Things to keep from 2016

A belated Happy New Year to any readers and huge big thank you to almost 7500 people who read my ramblings last year!  It is quite humbling to see stats like that and also how far across the world it has gone.  Having said that, I’m sure there are some NFL fans out there wondering quite how they ended up on a language teaching website!

A bit of a reflective one to kick off 2017.  Looking back at 2016, there are some things I did for the first time that I want to keep doing.  Here they are…

Core Language Sheets

My 8s,9s and 10s have a sheet glued in the middle of their book where the staples are.  These sheets contain key verbs (conjugated and infinitives), time adverbs, conjunctions (not a fan of “connectives”), opinion phrases and much more.  They are used regularly by the majority of students in my class.  They are adaptations of ones that can be found on Rachel Hawkes’ website.  I changed some vocabulary items and also gave the fonts a slight upgrade.  They are great for learning homeworks such as “learn time adverbs section” or “write a sentence using each infinitive with no repetition”.  It has also stopped some of the “me gusta juego” that pupils often default to.

50-50 no hands up/hands up

I’m a fan of “hands up” and “no hands up” when questioning.  I am aware that some teachers will advocate a 100% no hands up approach.  This was suggested as an “outstanding” technique when I was training.  I’ve listed the pros and cons in the table below.  Hopefully you will see why I favour a mixture of both…

Pros Cons
Hands up 1) You see student enthusiasum for learning.
2) You gain an idea of student competence
3) Occasionally low-confidence students will go
for it so you have a good opportunity to build their
confidence with success!
1) Some students will never put their hands up
2) Some students will be too passive in lessons
3) The two above may become learned behaviours
No hands up 1) Keeps everyone on their toes
2) Does not allow an “opt out”
3) Allows teacher to target questions to
underachievers, pupil premiums, G&T etc.
1) High anxiety for some students low on confidence
2) Some students will go with “don’t know” and resist your attempts
to lead them to an answer.
3) If targeting underachievers, pupil premium etc too often, you
may miss others.

Find someone who…

My new favourite speaking/listening task.  For a detailed explanation look at 2.7 on Gianfranco Conti’s blog.  The example Gianfranco shares links to free time.  I have used it for future tense practice “find someone who will…” or past tense “find the person who did…”  It requires a little bit of preparation and printing.  The hard part is making sure that the students stay completely in the TL.

Teacher-led listening (Nick Muir / Gianfranco Conti / Steve Smith)

Photo Credit: musiccard Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: musiccard Flickr via Compfight cc

Listening activities in textbooks can be useful.  However, I  object greatly when the listening text involving types of transport contains sound effects!  I have started to do some of my own with varying successes.

  1. Sense or nonsense – Students work out if the sentence given is sense or nonsense.
  2. LH, RH, BH – Allocate three categories in advance, students close eyes and put hands up.  This can be done with tenses, opinions, negatives etc
    1. Left hand = future tense
    2. Right hand = past tense
    3. Both hands = present tense
  3. Spot the word missed.  Sentences on board, teacher reads out and students spot missing word or word added in.
  4. Mr Men/Real Madrid listening – used at the start of the year to help develop sound and spelling links.  Students have to spell the name of the Mr Man having only heard the Spanish.  Can also work with members of Real Madrid’s reserve team.

Invitation only twilights.

Finally, we get to some of my own ideas!  That being said, I’m sure that it is not original.  I know a number of teachers who organise twilights and invite their entire class and attain varying attendance figures.  This is compounded when you are up against core subjects, intervention classes, after-school detentions and some departments with more clout.  I tried a different tactic.  I invited 2-3 students each time.  Only one did not turn up.  Ways to make it work are as follows:

  1. Invite the student personally a week in advance, have them note it in a planner.
  2. Make it really clear what they are going to get from the session.
  3. Bring something of a sugary nature

Having a smaller GCSE group helps, but even with a larger one you could plan it out over time.

L shapes game – conjugation and translation

Produce a grid of conjugated verbs in TL or English (8×8, 6×8, 10×5 whatever size suits you or whatever preparation time allows).  Students start in opposite corners but can only move in L shapes like the knight on a chessboard.  To be able to shade in the next square they need to be able to pronounce the word accurately and translate it.  They keep going until they cannot move any longer.  Winner is then the one with the most squares.

 

Traffic light book hand in.

Photo Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/34001170@N03/31256222322/">enzovelasco</a> Flickr via <a href="http://compfight.com">Compfight</a> <a href="https://www.flickr.com/help/general/#147">cc</a>

Photo Credit: enzovelasco Flickr via Compfight cc

This came from one of our newer teachers.  She has three boxes in her room.  Green, yellow and red.  Pupils put their books in at the end of the lesson depending on how well they feel they have coped with the material covered.

  • Green = I’m fine, no problems
  • Yellow = I struggled a bit
  • Red = I found that really tough.  Help!

You can then mark in an order that deals with the greatest need first, and target your marking more effectively.

Snakes and Ladders with heavy TL use.

snakes-ladders

I tried this with a low ability group and then with a higher one. Pupils have to do a task if they land on odd numbers.  If they fail they move vertically down a square.  Pupils also have to do a task to ascend a ladder or stop themselves slipping down a snake.

  • 1 – sentence with fui a + country
  • 3 – sentence with fui + transport
  • 5 – sentence with fui + people
  • 7 – sentence with fue +opinion
  • 9 – sentence with fueron
  • Ladder ascension: sentence with fui + country, transport and people
  • Snake Stopper: sentence with fui + country and 2x activities in preterite.

Save your money by doing the following:

  1. Get 8-10 boards photocopied for your class.
  2. Counters are rubbers, sharpeners, pen lids, 5 pence coins etc.

 

 

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5 Things to try tomorrow

5 Things to Try Tomorrow

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I’m snowed under with marking, reports and grades at the moment.  So here’s 5 ideas which helped me procrastinate, which you may like to try tomorrow…

Target Language Answers

How do your pupils respond at the end of starters, reading activities, listening activities?  I’ve started getting my classes to use the following:

  • creo que es …A,B,C etc
  • pienso que es
  • podría ser …
  • Estoy seguro que es …

It’s a simple way of drilling in key phrases and it keeps the lesson in the target language. I thought it might slow things down but it hasn’t.  Even better is that students are using them and they are appearing in their work.

Dice

Such a simple thing but so versatile.  Get a set of 6 sided or 10/12 sided dice.  Try any of the following:

1    me gustaría trabajar                                 con animales

2   mi amigo le gustaría trabajar                 en una oficina

3   mi profesor debería trabajar                   como domador de leones

4   no me gustaría trabajar                            al aire libre

5    mi mama debería trabajar                      con la gente

6   mi papa debería trabajar                          como profesor estresado

Or 

1    Give an opinion about … using ich denke, dass

2   Give an opinion about .. using gefallen

3    Give an opinion about … and add a weil clause

4   Give an opinion about … using gern

5   Give an opinion about …. that adds a sentence in another tense

6   Give an opinion about  … using meiner Meinung nach

Or vocabulary revision

1/2  Partner names 5 words on topic of …

3/4 Partner gives 5 adjectives on topic of …

5/6 Partner gives 5 verb phrases on topic of…

or create your own…

“Hide your whiteboards.”

The credit for this one goes entirely to a trainee teacher who gets better and better with every lesson.  She insists that students keep mini-whiteboards under their chins once they have written and then they raise them on her instruction.    Copying other people is one of my pet hates and this eliminates it and also forces the “less motivated” (bone idle) to work harder and produce something or it’s really obvious.

 DIRT mats.

cooltext170479354004015

Our school has introduced DIRT time.  One pupil suggested it be called “time for improvement, reflection and development” but then realised that “TIRD” had a slightly unappealing ring to it.  During that time, my focus needs to be on the students with genuine questions about how to improve their work.  The rest need to get on.  These mats are editable and really easy to adapt.  Despite the fact they are aimed at KS1 and KS2 they can be adapted and used with all years.  My experience so far is that the younger years like the Pixar one and my 10s & 11s feel that the force is strong with the Star Wars versions.

 

Hands up listening

This came courtesy of Nick Mair on a course.  It is incredibly versatile and quite effective in terms of assessing the skill of listening.  It also shows you who your best listeners are.

The teacher talks in the target language.  Students have 3 options: left hand , right hand, both hands.  You assign something to each hand.  Maybe it is “opinion”, “reason”, “two tenses used”.  Or “sensible”, “idiotic”, “mixed”.

Here are two examples using Mira 1, which would lead to students putting both hands up.

  • “En mi casa hay un salón, un comedor y una cocina.  Había un baño en el jardín.”
  • “En mi casa hay un salón, un comedor, una cocina y un baño.  Arriba hay un dormitorio, el dormitorio de mis padres y el dormitorio de mi tortuga.”

 

Credit to www.cooltext.com for the cool text effects.

 

5 things to try tomorrow

5 things I’ve tried this week.  You could try them tomorrow…

Picture Starters

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Photo Credit: Macro-roni via Compfight cc

Mira 1 gets students describing their teachers.  I wanted to see how much my year 7s  could remember so I demanded between 3 and 5 sentences based on a picture I showed them.  Initially I typed in angry teacher into google and used one of them before using an image of Robin Williams from Dead Poets Society.  I was pleasantly surprised what they were able to generate.

Me gusta el inglés porque el profesor es interesante

En mi clase hay un profesor interesante

Odio el inglés pero el profesor es interesante 

This one came from Greg Horton.  You can learn more about the work he does here, the big O seem keen on him.

Hands up listening

In an era of no hands up being in vogue this one goes against the grain.  The teacher can prepare the listening phrases and it is really good in seeing who in your class has the best auditory processing skills and is an effective listener.  It may well surprise you.

Mano derecha Opinión positiva
Mano izquierda Opinión negativa
Dos manos no hay opinión

You read out a sentence and depending on the content, the students put a right hand, left hand or both hands up.  This idea came from Nick Mair and I’ve tried it a few times since.  It also can be massively adapted with tenses, negatives, comparisons, conditionals etc

Forms and Functions

An idea from the effervescent Rachel Hawkes.

1) Past A) Future plans
2) Present B) Uniform
3) Future C) School rules
4) Negative D) description of school
5) Comparison E) Teachers
6) Conditional F) Other students
7) Sentence with two tenses G) Homework
8) Sentence linked with subordinating conjunction h) Stress

The students could do this with mini0whiteboards or a series of exercises could be set on the board and students work quietly through them.  The teacher demands a 1A sentence from the students.  This might mean that the student has to write about future plans whilst incorporating a past tense in there somewhere.  5E might be easier as students would simply compare two teachers.  It is great getting them to think about content, meaning and including the right things in their work.

Literary texts

My year 8s are reading Peter Pan together.  I picked it up for 75 centavos.  I’ve taught them about reading around both sides of an unfamiliar word (deducing meaning from context).

Deducing meaning from what has gone before

Bob entered the kitchen and saw his son doing the dishes.  His son threw a ______ at him.

The most obvious suggestions the students generate are dishcloth and sponge, along with some other, rather imaginative ones…

Deducing meaning from what has gone after.

Bob entered the kitchen and saw his son doing the dishes.  His son threw a ______ at him, which hit Bob and shattered into pieces.

Why do it?  It is mainly to stop them getting hung up on the one word they do not know.

We have also done a fair bit of work on infinitives and knowing the little words such as “de” “el/la/los/las”  “un/una”  etc.  Someone reads out loud before we look at what is going on.

Authentic Texts

The hotel boca juniors powerpoint on the TES was good for getting students working with some authentic material.  Here are some I am looking to try out:

Quinoa – bit of reading for healthy living and food topics

Farting cows – animal/environment topic maybe?  Might need simplifying…

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Photo Credit: blackcatcara via Compfight cc

 

 

 

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

Photo Credit: <a href=

Photo Credit: Kodjii via Compfight cc

“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.

Photo Credit: <a href=

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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.

Photo Credit: <a href=

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!

New term – a great time to raise your game.

Happy New Year to you all.  I hope you had an excellent Christmas and a promising start to the new year.

I’ve decided this should be a simple post about things I will try this term, starting next week.  There are numerous aspects of teaching that I want to improve and various ideas that I want to try.  All of it is aimed at trying to make my lessons the very best they can be.  While inevitably some lessons will go better than others, I want the return in terms of learning to be high every lesson.

Here are 4 ideas I want to try in January:

1) Experiments with excellence

I’ve been reading a little about Ron Berger and his “ethic of excellence” and his insistence on feedback and how it can drive improvement. Whilst Berger teaches in a relatively unique setting I wonder if his ideas can be applied in an MFL classroom.  My year 8 Spanish class will produce a postcard from a holiday but rather than it being a week long homework at the end of the topic, we will draft it over 2 weeks before they do a final version at the end of the topic.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hqh1MRWZjms

2) Speaking/Translation tandem

Inspired by a Bristol colleague.  Students have phrases on a sheet of A4 with alternating Spanish/English.  They have to say what they think is the phrase and their partner can nudge them towards a correct version.  It should have the effect of reinforcing grammar structures, raising translation as an activity (with the new GCSE in mind) and could work quite well.  Probably will try it with year 7s or year 10s.

3) Insistence on TL

All students have phrases in their books they can use but I’m really going to push it this term.  I want to see if we can get lessons where there is an 80/20% ratio of Spanish – English.  To this end I plan to have 3 things in place:

i) A TL monitor – a student I trust who can monitor my TL usage and that of the class.  They will have a traffic light card to indicate this.  In lower years this will probably be referred to as the Spanish Sy

ii) TL phrases on wall – students need to use these in responding after a listening exercises or wherever possible.

iii) Rewards for students who use most TL, this will be monitored by my TL monitor.

4) Live marking

That is “live” in the sense of “in the moment” not live as in “live, breathe, eat, sleep marking.”  I saw this suggested on another post.  A teacher picks 8 students and aims to mark their books whilst the students are on a task of some description.  The marking then finishes with a question relating to what he/she has seen and demands a response.  Our students have to respond to our marking, this might be a way of encouraging it.  They are more likely to respond if I am stood next to them marking their neighbours book.  It might also be a way to reduce the marking load.  We will see.

The MFL Games

I was told by one of my students that they do more games with their Spanish teacher and “lessons are more fun because we spend about 15minutes playing games”.  I have nothing against games but they have to have a purpose and some kind of learning gain.  Here are some favourites with purpose:

If you have the patience to keep reading,

Battleships (submarinos)

Phrases along the top and going down.  Students copy table and put in ships.  Read out along top, say “y” and then read down.  If students get the square where the boat is then they sink it.

Hit : tocado
Miss: agua
Sink: hundido

Scenes we’d like to see/Would I lie to you

Great for teaching tenses or negatives.  Give students a topic and see what they can come up with on mini-whiteboards, award prizes for the funniest/most grammatically sound/most advanced.  E.g  “what her majesty will do at the weekend”  or “things that <insert teacher/student name here> will never do”.

¿Qué falta?

After introducing vocabulary – which one is missing?  Simple and easy to do with pictures

Last man standing

Students write down 4 items of vocabulary that they have learnt from the lesson.  Teacher or student calls them out.  Students cross off the ones called out.  The aim is to be the last man standing.

Speed-dating

Always good for any paired speaking activities.

Reading race

Excellent for pronunciation.  In pairs get students to race to see who can finish the text first whilst saying every word.  To spice it up, get one of them to start when the other reaches the 5th,6th,7th word.

Best sentence/paragraph competition

If you have your students grouped in fours get them competing for best sentence on a mini-whiteboard.  Works with any topic and any ability group

Noughts and crosses

Put the English in the boxes on your board, force pupils to say the TL

Heads down thumbs up

I know I said learning gain and this one only has one if you want to practice mixing tenses and giving opinions

Pienso que es … – I think it’s    Pensaba que fue – I thought it was.    Pienso que va a ser … – I think it’s going to be (get students to guess beforehand).

Infinitive running charades.

Have two lists of infinitives.  Students come to you and you give them one, they act it to their team, team guesses in TL and you work through the list until one team finishes.  For higher level sets use adverbs “passionately”, “slowly” etc

For further ideas look at the following:

Peer-assessment.

Been trying to get more of this into my lessons recently.  Although that was before I read an article on http://classteaching.wordpress.com (check it out, lots of good ideas and reflections).

80% of feedback a student receives about his or her work in primary school is from other students.  But 80% of this student provided feedback is incorrect!”

So how can we do it well?  I’m not great at it but these are things that I have been learning.

1) Give students a simple set of criteria and a simple scoring system. 

You may need to ditch the levels for a while.  If for example you are assessing speaking could you assess various aspects of it, e.g: confidence, pronunciation, intontation etc.  Score each one out of 5 to keep life easy or 4 if your school is not facing OFSTED.

2) Teach them how to identify levels

If using levels then make sure they know that the need multiple examples of tenses to get higher levels.  Ditch the sub-levels for a while.  Make sure that they know what the verbs are.  I find this is the most difficult bit.

3) Don’t let them get away with minimalist contributions or comments. 

Last year, I remember one student wrote “good use of connectives”, the only issue was that they had no idea what else to write.  There was also not a single connecting word in the piece of work!  Students need a checklist of things to work through.

4) 2 stars and a wish is not always practical.

Make sure that if peers are asked to give positive and negative comments (or areas of improvement) then they do as many as they can.  I find sometimes that 2 stars is a bit of a stretch.

5) Don’t give it to the person next to them.

Shake things up a little.  Get them to hand their books to someone completely different.  Even insist they do not look at the name on the front.  They’re more likely to write honest feedback if they don’t know who they are writing for.  Also helps to avoid numerous hearts, flowers, declarations of affection and all sorts of teenage artwork gracing your exercise books.