Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Celebrating Our Languages: a Toolkit

I have just received the Our Language Toolkit published by CILT and I am very impressed by what it has to offer to all schools, whether multicultural or not.
The toolkit is a free support document to encourage the setting-up of more formal partnerships between mainstream, voluntary and complementary schools. Although such partnerships might seem easier in multicultural schools, it is important that some degree of partnership is established in all schools to equip their students with the understanding needed to work and live in our 21st century multicultural environments.

There is also considerable evidence indicating that there are great cognitive benefits derived from developing pupils’ confidence and competence in their mother tongue.
The toolkit also includes a section highlighting accreditations in different languages like the Asset Languages certificates as well as opportunities provided for family learning and routes available for native speakers to become teachers and gain Qualified Teacher Status (QTS).

In addition, the Our Languages project has made freely available a comprehensive range of resources to support the teaching and learning of different community languages including Arabic, Bengali, Gujarati, Malayalam, Mandarin Chinese, Panjabi, Polish, Somali, Tamil and Urdu.

The resources cover KS2 as well as KS3-4 and there are also many case studies and videos to support them and give a student’s perspective of the projects.

The Training and Development Agency for Schools(TDA) is now developing a strategy to improve the teaching and learning of world languages. The strategy will include support of teaching and non-teaching staff, qualification framework and you can now contribute by completing the World Languages survey on the TDA website.

I would also say that using the term “World languages” for the survey rather than “Community Languages” is already a positive step-it is a very inclusive way to describe all languages rather than go back to the old foreign/ community languages divide ...

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Guest Blogging: More Opportunities To Share

As we are approaching the end of the year, I have been thinking quite a lot about all the benefits I have derived from guest blogging this year.
OK, I am not a prolific guest blogger but contributing to The Educators’ Royal Treatment and the latest MFL & Technology series on Jose Picardo’s Box of Trick has been both enjoyable and profitable from the point of view of my own personal development.

First, it is great for confidence and developing a stronger blogging voice. It helps you to express all those thoughts, mixing the personal and the professional.
And apparently... It shows! I am no longer hiding behind my avatar and very willing to discuss my blog posts and change my mind if I want to... I feel I have definitely moved on from sharing information to sharing ideas and opinions about the information I share.

Second, it makes you reflect on what you are doing. You get to understand better how to got there, why and what the way forward could be.

Third, it gives you an opportunity to read other people’s blog posts and get tempted to comment more than you would normally admit to have the time to do (excuses excuses)

Fourth, it strengthens your relationships with the different members of your PLN, making subsequent exchanges and conversation even more meaningful. Twitter is also such a wonderful tool to support this.

Fifth, it makes you open up to different approaches and ways of “doing things” in different countries and educational sectors. This is the ultimate Let’s-Think-out-of-the-box toolkit!
So, Languages teachers, get inspired and also check out some of my favourite posts on The Educators’ Royal Treatment whether you teach languages or not...

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Playing with Pixetell: Giving Students Feedback

Thanks to Ken Royal from the Educator’s Royal Treatment who offered me the opportunity to trial it, I have been playing with Pixetell,

What is Pixetell?
It is an “on-demand software that enables you to quickly add voice, screen recordings and video to email and other electronic documents”. The twist is that Pixetell supports visual communication but also allows collaboration through sharing multimedia messages-called pixetells-and allowing discussions to take place around them.

Although the product focuses more on business, it has undeniable potential for Education and both Ken Royal and Adora Svitak have already both blogged about it and suggested ways it could be used in Education.

My vision of how it could be used relies on the need for teachers to develop a more structured approach to verbal feedback to students and links directly with Assessment For Learning. So, I decided to test it out giving feedback to a first year student-11 years old-on a powerpoint she had produced to learn basic animal words in Spanish. After trying out different microphones, it seems that a headset produced the best result.

What struck me the most was how uncomfortable I felt at first giving feedback that way. We always respond to other people’s body language and look out for paralinguistic clues when we are giving feedback in order to assess its impact. In many respects, feedback given through a Pixtetell can be seen as fairer but I suspect some training would be needed in order to ensure that it still feels personal. Saying the student’s name, using different turns of phrases for praising and offering positive and constructive criticism are all essential.

The structure of the feedback is roughly as follows:
· description of good points/ criteria for assessment
· praise
· suggestions for improvement
· next steps (target-setting)

Used at the end of a short project, Pixetell would be a way to ensure that due praise is given to all the students that have put in the effort. I also feel that the impact on the student's self-image as a learner would also be stronger than a well done note on paper. In addition, the students who feel that they are “too cool to be praised” could still get their pat on the back in private.

For the specific purpose of teaching languages, the benefit of including audio in teacher feedback is obvious. Students then have a model that they can use and replicate if needed. It is not an impersonal sound file that they have to listen to in its entirety before they reach the bit that applies to them, but it supports a personalised answer to their own work. Very powerful!

If used for feedback, Pixetell would work great with private student/ teacher platforms like Edmodo for responses to individual projects, but used tactfully, example of students’ work could also be presented on a class wiki/ VLE page with oral comments included. Examples of coursework at different grades from real or imaginary students could also be included for discussion.

Have a look at my example here
You do not need Pixetell or to download any other software in order to access a pixetell.
The standard version allows for 5 minutes worth of recording but there is no limit on the more expensive pro version. There are other tools like Jing , GoView or Camtasia who offer some of the features of Pixetell, so a very useful comparison chart help the potential user assessing whether this is the right tool for them as well as find free alternatives for specific features. I have also found the tutorial page very helpful.

Now waiting for an Education version...

Sunday, 13 December 2009

New Secondary Curriculum for Languages: Challenges and Opportunities

Painting the Sky
Originally uploaded by Stuck in Customs

Although I have been doing a lot of ed-tech work lately, I have not been able to blog about it much. I am currently proof reading some excellent materials that Language specialists Wendy Adeniji , Liz Black and Juliette Park have developed to support teachers wanting to move away from purely topic-based language teaching.

Wendy Adeniji is an experienced Language Consultant, Juliet Park is a Lead Practitioner for the SSAT and Director of Languages at Yewlands School, Sheffield and Liz Black is an AST, consultant for North Yorkshire LA and Head of Languages at Stokesley School.

It would indeed appear that although the New Secondary Curriculum has freed the UK languages teachers from the old topic-based "Areas of Experience", the general feeling is that topic-based teaching, with its prime focus on word level learning, is sticking around.

Well, has GCSE changed that much? As it is still felt that extensive vocabulary is a pre-requisite to a good GCSE grade, this approach feeds into KS3 and can be justified-students will not learn all the vocabulary they need in 2 years or less in the case of fast-tracked groups.

There are undoubtedly training issues here. There is a lot of willingness but also a lot of anxiety in front of what really is a mammoth task. We are free from content? OK, so what do we teach now? If you have been trained to teach in a certain way, moving away from topic-based learning and teaching may feel like diluting the quality of learning and its outcome.

So what's new?

I love the idea of "Teaching the usual in an unusual way" to quote a phrase used by Wendy Adeniji in her training sessions but really teaching skills explicitly is much more than just teaching the usual. And that is exatly what is encouraged through the new materials by using interesting cultural contexts.

When I was studying English in France, the focus was always on written accuracy, grammar and reading comprehension. The materials used were always aiming to represent the culture of a variety of English-speaking countries, rather than provide us with opportunities to use day-to-day language.

In England-granted, a fair few years later-the focus was on vocabulary and topics that were deemed of interest to teenagers-with not many opportunities to find out about the culture of French-speaking countries through these topics.

I see the New secondary Curriculum as a great opportunity to redress the balance and give students opportunties to open up to the world rather than use foreign words to talk about their own world.

The challenges?

Time and vision! The vast majority of Language Faculties are now small and do not have the time and manpower to design brand new materials to teach the whole of KS3. Many have started but this is a lengthy process that will take more time to get established. Collaborative curriculum planning and the development of more innovative commercially-produced resources is the only way to build on what is already in place...

Sunday, 15 November 2009

MFL Show & Tell: Favourite Tools For CPD In The Languages Faculty

This is the presentation I shared for the MFL Show & Tell in Coventry on Saturday 14th November. A slidecast is on its way when I get the chance to put it together...

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Online videos in the Classroom: Bringing Languages to Life

The use of authentic online videos inside as well as outside the languages classroom can be very motivating for students. It brings languages to life and can also motivate through the originality and variety of the contents available.

There are many reasons why online videos should be considered as a powerful pedagogical tool.
First, these videos are readily available online and will cost schools nothing to be integrated in lessons. A majority of the videos will come from the Target Language countries and will provide appropriate exposure to the language as it is spoken by native speakers. An added benefit will be that the videos will give direct access to languages as they are spoken in different countries and will help students to listen for different accents and intonations, which represents listening skills of the highest order.

Second, the wide range of videos available means that it is easier to find materials that will appeal to all students. The videos are also constantly updated, following every trends in the popular culture of the Target Language countries. This constant updating of resources can also be done painlessly by opening an account to video-sharing sites like youtube and subscribing to different channels.

Amongst other resources songs, cartoons, adverts, film trailers, news item, language lessons and mini-documentaries are probably the most useful for language classes.
Many sites offer useful resources for the languages classroom but the vast majority of the videos can be found on large video-sharing siteslike YouTube or Daily Motion. It is also worth using video search engines that cover a range of video-sharing sites like or .

How can online videos be prepared for classroom use?
There are a number of issues to bear in mind while preparing the materials.
Video-sharing sites such as YouTube are blocked in many schools. When they are not blocked, the school network sometimes limits the viewing performance by slowing down to unacceptable levels. Another issue can be the quality of the picture and/ or sound as it can deteriorate sharply while being projected. A large number of videos are also regularly taken off the site for a variety of reasons. If the resource has been downloaded, it will remain available for classroom use regardless. Last but not least, some teachers feel nervous about going live on sites like YouTube and showing unsuitable videos/ sites being advertised.
There are now many sites enabling online videos to be downloaded and although this can be time-consuming, it is an effective way to avoid all these issues. It is worth noting that downloaders will not always work with every online video from every site, which is another reason to check larger sites like YouTube and Daily Motion first to maximize the chances of downloading success.

Videos can be prepared for classroom use as follows:
With the sound off, or using videos with very little dialogue-like some cartoons, for instance. Using a converter like Zamzar, the video can be saved as a .wav sound file and be first presented as a sound file or be shown as a video first, to let students use para-linguistic clues to concentrate afterwards on the audio without the distraction of the pictures. As another possibility, when the video makes use of captions in the target language, memorization techniques can be developed with the support of both the video and audio file.
Follow-up activities usually include spot the cognate, fill in the gap exercises, answering open-ended questions, multiple choice quizzes, finding the meaning of specific key words

Viewing for pleasure. It is a good idea to include viewing for pleasure slots in lessons, possibly at the end in order to maintain the image of languages as a subject that is alive and constantly evolving.
Cultural briefing. There are a number of videos that will help introducing the culture of a specific French-speaking country. Those videos can be more about the history, geography or touristic landmarks of the country. Although they will be more accessible in English than in the Target-Language, they may link to other activities in the lesson that will revisit in French what was presented in the video in English.
Focus on pronunciation and independence. A number of videos can be posted to a blog, wiki or VLE to encourage students’ independent language practice. A Youtube channel like Imagier (for French) is ideal for this as it concentrates on the pronunciation and grammar practice of specific items of vocabulary and structures.
Hook into a topic. Some videos can be used as an interesting way into a topic, they should feature unexpected pictures/ information to make student think of the link between the video and the likely content of the lesson. They also encourage students to make the link between different curriculum areas therefore consolidating learning and transfer of knowledge and skills.

What next?
More and more online tools are being developed to enable the transcription and translation of online videos in a foreign language. This process is still not as straight-forward as it could be but the multiplication of available tools will no doubt ease the process in the future.
The transcription of videos designed for native speakers is a great way to adapt challenging materials and make them more easily accessible for non-natives. Translation can also help making otherwise very linguistically challenging materials accessible to beginners and immersing them in the country’s culture.

The other area for development is to make full use of the video-sharing sites social networking tools to find out about more videos from a wide range of Target-Language countries as sites like YouTube are now truly global.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

MFL Flashmeeting4, Monday 2 November 8.30-10.30pm GMT

The MFL Flashmeeting is back, with lots to discuss-The London Language Show is finishing today- and lots to look forwards to-The Coventry MFL Show & Tell in 2 weeks’ time.

To join, please click here and add your name to the wiki. To add your name to the wiki, click the EDIT link and then the Text Editor button. Copy and paste one of the entries. Change the wording as necessary and add your Twitter username if you like. Press Save. Please note that there is a limit of 25 in the meeting.

Already on the list are:

1. Joe Dale, CILT language teaching adviser Integrating ICT into the MFL Classroom
2. Dominic McGladdery ,Teacher of MFL and blogger.
3. Suzi Bewell SSAT lead practitioner languages,
4. Helena Butterfield , MFL teacher The Langwitch Chronicles
5. Clare Seccombe PMFL support teacher and MFL Sunderland webmistress.
6. Lynne Horn, Language teacher, Tobermory High (Scotland)
7. Catriona Oates Scottish CILT
8. Isabelle Jones, Head of Languages, The Radclyffe School, Oldham, My Languages
9. Mary Cooch, Our Lady's High School Preston
10. Esther Hardman, MFL teacher, Curriculum Development Co-ordinator for MFL (ICT),,
11. Alice Ayel, Thuringia International School, Germany,
12. Amanda Salt Head of Spanish, Grosvenor Grammar School, Belfast Languages and Learning
13. Marie-France Perkins Head of Modern Languages, Oldfield School, Bath.
14. Kim Goodwin MFL teacher/Head of Learning support, Harrow Beijing
15. Helen Myers, The Ashcombe School Dorking
16. Drew McAllister , Tech Integration Specialist, Parkway School District, St. Louis, Missouri
17. Samantha Lunn. Head of MFL, Arnold School, Blackpool.

On the Agenda…
1. How do you use your VLE and what sort of resources do you have on it?
2. How are you implemeting the new KS3 curriculum and what effect is it having on engagement and KS4 uptake?
3. Do you have a local SLN and how has it helped with the introduction of the New Framework?
4. What were your impressions of The Language Show and or The London Show and Tell event?
5. What practical advice would you give to a languages teacher needing to record their GCSE speaking tests for the first time as mp3 files not on cassette?
6. What do YOU want to get out of the MFL Show and Tell 09 in Coventry in 2 weeks time?
7. What's all this I hear about Storybird?

To join the meeting…
Click on the Flashmeeting link
and Go to the meeting . You will then be asked to give permission for your microphone or webcam to be used. Click Allow and then select Sign in as Guest. Click Enter.

See you there!

Friday, 30 October 2009

Wish I Was There: The London Language Show

The London Language Show attracts many language professionals including teachers as well as language students. It is free and it is held at Kensington Olympia 2. It started today, Friday 30th October, and will finish on Sunday 1st November 2009.

This Year, Helen Myers and Joe Dale have arranged a Show & Tell that will take place tomorrow, Saturday 31st October from 6pm, with a Flashmeeting starting at 7.30 pm (GMT).
The Face-to-Face Show & Tell will be held at The Albion's function room, 121 Hammersmith Road, London, W14 0QL, 020 7603 2826 (nice reviews here!)

Definite attendees include Joe Dale , Amanda Salt, Helen Myers, Alex Blagona and Lisa Stevens with Lynne Horn, Samantha Lunn, Helena Butterfield, Simon Howells and myself amongst the virtual attendees.

The Show & Tell presenters will include:

Suzi Bewell [Twitter for homework and / or French phonics, using skype to webconference with partner schools abroad see

Luis Truchero - eTwinning experience
Joe Dale - Moblogging a foreign language trip
Alex Blagona - Personalised Learning with wikis
Helen and Peta - Learning Languages in Second Life
Lisa Stevens - Tweeting with primary pupils and or animating
Liz Hitchcock: School and area linking in Europe (eTwinning), Latin America or Hispanic USA; French Caribbean, Francophone Africa, Japan, China, Middle East

To join us virtually, click on the Flashmeeting link

******** and Go to the meeting . You will then be asked to give permission for your microphone or webcam to be used. Click Allow and then select Sign in as Guest. Click Enter.

See you there!

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

FLIP Approach for Languages at Cramlington Learning Village: Rationale and Practicalities

(Independent Study Learning Grid, University of Warwick-layout for more independent learning?)

When I found out about Cramlington’s FLIP approach for languages, I got quite excited as I had been thinking for a while of different ways to incorporate the many strands developed recently through a whole host of National initiatives. Developing students’ independent learning skills is a challenging Faculty target as we are not talking just about changing working practices but also part of the learning ethos that permeates a school…

As a number of teachers from the UK and beyond contacted me to find out more, I asked Chris Harte, Head of Languages at Cramlington Learning Village, what made FLIP different from other approaches.
“The new languages curriculum at Cramlington Learning Village is perhaps easiest to understand if we try and visualise it as a series of transparencies being overlaid in order to give the big picture.

1.The CASKE curriculum-This is the foundation for the schemes of learning and in itself is quite a complex picture incorporating the RSA Opening Minds Competencies for the 21st century, Attributes-the 5Rs: Responsibility, Reasoning, Reflection, Resilience and Resourceful +Respectful-added by the school, Skills-PLTS (Personal Learning Thinking Skills), Knowledge-subject-specific knowledge, E-Experiences-the different experiences we want our children to have in the classroom.

2. The new National Curriculum for languages at KS3. The positive aspect of this is the emphasis on creativity, however, the use of the NC levels is a very two-dimensional view of what we are trying to achieve and a very clumsy measuring stick, but unfortunately we are currently bound to them.

3.The Framework for Modern languages at KS3, which we use to monitor linguistic progression. This is a more subtle measure of progression.

4.Compelling contexts-We have really tried to move away from traditional topics and looked at creativity through wider contexts which have an element of emotional as well as intellectual challenge.

5.Dependency-We start off with a higher degree of teacher dependency and build towards independent learning by explicitly teaching language learning skills rather than just language.

6.“Assessment is for learning” is also a key layer that we are working hard to develop. This incorporates assessment of learning, assessment for learning and assessment as learning. This will be achieved through “dipstick” testing, self and peer assessment through RealSmart
Rafl - real asessment for learning portfolios and learning conversations during the FLIP periods (Flexible, learner-led, “in-time”, personalised).

7.The use of ICT- permeates not only what the teachers are doing, but more importantly, what the learners are doing. ICT skills will be explicitly developed and students will have the opportunity to enhance their language learning skills through the appropriate use of technology.

8. The final layer, and perhaps the most important, is the promotion of a love of languages through enjoyment, challenge and support and an emphasis on the real life nature of speaking another language, cultural celebration and the responsibilities of a global citizen.”

FLIP periods
“On average, one lesson per cycle will be a FLIP period. This stands for Flexible, Learner-Led, In-time Intervention, Personalised. We are giving this model the specific remit of building time within the curriculum to react to learners’ needs at the point of need; whether this be consolidation, stretching, exploring or indeed catching up.

In a normal flip period, we can expect to see the following scene:

The class enters the learning space chanting their numbers, alphabet and high frequency vocabulary. The teacher greets each individual in the target language and the class settles down to their FLIP bellwork - this is almost invariably a planning activity; looking back at last lesson’s review, setting targets and priorities for the next hour and choosing a focus to work on. James decides that he is still unsure on how the perfect tense works and decides he needs to do some consolidation work on it. In his plan, he writes down that he wants to talk to the teacher about it and then do some simple exercises on the computer to see if he can get it right!

The teacher is circulating looking at each student’s plan and notices that there are a number of people who are still hazy on the perfect tense. The teacher decides to run a workshop for those who are really struggling and writes up on the board “perfect tense workshop – 9:20 – 9:40am – sign up here”. Students who want to sign up, do so on the board. About 10 students want the workshop which takes place in one corner of the room, sat on the floor using mini-whiteboards to practise. Meanwhile, Jasmine has decided that she just wants to do some private reading, so she takes one of the books from the shelf and settles herself on a comfy chair. She reads the book, only looking up words when she really needs them, and records these words in her book to learn later.

Matthew and Samantha were absent last lesson so they take this opportunity to look back at the lesson plan to see what they have missed. They complete the online tasks and get themselves back on track. Some of the group decide they want to flex their vocabulary learning muscles and log on to the vocabulary building sites to play tetris, match flash cards and work on pronunciation. Others decide to play some of the card and board games, constantly building up their vocabulary through play. Others are updating evidence on their Rafls [ real asessment for learning portfolios-our online portfolios from RealSmart] whilst others are re-recording presentations to improve the intonation and pronunciation.

Thomas works with Emily as her mentor, working through his own understanding of the perfect tense in order to support Emily. After the workshop, the teacher circulates the room, ensuring that everyone is working at an appropriate level and, when necessary, encouraging some students to move on to different tasks and guiding some students to more appropriate tasks. At 10am, the class is called together to review their lesson in their learning log. Here they record what they have done, what they got out of it, any skills they developed and any key language they think may be of use in the future.

Of course, the powerful characteristic of the FLIP time is that it can be anything that we need it to be – it could be used as rehearsal time for a presentation, a whole class input by the teacher or a.n.other (including students) on the sound-spelling link, a whole class reading time, a relaxed movie slot in the foreign language or anything else we deem appropriate. It can be as structured or fluid as we need it to be.

It is in the FLIP time that we can truly personalise the experience for each student through learning conversations and “in-time” support. There are, of course, issues of management of time, resources and classroom climate, and the responsibility for this needs to be divided equally between the teacher and the students with the emphasis on developing independent learners.

Future developments for the FLIP time may be the use of Foreign Language Assistants and virtual tutors to support language learning as well as videoconferencing sessions with partner schools abroad and developing additional resources in the TV and sound recording studios.

Assessment and progression

Assessment of learning will be the snapshot approach to monitoring progression. At the end of each module, there is a product which will cover either/both speaking (AT2) and writing (AT4). A summative level will be given to each of these products and will be centrally held to allow monitoring across the cohort. There will be two listening (AT1) and reading (AT3) online assessments which learners can take at a time appropriate to them (they are pencilled in for January and June although this is flexible). By doing this, we will be assuring a minimum progression of two levels across the key stage – November Y7 being the baseline data and Spring Y9 being the NC level reporting period.

Assessment for language learning is to be seen as explicit but not bolt-on. That is to say that we have a varied repertoire of techniques which help learners to see where they are now, where they want to be and how to get there. These include; agreed success criteria in all lessons and productive tasks, modelling successful outcomes, working through process together, generic tools such as UN AVOCAT, www (what went well) and ebi (even better if), feed forward comment marking, learning conversations in FLIP time, effective questioning teacher->learner, learner->teacher and learner->learner.

Assessment for learning skills is central to getting learners to be reflective in their own practice, that is to make explicit the learning skills required to be an effective learner and set own targets for improvement. The reviewing of learning and reflection on skills will underpin everyday practice but will be made quantifiable in each student’s learning log which will be completed at the end of each lesson and particularly referred to at the start of each FLIP period. This will be the most effective way to monitor learner progression and there is an expectation that although it is a personal log, the teacher and indeed peers may want to read and comment upon it on a regular basis.

Are the lessons planned collaboratively across the Faculty? How do you differentiate?
Yes - we plan together but each teacher has to personalise to the learners in front of them. I say personalise instead of differentiate because we try to differentiate to "ability" but also to learning style and feedback from learners. Differentiation is made possible by the time we have freed up.

What sort of activities are specific to these lessons?
The only thing that is specific, I suppose, is getting learners to set their own objectives for the lessons - otherwise we are doing effective pedagogical activities - card games, reading booklets , consolidation and creation with ICT.

Are the lesson "calendared" for each group?
No, the teacher decides when they are in the cycle (3 lessons a fortnight, one of which is flip). and more importantly the purpose of the lesson - consolidation, rehearsal, independent learning or a mix of all of these.

Do all your classrooms have the round tables and groups of tables rather than rows? How do teachers organise FLIP lessons when they do not have a main classroom/ share one or several classrooms?
In y7 & 8 we have round tables and in the rest of the school, we group desks together - no rows except for testing or independent writing. We have boxes to carry around resources to different classrooms but the layout is universal. We also keep our resources on our VLE so they are accessible anywhere.

What would you say is the biggest difference between having specific FLIP lessons and trying to incorporate skills development in traditional language lessons?
TIME - we have created time in the curriculum to allow us to do this effectively rather than trying to crow bar them into content-driven lessons.

What sort of resources do you use in FLIP and in the other lessons? Same sort of resources -cards, reading booklets, mini whiteboards, computers...

Are some FLIP lessons delivered in ICT rooms? What sort of activities are delivered?
All rooms have ICT access - 1 computer per pair - either desktops in each y7&y8 classroom and laptops in the upper school. We do receptive, consolidation type activities (vocabulary games etc) but more for creative activities - goanimate, audacity, photostory etc.

How do FLIP lessons progress throughout KS3?
They progress with the rest of the scheme of learning - they are not separate to the rest of the lessons, they are part of a bigger cycle of effective learning.

Do you use FLIP lessons at all at KS4?
We use the model, but it is not organised - more on a reactive basis rather than proactive.

What do you think has been the biggest impact of this approach? (How long have you been using it? Have students shared their views about it?)
Learner independence and ownership - we have been using it for over a year now and our learner voice groups have talked about being more motivated and learning at their pace.”

I would like to thank Chris again for answering my questions in such a thorough manner. I do feel that although the FLIP model may not transfer directly to all schools, it should certainly give many Languages Departments food for thoughts and ideas to maximize opportunities to develop languages students’ independence and learning skills.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Image Chef: Automatic Calligrammes

Image Chef is a wordle-like application that also has a "Visual Poetry" section with pre-defined shapes for arranging the words. A Calligramme is a poem arranged in the shape of a picture related to the poem. Just looking at Image chef, here are some of the possibilities...
Cat: personal and physical description, personality.

ImageChef Word Mosaic -

Image chef has the extra potential to offer the ability to draw your own symbols as well as choose from a variety of ready-made symbols like hearts, stars, smiley faces, luck, cross, sun...
The whole calligramme can also be edited, embedded and/or downloaded.
Just have a go and tell me what you think...

Sunday, 18 October 2009

FLIP - The Cramlington Model For Developing Independent Language Learners

FLIP stands for Flexible Learner-led Intervention Personalised. It is a daring approach that consisted in getting rid 1/3 of the content taught in MFL to concentrate on developing independent learning skills in languages. It was started last year by Chris Harte at Cramlington Learning Village in Northumberland.
The video says it all... (truly inspirational!)

FLIP Languages Model from charte on Vimeo.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Language Learning: Global Issues

I came across this post on languages learning a few days ago. It is from The linguist on Language blog, run by Steve Kaufman. I found interesting the key issues that were raised, showing that many of them are not local but global...

Steve was sent an email by a student who was doing a study "to determine how individuals acquire language and how the education system promotes language learning and language diversity”

You can see Steve’s answers here. My answers are as follows.

1) How do you feel language is presented in schools? Is it an important issue? Or is it sort of put on the back burner?
Steve thinks that it is poorly presented, with the teachers imposing their agenda and their content. I agree that we often “try to induce the learners to acquire language patterns and vocabulary, in which [they] have little interest” but this is often dictated by examinations. This is not our content but something that is prescribed. On the other hand, prescribed defined content can also be more reassuring to both students and teachers. The “content-free” opportunities offered at KS3 through our New Secondary Curriculum feel daunting to many –What do we do? What about linguistic progression? Do I have to change everything? The way language is presented is regularly debated as the key to student engagement.

2) What are the techniques you use for studying language? On the computer? Off the computer?
Like Steve , I think that “you need to spend a lot of time with the language”, which is a real issue as curriculum time is being cut in many schools. Steve’s advice is also to spend a lot of time on receptive skills and combine this with efficient vocabulary learning (words and phrases). However, I would disagree about the advice to “delay producing the language, (writing and speaking) until you have enough of a base”. I have always found active consolidation of new vocabulary and phrase through writing and speaking an effective way to ensure that the language can be “recycled” and some structures can be transferred across the four skills.
Digital resources are very useful as they can encourage all students to take risks with the language through doing things like reading a text out loud or performing role-plays. I particularly like the individual use of recording and text-to-speech tools to ensure students can develop productive skills avoiding excessive reliance on the teacher at an early stage.

3) Do you think that public education should offer classes in another language, if that language happens to be prevalent in that area? (ex. Spanish in southern Alabama)
Like Steve, I believe that “the choice of the language, and of content to be studied, should be up to the learner. A variety of options should be offered. The key is the interest of the learner, not whether that language is spoken locally, although for some people that would be motivating.”
The type of language spoken should also be considered, especially in the case of languages with a different alphabet/ script. It is nonetheless the case in the vast majority of British schools that there is no choice at all for the study of the first-and often only- foreign language.

4) Do you think globalization and international business are hurting or helping language learning? Why?
Steve thinks that globalization makes language learning more important. Unfortunately, globalization has also secured English as a Lingua Franca. I am always amazed that many global dimension projects do not see developing language skills as a priority.

5) How would you teach a language class? What techniques would you apply?
Steve considers the classroom as the place to encourage learners to get out and learn languages outside the classroom. I agree that “languages are learned outside the classroom and not in class”. I feel that the wider the range of techniques used, the better: ICT, games, Drama, Art, Music and other cross-curricular activities... Steve argues that “our brain learns all the time, and often in implicit ways, and not in response to pressure from teachers”, hence the potential of ICT and social media to create situations where languages are going to be used outside the classroom for real communication purposes...

What about you? How would you answer these questions?

Friday, 9 October 2009

Oldham Strategic Learning Network for Languages 2009-10

I had very enjoyable and productive day today with some of my fellow Oldham MFL teachers. The Focus was on ideas to develop productive skills and we certainly exchanged lots of them!
We have now all agreed on a small-scale project/ experiments that we will all report on at our next twilight next month.
We are aso planning to use our local Ning, Diigo and Twitter to exchange resources and ideas in between meetings.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Are You Ready for PMFL?-2009 Update

In a previous post dating back to 2007, I was looking at what schools were doing to get prepared for the 2010 deadline for teaching foreign languages at Primary. Two years later, what has changed? Although there are pockets of outstanding practice, the overall picture is still “chaotic and variable”...

By 2011, all children aged 7-11 must have the opportunity to learn a foreign language. Learning a foreign language engages children, helps them develop general oracy and literacy skills, grow in confidence as learners, as well as broaden their intercultural understanding.

Primary language teaching is inclusive and can benefit special educational needs, English as an Additional Language learners, as well as children who have newly arrived in England. Some research also supports the theory that young children have the ability to learn languages quicker. Although the validity of this theory is discussed on a regular basis, anybody who has taught languages at Primary notices that the general attitude towards language-learning feels a lot more positive.

Recent research findings show that 92% of Primary Schools are teaching languages during class time, with 69% teaching languages to all 4 years of KS2.
The most often mentioned benefits of PMFL were to develop enthusiasm, Listening and Speaking skills and understanding other cultures.

Clearly, Primary Headteachers play a vital role in establishing a clear rationale, vision and strategy for primary languages. Planning for and delivering PMFL must be seen as a step-by-step learning process for all, and collaboration between schools (both primary and secondary), local authorities and key agencies is surely the recipe for success.

Good practice also includes:

-Conduct a school languages audit;

-Contact your Local Authority advisor, although sadly there might not always be one in place;

-Appoint a subject co-ordinator for primary languages (PL);

-Make links with local secondary schools and Specialist Language Colleges;

-Visit the primary languages website to check their training videos and resources
-Explore the possibility of taking on a PGCE student with a language specialism;
-Network with other language teachers to find out about new ideas and resources.

A school language audit is a very useful way of identifying expertise and capacity within the school and also among parents, children and the wider school community. It also shows that the school values languages other than English and raises awareness of the different languages spoken in the school community. Projects like the “Language of the Month” project can be replicated and are invaluable in boosting all students’ self image as successful language learners.

The school language audit should also inform the decision of which language to teach and plan future training needs but the choice of the language will also depend on:

-Contacts with target language countries, established community links through town twinnings for instance, ease of travel;

-The languages which are taught in neighbouring primary and secondary schools;

-The availability of specialist support in Local Authorities, Specialist Language Colleges and other secondary schools;

-The writing system of a particular language;

-The expectations and ambitions of parents and pupils;

-The language policies of the Local Authority;

-The capacity to sustain and resource the teaching of a particular language across KS2.

Primary teachers are in the ideal position to embed languages into daily classroom routines and across the curriculum. Their access to children opens up all sorts of possibilities which are denied to the secondary teacher with 1-2 hours a week. Children should also use languages for real communication purposes as well as learning language incidentally through activities combined with other subjects. That is why more and more schools are considering Comenius projects or e-twinning.

Schools are also becoming more and more skilled at planning such cross-curricular modules and the new reviewed QCA schemes of work can help with this too, suggesting ideas to include music, art, PE, ICT and much more...

KS2/KS3 Transition is still a worry but more and more strategies are being shared to cope with this.

So what has changed? The feeling that PMFL may be a passing trend. It is definitely here to stay, so let’s see how we can support each other to make this a successful journey leading to more good language-learning.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Naked Teaching-Reflecting on The Use of Technology in The Classroom

I had a very interesting experience this week. My laptop suddenly became unusable and I had 50 minutes to prepare a lesson with no projected visuals, no recorded sound and no video clips.
What happened? Armed with a black bin liner bag turned into a “touchy feely mystery item” bag and feeling a little bit awkward, I suddenly realised how dependent I am on technology.
Why? Ten years ago, it was not a problem-the technology was not readily available in schools and therefore not expected.

“Naked Teaching” can be a strategy to develop quality learning and teaching in the classroom, as advocated by José Antonio Bowen, Dean at Southern Methodist University in the United States.

The only aim of using technology should be to develop teacher-students interactions, but this is not always happening. In fact, technology can push people even further apart, with the only interaction occurring between students and machines.

However, some new technologies can increase students' engagement outside of the classroom and prepare them for real discussions by providing access to lesson content and assessment before lessons. This turns a classroom into a place where content is being manipulated rather than passively received.

Current research (Crouch and Mazur, 2001) demonstrates that “students retain relatively little content from most lectures, but they do take away a lot about your attitude toward learning and your subject”.

“Technologies’ greatest gift is to release you from the tyranny of content. There is time for everything now. The real problem is that this now leaves you standing naked in front of your class wondering what will happen next. That is also the moment when the most real learning can take place. Be afraid, but take the risk”.

Sometimes, the teacher is ready to take the risk but the resistance comes from the students:
“The lecture model is pretty comfortable for both students and professors, after all, and so fundamental change may be even harder than it initially seems, whether or not laptops, iPods, or other cool gadgets are thrown into the mix.” (The Chronicle of Higher Education)

It is also a fact that ICT does not engage all students and “going naked” from time to time should benefit these students as well as widen the range of learning experiences of all students. My own experience was that a couple of students confirmed this at the end of the lesson by telling me: "Miss, we prefer it without the laptop”

I like the idea that class time should be used to manipulate and discuss content rather than passively receive it, but is it fair that not all students will have access to this pre-lesson briefing? The digital divide is still very present in many deprived areas and there is no quick and easy way to tackle this.

Would I use this as a management technique? I would not make it a permanent feature of the teaching in my Faculty-and certainly not interfere with equipment-, but I would particularly recommend that younger teachers try it to widen their teaching repertoire. More experienced teachers should also consider how they could adapt some old low-tech teaching activities to make them more relevant to the 21st century. After all, good teaching involves a wide repertoire of ideas to engage students-high tech AND low tech.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

MFL Flashmeeting 3: Let’s Connect Again!

The MFL twittering teachers are striking back!
This time, the virtual “Show and Tell” will take place on Monday 28 September 8.30-10.30pm GMT.

Participants will need to sign up here, on Lynne Horne’s wiki and the event will be hosted by the lovely Suzi Bewell.

Do you want to brainstorm ideas for your classrooms, share your latest projects with like-minded colleagues or simply find out what is happening with Languages in the UK?
All you need to do to take part is to click on the link for the meeting available on the registration page-and at the end of this post- and plug your webcam/ microphone. You can also type/chat to comment on what is being said and vote to express opinion as well as share links with the other participants.

Already on the agenda:
1. Cunning tips: how do you save time in blogging/podcasting/resource creating and so on, to keep work/life balance & prevent divorce/forgetting names of children, etc.?
2. What did YOU do for European Day of Languages and how did it go?
3. Is there a place for audio feedback instead of written feedback for pupils' work delivered via email or through a VLE?
4. How can blogging help raise intercultural understanding for pupils?
5. Is the specific teaching of phonics important and what difference does it make to pupils' understanding?
6. What's your favourite Web 2.0 tool at the moment and why?
7. How do you use your VLE and what sort of resources do you have on it?
and Go to the meeting . You will then be asked to give permission for your microphone or webcam to be used. Click Allow and then select Sign in as Guest. Click Enter.

Really looking forward to this one (again)...

Monday, 24 August 2009

The LAFTAs: Promoting Languages through Competitions

What is it?
The competition is organised by CILT, the National Centre for Languages as part of its work to promote languages in the UK. The LAFTAs aims to create a bank of video clips that can be used to encourage teenagers to value language learning.

What do you have to do?
You have to make a two-minute video showing why languages are important. Online application forms and clips must be sent in before February 2010.The clips will be put on a dedicated YouTube page and passed on to regional judges and, finally, to the LAFTA’s celebrity judging panel.

Video clips can be in any style but students must be aged 13-21, must be living in the UK and can be entered in one or more categories. There are individual and group categories for the most commonly taught languages as well as a "London 2012" and "World of Languages" category to celebrate all the world languages spoken in the UK.

What are they looking for?
*Originality and creativity: Clips are not be judged on technical excellence, the idea is the most important criteria.
*Clips should have a strong message about the benefits of learning a language as illustrated on the LAFTA YouTube page.
*Clips should be designed to appeal to young people rather than adults.
*Clips should be no longer than two minutes in length.

Hints and tips are aso provided here and it is also interesting to have a look at a similar competition organised in the US by the ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages)

Sunday, 23 August 2009

European Day of Languages: Promoting Language Diversity

The European Day of Languages (EDL) aims to celebrate the rich and diverse culture that is represented by Languages worldwide and 26 September is the common European day first set by the Council of Europe in 2001. This celebration of language and culture diversity has been getting bigger every year, now with 45 countries involved.
Dominic McGladdery, a UK MFL teacher, has set up a very useful wiki with ideas of activities but there are many other ways to find good resources and ideas to celebrate this day.

For instance, you can order up to 100 free copies of “Passport to the European Union” and “Languages take you further” from here.

There are lots of other resources from the CILT’s website including:
EDL animations
Desktop wallpapers
Pronunciation guide

Popular suggested activities include:
Language days
Football tournaments
Poetry competitions
International evening
Video conferences
Interactive games
Multilingual assembly
Language Breakfasts
Singing competitions
Greeting cards

Somes sample activities for primary schools could also inspire secondary eachers and include:

Multilingual assemblies that could also include games, food, cinema and multilingual assemblies. Find out more

Languages hand mime This is a great way of getting children to communicate in your chosen language and to have fun! Find out more

Songs Find out more

Music Competition Select excerpts from tracks in ten different languages. Children complete grid adding language they think song is in to track number (eg no. 1 Spanish) Competition to see who gets most correct answers. Prizes for winners.

Food tasting Children have the opportunity to see food being made or make food (using/following instructions for recipe in foreign language) and then taste it. They must ask to try it and give polite feedback on it using target language!

Dance Children learn a traditional dance from foreign country (following instructions in target language). Children can practise this and perform as part of special EDL assembly.

The Council of Europe website for EDL is at and you can get inspired by events run in the whole of Europe during the previous years

LTS Scotland is a good source of ideas and links to resources. It also has “word files” in languages from Arabic to Welsh which could be very useful for language taster sessions. TES resources is also one not to miss as well as a previous post of mine which includes links to language promotion resources

Last but not least, I think that the Voicethread idea mentioned by Joe Dale in one of his recent blog posts is definitely one to investigate...

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

From Thinking Skills to Thinking Classrooms

On my quest to find ways to further embed Thinking Skills into the practice of all the teachers in our faculty, I came across the key conclusions of the review lead by Professor Carol McGuiness from the School of Psychology at Queen’s University in Belfast.

Although the report dates back to 1999 and looks at the integration of Thinking Skills at whole school level, it is very useful to use as a rationale for action at Faculty level. Indeed, further embedding includes looking at Thinking Skills as an integrated teaching approach including creativity and collaboration rather than just a collection of discreet types of activities.

According to the report, a framework for developing thinking skills should include:

• The need to make thinking skills explicit in Schemes of Work
• Teaching thinking through student coaching
• Collaborative and ICT-based learning
• Creating “dispositions and habits of good thinking”
• Reinforcement throughout the school to move from thinking curricula to thinking classrooms and thinking schools

It was also interesting to read that ICT provides a “tool for enhancing children’s understanding and powers of reasoning through exploratory environments” like multimedia ones. Local and wide-area networked communication was also highlighted as providing “special opportunities for collaborative learning”

However, for ICT to support the develpment of Thinking Skills, there is a need to move away from the traditional ICT-based activities of drilling and practising skills such as grammar, spelling and out-of-context vocabulary recall.

• Interactive exploratory environments where students can direct their own learning through guided discovery processes are more likely to develop Thinking Skills. They encourage risk-taking and “enable pupils to hypothesise and experiment with immediate feedback”. When a competitive element is introduced, this also facilitates "discussion and reflection with peers”. Video and multi-media technology can also be used to create such environments.

• “Local and networked communication provide unique opportunities to use the language for real communication purposes as well as give a real audience and aim for a whole host of activities including surveys, presentations and other exchanges of information.

The challenge?
“Classroom which are characterised by talk and discussion and by questions and questioning need to be managed and orchestrated yet remain clearly focused on learning objectives.”
In order to get “teacher buy-in”, the benefits of developing Thinking Skills approaches will need to be clearly defined and agreed as a set of common goals such as developing collaboration or independent learning skills. The goals will also need to be carefully monitored and extra support provided if needed.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Licenced to Teach: Which Qualifications?

Originally uploaded by AhavatHaEmet

There is currently a lot of debate about the amount of qualifications needed to be a good teacher-or should I say a “credible” one. Whether we are talking about qualifications on entry or whether a teaching MOT is a good idea, the consensus is that teachers

must have a secure knowledge of what they teach and be provided with regular opportunities to upgrade their knowledge. However, it is well known that you can be very knowledgeable and still unable to teach effectively and, conversely, that a good teacher with maybe less depth of knowledge will be able to take his/ her students a lot further.

A secondary school curriculum and staffing survey published by the NFER in 2007 showed how 23% of French teachers in England did not have a post -A level qualification in it. If you think it does not sound too good, this is better than German (28%) and a lot better than Spanish (40%), which shows how some teachers qualified to teach other subjects are asked to teach Spanish-although they will often be languages teachers qualified to teach other languages such as French. To put it into context, the figures were 25% and 21% respectively for Maths and English.

The University of Buckingham's Good Teacher Training Guide 2009 found a link between low entry qualifications and failure to find a teaching job.
However, what the research does not show is the percentage of teachers who have experiences demonstrating that their depth of knowledge is more developed than a teacher with just an A Level. In languages, it could be somebody who has lived and worked in the target language country for an extended period of time, it could be somebody who has had to build onto their GCSE skills in order to use the language while working in industry, it could be a dual heritage person who decided to use their languages only at a later stage of their studies... The possibilities are endless.

So what kind of teacher would you rather have? One with the current mix of skills, levelled out by the ability to meet Q standards? Or should the teachers without post A Levels qualifications be denied access? Is this sustainable, particularly for shortage subjects?

I know what kind of teacher I would rather have: a lifelong learner with a passion for their subject-that’s the easy bit- as well as someone who knows how to make each student feel special ...

Monday, 17 August 2009

Twitter Talkback: What Makes a Quality Tweet?

That was the title of a blog post by Soren Gordhamer on retweeed by @spanishsam. Research indicates that "40% of Tweets are Pointless Babble"

So what are "Quality Tweets"? Accordig to the post, "Quality Tweets" are...

1. informative, help us learn something
2. humorous
3. personal, they say something about us as a person
4. inspiring quotes that can increase the quality of our lives

I would definitely agree with the first one. If I have not learnt anything reading a Tweet, I would definitely dismiss it as “Pointless Babble”, but the learning does not have to be just finding out about facts. It could be finding out something about somebody’s background that explains their position on certain issues or it could be sharing a picture that we have found useful to talk about a specific subject.

I do not agree with the second one as humour is such a culturally-biased thing. It is as likely to offend as it is to make people smile. As far as I am concerned, humour is definitely DM territory...

I would agree that a quality tweet must have a personal touch but that is not to say that I enjoy tweets about the details of people’s lives. It is sometimes good to see we are not alone in having to pick up the kids at school and tidy up the house but reading about this all the time is definitely not uplifting.

I am not that keen on sharing quotes although I don’t mind reading them. For them to be meaningful, they need to connect with some aspects of your life-personal or professional- at that particular time and that just happens so rarely...

The post has generated lots of comments that are just as interesting as the main post, but my own views on "Quality Tweets" is that:

1. They teach you something: you learn new facts, you share inspiring ideas and resources, you find out about people who interest you.
2. They make you think and challenge your own perceptions.
3. They keep you up-to-date with your area of work.
4. They provide you with professional emotional support: you are not alone in trying to do what you are trying to do.
5. They support you in your job in a practical way by pointing you out to useful resources

Any more?

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Summer Reading: Guy Claxton-What’s The Point of School?

Atlas, it's time for your bath

Guy Claxton is an Honorary Visiting Fellow at Bristol in the Graduate School of Education and the Institute of Advanced Studies. I first found out about his work nearly 2 years ago and I have found it a source of inspiration ever since. Although "What's the Point of School? looks at the UK Educational system, there are many universal themes including how a heavy testing regime can stifle creativity and be detrimental to “real” learning. There are so many thought-provoking points in his book that I will only focus on those that are meaningful to me now. This is definitely a book to pick up every so often to find inspiration on how to deal with new issues...

Guy Claxton’s Building Learning Power programme is defined by a series of small achievable steps building towards deeper change in learning habits. It is not the main theme of the book but it is mentioned as an example of how to encourage the development of “real” learning in school, in opposition to just ensuring students are ready for exams.

BLP has four aims:
· To raise standards of achievement
· To increase levels of student engagement
· To make teaching more satisfying
· To prepare young people to deal with out-of-school challenges by expanding their capacity and appetite for real-life learning.

As students are being coached in how to be usefully reflective about their own learning journeys, they are also developing collaboration skills and developing a richer meta-language in which to talk, not just about the content of their learning, but bout its process as well.
“What’s the point of school” does consider what learning in schools should look like in the 21st century but its focus is more on the faults of our UK educational system as it stands and how a shift of priorities is needed to improve the current system.

So, what is a confident learner according to Guy Claxton?
· A curious individual-up for new challenges and ready to investigate them;
· Somebody who is resilient;
· Somebody who can balance imagination and logic in order to think “with a mix of creativity and clarity”;
· Somebody who is confident enough to ask for help when needed and receive feedback without getting upset;
· Somebody who can slow down to think things through.

This vision of a confident learner shows how important it is to manage emotions in order to teach effectively. The argument throughout the book is that all children are naturally curious and eager to find out about completely new things. Although I would not dispute the fact all children were born that way, I am not convinced that this appetite is still fully intact by the time our students reach us as teenagers-a time in their lives when their emotions are even more problematic to manage not just for the adults around them but for the teenagers themselves.

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the more untouched the area of learning, the more enthusiasm for learning it is likely to generate-hence the need for world languages to introduce content in a wide variety of ways and find compelling contexts to do so and avoid the deja vu feeling of replicating activities done in the mother tongue . An element of choice also gives students the feeling that they are more in control of their learning. However, for languages this choice will have to be more limited at the beginning of the language-learning process as learners are more dependent on resources like dictionaries (or teacher!).

From a “Confident” Learner, Guy Claxton moves on to a “Powerful Learner”.
Curiosity, the confidence to say “I don’t know”, investigation skills, imagination are still there, but other attributes are also mentioned like:
· “The ability to think carefully, rigorously and methodically”
· Sociability, being “ good at sharing ideas, suggestions and resources”
· The ability to “step back and take stock of progress”
· Self-awareness

I was really interested by the list of “subjects” suggested by teachers to be part of an ideal curriculum aiming to prepare young people for the complexities and uncertainties of their future:
· Human rights
· Statistics and probabilities
· Empathy
· Risk-management
· Negotiation/ Mediation
· Ecology
· How to think
· Epistemology
· Collaboration
· Literacy
· Global awareness
· Ethics
· Healthy scepticism
· Body awareness
· Neuroscience
· Resilience
· Creativity
· Will power
· Giving and taking feedback
· Relaxation

My first reaction was-how useful, but how do you teach this? My second reaction, however, was to see how easily they could all be taught through my subject, languages. For instance...
Human rights? teach them about schools and corporal punishment or differences in school rules between countries
Statistics and probabilities? Do/study surveys on favourite leisure pursuits or holiday destinations
Empathy? How can you tell this person is happy, worried, tired etc.. by listening to their voice or watching a short video clip
Risk-management? Create safe environment for students to practise the language, reward those who are willing to model good language for others.

Although no direct reference was made to the specific situation of languages in the UK, Guy Claxton did mention languages when pointing out to how unreliable published school performance data can be. “If young people are encouraged into easier subjects-by letting them drop say, Physics or French-results can look better”, with the added opinion that “The more important you make the achievement of measurable targets, the more people will find a way of massaging the figures”. Nothing new there...

I would agree that there is far too much emphasis on measurable targets, but what’s the point of a target you can’t measure? I can see that a lot of targets should rely far more on qualitative data rather than raw exam results but it seems to me that as the whole system is caught up in a data tangle, individual schools cannot take it upon them to disentangle themselves on their own. The system must include safeguards for underachievement, but apart from that, why is laissez-faire only ever good enough just for the economy? Challenging thought, I know...

I also loved the words from Joseph Payne, dating back to 1856, against continual testing and likening it to “continually pulling up the plants to see the conditions of the roots, the consequence of which was that all good natural growth was stopped”. I suppose it is a bit like constantly opening the oven door when a cake is baking: what looked at first quite promising could end up completely deflated and ruined.

As far as the power of ICT to "save" Education is concerned, I agree with Guy Claxton that the focus should be on “helping them to develop the kind of reflective awareness that builds discernment and transfer” rather than “doing ... tedious busywork”. This is where networking is so useful: You never know what technology can do for you until you start experimenting with it. The more experimentation, the more idea on how to creatively use ICT to encourage "real" learning...