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.