Friday, 28 October 2011

The Language Show, Saturday 24th October 2011: Seminars for Language Teachers

The first seminar I attended was about teaching grammar. James Stubbs, who now teaches English in Spain after many years of teaching languages in the UK introduced his concept of “Sticky grammar” taught through the Target Language.
Sticky grammar was presented as a way to reach all learners in a mixed ability group, supporting the lower ability student and stretching the higher ability one.
James then introduced his objective:  to use indirect object pronoun correctly: lui/le
The first step was to use direct object pronoun with agreement in present tense and we were shown how Direct Object pronouns can be taught through classroom routine:

Voulez-vous nous donner un point?
Voulez-vous nous expliquer l’activité un peu mieux?
Tu m’as parlé en anglais!
Veux-tu/ peux-tu nous repeater en anglais?
Peux-tu nous expliquer pourquoi tu es en retard?
Veux-tu lui expliquer pourquoi tu es en retard?
Vous devez…
Vous devrez surveiller les autres et il faut leur dire “éliminé”
Then was introduced the use of direct object pronouns with agreement for number and gender in the perfect tense. Success depends on students knowing the vocabulary and the gender of the vocabulary.
It is best to use a perfect tense where the past participle sounds different for masculine and feminine e.g. ouvert/ ouverte.
Use multiple choices as a starter activity to get students to focus on correct spelling and/ or pronunciation e.g. is it : ordinateur, ordinature or ordinataire?
Songs can also help students to remember vocabulary lists.
Colour-coding helps students learning the items of vocabulary with the correct genders attached to them e.g. blue for masculine, red for feminine.
Slow-reveal activities can help student practise vocabulary and develop their listening skills when it is combined with paraphrasing, reading a text or singing a song.
Genders can also be associated with a different side of the room e.g. to your right for masculine and to your left for feminine. Students may reinforce practise of the vocabulary by pointing to/ turning to the correct side of the room or moving towards it.
Print cards related to a story and read the story very quickly.  Students   will not understand everything and will have to re-construct the story sing the cards provided as clues.
More details about sticky grammar can be found on James’blog.
I then attended Joe Dale’s No brainer blogging for beginners workshop, which featured some of possibilities offered by Posterous blogs (now Posterous Spaces).
As the blog was being built in front of us, it showed very clearly that Posterous is a very pupil-friendly platform. As a result, I now really want to explore it further to develop students’ blogging. What struck me most was how easy it was to embed a range of media including word documents, powerpoints,  audio files, video and you tube links, something that can sometimes be quite problematic for beginners using platforms like Blogger or Wordpress.
The fact that Posterous also offers a choice between public and private blogs also makes it very suitable for student blogging.
Last but not least, I attended a very informative and entertaining workshop on memory techniques lead by Nick Mair, who was also at The Language Show to support the Speak to the Future campaign as shown by his “promotional” suit.
Nick adopted a no-nonsense approach to what can be done to support our students with memorization, acknowledging that the issue was general but that the solutions had to be specific to a wide range of students. He also mentioned differences in the amygdala that means that girls tend to find it easier to commit to long-term memory and learn from their mistakes.
Other issues mentioned enabled us to get a bigger picture of the issues linked with memorization like sleep deprivation, how teachers use and project their voice and visualisation.
I also found the explanation of the Link method quite interesting, as we were given an example where we had to tell a story linking a random list of objects to different rooms in our house. The aim was to create a way to visualise the whole list and it proved effective for many people.
Other factors to consider were:
Stress-how to reduce it and how to enable students to manage their mood levels. This can be combined with the effects of alcohol and drugs or general unhealthy habits: poor diet, lack of exercise…
Need to regularly monitor how effective the different strategies are for different students e.g. do you remember better using quizzes or flashcards
Students need to look at notes on a regularly basis to develop healthy studying habits
Students need to be organised-especially for male-as this will have a big impact on the quality of the final outcome
Avoid absenteeism at all cost as it interferes with good studying habits
Distribute study into “bitesize” rather than large chunks as the brain can only hold 5-9 things at any one time. 
Encourage peer learning as teaching someone else is a very effective way to commit to memory.
Last but not least, students’ exposure to a wide range of strategies was more likely to have an impact on effective memorization rather than any one specific approach.
The Language Show was yet again a fantastic opportunity to share ideas and learn lots of new things and as it was during our half-term holiday, it also gave me some quality time to think about how I was going to implement some of these ideas.  See you again next year!

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

ALL French Day at Gosforth High School, Saturday 15th October

The first session was delivered by Jacqueline Turner who is a Lead Practitioner for Teaching and Learning  at Gosforth High School (now part of Gosforth Academy). The focus of the session was to look at different strategies to enable students to give extended answers for their controlled assessments.
The strategies included maximum participation and engagement in class, opportunities for language manipulation e.g. re-ordering of sentences and sequencing, Peer/ self –assessment, grammar auction-when students bid and find mistakes in a text, Running dictations as well as scrolling activities as a starter or plenary to encourage students to proofread and read for specific detais.
Other examples of activities included:
Verbs in different tenses are identified and need to be attached  to the correct person/ infinitive. They can be colour-coded e.g. black: present/ blue: past tense / red: future tense
For kinesthetic learners, students are sent to different parts of the room and blindfolded. A partner reads a text and the student has to demonstate understanding of the tense: a step forward is  a future tense and a step backward is a past tense.
20-sided dice can be borrowed from the Maths department. Each side is allocated to a different word to get a choice of 20 words.
e.g. 1. Regarder-je/ nous, 2. ecouter-tu/ils etc…
Students work in pairs with the partner challenging the other student: what is the ending? How is it spelt?...
Russian roulette: Use a random name generator with different verbs and people to create competitions
Just a minute: Speaking challenge-if they pause/ repeat/ stop, their partner takes over. Whoever is talking at the end of the minute wins.
Talking trio: 3rd person listens and assesses: e.g. “got the passé compose” wrong
Speed dating: rows, move down 2 to change partners. Speed dating can be use to revise vocabulary or questions/ answers for the speaking controlled assessment.
Writing race: Students can be given specific feedback e.g. look at the tenses, focus on verb ending...
Working as a team can give confidence especially before the actual exam.
Translate together: Students given a model paragraph in English in pairs they have to translate –can be differentiated. This activity is good to free up the teacher for individual feedback and it is effective to teach students back-up phrases-several ways of saying the same thing.
Blankety blank: Students fill in the gaps, use different phrases. This activity done with mini-whiteboard ensures maximum engagemen from the students.
Change the variable: e.g. mon père s’appelle Dan, ma mère s’appelle Marie sa mère s’appelle Marie ( change one at a time)
The next session was delivered by Steve Mulgrew, an educational consultant who is also currently supporting a local school as interim Head of MFL. The session focused on the use of ICT and “gadgets” to make language lessons more engaging.
The spotlight  tool from the Interactive Whiteboard was used to introduce the rooms in the house with the spotlight revealing different squares representing different parts of the house. One obscured square was used to carry on practising with a kim’s game, where students need to identifiy the room that is hidden by the dark square.
Stickers can be used to enable to show understanding of where the different rooms are.
Promethean activexpression handsets can be used with students having to fill in gaps to demonstrate understanding of gender, number, names of rooms, verb endings etc...Students just key in the missing words and feedback can be provided immediately.
Bells can be used to show understanding or to focus on a particular word/ tense
Easi-view (visualiser) can be used instead of using individual textbooks.. hhe visualise is also a great tool for AFL and students to look at each other’s work
Beach ball with questions for talking (talk ball) can be used as a starter to drill basic questions or revise question words.
Digital photo frames can provide a dynamic and personalised display with text saved as pictures.This ensure that students are constantly visually stimulated with relevant key words and phrases.
Session 4 was delivered by The Newcastle University Language Resource Centre
Linguacast, teachers’ toolkit and Universed were the 3 main resources featured.
Linguacast is a free podcasting for language learning site with references to specific vocabulary.
Teachers’ toolkit is a site with teacher’s  videos with worksheets/EFL worksheet too.  
Universed is a free aggregator with safe sites that can be used for student viewing-possibly lso for homework. All materials are tagged to make it easier to find relevant materials quickly.
Free apps will also be launched soon, so watch this space...
Last but not least, Lesley Welsh, an Assistant Head and Director of MFL and International Coordinator at Manor College of Technology in Hartlepool, gave an inspirational presentation showcasing 3 language projects.
The first project, “Les pirates arrivent” is a KS2/KS3 6 weeks transition project. Y7 French teachers were observed by and observed  Y6 literacy lessons. There was also a workshop day to create resources with the aim to re-cap, consolidate and extend what may have been done at primary. The project also included a baseline assessment in all four skills at the end.
The project included an overview of “Le monde francophone” with:
Food from French speaking countries : bananes plantain ananas etc… and “Le carnaval en Guadeloupe”.
The second project was about the Republique du Congo and included 2 workshop days to create resources. The project was for 8 lessons and 1 launch assembly, with the SCIAF (Scottish CAFOD) providing links for charity work.
A Domino activity was used to introduce key facts about Congo (in French): mortalité infantile, alphabétisation, Espérance de vie, exportations, la monnaie
The Listening resources from the SCIAF website were used: e.g.  Joseph: video with/ without subtitles
There are many issues including children soldiers and AIDS but it is important to avoid stereotyping.
As a Speaking activity, students worked in threes : Samuel/ interviewer/ typical British teenager and used a video or voice recorder. The Listening and Speaking activities were also used to make Y9 see that  GCSE is accessible.
The third project was called “Aim Higher in Languages” and  focused on KS4/KS5 Transition and encouraging uptake at ALevel.
Amongst all the activities mentioned, I liked the idea of a voice-over activity. students worked with  anti-alcohol / drinking adverts (in English) and worked in small groups to make a voiceover for the adverts. They were not allowed to listen to original in English to avoid them just trying to translate the original. Instead, they were encouraged to be creative. They used Movie maker to do the voice-over. I felt this activity was motivating and could easily be adapted for KS4 or possibly KS3 students.                                                                                                                                                                          

Monday, 24 October 2011

EasyType French Accents: Encourage Accurate Use of Accents

Producing text-based resources in French can take longer as teachers need to learn new tricks to type in accents quickly as well as other French characters not supported by the English keyboard. I have also seen many otherwise good resources-from native and non-native French speakers- lacking the expected accuracy in that area, which does not encourage students to think that accents are a big deal.

I really feel that not encouraging students of all abilities to write or type accents correctly is wrong, particularly given the strong link accents have in French with pronunciation. However, accents can be the last straw for students when they are trying to to type in French, something they usually find challenging anyway. This is one of the reasons why I first got interested in the EasyType French Accents software, produced by Accent Grave, a Toronto-based company. Accent Grave also has a full French version of its site that can be accessed from here.

With EasyType, you can type French accents by just pressing the same key twice or more to get the French accent you want, in a very similar way to what would happen while texting on a mobile. For instance, to type é, just press e twice. So, no more awkward key combinations and numeric codes… A French typography feature even simplifies typing French punctuation marks, also allowing you to type French punctuation marks according to standard French typography.

For example:
• — Double-quotes are replaced with chevrons « … »

• — Press - (dash) twice to type — (em-dash)

• — Modern French typography is used by default. Otherwise, a space is added before ? ! ; :

Pricewise, at $19.99 (about £13) for a single licence which lets you use EasyType French Accents on up to two computers, it certainly is a good value product and the company also offers substantial volume discounts, which would be ideal for schools or for students to buy the software in bulk. If your school offers Spanish, a similar product is currently being developed for Spanish, so watch this space.

To find out more, you can also check the company’s Twitter or Facebook page. This easy-to-use product could just be what you are after to re-focus your students on French accents and on the importance of writing accurately…

Sunday, 23 October 2011

The Language Show 2011: Show and Tell

Yet again the Language Show turned out to be great for inspiration and networking. The Show and Tell was fantastic, with lots of ideas and suggested tools to use.
My problem was that I wanted to demonstrate Songify, the iphone app that turns plain speech into something like a jingle or part of  song but the IT started bevahaving in an odd way before I started my mini-presentation. 

So here are the powerpoint and the sound files.

Please note that I am not suggesting that Songify will make it easier for ALL students to remember the whole of their controlled assessment preparation. In fact, as the maximum length of a song is 1 minute 20 seconds, this probably will not work as the only memorization strategy. However, I feel that this tool has a lot of potential to get students to remember how a short account is sequenced and to enable them to develop a stronger link between the spoken and written word. It is also a fun way to drill specific structures... Let's share ideas on how it could be used in the languages classroom...

Sunday, 16 October 2011

ICT and Languages Conference, 25-26th February 2012, University of Southampton

The ICT and Languages Conference will also be called #ililc2012 in reference to the fantastic ICT Links into Languages conference that took place last year. At #ililc2012 you will be able to find out how to use blogs and wikis and you will get your dose of inspiration for the rest of year. Like last year, a range of speakers will demonstrate different tools and appproaches for users at different levels, so you don't need to be an expert or a complete novice to attend.

#ililc2012 will also provide you with great networking opportunities, ensuring further support and inspiration after the conference. I am delighted to be involved again and looking forward to learning from others and sharing more ideas. In fact, I know that the most difficult part will be-again-to choose the sessions I would like to attend as they are all so interesting.

This year the plenary speakers will be Joe Dale and José Picardo 

Workshop speakers are: Annalise Adam, Wendy Adeniji, Alex Blagona, Vanessa Burns, Joe Dale, Catherine Elliott, Stuart Gorse, Esther Hardman, Isabelle Jones, Helen Myers, Carole Nicoll, Juliet Park, Bertram Richter, Jo Rhys-Jones, Amanda Salt, Clare Seccombe, Lisa Stevens, Jenny Turner, and Sara Vaughan.

You can find out more about speakers here  and there is also a Show and Tell event on the Saturday evening, to be held at the Highfield House Hotel. Last year's was also a great part of the conference, enabling all delegates to exchange ideas and really get to talk to each other-and sing too!!

You can still get an Early bird registration fee of £150 for both days if registrations and payments are made by 23.59hrs on 1st November 2011.

The Standard rate is £175 for both days / £125 for one day, with concessionary rates available for Postgraduate students-£100 for both days / £75 for one day (name and contact details of your tutor will be required when submitting your registration form).

For more information please contact Languages South East on or call 023 8059 9135.

In our current climate of austerity and difficulty to gain valuable subject-specific CPD, the ICT and Languages Conference will offer you much more than a head start with using new technologies in your languages classroom. The networking opportunities will also support the development of your own Personal Learning Network, the best MFL staffroom in the land...

Saturday, 15 October 2011

ALL French Day at Gosforth High School, Saturday 15th October 2011

I had a fantastic day at Gosforth high School today presenting about how PLTS can support Speaking and Writing controlled assessments. Here is a copy of my presentation.

Friday, 7 October 2011

MFL Show and Tell + at Cramlington Village, Saturday 24th September : Creative Partnerships

IMG_1181 by Joe Dale
IMG_1181, a photo by Joe Dale on Flickr.

It was only last year that I was hosting the MFL Show and Tell at my school, The Radclyffe School. The Show and Tell has an easy unconference format that enables a lot of networking and informal exchanging of good practice. However informal the formal , do not be fooled, as I have learnt more by attending the previous Show and Tell sessions than on a combination of at least 3 "formal" training days. This time, as I could not joined in person, I skyped my contribution and really enjoyed sharing my experience of creative partnerships.

The main aim of Creative Partnerships is to work with a creative practitioner on something that is usually a cross-curricular project. Last year, I worked with a film director on a video clip to promote languages and this year, I focused on music using a French rap project to try to engage some of my de-motivated boys. Although at first the project was not particularly aimed at boys, it soon became clear that the rap was a more popular vehicle with boys than with girls. After a lot of discussion, I managed to get a small group of girls working on it too, but 15 out of the 18 were boys.

I introduced the group to French rap and slam, showing them different genres within the genre and also how different it is from American Rap. We then discussed possible themes. Identity was a common theme but other themes emerged including Peace in Palestine, Racism, Bullying and Prejudice-hardly what I expected from a group of Year 8 boys! We then looked at developing the themes in small groups and we were lucky enough to work with a local MC and a music producer who could also speak French.

The first hurdle was to make the language accessible and I showed the students how simple structures can be effective, for instance describing a situation by naming what is around it. This was inspired by the French Slam Artist Grand Corps Malade's song "Un verbe: aimer" where he describes all the feelings rushing through his head as he is falling in love-all are nouns apart from one verb: aimer (to love). We also worked with cognates and known vocabulary like greetings and food, trying to make it sound good, without necessarily making it all rhyme accurately. This was great to develop their dictionary skills as well as their awareness of phonic patterns.

Pronunciation was an issue as cognates always encourage students to pronounce in an anglicised manner. To avoid this, I recorded myself reading the students' texts so that they could practise by listening to it rather than just reading it. The students also worked with a local Artist who helped them to design a CD cover for the rap. The rap was then put together by mixing all students' contributions. The students agreed on a beat, they had a try on the drums and the guitar and after quite a few attempts, our rap was born.

I learned a lot working with the students on something different and I enjoyed working with non-teachers to produce the rap. I am not entirely convinced the project will mean that all students decide to opt for French next year, but it has certainly changed our working relationship. I now know so much more about what makes them tick as well as about all the talents that had not been revealed to me during their French lessons...