Sunday, 1 October 2017

Spirals and Waves (updated)

Nearly four years ago I blogged about Festisite, a very useful site that you can use to make word spirals and waves.  Since then, the settings of the site have changed a little, and more shapes have been added.

The options are now listed down the right hand side, and you can see a preview of the eventual output.

To generate the PDF, you now have to click on the "Printable Document" button.  I still recommend selecting a large-size font (I use 26 or 28) and A3 paper in order to generate a large image that will be good quality when you crop and shrink it.  The Preview button speaks for itself, while the Download button will generate the PDF for you.

You can see an example of a spiral above.  Can you find the Spanish numbers 0-15 in it ?  This particular one can be differentiated for lower ability by taking out the extra letters that are not part of the numbers.  The spirals can be used in other ways as well.  For example: how many of each Spanish number 1 to 6 can you see in this spiral ?

The spiral generator will also make egg-shaped spirals:

I like to use the wave setting to make word snakes, like this one:
as well as to make "wavy paragraphs" in which to find words or phrases.

The Valentine setting puts your words around a heart.  This is useful for anything to do with opinions.  For example: Which fruits does this person like?

So have a go with Festisite and see what you can make!

Friday, 29 September 2017


At the moment, with my Year 5 Spaniards, I am doing big numbers and money.  We've been focusing on amounts of Euros, for obvious reasons, but the children are very interested in pesetas.  I've told them how I always remember the difference between cien and ciento by thinking of the 100 peseta coin, which had "cien pesetas" written on it:

I said I would have a look at home to see if I still had any pesetas to show them.  I found four 25 peseta pieces and two 5 peseta pieces (and a whole set of French francs, some Dutch guilders and some South African rand).

The peseta coins that I have turn out to be very useful on a cultural as well as a historical level.  I've scanned them on both sides and magnified them a lot so that the children will be able to examine them next lesson.  Here they are, in case you would like to use them.  Each vertical pair is one coin.  Can you work out the cultural references on each coin?

I don't teach French at the moment and so the French francs are not of use to me, but if you would like to use them, here they are:

Monday, 18 September 2017

Spicy Phonics

Two weeks ago I started teaching in a new school.  Well, not brand new, but new to me.  And I started teaching Spanish there, so now I am teaching Spanish in both my schools and no French anymore.  My Year 6s there have already done three years of French, and I have a year in which to get them to substantial progress in Spanish.  So I am having to come up with ways to move them on quickly.

The first thing we are doing is a big push on phonics, starting with ñ, silent h, ll and accented vowels.  I have started with these sounds because we met them in the first words of the first Spanish lesson - español, hola, me llamo and adiós.

Like me, you may have come across Takeaway Homework.  Indeed my Y10 daughter brought home her first one last week, for English.  It gave me the idea for this phonics activity, where the words all contain the relevant phonemes, but are graded according to their length and relative difficulty.  Therefore the children can choose whichever number of chili peppers they want, whichever one they feel comfortable with, to read aloud to practise the phonemes.  Whichever one they choose, they are still practising the sounds.  It also means I can use the same resource with Year 3 all the way through to Year 6.  Less printing and less laminating, and we can always revisit it.

So we are doing the above one first and will then be using this one once we have learned the numbers 1 to 10:

If you'd like to use them yourself, you can download them from here.  They will be equally useful for Key Stage 3 beginners, I'm sure!

Can you think of any other activities that could be made "spicy" in this way?

Sunday, 23 July 2017

130 Activities for the Languages Classroom

A week ago I finished and published this resource.  It was inspired by a teacher on the Secondary MFL Matters Facebook group who had been asking if there was a list of activities anywhere, and by other colleagues who have been saying for a while "You should write a book!"

All the activities listed and described are ones that I have used in the classroom or blogged about or both.  It was originally going to be called "150 Activities.." based on my original list, but the list was reduced when I saw that some activities could be put together.

Each activity has a key to show which skills it addresses - Listening, Speaking, Reading, Writing, Vocabulary, Grammar, Phonics or Translation.  Here is an example of one of the activities:

It's available from my Sellfy shop now. I hope you like it, and that you find there some activities that you didn't know about, as well as some that you did know about but had forgotten.

Saturday, 22 July 2017


A few days ago I saw this tweet from Lindsay Williams (@LDLanguages):

I asked her about how Clozemaster works, liked the sound of it and had a search for it.  Very luckily there is an Android app!  There is also a web interface, and I presume there is a fruit-based app also.

I've mentioned before that I am learning German at the moment (daughter #1 begins her GCSE German course in September) and so far have been using Duolingo and Stimmt 1.  

Here's how it works.  You need to sign up for an account and give yourself a username.  Then you choose the language you want to work on.  This is my dashboard:

I've chosen to work on the 100 most common words to begin with and am quite chuffed how much I know from Duolingo.

When you select the words you want to work on, you get different options:

I've chosen the top multiple choice.  I might be brave and do the text input version later!  This is an example of a question.  You have the sentence with the gap and four options underneath.  Helpfully, you have the English translation as well to help you to find the correct word.

You tap on the word you think fills the gap, and you get instant feedback:

If you get it wrong, the same question comes around again before you finish the round.

I think this would be very useful for Key Stage 4 students wanting some consolidation of basic sentences, and of course anyone who, like me, is learning a new language in their own time!