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