videos are pretty good.

Also considered using this one…

And this…

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.

Everyday Literary Texts

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

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

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

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

Texts

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Our textbooks are technically full of literary texts:

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

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

Stories

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

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

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

Songs/Poems

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

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

What can you do with a song?

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

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

Letters

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

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

Other literary texts

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

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