Saturday 26 September 2020

"Music, Rhythm and Grammar-Supporting Recall", TM Modern Foreign Languages Icons event, Saturday 26 September 2020


I had a great time at the TM Modern Foreign Languages event this morning. There certainly was a great variety of topics and presenters and now I am truly buzzing with new ideas...

Please find a link here to my presentation on " Music, Rhythm and Grammar-Supporting Recall" :

Really looking forward to try in my classroom all the new ideas that were shared!

Sunday 30 August 2020

Music and Technology: Making Language Learning Memorable, a TiLT Webinar-Thursday 29 August 2020

I have always been a strong advocate for using music in the Languages classroom and was delighted to be offered to present a TiLT Webinar for ALL London on this topic.

I have been a member of ALL, the Association for Language Learning for as long as I can remember and their programme of free Webinars to support language teachers during the pandemic has simply been amazing. Co-hosted by ALL London chair Helen Myers and ICT expert Joe Dale, there are now more 50 TiLT Webinars that can be accessed through the ALL London website and Joe's YouTube channel.

In my webinar, I shared a range of tools and ideas for integrating music in activities in and outside the classroom. We looked at streaming platforms like Spotify, recording tools and apps as well as sites to source free beats and loops to support pupils' creativity and memorisation of language.

I also presented tools to use melody, rhythm and song lyrics to enhance pupils' enjoyment, motivation and support their recall of key language structures.

I showed different resources to develop teachers' knowledge in order to link music and song lyrics to the culture of the Target-Language countries.

Last but not least, I shared how specific websites, apps and social media can support teachers in discovering new artists and tracks from a range of Target-Language countries.

My slides can be downloaded from here

A copy of the chat discussion and the recording of the webinar  is available from ALL London website and Joe Dale's YouTube channel

The following collaborative Wakelets were started in the session:

Do join in and share your favourite songs to teach languages....

Tuesday 28 July 2020

Twitter Summer Foreign Language Bookclub !

It all started on Twitter… After Jane Basnett, @basnettj asked her Twitter network for suggestions to create a list of French books for French teachers to enjoy over the summer.

After posting the link to her list, I agreed to add a page for Spanish books and Sonja Fedrizzi, @FedrizziSonja  offered to make a page for German books

You can download the list by clicking here 

In addition to the various recommendations I was given by many Spanish teacher colleagues, I was also told about other exciting opportunities to practise the language, such as …

The Tomo y Lomo podcast in Spanish about famous contemporary writers

La escóbula de la brújula, cultural podcast in Spanish also featuring contemporary literature

I also found out about the MFL virtual book club run on Facebook by @katelanguages 

Do join the foreign language book conversation on Twitter and Facebook and feel free to leave a comment to recommend a book from the list… Enjoy and Thank you Merci Gracias!

Friday 10 July 2020

Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) and Modern Languages Options: What is it and What is the point?

The EPQ is not a new qualification but discussing it with Nick Brown, Head of Languages at Lincoln Castle Academy, I started to understand its real potential to promote languages…

I first came across the EPQ at my previous school. Like in many schools, it was used as a way to enrich the curriculum in the VI Form. As such, it is a way to get learners to get a Level 3 qualification as well as develop their research skills and engage with content that is within and beyond the curriculum.

Full details about the qualification can be found here and the Future Ready website but the main feature of the qualification is that, following their own in-depth study, students are asked to produce a project with ONE of the following outcomes:

  •         A dissertation
  •         An investigation or a field study
  •        A performance
  •        An artefact

The work submitted for assessment must be produced in English but-and this is VERY important for language teachers-the research and supporting notes can be in ANY language, which would naturally occur by listening, speaking, reading and note-taking in the language.

If the project is used to complement A Level teaching and learning, the topics can be inspired by some of the A Level work, provided it does not replicate their Independent Research Project (IRP).

The project can also allow students to explore their cultural heritage or the cultural heritage of other people in the community as well as offer them an opportunity to pursue an interest outside of the curriculum. This could be of particular interest for EAL students, as a way to celebrate their cultural heritage, enhance their literacy in English as well as gain a recognised Level 3 qualification. 

Examples of projects for MFL could include:

Has French cinema been a major influence on the world stage? (dissertation-extension from A Level film study)

Is Colombian Spanish a better dialect than other forms? (dissertation)

What trends can be seen in the use of slang words by modern day German teenagers? (investigation/field study)

Interpretation/Performance of a play

Short film in the style of a specific director (artefact)

Self-published book of new translations of poems (artefact)

If you would like to register your interest in the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) or find out more information about MFL-focused titles, click here.  

And there is more…. 

The EPQ is also available for KS4 pupils as a Higher Project Qualification (HPQ, Level 2 qualification) and a Foundation Project Qualification (FPQ, Level 1 qualification). Like the EPQ these qualifications aim to develop learner’s transferable skills and preparing them to the world of work by making them more organised and independent.  More details here

Wednesday 8 July 2020

Ofqual Consultation: Suggested Changes for the Assessment of A Levels and GCSEs in Modern Foreign Languages in 2021

Ofqual is currently conducting a very important consultation including proposals tomodify the assessment requirements for some GCSEs, AS and A levels in response to disruption to education caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

In the face of “lost” teaching time during lockdown, the proposals aim to free up teaching time and, in some instances, reduce what needs to be taught and take account of any public health restrictions relating to coronavirus (COVID19) that might be in place during the next academic year.

A “recovery” curriculum?

There have been lots of discussions about how current Year 10 and Year 12 pupils have been affected by the pandemic in the preparation for next year’s exams as they have had limited access to face-to-face teaching since the end of March. In particular, the debate has been around the need of a possible “recovery” curriculum or at the very least a “responsive” curriculum to deal with the knowledge gaps that may have developed and that could hinder students’ further progress. This has highlighted the differences between school settings and the pressure on some schools to narrow the curriculum for some pupils to ensure standards in Maths and English were not put at risk.

Consultation about assessment NOT Curriculum review

What this consultation is not, is some kind of a statement about the importance of subjects and their respective content and skills. However, you would be forgiven for believing this was the case, reading some of the online debates it has created.

Suggestions for Languages A Level and GCSE 2021 exams

Whereas no modifications have been put forward for A Level, the proposals for Modern Languages GCSEs are quite controversial : the Speaking examination would be replaced by a teacher “endorsement” for Speaking but it would not actually count in the exam, with the overall grade only taking Listening, Reading and Writing into account.

Although there is no denying that cancelling speaking exams would result in gained teaching time, this proposal also causes a number of issues:

Students do usually well in speaking even though it can be stressful for some ;

There would be a noticeable imbalance in the overall grade between the productive and receptive skills ;

Although speaking would still be taught, it may lose its priority in the face of further time constraints and the pressure of imposed subject targets ;

The class focus moving away from speaking would particularly affect pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds who may not have opportunities for further practice ;

The decision would most likely impact on A Level recruitment for 2021-22 as the perceived success in speaking the language is key for motivation and enjoyment. However, given that the basis for the decision to carry on with languages for many students is still “success” measured by exam outcomes, ensuring a fair exam and best outcomes might be just as important for A Level recruitment ;

There is also a worry that dropping the speaking exam could have a negative impact on attitudes towards speaking and languages in general in the future.

So, what is the way forward?

Look at the coverage of topics? The teaching of the Social Issues topic is usually kept at the end of the course and maybe could be scrapped to make up for lost curriculum time during the pandemic.

Go the “Welsh way”? Keep the assessment standards in all 4 skills and at the same level but make amendments such as streamlining the coverage of some of the topics or skills assessed. For instance, no translation in the reading paper or no Role-Play and Photocard in the speaking exam. I would still be against using dictionaries in any of the exams as I feel this could be very distracting for students.

We will all agree that students must not have their qualification devalued and it is important that the standards remain the same even if some aspects of the assessment are simplified. For this reason, I believe that the overall standard of GCSEs in modern languages cannot be maintained without any speaking being counted at all in the overall mark.  

Want to share your own views? Have your say and respond to the consultation before 16July at 11.45pm

Now is the time to join ALL, the Association for Language Learning, our subject association, to make sure our voice is heard.  

ALL is also organising a consultation webinar on Friday 10 July for all language teachers. To register, please click here.

Friday 3 July 2020

Lessons from Lockdown

Lockdown is continuing to be very hectic and intense for teachers. I have asked my online teacher network about what lockdown has meant for them and this is what I was told…

Lockdown has highlighted the importance of students’ intrinsic motivation and home support and the large impact they have on students’ achievements. It has also shown that teaching needs to facilitate independence. For instance, some of the quietest students have been seen to produce amazing work that they would never have produced in class for fear of drawing attention to themselves.

However, lockdown has also sparked creativity in many teachers, parents and pupils and in some case made parents realise what teaching really is about.

It has also created many opportunities for teachers to upskill, learn about blended learning, online learning and reflect on our practice.

Pedagogy and new tools-A few pointers

Focusing on fewer aspects of the language and guiding students’ practice to ensure complete mastery and success has come out as the biggest priority

Acknowledging the need for more repetition, practice and pace when learning vocabulary.

Understanding what it looks like from a learner’s perspective, keeping things simple and along a linear organisation allowing the teacher to reduce undue technical difficulties for pupils.

Developing a principled approach like the one adopted by @BarriMoc : retrieval, short video presentation, practice tasks (dictation, translation, gap-fill based on the content), reading task and a writing or speaking task using Flipgrid . Everything is then put in one document with any resources hyperlinked to avoid needing to open and flick between multiple tabs including Textivate  or Quizziz .

Exploring the use of Bitmojis and sharing on the Bitmoji Craze for Educator FaceBook group 

Taking time to test new tools, like 

Turning a book-based IGCSE SoW into a skill-driven one so that learning objectives and assessment align

Twitter conversations

Lockdown and teaching remotely have highlighted …

The importance of high impact, low stakes testing for informing planning as well as improving student retrieval and retention.

That the children love to be able to “pause” the teacher on Loom  so pace of explanations during direct instruction may need to be adapted.

That learners benefit from creating sentences and actively applying vocab and grammar rules along with their own creativity. This gives all they/we are doing a sense of value, purpose and meaning. It creates a bond and link of learning trust between us even though we are remote.

That in online lessons, it is a good idea to include table of language chunks that pupils can use as a writing scaffold. Pupils can add in suggestions too. Extension vocabulary and structures need to be labelled explicitly. A simple example of an activity is to get pupils to read out their Target Language phrase. Teacher highlights (on zoom) . Another pupil translates. Creative follow-up is then offered for further practice.

That your instructions are never clear enough! It has confirmed more than ever the importance of quality instruction, explanations, and modelling with a lot of comprehensible input and chunks instead of single words. Voice record pro  is great for making own listening.

Finally, the CPD…

There have been so many opportunities for all teachers and especially language teachers to upskill themselves to deliver effective language lessons remotely. I have collated many of them in a Wakelet here, with the most prolific sources of CPD being ALL, the Association for Language Learning , Linguascope, Joe Dale’s MFL Twitterati group (#mfltwitterati on Twitter) and the Global Innovative Language TeacherFacebook group  created by Gianfranco Conti  and Dylan Viñales.

Time to join the conversation!