Saturday, 11 December 2010

ALL Manchester Event at Manchester Grammar School, Saturday 11th December: Integrating PLTS in the Languages Classroom

I had a lovely time this morning presenting on how to integrate Personal Learning and Thinking Skills (PLTS) at Manchester Grammar School. Here is a copy of the presentation I used. Please note that parts of the presentation might look slightly different from the one I delivered at MGS as I decided to copy the documents I referred to into the presentation. I also include a copy of my reference sheet.

Please note these files will also be added to the wiki referred to on Slide1 with many more...

Saturday, 4 December 2010

The Importance of Teaching, The Schools White Paper 2010-A Turning Point for Languages?

language variety on cadbury's choc

The White Paper highlights the government’s educational philosophy and presents languages as an important subject that is part of the new qualification called “The English Bac”. If you do not fancy reading all 95 pages, ALL, the Association for Language Learning,  has published a handy summary available from here with a number of interesting links on the subject and what it means for Modern Languages.

ALL has also published a summary document to show what the White paper means for languages.

I feel that the proposal is certainly a step in the right direction-even though I would say that the proposed changes for teacher training would not help to develop further the position of languages in schools. In addition, the lack of references to Primary Languages is both disappointing and concerning-a real missed opportunity to re-affirm the place of languages in the primary curriculum and congratulate teachers and managers on all their effort to promote quality early language-learning .

Indeed, a lot more detailed information is needeed to ensure that the proposals have maximum impact in schools.

Is the percentage achieving the “English Bac” going to be published with the old 5A*-C including Maths and English? Is that going to be open for comparisons between schools locally through the local newspaper, for instance? The current indicators for MFL are hidden away and not easily accessible by the public-hence the lack of pressure on schools to improve them.

Is GCSE going to be the only indicator? If this is the case, languages will become even more elitist and there will be very little incentive for some schools to re-launch languages and “sell it” to more students in case they just miss a C. It will also mean that the emphasis will still be on ensuring students get at least a C rather than ensuring every student does his/ her best.

What would happen if a school decided not to make any changes to their curriculum and still have a minority of students not getting the “bac”? Would this trigger an OFSTED inspection? Would this be published in the community? If the school sees this as a legitimate way to create life chances for students and the parents do not voice disagreement-who would challenge this?

I am delighted that our subject has been recognised as an important part of the curriculum but I do feel that we need more than statements of intents to shift the situation and improve participation as well as achievement for all students in all schools.

Michael Gove has written to all schools.  A copy of the letter can be found at . He invites initial responses to the White Paper by 8 December.
They should be sent to 
If you are an ALL member do share your response with them by sending it to as they need to know their members' opinions to be able to represent us effectively.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Integrating PLTS in The Languages Classroom, Saturday 11th December, Manchester Grammar School

I will be delivering a PLTS training event at Manchester Grammar School on Saturday 11th December-More details and how to book in the downloadable scribd document below. See you there!

Integrating PLTS in the Modern Languages Classroom
by Isabelle Jones
• Discover strategies for embedding PLTS in your daily practice
• Audit your own practice and look at ways to promote PLTS in your classroom
• Identify creative ways to widen your repertoire of Thinking Skills activities
• Discover ICT tools to support the development of Thinking Skills resources

The Manchester Grammar School, Old Hall Lane
Fallowfield, Manchester, M13 0XT
(Free parking)

ALL Members £5
Non-members £20
NQTs £2
PGCE: free (if members of ALL)
(Please make cheques payable to ALL (Manchester Branch)

It is important that we know in advance if you would like to attend. To reserve a place, please send the application form below by Tuesday, 7th December 2010 to Geoff Brammall, 3 Sundial Road, Offerton, Stockport, SK2 5QU, via email: or phone: 0161 483 4347

Application Form
To: Geoff Brammall, 3 Sundial Road, Offerton, Stockport, SK2 5QU
Telephone: 0161 483 4347 Email:

Integrating PLTS in the Modern Languages Classroom
(Saturday 11th September, 10.00 am – 12.30 pm)



Contact Telephone Number


Please list below (in BLOCK capitals) the names of all participants.

Name ___________________________Member/Non-Member/NQT/PGCE/FLA*

Name ___________________________Member/Non-Member/NQT/PGCE/FLA*

Name ___________________________Member/Non-Member/NQT/PGCE/FLA*

Name ___________________________Member/Non-Member/NQT/PGCE/FLA*

Name ___________________________Member/Non-Member/NQT/PGCE/FLA*

* Please circle/highlight as appropriate.

Friday, 19 November 2010

CLIL is Brill (But Keep It Real), Saddleworth School, Friday 12 November 2010

Karen Hutley is a SSAT MFL Lead Practitioner at Saddleworth School, my local language college. She has been working to develop CLIL-French and German with History-at her school for more than 2 years now and the aim of the training day was to share her experiences and present her school’s approach to CLIL.

CLIL stands for Content and Language Integrated Learning and it is an approach encouraged by the Revised PoS, as it provides “opportunities for pupils to... use the Target Language in connection with topics and issues... that may be related to other areas of the curriculum”

CLIL is not a new concept and there is a wealth of references found in different European projects.

Karen divided the planning process into 4 areas:

Vision: What do I want to achieve with our learners?

Content: What is appropriate?

Unit concept: What will a unit consist of? Aims? Outcomes? Opportunities for assessment?

CLIL is a way to promote languages through another curriculum area:

Apart from the reported gains in value added and motivation, I like the fact that CLIL encourages independence and challenge rather than pure “fun” (What’s fun anyway?) and that it redefines the content and the purpose of languages lessons, which will address some much-debated gender issues.

It also develops study skills and concentration, encourages linguistic spontaneity and widens students’ horizons at many different levels from the classroom to the outside world in general.

I am particularly interested in CLIL as a pathway for mixed-experience language classes at the start of KS3 and a powerful way to keep motivated young linguists on board rather than de-moralising them by revisiting what they have learnt at KS2 in nearly exactly the same way.

CLIL was also presented in terms of wholeschool benefits:

Revisits effective teaching and learning approaches

Creates REAL cross-curricular partnerships effectively disseminating good practice

Provides new challenges and raise our expectations

Develops creativity and innovation in the curriculum

Stretches and motivates students, especially the most able

Raises the status of Languages

Improves generic and specific language skills

Top tips to start CLIL

Observe colleagues in the non-specialist subject

Share SoWs and NC levels

Plan carefully together-Do you understand the concept you are teaching?

Make good use of your FLAs

Praise/ Reward system

Use SEN worksheets as a starting point and look at resources already available.


We were given an opportunity to look at how Movie Maker can help producing CLIL resources.

Although I have used movie-maker in class, there are a few things I had not considered:

You can only import .avi .mpg and .wmv video files, so importing a Youtube clip will often mean charnging the format.

I could use my own camera footage (sometimes the most obvious is not what we go for...)

Movie Maker can automatically split your movie into smaller clips that are easier to edit or you can manually trim video clips to show just the most interesting moments.

I enjoyed muting the video and putting other sound for it as well as altering its appearance e.g. black and white/ sepia, which is always an effective way to convey how things used to be in the past.

It was also great to be reminded about tools like keepvid that can be used to source and download You Tube clips or Zamzar that also provides a free online file conversion service.

I found out about new resources/tools too like sounddogs, Flash Catcher-tool that downloads flash animations into one single file and Pixelan which has new editing add-ons for Movie Maker, pre-made packs and powerful customizable wizards.

We were also given the opportunity to see CLIL in action and to then go back to plan part of a CLIL lesson. As the topic was Poverty in Victorian Britain, which I know very little about and I certainly did not study at school in France, I found this part of the day both challenging and enlightening. It also made me think very carefully about the subject I would do CLIL with as some prior knowledge of the key concept is definitely an advantage.

The other thing to consider was the level of language. When you talk to colleagues about CLIL, there is a general misconception that the level of language used should be equivalent to the one used in the target language country. As the aim is to communicate the concepts rather than focus on the linguistic side of things, this could not be further from the truth. It is up to the teacher to define the appropriate language needed to teach the concept, keep the challenge and provide support rather than just dumb down the language in the hope that students will understand the concept better that way (they don’t!).

Although CLIL has a lot to offer, it is clear that the Saddleworth School model needs to be adapted to different schools according to their circumstances. The school has put a lot of thought into joint-timetabling and included some extra time for preparation to ensure the sustainability of CLIL in the curriculum but this might be more difficult to implement in a non-language college.

Sustainability is an issue not to be brushed aside, as parents will want to know about future continuity and impact on the other areas of the curriculum. Good communication with parents is also essential for them to understand the benefits of CLIL and not to feel that their child is being used as part of a “strange experiment”.

Time is also a pressure as a CLIL will require even more preparation time than a traditional language lesson-hence the title and the need to make good use of support staff like FLAs and ICT support staff.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Show and Tell at The Radclyffe School, 13th November: My Top 7 Apps for French

Thank you to everybody who attended and presented at the Show and Tell at The Radclyffe School for being so creative, approachable and intellectually generous. All presentations and related resources are available at
This is my presentation, but you also get a chance to exchange ideas about good languages iphone apps via other posts on this blog and via my googledoc spreadsheet on iphone apps for languages teachers (feel free to add to the list). 

Sunday, 7 November 2010

AQA GCSE Course: Improving Preparation for Writing, 1st November 2010, Manchester

This course focused on the writing part of the GCSE: 2 externally marked assignments.

The assignments can be on any topic but must not duplicate content. They must also be different from the speaking tasks.

The quality of the pieces will be assessed overall even if the pieces go beyond the recommended number of words: 230-350 across the 2 tasks for grades G-D and 400-600 for grades C-A*

It is therefore not in the students’ interest to write in too much length unless the accuracy and the quality of the range can be maintained throughout.

Although writing and speaking must be different, they could both come from the same topic. It is however important to ensure there is no duplication of content (3+ sentences, not the odd word) as the language can only be credited once

It is the response to the title which is assessed, bullet points can be ignored (unlike for Speaking)

6-7 bullet points is what seems to provide students with the best kind of guidance

Beware of over or under-prescription: responses need to be individual but lower ability students need more support with structure at the start.

When writing your own task, you need to keep the following in mind:

• You need a title and to keep the title separate from scene-setting

• Use simple and clear language in bullet points

• Make sure ALL bullet points are directly relevant to the title

• Look at exemplar material for recommended format

• Tasks do not have to be approved by your Controlled Assessment adviser. Advisers cannot mark tasks but can offer useful general advice.

Stage 1: is the stage when students are being taught the language. All materials including marked work can be used at stage 2.

Stage 2: The task is given to students, who have 6 hours of planning and preparation time in school and at home. Teacher can launch Stage 2 with general advice to the group, going through the bullet points and explaining what is required e.g. give an opinion and a justification, ask them to recall what piece of homework they have done that could help them with the task, direct their attention to helpful resources, but no further teacher help is allowed after that. Students can work with and help each other but responses should be individual. There is no requirement to measure the 6 hours preparation time.

Drafts must be kept in school and teachers must not comment on them.

The task and the plan can be used a home and in school.

Task-planning sheet: 40 whole words maximum, no visuals, no conjugated verbs, no phonetic transcriptions, no codes.

Students should be taught different strategies to write an effective task-planning form, such as:

Set it out in the same order as the bullet points,

Use the first word of each bullet point to help you with sequencing

Make a list of words you find particularly difficult to remember

Highlight “impressive” structures to enable you to score higher for the range of language used e.g. après avoir fini... (l’ d’ and hyphenated words are not counted separately)

Stage 3: Test conditions-one hour maximum, students have access to the task, task-planning form and a bilingual dictionary. There is no access to the draft and no access to online resources if a computer is used.

It is important to bear in mind that the use of tenses is credited in the Assessment scheme. 2 different tenses are required (NOT references to 2 time-frame) e.g. the perfect and the imperfect are OK as they are 2 different tenses. Please note that in French near future is not considered as a future tense, so "Je vais aller/ J’irai" count as 2 different tenses. Conversely, do not use “J’espère” if you want the student to produce a future tense construction.

Accuracy is only 5 marks so it is important to use the whole 1-5 scale-it does not need to be perfect for a 5. When assessing for accuracy, tenses are not taken into account but the emphasis is on the range of the language and the content. Candidates do not need to write in paragraphs.

All key materials can be found here for reference:

The AQA resources list can provide additional ideas and resources for teaching at Stage 1:

• Speed-dating

• Fill-in-the-gap activities: text with every 5th word missing, text without linking words

• Pictures: write something about it including one opinion, two time phrases...

• Tarsia formulator (dominos with different and more complex shapes)  (Spanish-advanced)

The last activity of the day was to reflect on the opportunities provided by different titles:

A wide-ranging title is more effective like “Life of a Celebrity” rather than “A day in the life of...”, “Holidays” rather than “My last holiday” etc...

The letter format can also be more restrictive than an article but the title must not encourage the candidate to produce lengthy lists rather than a wide range of structures.

As always networking and sharing good practice will ensure that opportunities are maximised for students.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

The Language Show: Lots to Think About!

I really enjoyed my day at The Language Show on Saturday 16th October, a very productive day which provided me with so much inspiration...

I started the day attending Joe Dale’s session on PLNs. Although I am very familiar with PLNs and Joe’s work, I really enjoyed the session despite what I can only describe as “diabolical acoustics”.

I found the following particularly useful:

• Explore more uses for sites like or The Twitter Times to get a community to engage in a different way

• Potential of ipadio for live podcasting 

• Use tools like Friend or Follow to manage your Twitter following. I also like Twittaquitta, a tool that sends you emails to keep track of who is starting to follow you and who has stopped following you

• Keep an eye on suitable webminars taking place all over the world like this one and podcasts via Twitter

I then went on to listen to Rachel Hawkestalk.
Then again, lots of ideas but I decided to focus on these in particular:

• Develop the idea of “student co-teachers” as a way to promote independence and confidence

• Log target language use on seating plan to justify reward

• Involve some KS4 disaffected students with the community: adults, link primary schools

• Use extracts of Wikipedia in Spanish to provide a Reading Challenge/ demonstrate phonics rules/use of cognates and near cognates

• Consider setting up one-off “Phonics for parents” workshops to enable parents to support learning homework

• Re-evaluate how effective choral repetition is-practise pronunciation to a beat/music as an alternative (this reminded me of another possible use for Songsmith...)

• Use mirror images/ upside down words when focusing on pronunciation

• Investigate Group Talk and how it can be set up with large KS3 classes

• Look at character cards using the Target Language for role-play practice

• Refresh language mat practice-We used to do this! Produce mats with core language to develop student independence. Good CPD is not always about finding new ideas but about reminding you of the good ideas you used to have...

• Using paintings as stimuli to discuss colours, shapes and feelings as well as introducing key structures like hay/ no hay, tiene/ no tiene in Spanish

• Use real school events like a popular residential trip to discuss what students are going to do (future tense) or did (different sorts of past tense), feelings and opinions

Listening to Eva Lamb’s talk, I also found out about the wide variety of LinkedUp projects as well as the fact that all resources from these projects will be shared very soon.

I was also reminded of the National Spelling Bee Competition which focuses on Year 7. Students have to learn key vocabulary in the language they are studying at school. The challenge consists in translating the words into the foreign language and spell them out loud.
Spelling Bee (Go in past events)

In the Show and Tell, my attention was drawn to the following:

• Collaborative stories using mini-vocabulary flashcards with key words like “hier” in French

• Using Wallwisher for homework

• Give students access to podcasts in the Target Languages (extension homework on the VLE?)

• Look at primary practice for inspiration: Use of mini-whiteboards, table set-up, rewards...

• Make more use of Tagxedo (lovely word clouds) and Universed (podcasts, videos, blogs, bookmarks, photos, tags)

• Consider using Xtra-normal or puppets for livening up speaking practice

Last, but not least, I picked up a fantastic free publication on CLIL by The Languages Company

I now need some time to digest and share with colleagues...

Sunday, 17 October 2010

ALL Show and Tell, The Language Show, London, Saturday 16th October 2010

I will be posting more in details about all the great ideas I gathered during the Show and Tell at The Language Show. This is my contribution-a bit ambitious for a 2 minutes chat but I honestly did not go much over 5 minutes!

Sunday, 10 October 2010

The Language Show, Earls court, London, 15-17th October 2010

The Language Show is a free yearly event and will be held 15-17th October 2010 at Earls Court, Old Brompton Road, London SW5 9TA.

This is probably one of the largest events of the year for language teachers with taster language lessons, teacher seminars, world cinema and a large exhibition and much more...

On the Saturday, Joe Dale and Helen Myers will host a Show and Tell during the show ( 4.30 – 5.30) and a social event straight afterwards.

The ALL London Committee has found a function room at The Tournament Pub next to the exhibition venue which will be used for the social event.

To register your interest please sign up on the wiki.

This is a great opportunity to meet languages colleagues and exchange ideas in an informal way. The idea is to get lots of different speakers to talk about lots of different things for about 2 minutes, so no need to be an experienced speaker...

But what if they already know what I am talking about?

Once we know something, we always tend to assume everybody else knows it. Maybe they don’t, maybe they do-and you have just reminded them of it. There is surely nothing wrong with that... so come, be refreshed and inspired and enjoy good company!

More information is also available on the ALL London website

See you on Saturday 16th October!

Saturday, 25 September 2010

MFL Show and Tell, Saturday 13th November, 10-3pm The Radclyffe School, Oldham.

The idea of the MFL Show and Tell  is to give teachers an opportunity to share good practice on the teaching and learning of languages as well as the use of technology in the MFL classroom in a relaxed, informal environment. This will be the third event organised nationally after a first one in Coventry and a second one in Nottingham.
If you would like to come along as a speaker or attendee, please sign up by adding your name to the wiki and add your details to the page (click on edit, position your cursor in the text, type your details and save). It would be great if you could also say what you would like to talk about or what you would like other people talk about.

This event will be free as it is sponsored by ALL and Links into Languages.

Speakers so far (please volunteer as a speaker-you can just speak for 5-10 minutes)

Isabelle Jones, The Radclyffe School, My languages,Twitter: @icpjones
Mary Cooch, Our Lady's High Preston, Twitter:  
Joe Dale, independent ICT/MFL consultant, Integrating ICT into the MFL classroom Twitter: @joedale
Helena Butterfield, St. Michael's RC School, The Langwitch Chronicles, Twitter: @langwitch

Attendees (so far):
Isabelle Jones, The Radclyffe School, My languages,Twitter: @icpjones
Joe Dale, independent ICT/MFL consultant, Integrating ICT into the MFL classroom Twitter: @joedale
Mary Cooch, Our Lady's High Preston, Twitter:
Marie O'Sullivan, Levenshulme High School, Twitter: @reesiepie
Helena Butterfield, St. Michael's RC School, The Langwitch Chronicles, Twitter: @langwitch
Alex Bellars, Ballard School, Ballard LangBlog, Twitter: @bellaale
Esther Mercier, Longridge HS, twitter @atantot and maybe one teacher from the German exchange!
Saira Ghani, Chiltern Edge School, @sghani 
Nigel Yeo, The Radclyffe School, Oldham
Vanessa Parker, The Radclyffe School, Oldham
Fiona Joyce, Ian Ramsey Cof E (Languages College), Stockton-on-Tees, Twitter: @wizenedcrone
Kath Holton, Argoed High School, N Wales, @kath52
Nicola Pearson, Rochdale Sixth Form College, Twitter: @nicpearson
Samantha Lunn, Arnold School, Blackpool, @spanishsam, 
Pauline Sheaff, Bolton School Girls' Division,
Clare Seccombe, Sunderland LA, @valleseco , Changing Phase
Julia O'Brien, MFL Supply Teacher, Twitter: @Mlleob
Miriam Wall. Manchester Creative and Media Academy, Moston, Manchester,
Catherine Agrain, All Saints College, Dukinfield,
Celine Bauer, All Saints College, Dukinfield,

Topics of interest (so far):
New GCSE controlled assessments (speaking and writing)
Promotion of Languages
Managing the assessment of speaking skills at KS3
GCSE in year 9 successful or not experience and what course next ?

Monday, 20 September 2010

ALL Together For Languages: My Response

1. I would like the media and the decision-makers to move away from constant reports that we are not good at languages “as a nation”. Good linguistic role-models should be publicized more widely rather than make them look like the geeky exception. I find there is sometimes a snobbish attitude about monolingual people that makes you feel that, if you are making the effort to learn somebody else’s language, you are losing your Britishness and you are somewhat letting the side down… Monolinguism should be portrayed as an exception, not multilinguism. I feel there is also a lot to be done to educate the public so that they do not feel that teaching a child another language from a young age might “confuse” them or “hold them back”.

2. I find it incredible that despite the fact that so many of us are trying so hard to make our subject accessible and interesting, we are always hit by the argument that “language teaching puts most people off learning a language”. There are endless discussions about poor literacy and numeracy skills in the media but never any link with the teaching… I sometimes feel that this attitude is caused by some parents who are not aware of the sweeping changes that have occurred in the teaching of languages since they went to school and their bad memories are passed on to their children…

I cannot understand how languages are considered the least important in the curriculum when they overlap with so many key skills such as literacy and oracy. Then again, a serious information campaign is needed to get parents from all backgrounds to understand that languages are not just useful to order a drink whilst abroad… and to get rid of the “for middle class only” tag.

3. I am very worried that there is currently a very unequal access to studying a language in secondary schools. It seems that unless you are in a language college, where languages have the status of a core subject, the position of languages is far too vulnerable for such a strategically important subject. Some safeguards need to be offered by our government to ensure that studying a language is encouraged in ALL types of schools, as languages should be seen as a core skill. I am very excited at the prospect of an English “bacc” model of reporting exam results but I am also very worried that this would only take into account a GCSE, when it is clearly not an inclusive qualification.

4. Decision makers should reward schools who encourage ALL students to take some kind of qualifications in a foreign language, and not just a GCSE. Qualifications could be weighed but effort to study and take an examination in a language should be acknowledged and rewarded. If not studying a language cannot be used as a shortcut to better looking exam results for schools, there should be every incentive for senior teams in secondary schools to give languages the important place it deserves in the secondary curriculum.

Friday, 17 September 2010

ALL together - Let’s Speak Out About Languages!

20-26 September 2010

The Association for Language Learning (ALL) would like to know about the issues which particularly concern you about the teaching and learning of languages.

Next week, beginning on Monday 20 September, ALL is asking members and language teachers everywhere to think about ways in which language teaching and learning could be improved and promoted.

The consultation week will culminate on Saturday 25th September at the Annual General Meeting of the Association (Goethe Institut, London 10.30 – 12.30, see for further details) where we will pull together all the ideas sent to ALL during the week.

You might want to give your opinion about the following [within the context of your own work and locality]:

1. What is the achievement you would most like the media / public / decision-makers to know about?

2. What is your response to media statements such as “language teaching puts most people off learning a language” or “Languages considered least important subjects for children to learn at school”?

3 What are the issues that worry you most?

4. How can we ensure that decision makers in education value language learning?

More ideas will be added to ALL website over the next week - see

ALL would like to hear from you in the week beginning Monday 20 September – every day the website will be updated with views as they come in.

There are a number of ways you can send ALL your thoughts:

• Email them to Steven Fawkes, ALL Membership Officer

• Use ALL Facebook page to share your views – go to , become a fan and add your comment to the ALL ‘consultation’ thread.

• If you fancy ‘tweeting’ instead follow ALL and send your views.

ALL will make a final public statement, bringing together all your views, on the European Day of Languages, to be celebrated this year on Monday 27 September.

Let’s work together to make the voice of language teachers heard!

Thursday, 26 August 2010

The Decline of World Languages in The UK: Time to Reverse The Trend

In the wake of the best GCSE results ever, there has been a lot of discussions about the decline of languages in the UK, with a specific focus in French “no longer in the top 10 of popular subjects”.

I have been collecting such articles on Diigo and sharing them via my twitter account @icpjones.

More and more people are coming to the conclusion that leaving the development of such sensitive skills to market forces only will be detrimental to our educational system, our economy and our country in general.
This post is not about why languages are so essential, most educated people seem to agree they are. However, even if not studying a language is a common regret for a lot of adults, we seem to be getting a lot of mixed messages about languages in the media.

Languages are difficult
Nothing of value has ever been achieved without effort-the issue with languages is that the sense of true achievement is delayed over several years.

Languages are badly-taught
There has been sporadic “non-news” items claiming that you can’t get by using the skills taught for a GCSE. Speaking is usually the one targeted, the argument being that rote learning is encouraged to pass the exam. If the exam encourages rote learning, then the exam needs to be looked at. So, does that make languages too easy to pass? Only if you have an outstanding memory.

The topic-based National Curriculum was another subject of debate: too narrow and vocabulary-based. The New Curriculum is now virtually content-free. What is relevant content then? Relevant content is linked to what interests you and who you are... isn’t that a bit inward-looking? Challenging is better than relevant. 

Languages are marked harshly
There is a documented severe grading issue with languages but more confusion appears as the papers clamour “record numbers of A*-C”. So, is it easy to get a good grade or not? What it means is that your above average candidates move from very good to excellent whereas your average but decent linguists are finding it harder and harder to scrape through a C as the national co-hort becomes more and more selective.

The class divide
Private schools have kept languages on board as they know that a lot of parents value them and they are an asset for entering Higher Education. So why have state schools gone the other way?

League tables and tough A*-C targets have pushed schools into short-termism. This was mitigated by the introduction of the publication of figures including Maths, English and Science but as, unlike the publication of the Maths and English figures, the publication of the MFL statistics is devoid of any consequences for schools, there really is no incentive for schools other than Language Colleges to invest time, effort and money in languages.

Social labelling is rife: working class kids don’t wear blazers, they don’t study languages and they don’t go to university. Most of this labelling is self-inflicted and challenged in schools but deep down languages are still seen as something for the elite, something of a nice-but-not-essential luxury because, let’s face it, everybody speaks English abroad...

Social mobility cannot be achieved by developing a two-tier educational system, so ... back to compulsory languages?

Although I am a strong advocate of languages for ALL, I do not believe in GCSE for all. There is now a wider range of qualifications, like NVQs and Asset Languages, suitable for students who may not need a high level of foreign language proficiency in the future. The thing is, that should be their decision, not ours. By narrowing the curriculum and denying students the option to take languages, we are carrying on with social labelling and reinforcing the view that “languages are for posh kids”.

In addition, a move back to compulsion does not seem realistic in terms of staffing as I recall there was a staff shortage before languages were made optional...(coincidental, surely)

So, what about incentives for schools? ... and for students?
Students and parents need to know that languages will help them to get into ALL universities. This will give schools a clear message that a language-free curriculum would be detrimental to their best students.

The idea of a percentage of the cohort having to do languages seems a reasonable argument. How can we pretend to be on the Gifted & Talented list and not do a foreign language? That’s only 10%, so it is not even a very far-reaching target...

The key would be to ensure that ALL students can study a language if they want to. Recently, the demise of French was even mentioned on the French National Television. However, this information did not sound right: student do not always choose not to do French, it is more that they choose what they see as the easiest from a bunch of options or in some cases the choice has already been made for them by over-streaming the cohort (you are in the red stream, you can do Geography or Art).

The percentage of students studying languages at KS4 should be advertised with exam results, rather than the percentage of students getting A*-C at GCSE and other figures than can be affected by native speakers taking GCSEs in their home languages. I do believe bilingual students should gain recognition for their language skills, but the figure does not really show the school’s commitment to developing the language capacity in ALL students.

It is time to reverse the trend and political support is also key...

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

CLIL is Brill

As we are preparing to go back to school, CLIL certainly is on my agenda as something to try to raise standards at KS3. Karen Hutley, SSAT Practitioner and member of our Oldham SLN will be sharing her CLIL adventures on 12th November. More details are available from Karen at
Looking forward to it and more details to come soon. Save the date!!


Thursday, 19 August 2010

Ipod touch/ iphone Applications for The Language Teacher Update

A few months after I started to look at useful applications for the languages teacher, I thought it would be a good idea to review my use of the apps I shared in previous posts as well add to the list. All applications are available through iTunes App Store.

I started looking at languages apps, thinking they could be of use to my students. I am still planning on sharing the apps list with my students but I am now a lot clearer about what is more likely to be useful for teachers and what students might want to use.

Although I have found WordReference (free) bilingual dictionaries with verb tables and sound files very useful, I have also consistently been using:

Les nombres (free) for writing numbers in French-just type in the number to check the spelling

Le Bescherelle (£0.59): a classic to find out everything about French verbs
Le Petit Robert (Dixel): Monolingual French dictionary, a bargain at £5.49 as it includes common and proper nouns as well as some word games.

El conjugador (£0.59): very user-friendly application to check conjugated verbs in Spanish

WordWeb Audio English dictionary is a great reference with British English accent.

Wikipedia (free): set language can be changed to search for articles in a foreign language

Cultural references

I have used screenshots from a range of museums and places of interest like: Musée du Louvre,
Grand Palais, Musée Marc Chagall de NiceMusée National Fernand Léger de Biot . (These applications are also available in English)

It is also interesting to note that a lot of French touristic landmarks have their own applications, whereas I have found few Spanish ones in comparison.

Authentic resources for different topics (through snapshots)

Places in town/ directions: Icam (Spain)-free: Links to live webcams in a selection of cities like Barcelona, Madrid or Seville, Paris underground map

Clothes: La Redoute-free, ElleMarie-Claire, VogueDior, ActuMode, Chanel

Transport: SNCF (free): to get authentic resources on train transport, Madrid Metro, trenes, EMT Madrid

Food: (free) lots of recipes in French with link to the website for more information, canal cocina, cuisiner

Current affairs : 7 jours sur la planete :TV5 Monde (free) videos and comprehension exercises, guía reciclaje, slate (analysis of current affairs in French)

House and Home : Explorimmo-French,, segundamano,, Marie-Claire deco & design , Logic-immo

TV and Cinema : Télé Loisirs, Premiere, TF1 vision, Tele7, TéléMagazine,telepub, alloCiné, guía TV ONO

Sport :, le monde sport, Marca (Spanish), Le tour de France (TDF)

French-speaking world : Jeune Afrique

Jobs/ Names: PagesJaunes, Prénoms, cadremploi

Health: Dr Mobile (French), Impact santé, Au Secours

Shopping:, Printemps

Festivals: SanFermín, Bourges 2010

Jokes: chistedeldia, Prime jokes (Spanish)

Primary: Lobitotito: a story for children told in Spanish and illustrated with beautiful pictures

Press/news video

Definitely one for the teacher, although the advanced student will also find it very useful.

Le, Le,, Le, l’express, local papers like La , the local paper for the South West of France, France 24 (news videos ), journal des plages, Le Nouvel Observateur, le Monde Diplomatique

El, LaVanguardia, El Pais, (celebrity gossip magazine), Muy, Qué, La Gaceta, Semana, LaRazon, portadas

Radio and Music:

I started looking at individual radio apps like LCI radio, Radio France, Europe1 (French) or RNE radio, Cadena Ser, Onda Cero (Spanish) but I have found applications by language or countries more useful:

Euro Radio (£0.59) Select stations by countries and post your favourite stations to Twitter, Facebook or MySpace.

Grabadora de radio español/France Radio Recorder (£0.59 each) enables you to record from a wide range of radio in French or Spanish

French radio (free) and Radio Podcast (French) offer a wide choice of French radio stations

Rap2France-All the news about French rap music (in French) with Youtube links, news and interviews.

E-books :

Fables (La Fontaine), Alcools (Apollinaire), Le Rouge et Le Noir (Stendhal) and Une Vie (Maupassant) are free on the Classique application. More classics are also available in Spanish or German.

How do I keep up to date?

My favourite is now the appbzr application. It is great to find “price-drops” or apps that are free for a limited period only. It also have a top 100 for apps in different countries including Germany, Italy and Japan-shame it does not include Spain, though...

I have also set up a google spreadsheet where I have collected the names of more than 100 language-related iPhone/ iPodTouch applications, most of them free. The spreadsheet can be accessed from here.

Looking forward to sharing more resources... 

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

ALL French Day, Sheffield, 5th July

Another great event organised by ALL that I am looking back at for inspiration to update my Schemes of  Work.

The first session I attended was by Suzi Bewell. Suzi is a SSAT Lead Practioner and one of her favourite area of interest is the use of phonics in language teaching.

Suzi shared with us many ideas and resources but I made note of the following points regarding the teaching of phonics:

• Put silent letters in brackets/ different colour or type.

• Introduce the phonic patterns before student come across them in new words.

A general introduction to the code, how different letters can sound together, as a general introduction / induction module or transition project.

• There is quite a lot of reference books available in French but less so in Spanish, maybe because pronunciation rules are less irregular in Spanish (?)

Teach “liaison” in French and what the most commonly used words actually sound like when they are part of a sentence (de, que, la, le, est, pour, et, qui, les, dans, des, a, en, par, un, plus, du, pas, une, au]

Play phonic bingo with tricky common words with silent letters e.g. souris, gris, ils, ans, vingt, minuit, trois, deux...

Play Le Jeu des 7 familles (Happy Family card games) Find the different families by sound. You may use to design your set of cards.

Sound-alike wall display posters: they could be yours or designed by students to consolidate previous work.

• Examples of “sound-alikes” in French: è- ê, ai-ei, ss-ç, o- au- eau, aux-ô ...

• Use Wordle to design posters or starter activities like “odd one out”

Mexican wave listening exercises e.g. when you hear the “in” sound, give me a wave: write a story with all “in” words in or get students to write the story: Vincent, vingt-cinq, intelligent, lapin, pingouin, mince, vin, patin train, fin...

Podcast/vodcast created by students with the support of the Foreign Language Assistant

Human spellings or washing lines: good for demonstrating how words break down in different syllables/ sound patterns and great for word order too.

The second workshop I attended was presented by Liz Black and was all about “Designing Compelling Learning Experiences”. Liz is an AST, a consultant for North Yorkshire LA and a Head of Languages at Stokesley School. She is a great believer in using cross-curricular themes to teach languages in order to match the content with students’ experiences and levels of maturity as well as secure their engagement.

Liz uses the Philosophy For Children principles (P4C) to manage class discussions. More information about this can be found here and here.

P4C is a very different way to look at learning and it is also a proven way to raise challenge and attainment. The introduction provided by Liz made me consider P4C as a focus for my own CPD in the coming year as it complement my own area of interest, PLTS.

Liz likes to use topics like Fair Trade and other “dilemma-led learning” opportunities and resources provided by organisations like CAFOD, the British Heart Foundation or the EC. She also designed an excellent transition module for Y7 integrating all theses references.

I also enjoyed re-reading Liz Black’s top tips about developing cross-curricular links in ALL’s Language Today magazine, Autumn 2009, the summary of which is as follows:

1. Get together a small group of teachers from different subjects who are committed and enthusiastic. Share subject knowledge and great resources.

2. Decide on a theme that is wide-reaching or global and that can foster deep learning.

3. Insist on extended time: full or half days and include a period of reflection/ evaluation at the end of the day.

4. Use native speaker sound files embedded into Powerpoint presentations to support non-specialist colleagues with pronunciation.

5. Teach dictionary skills early on in the year and provide vocabulary book for students to log their own discoveries as they go along.

6. Make audio and video digital recordings of the students working and of the outcome.

7. Plan for practicalities such as class registers, rooming, how to get resources to the different rooms.

8. Encourage ambitious use of the language, offer support but do demand an enquiring and analytical approach.

The 3rd workshop I attended was Sara Vaughan's “Stepping away from the textbook”. Sarah is a language consultant based in the South-East, where she was also co-ordinating a team of ALL Regional Subject Advisers. Amongst all the ideas given by Sara throughout her session, I made a note of the following:

• Use the French Headlines from as a starter/connect activity

• Use regional/local information to make learning content more engaging

• Make a recipe book for each region of France/Spain etc... as a way to develop cooperative learning and link with other subjects

• Use sporting event as a theme for a project: e.g. Le Grand Prix de Monaco-great to introduce direction, transport, time, places in town...

The great dinner debate: who would you invite and why?

Fantasy football portfolio/ WAGS

A Day in the Life of ...

Dream Holiday: give students a budget and they arrange transport and accommodation etc... (internet research)

Compare and contrast one aspect of the culture of the Target Language country

Design a Healthy Living manual: Make a simple food diary as homework-3 plates and 1 extra plate for snacks!

Protect your planet campaign: Design an eco-school

All the ideas and materials from the workshop can be found on Sara’s blog and are certainly worth a look as Schemes of Work are being updated throughout the land...

Saturday, 14 August 2010

ALL London Event, 19th June 2010

It seems such a long time since I attended this wonderful event but, as I am putting together my action plan for the new academic year, some ideas-most of them sparked by Rachel Hawkes and Michael Wardle’s presentations-are definitely worth revisiting...

I really enjoyed Rachel’s presentation and looking at her initial checklist for success is a great way to re-focus for the new academic year:

Learning languages should be about ...

• Fun/ humour
• Communicating
• Learning new things
• Feeling successful
• Being part of a community

Rachel presented her “10 ideas that worked for me” but my own "hit list" only goes to 6! Well, I start somewhere...

1. I really liked the idea of electing “co-teachers” for students to support the development of speaking in the classroom. This is a great strategy to develop student’s independence in the classroom, turning it into a reward and giving it a high profile.

2. Phonics: This is the key to student’s confidence and feel-good factor when tackling speaking activities. Phonics need to be introduced into SoWs, integrated in classroom practice and student feedback must be obtained to gauge impact across the ability range.

3. Developing students’ ability to ask questions: If it is always the teacher asking questions, this is going to be an interrogation rather than a conversation... A quick starter consisting in a range of answers can be used to prompt students to ask questions:

Oui, bien sûr. Et toi?
Je suis allée au cinéma et j’ai vu un film super
J’aimerais vivre en Ecosse
On peut aller au marché e jeudi
Hier, je suis restée à la maison
Quand il fait beau j’aime me promener à bicyclette

4. Look at ways to develop students’ SEAL through languages initiatives targetted at specific year groups eg. Y9 visiting primary school to teach the language, exchange students teaching a different language, using links abroad and primary links or delivering a language leader programme as Rachel did in her own school.

5. A wider variety of snappy connect starter activities e.g.

Say the name of a category in the Target Language and give students seconds to draw something e.g. un animal

Tu as des frères ou des soeurs? Answer in 7 words exactly, in more than 8 words, include opinion etc...

Discuss school life for 3 minutes: when? What? Where? How? Why? How often?

Discuss a picture using the same questions

Find out about a character and use dictionary

Get students to make their own flashcards on a specific topic

6. A wholeschool language/literacy project: The Spelling Bee
This could be set up as a school competition or for a group of schools in the same area.
More details are available on the wiki 

Friday, 13 August 2010

Oldham SLN Bring and Brag

I will be missing our Oldham SLN... As 4 schools are merging into 2 to become academies, we are going through a period of rapid change where the networking between our schools will continue but with different people and possibly in a different way.

Our last meeting in May represented the wide range of language activities taking place in secondary schools across the borough...

Cross-curricular Projects

Marseilles: A Project on The Environment 

I really thought this was an interesting idea... A lot would depend on the support material provided to the students as well as the suggested outcome: presentation, speech, leaflet... The project could easily include industries, sustainable development, immigration, sport, housing, weather etc...

Research fashion/ music over a specific decade

It can culminate in a fashion show/ concert for the very ambitious. The recurrent trends in fashion/ music could include a bit of history too... Some of the outcomes shared were 3D posters including pictures and fabric. It was very “low tech” but had really engaged the students and the level of language produced was pretty impressive too. In the music project, music was used as a prompt to discuss texts, express opinions and introduce "mood" vocabulary. The different influences were discussed and the music sampled through audio and video. 

• Students plan their own trip to a local Christmas Market (Link with Business and Enterprise)

Students do research, admin, devise worksheets, assist with risk assessment. It has been presented as a competition and the students with the best-prepared project are allowed to run the trip.

• Entreprise Day : The Apprentice

Wholeschool project where students need to research, design and pitch a product. If they want teachers’ help, consultancy fees will be added to the cost of the product!