Thursday, 22 October 2015

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Motivating Tools for Reading and Writing in the EAL and MFL Classroom, Practical Pedagogies, International School of Toulouse, 16th October 2015

I had a fantastic time at  #pracped15, the Practical Pedagogies conference organised by @russeltarr at the International School of Toulouse. It was great to meet new people and finally meet people I have interacted with online for a very long time. Last but not least, it was fabulous to learn so much from them in such a great location-but I would say that, wouldn't I? ;)

Here are the slides I used for my session:


Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Practical Pedagogies Conference, International School of Toulouse (IST), 15-16th October 2015

I am very excited to be joining the 60+ teachers from all subject areas who will be presenting at the Practical Pedagogies conference organised by @russeltarr at The International School of Toulouse next October.

What is the Practical Pedagogies Conference?
-A high-impact training conference for teachers, from NQT to senior teachers, run by and for primary and secondary school teachers ;
-A not-for-profit event hosted at the International School of Toulouse, October ;
-Workshops and networking activities around the theme: "Creativity, Internationalism and Innovation in the classroom" ;
-Two days of inspiring keynotes, 70+ workshops and networking activities delivered by experienced primary and secondary teachers ; 15-16th October 2015-that's just before half term for some of us in the UK.

How much does it cost?€150 : This price includes a delegate pack, lunches and refreshments, and access to all the workshops, keynotes and other events on offer.

How to find out more / register your placeFull details about the conference, including how to register and the full workshop programme, can be found on the Practical Pedagogies Website. Other queries can be sent here.

The Venue
The conference will take place at the International School of Toulouse, a co-educational day school for children aged 3 to 18, situated in the South of France close to Toulouse Blagnac Airport [directions/map].
My workshop
Pinterest and Twitter? Motivating tools to develop reading and writing skills in EAL and MFL
Explore the potential of tools such as Pinterest and Twitter to motivate all pupils to develop reading and writing skills in EAL and MFL. Increase your pupils' independence as language learners and understanding of linguistic structures. Support the development of all your pupils' language skills and their linguistic creativity.
Led by Isabelle Jones (@icpjones), languages consultant and Head of Languages in Cheshire, England. 

Other MFL workshops include
Collaborative learning strategies for the effective teaching of mixed ability classes in MFL
This workshop will present collaborative learning strategies in MFL which engage whole classes to talk / write simultaneously therefore maximising class time. Delegates will go way with a much deeper understanding of the benefits of collaborative learning and will have a bank of ready-made resources (F/G/Sp) to use immediately on their return to school.
Led by Suzi Bewell (@suzibewell), Course Leader for MFL PGCE University of York
Using Quizlet to create interactive resourcesThis workshop is designed to help mainly modern languages teachers who want to teach students easy ways to revise grammar rules, verb conjugation and new vocabulary with Quizlet. This US software allows students to be more independent leaners and give them an opportunity to be more responsible for their own learning.
Led by J. Cavalli, Curriculum Leader for French at IST
Using Kahoot! to engage students in knowledge acquisitionKahoot! is a free tool to assess your students' knowledge (from FS2 to Y13 and beyond - you can even use it at home to test friends and family!) in any subjects, on any topics, in a fun, interactive and competitive way. Kahoot! just turns your classroom into a game show (with a very catchy musical theme). In this session, you will get to : play a Kahoot game (to see what it is like) and maybe win a Kahoot! Prize / see examples of what can be assessed through Kahoot! in different subjects in both Primary and Secondary / create your own Kahoot short quiz. Led by A. Braud, Modern Foreign Languages Teacher at IST
Using the “Accelerated Integrated Method”  to teach French as a foreign languageOriginally from Canada, this way of teaching has been very successful in various countries, with the help of gestures for each word, the use of the mother tongue is limited to an extreme minimum. The children learn French through stories told in gestures. After the workshop participants should have a good idea about what this didactic approach is, and be able to 'tell in gestures' some of the content of stories. Led by Dico Krommenhoek (@dico_kr), French teacher and teacher educator in Rotterdam
Using technology in the Primary Foreign Language classroomWhy and how can we use technology to enhance learning in the primary language classroom? Ideas for teachers and learners, beginners and those with more experience; some online, some apps but mostly free :) Covering 'the four skills' - listening speaking reading and writing as well as phonics and grammar, we'll consider how technology can help with assessment as well as managing transition, and how it can open windows and doors for you and your learners. Led by Lisa Stevens (@lisibo), Primary Languages and International Coordinator, Whitehouse Common Primary and Welford Primary, Birmingham
Boosting language acquisition for lower and upper primary through a FUN Reading Program. Developing comprehension and expression for upper primary (intermediate levels) through a Reading Program.
Led by P. Burgaud and J. Allcock, Primary Years Teachers at IST
The conference has its own Twitter Practical Pedagogies feed. We will be using the hashtag #pracped15 to allow delegates to share the ideas and resources they are being presented with and discuss the conference outcomes.
Would love to see you there!

Monday, 10 August 2015

Review: Think Bilingual-The First Language Immersion App?

Interact and Immerse, an iPad application development company that specializes in immersive language learning for children and adults, announced recently the launch of its new game, Think Bilingual! The game is now available for iTunes download and it is currently free for early users and educators. The current version includes Spanish, French and English.
Think Bilingual! Is like in an adventure game, where the user is challenged to navigate through different situations. In the storyline, the user helps a family of Aliens make their way on earth: cooking in the kitchen, driving a car, cleaning the house and even babysitting. In each situation, the user plays the game by listening to the target language. For instance, to learn directions, you drive a car in the game, with the aim to encourage learners to think in the target language rather than just translate it.
As the app aims to provide immersion rather than translation, I was particularly interested in finding out how productive skills could be developed using it.
Chris Loux, Interact and Immerse co-founder, provided me with more details about how the app can boost this crucial element of language learning.
Writing: “This is something that we have thought a lot about and have specific goals in trying to avoid writing and try to lead the user to react to the native blocks of language at normal speed. Our philosophy is based on the direct method, and we are seeking to build a very fast connection between "listen" and "do" to encourage users to process the narrations in the target language. That being said :), there is an interesting way for users to practice writing in the app:

1. turn off sound

2. tap the "write" tool on the right side

3. read, and do the action

-or, for writing-

1. listen to the narration

2. write out the sentence as listened

3. tap the "write" tool to check writing

4. do the action

The latter is interesting as it ties listening, writing, reading and comprehension together.” 
Speaking: “Speaking is on the roadmap for version 3.0 of the app, and will include the ability to record speech and turn it in to a teacher. The speech will be responding to questions about the stage just done. For example, in "ID stage" (stage 7) the app will ask, "What languages do you speak?" And user will answer as per the completed stage. This will be recorded and stored for teachers/parents. There will also be real-time functionality allowing a teacher and student to see the same screen and follow each other's speech in the target language by doing the actions in the interface.” 

I would say that this product works best for KS2-KS4. But adults can use it too, especially adults who are "trapped" at basic level, knowing a lot of vocabulary, but who don't have the confidence to respond whenever someone speaks to them in the language. 

For a casual learner, especially one with issues around listening, the current version should work great as a more fun and light-hearted-though linguistically sound-way to revise the basics.

Specifications of Think Bilingual!:

  • The current version has 44 levels covering people, directions, house, greetings, cooking.
  • New episodes will appear monthly
  • The level is basic/intermediate
  • Think Bilingual! is best for ages 8-16, but also adults at basic level
  • English, Spanish and French are in the current version. Chinese, Portuguese and Japanese are scheduled for development.
  • Group-enabled version to be released for educators to use in classroom situation.
What next?

Be part of the development of this app by trying it and giving feedback to

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Review: Other Cats to Whip, The Book of French Idioms

I just love idioms, they are a part of everyday life and often give you a real insight into the target language culture. But how often do we think about their literal and intended meanings? For instance, why do the English say that they have “other fish to fry” rather than “have other things to do”? This is a great opportunity to look at how sentences are built and to practise translation for fun.
After moving from the UK to France in late 2012, author Graham Clark started to use native idioms and noticed that the French idioms were often very different to their English counterparts and, in many cases, even more bizarre!
Instead of having other fish to fry, the French have “other cats to whip” or “d’autres chats à fouetter”, to mean they have other things to do. In the introduction of the book, Graham issues a tongue-in-cheek warning whilst sharing his embarrassing misuse of this expression in a comical attempt to fit in with the locals.
Inspired by this story, Graham and his co-author Zubair Arshad, have carefully selected French idioms, each with a memorable illustration aiming as a reminder of the literal meaning of the phrase.
Each expression is provided with its literal English translation, actual meanings and example sentence, which makes it an interesting linguistic reference for students of all levels. The pictures and translations also make it an entertaining read for non-linguists who may have a connection with a French-speaking country.
My favourite expressions from the book include “Se croire sorti de la cuisse de Jupiter” to mean “To believe you came from Jupiter’s thigh (God’s Gift)”, “Il n’y a pas le feu au lac” (Don’t panic), “Se faire prendre pour un pigeon” (To be taken for a ride) and also “Tomber dans les pommes”, meaning to “To fall in the apples (to faint)
Whatever your mood, whether you are feeling upbeat or have the blues (avoir le cafard= to have the cockroach), this lovely little book is guaranteed to make you smile…
The book is available on Kindle (£3.99) and Paperback (£4.99), on Amazon UK and Amazon US, which makes it a very affordable little gift for linguistically-minded friends.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Review: Languagenut, a Language Subscription Site with a Difference

Created in 2009, Languagenut promotes a fun, simple and engaging approach to language learning for KS2 and KS3 pupils. Although Languagenut has its HQ in the UK, it now has users all over the world in 32 countries, from Puerto Rico and the US to Asia and it has adapted its platform to meet the curriculum needs in those different countries.

The range of languages offered is truly global but also supports heritage languages including Gaelic and Te Reo Maori. This is complemented by a unique range of EAL resources which supports the children in the UK who do not speak English as their first language.

The MFL and EAL resources rely on simple games, engaging students in simple, fun and effective learning activities. Students explore a set of words or phrases through the “presentation” feature, and then reinforce the language working across the key skills of reading, writing, listening and speaking. All resources are organised by topics and graded by difficulty, with each topic also offering a song and a story to practise key structures in a different way. Each topic can also be assessed via the platform.

Teachers can also track and reward pupils’ progress through the activities whether they are completed in class or independently at home. All progress data can be exported into an Excel spreadsheet and progress reports including graphs can be produced easily. Reward certificates can also be generated automatically.

In addition, the “My content” allows teachers to use Languagenut’s framework of presentations, games and assessments for their own words and phrases. Sound and pictures can also be uploaded and the newly created exercises are automatically trackable by teachers as soon as they are published.
All exercises can also be assigned to specific groups of pupils or individuals, which can help differentiation for class work and homework.

Healthy competition is also encouraged via the lingualympics board, which displays the sign-in name of the top 20 students and 20 schools worldwide.

I was lucky enough to be taken on a guided tour of this excellent platform by the delightful Liz Brewer and I would advise to get in touch if you are considering languagenut as it does offer a lot more than your usual language subscription site…

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Learning Vocabulary with FlashSticks

FlashSticks®  are foreign language Post-it® notes, each printed with a foreign language word, their translation, an icon and phonetic support. The notes are colour-coded by gender too: BLUE notes for masculine nouns, PINK notes for feminine and GREEN for all other word types. FlashSticks also have a free app that allows learners to hover their smartphones or tablets over the notes and see the video of a native language tutor to help them with the pronunciation of the word.
I tried the Spanish and French beginner’s packs, which have notes for 100 words each. The idea behind FlashSticks is well-established practice in language learning: You need to be surrounded by what you learn, say the new words, reading them and listen to them.
The coulour-coding is very effective but I would not normally use “transcription” to support pronunciation as it can encourage learners to stop listening to the sounds of the new language to process them only through the transcription. However, as the notes benefit from audio support via the app, the transcription can act as a reminder of the correct pronunciation. I have also found the icon very useful to encourage recall.
As a pronunciation activity, pupils can highlight syllables, prefixes or suffixes in a different colour and practise saying them. This is particularly effective in Spanish, which does not have silent letters, but certainly more challenging in French.
The notes are great to encourage pupil independence and they also provide useful additional support for pupils with specific learning difficulties. They can also be used to play a wide range of games including noughts and crosses, where pronunciation is checked as a way to win the point and Guess my word, when other people have to give clues for the bearer of the notes to guess the word he/she is wearing and pelmanism games.
The translation or word in the target language can also be hidden in order to encourage quick recall. Maybe test packs with the word missing in the target language could be produced too?
The notes can also be added to classroom display ad worksheets to encourage independent speaking practice. As GCSEs and A Levels rely more and more on vocabulary acquisition and retention, I look forward to simple but effective tools like FlashSticks supporting all new examination specifications.