Monday, 29 March 2010

Food flags, informative flags

I always check my Tweets while I'm having my breakfast in the morning.  This morning there was one in particular which caught my eye:

Last year's Sydney International Food Festival was promoted with these wonderful images of national flags made up of their country's iconic foods.  Here is a copy of the poster, which you can download as an A3 or A4 PDF here

You may know by now that I am passionate about international education, in particular about getting people to see past stereotypes and find the "real" people and countries in the world.  These flags seem like an excellent place to start.

Esther Mercier (the genius behind A tantôt) suggests giving the pictures to Food Technology teachers so that they can join in European Day of Languages.  Students can research which flag is portrayed each time, and which foods are used to make them.  They could then have a go at making their own flags for other countries.  This links in nicely with the World Cup as well.  While pupils are finding out about the 31 teams who aren't England, they could research the typical foods of the countries and have a go at representing them pictorially like this.

But why stop at food ?  There are all sort of images and indeed words that could be represented as flags.

Here is a Spanish flag I made using MS Publisher.  Is it the truth or is it stereotype ?
And here is a French flag represented as a Calligram that I made using Imagechef and Publisher.  Students could do the writing themselves.

There are many possibilities.  If you're not averse to a bit of mess in your classroom, get some travel brochures and get the students to make some mosaic flags with images of the chosen country.  Whichever method you choose, they will certainly make for an eye-catching display.

One flag that is missing from the Sydney poster is ours.  What foods would your students put on a pictorial representation of our flag ?  Why ?  What other images would they put on our flag to represent our country.  They are obliged to think about their own country and its identity.  Community cohesion.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Primary Languages Show 2010

Last night at 8.30pm I arrived home after driving back from the Primary Languages Show, which started at the ACC in Liverpool yesterday, 12th March, and continues today, 13th March.  Despite a 3.5 hour journey and White Van Man trying to drive me off the road on the M62, I was still buzzing with the presentations that I had seen and the ideas they had given me.

The day began with an introduction from Therese Comfort from CILT, and a keynote address from Dr Dan Tierney, who spoke about his philosophy for Primary Languages and research that he has been carrying out.

The first workshop I attended was Language Upskilling, led by Carmel O'Hagan from CILT.  I wasn't able to attend the meeting about this in Newcastle last week, and so used this as an opportunity to learn about the new specification for Upskilling for primary teachers.  We have identified Upskilling as a training need in Sunderland, and it was useful to gain an insight into the new specification.

After this workshop, I walked briskly round to the other side of the ACC, hoping to catch Helen Myers, who had been leading a workshop and with whom I have been corresponding virtually for many years.  Despite texting each other with what we were wearing (!) and our locations in the building, we missed each other.  We'll meet one day, Helen !  It was just after this that I bumped into Joe Dale, with whom I enjoyed coffee, and lunch later on.  Speaking of virtual friends who I finally got to meet, I had a long chat with Martin Lapworth of Task Magic fame, Jan Lewandowski, who said some very nice things about MFL Sunderland, and I finally got to meet Lisa Stevens.  I also caught up with fellow north-easterner Steve Mulgrew, who was showing off his new primary French materials.

The second workshop I went to was "Exploring non-fiction: All about animals", presented by Louise Harty, languages adviser for Northumberland.  She took us through the sequence of activities for the latest materials from Northumberland - "Tout à propos des Animaux".  It is a series of thinking skills lessons which enables pupils to discover and manipulate both basic and more complex French.  It's aimed Y6 and Y7 and would make an excellent transition unit.  It would give those Y7s who have done French before a new focus and some new challenges, while enabling those new to the language to find out about gender, adjectival agreement, regular verb paradigms....  I really enjoyed Louise's presentation, and being able to actually do all the activities !

After lunch (a tasty chicken tagine) I went to "Podcasting to upskill primary teachers", presented by Phil Wood from Lancashire LA.  He described the programme of podcasts that they have made to help classroom teachers to become more confident in their use of French and in their MFL teaching methodology.  Primary teachers are able to study in small, 5-minute chunks in their own time and at their own pace.  Sunderland teachers are very keen to have some help with their own skills in French, and I am very interested in looking at this as a way forward.  It would certainly be pretty easy for me to put together using the sound files that we already have on MFL Sunderland and which were recorded by our FLAs.  Anything is easier than trying to get them all in the same room at the same time, and we are a much smaller LA than Lancashire !

I finished my day with "La main dans la bouche - using puppets for teaching French", which was presented by Stephen Novy.  We found out how to make basic rod and sock puppets, and how best to operate them so as to make them the focus of the lesson.  I use a puppet with Reception and Nursery, and I got some good ideas for how to use him and develop his character.

I had a fantastic time at the Primary Languages Show, and am looking forward to trying out all the new things I learnt and saw.  Next year I will have to save up and go for both days !

Monday, 8 March 2010

My favourite websites

I was honoured to be invited to Gosforth High School in Newcastle this afternoon to tell ALL NE (the north-east branch of the Association of Language Learning) about my favourite websites.

I had an hour and a half.  The question was not what to include, but rather what to leave out !  I could have spoken for a lot longer.  As it was I didn't get the chance to show all of the sites.

I hummed and haa-ed a lot beforehand about how best to present the information.  PowerPoint would mean a lot of chopping and changing, opening and closing, stopping and starting.  Eventually I decided on presenting my favourite websites as a website.  You can find it here.

Click on the words on the computer screen to see the categories.  Then click on the thumbnails to link to the sites.  (I hope you can see my computer background on the main page!)