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:

 

Getting ready for the new GCSE

It’s almost here.  Regardless of the fact that 3 out of 4 exam boards are yet to have their specifications approved by OFQUAL, we have to begin teaching towards it in September. I’ve been thinking about how to prepare my year 9 learners for what is coming, in terms of topics and skills.  Here are some things I have tried out:

Modalverben – regular drilling.

German teachers will be familiar with modal verbs.  They are 6 most common verbs and are combined with an infinitive  The same can be done in Spanish but there will just be more of them and they take different forms.  I want my students to be completely proficient with these most common verbs so that they can use them spontaneously with infinitives.  If you had 10 minutes to prepare for an exam, having a mental arsenal that contains

I have to / I like / I should / I want to / I can etc along with some infinitives, should be useful to them.  We have been having regular sentence making drills on mini-whiteboards.  Over time I have added in some opinion and reason phrases.  If you are in doubt about whether drilling is effective then the video below is

Roleplays

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I found the old roleplay cards and we will be using them in the coming weeks.  If you don’t have them then there are some specimen papers on the exam-board websites. Those can be used and adapted.  Rather than writing a section, I will refer you to a previous blog.  A recent post on Frenchteacher also is worth a read.  Do your students know enough multi-purpose transactional vocabulary?

Spontaneous Speech

Students are going to have to be a lot better at generating language spontaneously.  Yes they can be drilled in rubric, roleplays and discussion but there is a greater emphasis on producing the language unaided.  With TL rubrics in the speaking elements, this could be even harder.  Rachel Hawkes has some worthwhile suggestions here.  She also has a Phd so I will leave it in her capable hands.

Speaking from pictures.

Rachel Hawkes illustrated this brilliantly on a recent course I went on.  It is about encouraging learners to use what they have learnt.  It does not matter if they cannot say what they want to say.  The question is what can they say?

What might a year 7/8/9 be able to do with the following picture?

  • Es una fiesta.   Hay un elefante.  Me gustan las fiestas.
  • Creo que es una celebración porque hay mucha gente.
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Equally with this you can get the students to predict the questions that might be asked.

New Topics

I’m borrowing from AQA here.

  • Marriage/partnerships
  • Social media
  • Mobile technology
  • Customs and festivals in TL speaking countries
  • Charity/voluntary work
  • Poverty/homelessness

This looks more interesting than “self, family and friends”.  The hard bit is working out how these might be examined.  How can we teach them and make them accessible? See the table below:

NEW GCSE
Topic from AQA How it could be examined Implications for teaching practice
Marriage/partnerships Speaking – discussion or picture
Listening
Reading
Writing – essay or translation question
Students need to be able to give
their opinions on this topic.
Discuss with RE department to 
ascertain prior knowledge, stumbling blocks and
stereotypes.
Social Media Speaking – do you think it is a good thing?
Listening – text about someone who uses
Reading – text about social media
Writing – essay or translation question
Need to teach a variety of multipurpose
vocabulary as the range is so wide.  Students
need to be able to give opinions on it, use
frequency adverbs and explain why it is a good
or bad thing.
Customs and Festivals Speaking – is celebrating things important?
Listening – report about an event
Reading – text about an event
Writing – less likely, possible translation
Teach major festivals at various points of the year.
Day of the dead, san fermin, la tomatina, las fallas.
Students will need a cursory knowledge of the well-
-known festivals
Charity/volunteer work Speaking – should young people do it?
Listening – account of someone’s job
Reading – account of someone’s job, charity
website?
Writing – should young people do it?
Teach students phrases to structure arguments and
create extended responses.
Poverty/homelessness Listening
Reading – text on developing world
Echo 3 and Mira 3 do a bit of this.  Discuss with
geography, is there a case-study or unit of work that
you can link this too.

 

 

 

 

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”.

 

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.

 

 

Unsung Heroines: TAs & MFL Lessons

I have to admit I do quite like the Guardian column: “the secret teacher”.  It doesn’t possess the same power to surprise and entertain as The Secret Footballer (another column in the same paper) but that’s probably because I’m a teacher and I know how the world of teaching works.  I did however read one article this week on Teaching Assistants and was appalled at this statement: “the majority of the time, TAs add nothing to my lessons.”  The author prefaced it with some positive comments but it’s sadly just a rant at an ineffective TA they work with masquerading as journalism.

I’ve worked with some great TAs over the years.  Here is how TAs can add value to your MFL lessons, as they have done to mine…

Resource them

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Photo Credit: Jellaluna via Compfight cc

Give them a copy of the scheme of work, textbook, vocabulary and if they have computer access then let them access what you will be covering so they can plan ahead.  Every TA that I have done this for has been thankful and more effective as a result.  It might be your TA has no language qualifications and hated languages in school.  I’ve found that type of TA is great as they can feedback on things that you do that maybe do not help the understanding of some of your less able students.  If you can discuss the lesson in advance with them then do it.  Some of the TAs I have worked with have even started using apps like Duolingo and Memrise to build their language skills outside of lessons.

Direct them

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Photo Credit: `James Wheeler via Compfight cc

If they are attached to an individual then discuss that child with them.  Decide how much you want them to pay attention to that child.  Decide whether you want them to step back at certain points or stages of a lesson.  You might want to let the child struggle a little bit in the practice stage before stepping in.  Equally you might want them to be silent in the presentation stage.  Shaun Allison writes about an interesting experiment his school are conducting with Teaching Assistants and how they are focusing less on the tricky kids and leaving them to the teacher.  It’s something I want to try with my bottom set year 8s.

Encourage their creativity

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Photo Credit: Skley via Compfight cc

I had one TA who took aside a small group of kids to teach them how to tell the time in English before we covered it in Spanish.  That same TA made paper clocks with movable hands.  Another printed off flashcards for her student with a statement.  A third one suggested a food-tasting so we did it as the group had been particularly good.  They were instrumental in making sure it ran smoothly on the day.  They are also great at displays.  I’m a man and I’m useless at such things.  When you let their creativity run wild you get some fantastic results and great comments from senior staff about your displays.  At which point you credit your TA of course…

Build a great working relationship with your TA

TAs normally have a good amount of experience or they are very young and only 2-3 years older than year 11s.  The former respond really well to the question “what do you think about…?”  The latter respond well to “I would like to do this, shall we give it a go”.  Students need to see that you and your TA are like Batman and Robin, Jack Bauer* and Chloe O’Brian, Morecambe and Wise etc.  Any hint of that not being the case and students will start playing you against each other.  Students need to know that any slight on your TA is a slight on you, and has no place within your classroom walls.

*Please do not model your teaching style on Jack Bauer in terms of approach or working hours.

Give them feedback

Most TAs are observed at some point in the year.  For some, they will rarely get any feedback otherwise.  Most are conscientious people and want to do their jobs well. Feedback needs to be kind, specific and helpful just as you would do with any student.  “I noticed you spending a bit of time with Brendan, which was great.  Jenny is also struggling quite a bit so next lesson I would like you to work with her and see if you can build her confidence.”

Let them feedback to you

TAs will notice things that you don’t.  Although the kids might believe you to be an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent teaching machine, you are not.  Stop dreaming.  Occasionally, your TA will spot bullying, name calling.  Merely being sat lower down next to someone they will notice more than you will. Others might spot a student doing something other than the work you wanted from them.  I have had one TA criticise me quietly for being too harsh on a student.  She was right. It takes a lot to swallow your pride in moments like that.  She did it in exactly the right way, and for the right reasons.  Both student and teacher were better off for that quiet post-lesson conversation.  If it’s appropriate, then create a climate where mutual feedback is professional and constructive, as I found out, everyone wins.

Get some simple CPD from them with one question.

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Photo Credit: Mykl Roventine via Compfight cc

If a TA is attached to a class and has been at the school for a few years this question can tell you where to go for some good observation based CPD: “which teacher would you want your kids to be taught by?”  If they say you then demand someone else but be secretly pleased inside.  That’s secretly pleased; not openly smug!  That person has seen at least 10 different teachers a week, possibly more and those practitioners will change yearly or termly.   There’s a reason they picked that one so go and find out what it is!

Thank them

Every lesson I make a point of saying “thanks for your help Miss”.  It’s a small gesture but goes down well.  Since we’re approaching that time of year, Christmas cards are also good.  If you have one who you work with frequently, then something red or white and in a bottle goes a long way in terms of gesture but may not go a long way that evening!

TAs do a lot of great unseen and under-appreciated work.  

Hopefully some see this post.  

Share it, if you have a great TA.

Making it stick!

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

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Photo Credit: rnav18 via Compfight cc

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

Palabras importantes

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

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

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

Palabras importantes part 2

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

Flowcharts and process

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

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

Practice, practice, practice.

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

Clarity of Explanation

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

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

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

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

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