Monday, 11 February 2013


When I go to a conference, I want to learn things that I didn't know before, I want to be given a new spin on familiar things, and, principally, I want to be inspired with lots of ideas that I can go away and use the very next day in my lessons.  Since that is what I want from a conference, it's what I always strive to give any delegates who choose to come to one of my sessions when I am fortunate enough to be invited to speak.

I feel immensely privileged to have been asked to speak at this year's - the third - ICT and Languages Conference (#ililc3) in Southampton.  I had already attended (and spoken at!) the previous two and knew that it would be well worth my attending.  I always learn something new at the ICT and Languages Conference.  It's so difficult to choose which workshops to go to, but ultimately you don't lose out as so many people are so willing to share their notes from other workshops.  This year has been no exception.  Take a look at the hashtag #ililc3 on Twitter and you'll see what I mean.

I have already blogged about my two sessions and my Show and Tell contribution, and now that I have finished my planning for this week am starting to go back through my notes and my (copious) tweets to get the New Things that I have learned into some kind of order.

I have already written about how keen I am on sharing resources and ideas (in this blogpost and of course that's what this blog is all about), but one person can only do so much, so it's great to get something back from time to time.

Good quotations:

“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery - celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from - it’s where you take them to.”
Jim Jarmusch

Thanks, Joe, for that one.  It may seem like I have a lot of new and revolutionary ideas but I have always borrowed the initial inspiration from someone or somewhere else.

"Be the guide on the side, not the sage on the stage."
John Connor

"Are we core or are we fluff?"
"We are hardcore literacy-delivering machines!"
Too right, Isabelle Jones!

Useful weblinks:

Checkthis for making digital posters

Mathématiques Magiques for French and maths

Chez Merlin for maths, French, histoire-géo and knowledge of the world

Passeport pour la francophonie for teaching French through intercultural understanding

Socrative for an online student response system which I used for the first time at #ililc3

Escalator failure for... well you'll understand when you watch the video!

Fresher Schools Random Name Selector for selecting random names.  Or change the PowerPoint slides and keep the animations and transitions for a plenary selector, verb selector....

Essential Guide to Kagan Structures for ideas to promote speaking

La canción de los animales for an annoyingly catchy song, with links to other catchy songs.

Tips and ideas:

Create a playlist on YouTube to save all those useful videos that you find!

Share resources!

Use Lego or Duplo for making 3D bar graphs (thanks John!)

Instead of labelling, for example, a picture of the human body on a worksheet,  stick Post-its on a real object like a blow-up alien.  The labels can then be re-used.

Use different coloured multilink or Lego for sentence structure.  If you have colourblind students you could use card shapes instead.

Use different coloured card "feet" on the floor to walk students through a sentence.

To practise phonics, identify the phonemes in a given word, then use a dictionary or glossary, or even the vocab list at the back of the book, to find words with the same phonemes.

Try a rhyming dictionary to write a nonsense poem.  I recommend setting "Number of rhyming letters" to 3, or it will look like there are no rhymes for your word.  I knocked up the following in a couple of minutes:
Una vaca y una alpaca,
Un pájaro bárbaro y
Una rata van
A la cabalgata.
A little poem for practising the "a" sound.

Enhancing target language use in the classroom:
Some top ideas and advice from Samantha Lunn
Speaking is something I am trying to improve on and so these ideas are very welcome.

Express objectives in the target language using, for example, nous allons + infinitive, and display with letters missing for students to read out.  Then provide the oui or non so that they know what they will be doing.

Give learners some "Get out of jail free cards" when they are beginners.  Make sure that they are able to ask how to say something in English or to go to the toilet.

Make one student the translator for the lesson.  The translator can, for example, translate what the class has to do for homework.

Make speaking the language fun by having forfeits for those who lapse into English.

When introducing new vocabulary, introduce small chunks at a time which are followed by short pair games to recap and drill the language.  These pair games can include mime and guess, draw in the air and guess, mumble and guess, draw on their back and guess or mime superfast or superslow.  Show a picture first and give three options for how to say it.  A bit of thinking and language learning skills involved here.

Use mime to emphasise repeated language and core structures.  This blogpost by Sam is very useful for mimes.

Above all, the teacher must be strict in their own target language use, so that the students stick with it too!

Language games

Maths Karate was demonstrated by Jo Rhys-Jones.  It's great fun and definitely one that I will be adding to my numeracy repertoire.  Children love to do the French/Spanish Vowel Haka and so this will be right up their streets!

I think that's it!

Other blogs about #ililc3 that I recommend:

Samantha Lunn's Languages Resources blog

My Languages from Isabelle Jones

My sister @elvisrunner's blog

Helena Butterfield's Langwitch Chronicles

Vámonos from Lisa Stevens

I expect I will be able to add more links over the next few days.

Blankety Blank!

The #ililc3 Show and Tell was another fantastic occasion with many and varied items for our learning and entertainment.

My love of BBC1's Pointless has been well-documented, and so it seemed only right and proper that my contribution should have a game-show theme - a short game of Blankety Blank.  If you are unfamiliar with Blankety Blank and its work, or need a refresher of the rules, here's how to play:

Main game
  • 6 panellists, 2 players
  • Show Player 1's question.  Panellists write their answer on their mini-whiteboard.
  • Player 1 says their answer. 
  • Ask each panellist to show their answer, and the player wins one point for each match.
  • Repeat for second player.  The player with the most points goes on to Supermatch.

  • Show the word.  
  • The player chooses three panellists to give an answer, then chooses their answer from those three, or may choose to go with their own answer.
  • Reveal audience answers to see how much they win.
If you would like to have a go yourself, you can download the PowerPoints that I used at the Show and Tell here and here.  Enjoy reading the questions that we didn't use, but I would recommend that you change them before unleashing them on a class!  If you click on the action button on the "Premier Jeu" screen, it will take you to the questions which will scroll through very quickly.  To stop them and therefore pick a question at random, just press S.  Press S to start the scrolling again.  To return to the Supermatch, click on the small action button at the bottom of the question screen.

Strictly speaking, a game of Blankety Blank will only use 8 people, so you may think it would not be suitable for a whole class.  But if you slightly change the rules it would be easy to get all the class involved.  Give each student or pair of students a mini-whiteboard and get all of them to write an answer for each question.  Then use a random name selector such as your Mug of Misery™ to select the six who are going to provide their answer for the contestant.  And of course there are plenty of topic areas that you can use for the questions.


Sunday, 10 February 2013

It all adds up to MFL

Here is my maths and MFL presentation from the ICT and Languages Conference in Southampton, with embedded audio for your listening pleasure.  All the resources I referred to are available on MFL Sunderland.

Shape up with Tarsia

At the ICT and Languages Conference in Southampton this weekend I have presented a workshop on using Tarsia to make shape puzzles for use in the languages classroom.  You can read my previous posts about Tarsia here and here.

The PowerPoint that I used in Southampton would not be much use for telling you more about how to use Tarsia, so I have recorded a short video showing you the basics:

Unable to display content. Adobe Flash is required.  

You can also download my Tarsia guide and my brand new Ideas for using Tarsia sheet. 

Here are the links to the animal puzzle that I made in the video:

French animal square puzzle
French animal puzzle table
French animal puzzle solution

You can also try out the countries and languages puzzle that people tried out on the day - it would be great for European Day of Languages:

Countries and languages hexagon puzzle 
Countries and languages table 
Countries and languages solution
Countries and languages puzzle shrunk (smaller pieces)

Some people have been asking if there is an easy way to cut out Tarsia puzzles.  Well unfortunately there isn't, but one way to lessen the load is to give the printed out puzzles to the students to cut out and then assemble.  I always wait until there is something good on TV before I cut out Tarsias, and it makes the time pass more quickly!  I also number each set so that when (not if) I find a puzzle piece on the floor I know which set it came from.  Some people were also asking where I got the grip-seal bags that I store the puzzles in - they are these ones.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

All systems go for 2014

You could have knocked me down with a feather when the consultation on the new National Curriculum was launched today.  I really was expecting it on a Sunday in half term, as that is the DfE's usual way.  The cynical among us would say that Mr Gove had an ulterior motive for making sure it was released today.....

Anyway.  The main bit of news is that this latest document confirms that the teaching of a language will be statutory throughout Key Stage 2 from September 2014.  By "a language", the DfE means French, German, Italian, Spanish, Mandarin, Latin or Ancient Greek.  This matter of the choice of language was the subject of the last consultation, the results of which are also reported today.  

This consultation had 601 responses, of whom only a third agreed that children should be taught one of the above list of seven languages.  The majority of respondents, therefore, were not in favour of teaching one of a set list of languages.  They argued that we cannot predict what will be the important languages of the future, and that there are other, culturally significant languages that should also be taught.  The Government has decided to proceed with the Order making languages a compulsory subject in Key Stage 2, but has decided "on balance", and despite the responses to the consultation, to keep the list of 5 modern and 2 ancient languages.  The rationale is:
"The proposed list provides a sound basis for primary and secondary schools to work together in clusters on languages provision and effective transition between the key stages. The list is therefore an important building block for introducing languages successfully in the primary phase."

In addition: "We are working with a range of stakeholders, including publishers, educational suppliers, teaching schools and subject associations, to make sure that high-quality support and adaptable models of Key Stage 2 foreign language teaching become available for schools."

The draft National Curriculum Programmes of Study can be accessed here.

First, a look at the overview of the subjects that will be offered:

The thing I noticed about this overview straightaway was that the only two subjects which will be compulsory in only two Key Stages will be MFL and Citizenship.  

About Key Stage 2 languages specifically, the bold highlights are mine:

"Teaching should focus on enabling pupils to make substantial progress in one of the following languages: French, German, Italian, Mandarin, Spanish, Latin or Ancient Greek. The teaching should provide an appropriate balance of spoken and written language and should lay the foundations for further foreign language teaching at Key Stage 3. It should enable pupils to understand and communicate ideas, facts and feelings in speech and 
writing, focused on familiar and routine matters, using their knowledge of phonology, grammatical structures and vocabulary."  

It is acknowledged that the ancient languages will have a different emphasis, but that they can contain some oral components.

Pupils should be taught to:

  • listen attentively to spoken language and show understanding by joining in and 
  • explore the patterns and sounds of language through songs and rhymes and link the spelling, sound and meaning of words
    Songs and rhymes have long been one of the main features of primary languages, and their inclusion here comes as no surprise as it was mentioned in previous government press releases.

  • engage in conversations; ask and answer questions; express opinions and 
    respond to those of others; seek clarification and help*
  • speak in sentences, using familiar vocabulary, phrases and basic language structures
    One of the difficulties with primary languages thus far has been that teachers, especially those non-specialists, have tended to concentrate on lists of vocabulary and short phrases rather than building up to longer utterances and sentences.  This is one of the reasons that training and upskilling for teachers is crucial if this is to work.
  • develop accurate pronunciation and intonation so that others understand when they are reading aloud or using familiar words and phrases*
    The study of phonics have been an integral and successful part of primary languages.  Again more training will be needed.
  • present ideas and information orally to a range of audiences*
  • read carefully and show understanding of words, phrases and simple writing
  • appreciate stories, songs, poems and rhymes in the language
  • broaden their vocabulary and develop their ability to understand new words that are introduced into familiar written material, including through using a dictionary
    Children studying a Romance language would find selective study of Latin, and - in the case of Spanish - Arabic, to be extremely useful in understanding new words in the foreign language and, of course, in seeing links with their own mother tongue.  There is a very strong argument for its inclusion for building language awareness and links with literacy.
  • write phrases from memory, and adapt these to create new sentences, to express 
    ideas clearly

  • describe people, places, things and actions orally* and in writing
  • understand basic grammar appropriate to the language being studied, such as 
    (where relevant): feminine, masculine and neuter forms and the conjugation of 
    high-frequency verbs; key features and patterns of the language; how to apply 
    these, for instance, to build sentences; and how these differ from or are similar to 

    Yet again, this is where the non-specialist teachers will need considerable input and training.
One of the successes of primary languages, due in large part to the KS2 Framework for Languages, has been Intercultural Understanding.  MFL appears to have been the only subject where this has been made explicit.  Yet there is no mention of Intercultural Understanding in this Programme of Study.  Having had, just this week, Year 5 poring over a book about Chile and Easter Island, and Year 4 learning a song from Mexico, I for one will be raising this in my response to this latest consultation, which closes on April 16th.

September 2014 is only a school year and a half away.  For some schools, MFL business will be then pretty much as it is now.  Others, though, have a very long way to go in a very short time.  There is not much time for major stakeholders - primary schools, secondary schools and what is left of the local authorities - to meet together and thrash out how it is going to work for them.  It is still my opinion that Year 6 to Year 7 transition will make or break this move to compulsion for Key Stage 2.

I am determined that compulsory languages in Key Stage 2 should succeed.  I have invested too much of my career in it and enjoyed too many lessons in it with the children to see it fail now.  Who's with me?