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!