Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Jeux de mains

I have just started the "Playground Games" section of the French KS2 scheme of work.  This topic presents an ideal opportunity to bring in some intercultural understanding by learning some French clapping games.

To start the topic there is a lovely video from SchoolsWorld TV (used to be Teachers TV) where you can see French children playing hopscotch, skipping and football.  My Year 3s loved seeing the handwritten numbers on the hopscotch.  There is also another video from the same source which has some French clapping games.

When looking for a clapping game for Year 3, the main difficulty I had was finding something simple enough. Just like in English, many of the French ones have language that is too complex.

I have done the "Choco-choco-la-la" clapping game before in Spanish, which I found in this excellent document, which also has other games in German, Romanian, Italian and Greek.  It always goes down a storm, and the jumping version tires them out!

I put a request on Primary Linguanet, and received lots of good replies.  Primary Linguanet trumped Twitter on this particular occasion!  Here are the two that I used:

alphabet (clap thighs, clap hands together, clap both hands with partner)
X X A A (clap partner's right hand twice, clap partner's left hand twice)
X X B B  (clap partner's right hand twice, clap partner's left hand twice)
X A X B (clap partner's right hand, clap partner's left hand and repeat)
X alphabet (clap thighs, clap hands together, clap both hands with partner)

You can also find this one on Mama Lisa's World, with a sound recording.

Trois petits chats (clap for trois petits, clap partner's right hand for chats)
Trois petits chats (clap for trois petits, clap partner's left hand for chats) 
Trois petits chats, chats, chats (clap for trois petits, clap partner's right hand, then left hand, then both hands for chats)

This one has lots and lots of verses, including the next two which are:

Chapeau de paille
Chapeau de paille
Chapeau de paille, paille, paille

Paillasson, son, son

You can see this one on Mama Lisa's World too.

Here are some more links for playground games and other games for children:

Group games for playing outside
Playground games with videos
Playground games from different countries
Playground games from the olden days!
French clapping rhymes (read the comments too)
Tiens voilà main droite, a clapping rhyme, from Momes.net

Games for children from El Huevo de Chocolate
Spanish clapping games
Spanish traditional games
Choco-choco-la-la with video
More Spanish clapping games
Finger rhymes and other rhymes with actions
Playground games
More playground games
Clapping rhymes including A sailor went to sea sea sea

I'm going to whisper the next bit: *I think secondary students might enjoy some of these too!*

Saturday, 22 September 2012

I have two jobs

I have two jobs.  First, I am a parent.  A very important job.  I am the parent of two beautiful daughters, currently aged 9 and 5.  I spend all the time I can with them, playing, chatting, baking, cycling, drawing, singing, dancing, reading, all the while instilling in them values, manners, the difference between right and wrong, and encouraging them to be the best people they can be.  I am confident that when they go to school, or to ballet, swimming or Brownies, they are polite, respectful, attentive, trustworthy, hard-working and good friends.  I am immensely proud of them.  I have invested a lot of time in this job.  I have every intention of investing a great deal more.

Both my daughters attended a private nursery full time from the age of 6 months.  They were there for about 8.5 hours a day until they started school.  That's a long time.  I often felt guilty about missing their milestones, about other people effectively bringing them up during the week.  The 2.5 hours between picking them up and their going to bed were precious, precious time.

Why did they go to nursery all the time?  Why did I see them so little?  Because I was a full time secondary languages teacher.  My second job.  From 1995, when I was newly-qualified, to 2003, when my eldest daughter was born, I would arrive at school at 7.45am and leave at 5.30pm, trying not to take any work home but not usually succeeding.  When I returned from my first maternity leave I started to arrive at 8am and leave at 4pm.  I chose to leave at 4pm so that I could pick my daughter up at 4.30.  I couldn't have left later than 5pm as the nursery closed at 5.30.  And then I would hardly have seen her.  All the work that I used to do at school was simply taken home.  And after she was in bed at 7pm I would start working, usually until at least 10pm.

These days both my daughters attend wraparound care at their school.  It opens at 8am, so that's when I drop them off.  I then get to school at about 8.25.  They finish 15 minutes before me, so I get to pick them up between 4pm and 4.30.  I can't pick them up after that as I would have to pay for another hour for each of them.  And it's not cheap.  And anyway I want to see them.  My rule is that I don't do school work when they are up, so if I have work to do I start at 7.30pm.

You may be wondering what all this is about.  Why am I boring you with the minutiae of my childcare arrangements and when I do my school work?

Stay on after school if you want pay rise, teachers told was the headline on the front of The Times today.  The head of Ofsted, Sir Michael Wilshaw, has been making more pronouncements about teachers and the job that they do.  Except that this time he has started to talk about their pay.

So what exactly has he said?  I have The Times here by my side.  Allow me to quote:

"As a head I would make it clear that if you teach well or try to teach well, if you work hard and go the extra mile, you are going to get paid well.  You are going to be promoted.  Somebody who is out the gate at 3 o'clock in the afternoon is not.  Isn't that fair?  Am I being unfair?"

"If you are going to go and work in these [poor] areas, there has to be a commitment to working beyond the end of the school day.  That's why I asked those questions about performance management.  It's about recognising those people who do go the extra mile.  They've got to be the role models.  Not the person who says: 'I'm sorry, I've reached the end of my hours, I'm off.'"

"Any important job comes with stress.  Teaching is higher status than ever before.  It's one of the best jobs in our society.  It we've got a leadership group that is moaning all the time and saying how stressful it is...  We've got to set an example, to say, 'Yeah, it's difficult, but, actually, it's a wonderful job.'"

Understandably these comments have enraged the teaching community today.  Why is it that all the most contentious issues are raised at the weekend or during the school holidays?  Do they really think we aren't going to notice?

His inference is that only good teachers stay at school after lessons are finished.  "Working hard" and "going the extra mile" are things that you can only do in the school building.  The teachers who don't make the effort to do a good job leave with the children, and, I expect he thinks, go home, eat chocolate biscuits and watch Countdown.  Two things.  First, if I were to leave at 3pm I would leave halfway through a lesson, as I expect would many teachers.  Second, I have explained why I have to leave when I do, and the fact that I have to leave to collect my children does not mean that I have finished work for the day.  Quite the opposite, most days.  

I do a good job in the classroom (it has been said) so why should it matter where I prepare for it?  If I am stuck at school after lessons being a surrogate parent to the children there, then someone else will have to act as a surrogate parent to my own children somewhere else.  Sir Michael, surely you can see that there is something wrong there?  I think that caring for and making time for my own children makes me a better role model to tell the truth.

I do not agree that teaching is "higher status than ever before".  I think it's a great job, and I wouldn't have stuck it out for 17-and-a-bit years if I didn't.  But many parents still don't hold education and educators in high esteem, and you only have to look at the comments on the BBC's report of this story to get some idea of what the general public think of teachers.  

I think I'd better stop there.  I'm just one teacher and this is my personal response.

Teachers are caught between a rock and a hard place.  You're damned if you do, and you're damned if you don't.  To be perfectly honest, I would much rather be damned by Gove, Wilshaw and their cronies than by my family.

Friday, 21 September 2012

A little language is good for business

It is a common misconception that to be any good at a language you have to be fluent.  But a little language can definitely go a long way, especially in business.  In this guest post, Jane Shuttleworth describes her experiences.

People often think that if you want to do business in a foreign country, you need to be completely fluent in a language, when in fact a basic level of competence and a willingness to have a go will get you a long way, and your language skills can transform the fortunes of even the smallest company, as I’ve recently discovered.

I work for Army Dog Tags UK – we sell personalised army-style dog tags via our website www.armydogtags.co.uk and via Amazon. We’re a very small team, just three of us, but we’ve doubled our sales in the last year because we were able to expand our business into Germany. Selling on the Amazon marketplace made it very easy to test the market first, and it’s been so successful that we’ve now launched a German version of our website.

Now, my German isn’t perfect by any means. I did A-level German 20 years ago, it’s a bit rusty, my verbs probably get in all the wrong places and I have a habit of guessing about gender and case endings. But the important thing is that I’m able to tell a customer when their order will be delivered, or help them out with any queries, and it always gives me a warm glow when they write on the Amazon feedback that they’ve had “good, friendly service”.

The one thing where we knew that we needed outside help was with our actual product literature: webpages, Amazon product descriptions and leaflets need to be perfect, so for that, we called in the experts, and used a translation agency (Ways With Words Ltd). Although I could never have translated the product literature myself, I was at least able to understand the texts, so I was able to upload it all to Amazon, and set up the new German website correctly. I’ve also been able to borrow useful words and phrases from the translator’s text in my own communication with customers.

Being able to use my German adds an extra level of interest and challenge to the day’s work, and I’ve learnt quite a lot of German slang phrases from the messages that people put on their tags. One of the more printable ones that always makes me smile is a play on the line from Top Gun “I feel the need, the need for speed” - Ich spür die Gier, die Gier nach Bier in mir - which is a fine sentiment for a Friday afternoon.

I met Jane Shuttleworth via Twitter after we both attended a Tallis Scholars concert at The Sage Gateshead last Christmas.  Jane has been fascinated by languages since her first trip abroad at the age of 12, when she was delighted to find that people in France could understand her. She studied French and German A-level, and Russian at Durham University. After a career in international sales jobs in various countries, she now divides her time between part-time work for Army Dog Tags Ltd and writing. She is about to publish her first book, a guide to the novels of Dostoevsky.  You can read more of Jane's writing here.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Ecoutez Répétez

Last Sunday morning @Langwitch asked via Twitter if anyone had any ideas for choral repetition that weren't "Repeat if it's true".

I replied with a few suggestions, and @spsmith45 and @bellaale suggested that a blogpost would be useful.  So here it is.

When I did my PGCE in secondary languages in 1994, the communicative method was all the rage and choral repetition was an integral part of it.  The idea was that by repeating the vocabulary the students would absorb almost by osmosis the sound-spelling rules for the language.  Well that didn't work.  They knew lots of words, but the sound-spelling rules were never made explicit and so they didn't transfer the knowledge to new language.  These days, thank goodness, the explicit teaching of phonics is a fundamental part of the process, and students have, therefore, the key with which to unlock the door of pronunciation.

Choral repetition is, however, just as important as before, especially for younger or beginner learners.  It is one of the teacher's roles to give the learners a good model of pronunciation, to give them the opportunity to practise making the sounds and to help them to learn the meanings of the words.  It is unfair to ask an individual to repeat a word by themselves when they have only just met it.  They are likely to be lacking in confidence and (especially with secondary students) embarrassed.  Repeating chorally as a whole class provides them with a safety net - nobody can hear them making mistakes.  

So here are some ideas for choral repetition.

In my classroom the choral repetition is always introduced with "Ecoutez répétez" or "Escuchad y repetid", after which the children know exactly what they will have to do.  Judging the right amount of repetition is an art.  You often need to do more than you would think.  If the children start to say the words with me rather than wait for me to say them first, I know that it is time to start moving on.

Visual stimuli for the repetition:

  • flashcards (my personal preference as they are so versatile)
  • images on a PowerPoint or IWB file
  • use realia
Ideas for varying the repetition:

  • repetition in silly voices  I dabble with the whisper, the squeak, the growl and the robot.
  • repetition high and low  This works especially well with numbers, where you will end up saying the odd numbers in a high voice and the even numbers in a low voice.
  • vary the speed and volume  Saying the word slowly really accentuates its sounds.
  • practise each word with an action  Then you do the actions while the students say the words.
  • music and rhythm  Some things stick better if you give them a little tune ("amarillo" and "plátanos" are good words to sing!) or if you repeat them to a rhythm.
  • chef d'orchestre  One student leaves the room.  When they come back in, the whole class will start repeating the vocabulary.  One student, who you chose when the first student left the room, will give a signal to the rest of the class to tell them that they need to change to the next word or phrase.  The first student needs to work out who is giving the signal.  This is good for words or phrases that are difficult to find actions for and which you need to repeat lots of times to build confidence and embed them in the memory, such as questions.
  • repeat the correct one  Hold up a flashcard and say "¿Es un gato o un perro?" (or appropriate vocabulary!)  The class repeats back the one that is correct.
  • repetition in pairs  Practise the words as a whole class to build confidence.  Then give each pair a list of words or of the stimulus pictures and get them to say the words to each other.  If the speaker makes a mistake then they have to start again.  Up the challenge by timing each other! (Thanks to @pixiejojo for the idea.)
  • Let the students complete the word  You say the first half of the word or phrase and the students complete it.  (Thanks to @trekkiep for the idea.)
  • memorise  Create a grid on the board where you group the vocabulary according to gender, number etc..  It works well with weather in French (il+weather, il fait+weather, il y a+weather) and with things like places in town where you can group them as le, la and l'.  Repeat the words line by line, gradually removing one at a time so that you end up pointing to blank spaces.  (That's something my trusty OHP was particularly useful for.)  You'll then be able to point at a blank space on the board and have them say the right word.  Always looks good, this one, when you're pointing seemingly randomly at a board and a colleague comes in!
At the moment I am doing "Places in Town" with Y5 French and Y6 Spanish.  We have been working this week on sentences such as "A Sunderland il y a une poste et un marché, mais il n'y a pas de poissonnerie."  We repeated the first sentence lots of times, discussed what it all meant and then read it out loud together.  The children were then able to help me to piece together some more sentences using the same structure.  Living writing frames are also good for this.  Write each word or short phrase on a separate card, and make a line of students at the front holding the cards.  Repeat each card to build the sentence.  Continue repeating, gradually turning over one card at a time until you are repeating the sentence from a row of blank cards.  You can then start to change parts of the sentence by swapping certain cards and repeating again with the new word or phrase.

As a postscript, it appears that saying a word lots of times allows students to think of ways of helping them remember which is which.  One of my Y5s now remembers "une boulangerie" by thinking of "blue lingerie". Really.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Spanish Pointless

Here is the Spanish Pointless everyone has been waiting for.  If you would like to know what Pointless is all about, read my previous blogpost or watch it on BBC1 at 5.15pm each weekday!

Pointless SP1 Pointless SP2 Pointless SP3 Pointless SP4 Pointless SP5 Pointless SP6 Pointless SP7 Pointless SP8

Fantastic Facts about Spain

Today and last Friday I made the 305 mile round trip from Washington to my alma mater, the University of Manchester.   I have been working with the Primary PGCE students who have chosen Spanish as their language to improve their language skills, and a particular focus has been building knowledge of intercultural understanding for the non-specialist teacher.  When it came to planning my activities, I had to do some research to get the facts right, and thought I would share my notes here as they are bound to be useful to someone else.


size  - 505,992 km2 - more than twice the size of Great Britain

population - about 47 million

capital - Madrid

major cities - Barcelona, Valencia, Seville, Zaragoza, Malaga

currency - euro since 2002

time difference UK time +1

shares a border with France, Portugal, Andorra.

has the longest coastline in Europe

surrounded by Atlantic, Mediterranean and Bay of Biscay

has 17 autonomous regions

four official languages- Castillian, Basque, Galician, Catalan

is the highest European country after Switzerland

Highest mountain on mainland is Mulhacén in the Sierra Nevada.

train companies - RENFE, Metro, AVE

invaded by Romans in 218BC
inhabited by various tribes, including black haired and dark-eyed Ibers
Visigoths took over from Romans
Then Arabs who drove the Visigoths north
1492 - Moors expelled from Spain, conquest of the New World

Hispania, Latin name, comes from Hispalia, which means land of rabbits

16th century = Golden Age, when Spain most powerful

Civil War 1930s
Dictatorship under General Franco till 1975

paseo - taking a walk in your finest clothes before evening meal
kissing once on each cheek for hello and goodbye, men shake hands
most live in flats not houses
buildings in the south are painted white
windows have heavy shutters to keep out the sun
houses have tiled floors as cooler
shops shut in the afternoon when the sun is hottest

regional characteristics -
Catalan people said to be tight-fisted
Catalans think that people from Madrid are stuffy and old-fashioned
Spaniards think that Galicians are indecisive

arts -
flamenco dance and music
sevillanas (easier flamenco)

school -
primary start at 9
nursery school starts age 3
long lunch break
no uniform in state schools
no half terms
long summer holidays - all of July and August and some of June too

famous buildings -
Sagrada Familia in Barcelona
Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao
La Giralda in Seville
Alhambra in Granada
the Escorial in Madrid
Casas Colgadas in Cuenca
windmills in Consuegra

sights -
prehistoric remains in La Rioja
Santiago de Compostela

Spaghetti Westerns were filmed in the desert-like town of Tabernas in the 1960s and 1970s

crops -

Spanish firsts -
the Auto gyro
the submarine
card games

famous Spaniards -
Christopher Columbus and other conquistadores
Pablo Picasso
Salvador Dalí
Miguel de Cervantes
Federico García Lorca
Joaquín Cortés (current flamenco dancer)
Penélope Cruz
Antonio Banderas
Pedro Almodóvar
Antonio Gaudí
Placido Domingo
José Carreras

food -
in a bar you have to drop your serviette and toothpicks on the floor
breakfast - cola-cao and madalenas for children
almuerzo - small sandwich, coffee
lunch - about 2pm, work and school stop and people go home or to a restaurant
merienda - about 5pm, a snack
dinner - between 10 and 11pm. lighter meal than lunch
tapas traditionally before dinner with friends

foods -
empanadas / empanadillas
patatas bravas
crema catalana

fiestas -
Año Nuevo
Semana Santa
Las Fallas Valencia 19 March
San Fermín Pamplona 7 July
San Isidro Madrid 15 May
Tomatina in Buñol last Weds in August
Castellers Catalonia last week of Sept 1st week of Oct

sport -
traditional sport pelota, Jai Alai in Basque

lottery -
going since 1763
2 lotteries - state-run and ONCE one
Christmas lottery payout El Gordo 22 Dec

Chupa Chups wrapper designed by Dalí

tooth mouse not tooth fairy - Ratoncito Pérez

I asked on Twitter if anyone had any favourite facts about Spain or Spanish-speaking countries.  Here are the responses:

  • have you seen this on wpedia? bit.ly/NcL4eX Percentage of population of USA who speak Spanish "at home"

  • if you want to sell you car in Buenos Aires, you put a bottle of water on top of it #fabulousfact

  • Costa Rica does not have an army

  • Spain is the most mountainous country in Europe (greatest total percentage over a certain height)