Sunday, 2 June 2013


Yesterday was the latest MFL Show and Tell in York, affectionately and hashtaggingly known as #MFLSATY.  I have blogged about previous #MFLSATs (Oldham, Nottingham and Cramlington), all of which were excellent and from which I and scores of other language teachers came away buzzing with new ideas enthusiasm.  York did not disappoint.

I have already blogged my presentation about Trash or Treasure, and here are some other golden nuggets from the day. 

Marie O'Sullivan talked to us about using songs in the classroom, and we had a go at telling the time in German to the EastEnders theme tune.  Marie recommended the Lyrics Gap website, which has songs with ready-made gap fill exercises and the opportunity to create your own activities in the Teacher Area.  For German she showed us AlexTV, where familiar songs in English are given the German treatment.

David McDermott spoke about learning mats.  Learning mats are a portable learning device (!) and having them avoids having to change wall displays too often.  David likened a learning mat to the picture on the lid of a jigsaw box, which shows you the completed picture for reference.

One of David's examples that I particularly liked was an A3 laminated sheet where half was blank for writing and the other half contained the objectives and success criteria.

Learning mats can also contain useful words for responding in speaking activities à la Group Talk.  The subject for discussion can then be stuck in the middle of the mat on a Post-It.

Isabelle Jones gave us some ideas for making revision more interesting and effective.  She suggested revisiting core language, false friends, suffixes and prefixes, singing songs which illustrate specific linguistical points and exploring jokes in the target language.  You can see all this and more on Isabelle's blogpost about the event.

Mary Cooch showed us a Google Street View webquest which she has embedded in Moodle and which was inspired by the work of Vincent Everett.  Students look at the Street View of a village in France and have to find people and landmarks in order to collect clues to solve a mystery.

Compiling an activity like this must take a huge amount of work, and we are very lucky that it is available for us to use.  If you have to try the Moodle version it's here, while Vincent's original version is here

Amanda Salt recommended the videos El Caso de Lorenzo and El Viaje de María, as well as the app Decide Now, which, sadly, isn't available for Android.

Claire Hampson had us singing songs about French verb endings à la Abba.  Claire likens understanding and using verbs correctly to a packet of seeds.  You can't just put a packet of seeds in the ground and expect them to grow, just as you can't pluck a verb from the dictionary and put it in your sentence and expect it to be OK.  Seeds, like verbs, needs to be unpacked and changed and nurtured before they will grow properly.  Claire showed us a picture of some verb flowers that her students made. Each had 6 petals, one for each person of the verb.  I really like this idea for a display for Primary, and will incorporate it into my Y6 Spanish scheme for next year.

Claire uses Ameritz for backing tracks.  She also records her students singing, uploads it to the school blog and then sticks a QR code into the students' books so that they can listen and share their work at home.

Alicia Hamilton told us how to Make Learning Visible, using a Tarsia discussion wheel as her starting point.

At the beginning of the lesson, students draw an arrow on the desk, with the lesson start time at one end and the finishing time at the other end.  They are given 24 lexical items on a vocab sheet and have to highlight what they already know.  Then they plot this point on their arrow along with how many of the words they know, and set themselves a target for the end.

In groups they put the discussion wheel together.  Then they refer back to their vocab sheet and highlight what they know now.  The groups can then play games together with the discussion wheel cards to practise the new language.  They can play dominoes, follow-me, one student removes a card from the wheel and others have to spot which one it is, teacher calls out an English word and the one who can say the TL word wins that card.  At the end of each activity students refer back to their vocab sheet for more highlighting.

After that the students practise the vocabulary by identifying it in a text, using it in sentences or writing a paragraph using a certain number of the items.  An important part of the lesson is the learning conversation at the end: What did you learn?  How did you learn it?  What helped you?  What would you do next time?  Who taught you this language?  It hands a lot of the learning over to the students.

There wasn't time in the end for the Tarsia genius bar, but everything you need to know is here.

Hope you find something that inspires you amongst this!  I could also mention, Group Talk Poker, Kirikou et la Sorcière, using Google Forms to make interactive quizzes, poo in Catalonia and more!

Trash or Treasure?

Here is my presentation from the MFL Show and Tell in York yesterday:

Trash or Treasure from Clare Seccombe

We're familiar now with Thinking Skills classification activities (examples here) where students are given a list of words or phrases which they then have to sort into categories.  They decide what the categories are going to be and what the category "headings" are.

Sometimes we choose to guide the sorting by giving students a Venn diagram into which to sort the words or phrases.  These have the added dimension of obliging students to think about the intersections.

Trash or Treasure originated in the National Literacy Strategy, and is used in EYFS and KS1 for Phonics and things like identifying sight words and nonsense words.  It's a quicker, pacier activity than classifying, enabling you to do many quick sorts rather than one big one.  Students are given a selection of words or phrases from which they find one category.  All the words from this category go in the Treasure, everything else is Trash.  Each subsequent sort will be quicker as the students become more familiar with the group of words that they have in front of them.  It's good to have words on the list which can go into more than one category.  An example of one I do, about Spanish dates, is here, and you can also download the "¿Tesoro o basura?" sheet from here.  

This activity can also be used to aid comprehension, by sorting relevant from irrelevant information, or for reading for information which answers a specific question.  It could be used to assess how well a piece of speaking or writing answers the question.

For kinesthetic learners or for a carousel activity, try filling a bin with scrumpled-up pieces of paper on which you have written the words or phrases for the sort.  Students unscrumple them and then write the words into the correct section of a Trash or Treasure sheet.  They can then be rescrumpled and put back in the bin for the next people.

The saying goes that "One man's trash is another man's treasure".  Can you think of a way of planning a Trash or Treasure activity so that students will each make a different sort, and will have to explain to a partner why they have sorted them in that way?