Sunday, 29 December 2013

Turn your new year's good resolutions into action and save money! Book now for Language World 2014

Prepare for the new  year by planning your professional “me time”. This is an invitation to join a great community of language teachers at Language World 2014, Friday 4th April and Saturday 5th April at Lancaster University, England.
Language World is organised by ALL, our subject association, and it really is the must-attend event for all language teachers. It is an annual occasion to reflect and share creative ideas as well as find out more about new pedagogy, policy and practice. Last but not least, it is also an opportunity to meet with like-minded colleagues.
The theme this year is ‘Joined Up’, which allows us to explore ways we can work together to meet the most important challenges we face as a subject community. Language World is open to everyone involved in languages education and people from across all sectors and from all languages backgrounds are welcome.
For this reason, the programme of our two-day conference has distinct strands for secondary, primary, CLIL, and research in languages education.
Language World 2014 preparations are already in full swing and to celebrate the launch of this year’s ALL Joined Up theme ALL is offering an extra special delegate rate starting from just £100pp/d. 
You have until December 31st to take advantage of this great offer, so don’t hesitate, book now!

Booking your place at Language World
Please click to view the Language World conference programme for Friday and here for Saturday. (If you'd like to know more about our speakers and their talk, please save the .pdf file on your computer and double click on the blue tags attached in each session box.)

You can find this year's prices including our Christmas special rates here.
To book your place at Language World 2014, please select a talk you’d like to attend from each of the sessions and then open the registration page in a new window. We recommend you have the conference agenda in front of you or open in a separate window as you register, as some sessions may book up quickly and it is impossible to press “back” without losing your information in the registration process.

Getting to Language World
Not a member yet? Time to join! You will benefit from great offers as well as the support of your national subject association. More details here on benefits and how to join.
This year, I will be speaking on the Saturday but I will be also be attending on Friday 4th April.
See you there!

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Motivate ALL your language learners!-Differentiation revisited, Manchester Grammar School, Saturday 23rd November

I had a lovely morning presenting for ALL at Manchester Grammar School. As promised pleased find below a copy of the slides I used for my "Differentiation revisited" session as well as an electronic copy of the reference sheet I gave out.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Speaking Activities & Using Technology to Develop Oracy in the MFL Classroom, MMU, 25th October 2013

I had a great morning talking to ITT trainees at Manchester Metropolitan University. As promised, here is a copy of the slides I used for the session. Do consider joining ALL and Twitter too to carry on with the (learning) conversation...

Monday, 12 August 2013

World Languages, Facebook, Pinterest, Culture and Literacy

In a guest post on Connect Learning Today, I write about how Facebook and Pinterest can support language learning.
Learning and teaching opportunities for languages sometimes occur in unexpected places. As exam pressure was starting to get unbearable for some of my classes, I discovered this summer how visuals from Facebook and Pinterest could be used to motivate students in my French and Spanish lessons as well as support their literacy in general.
When I mention Facebook as a source of language resources, I often have a lot of explaining to do. Facebook is still viewed with a lot of suspicion by my colleagues in the UK and although it seems to be more readily used by my fellow language teachers in the US, I feel it is still very under-used as a professional development tool and source of educational materials by world languages educators worldwide.
Pinterest is not as well-known, or just known as a tool to swap a limited range of ideas on fashion, for instance. As it just consists of virtual pin boards where interesting visuals can be pinned, the potential for sharing ideas and resources can easily be missed. Its real potential is linked with its social-networking functionality that makes it easy to follow other educators and specific boards as well as re-pin their resources onto your own boards. It has also evolved from being a platform to just share pictures and photos in a way to share other online materials such as websites, documents and videos.
So, what are effective visuals for language learning?
I strongly believe that effective visuals go beyond the flashcard approach. If the picture carries the meaning, what is the point of remembering the word? I would therefore define effective visuals as memorable for all sorts of reasons: they can be breathtakingly beautiful, funny, moving, odd, unattractive… and many other things but they must elicit some kind of emotional response to be effective.
My favourite sources of visuals from Facebook are: Les Photovores or Inkulte as a source of bizarre and strangely challenging photos that can be used to illustrate specific structures or vocabulary as well as be used to prompt conversations. Visuals from the famous Grammarly site can also be used to develop more general discussions on literacy and grammatical accuracy in a humorous way.
For French, I have collected many useful materials from the Facebook groups Du français chez moi, les amis de la langue française, fête de la gastronomie-for discussions on our food and healthy living topics-and le café du FLE amongst others.
For Spanish, I often refer to Practicamos Español, Antiguo México, Cronopios Spanish , red de profesores de español, Sonora ELE language awareness and See Spain. The posts from these groups offer a wide range of visual stimuli for discussions as well as illustrate cultural references from the target-language countries and use a range of idiomatic structures. The best part is that many Facebook jokes that rely on visual humour are also shared in a range of foreign languages.
So, how are the posts used?
The posts are copied, classified and shared, mostly via Pinterest and Twitter. They can be used as a starter activity, or as a problem-solving activity where students have to look at different structures and work out different grammatical patterns. The picture-only materials can also be used to support the memorisation of specific structures and encourage the development of speaking and writing skills.
The use of Pinterest as a tool to collect educational resources is gathering pace and I have found the ability to follow other language teachers invaluable as well as the facility to easily share my findings on other social networking sites such as Twitter. Pinterest Mobile application also makes the collection and sharing of resources painless although it would really benefit from a tagging facility to fine-tune the collection process.
I look out for boards that offer materials that can be used for discussion or grammar teaching. I have a collection of pictures to illustrate the culture of Spanish and French-speaking countries that can be used to develop the use of descriptive language and opinions as well as challenge stereotypes. I also use quotes and grammar diagrams as well as jokes and links to videos.
The best resources I have found exploring Facebook and Pinterest are probably the infographics in French and Spanish that can be used to introduce and discuss a wide range of topics with students.
Language is all around us, it is high time we tapped into youth culture to get young people to reflect on the language used in a variety of media.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

MFL Show and Tell, St John's York University, 1st June 2013

I had a great day at the MFL Show and Tell organised by Suzi Bewell. As always, more work is needed on my part to compile a summary of all the wonderful findings I made today...

Please find below a copy of the slides I used for the main Show and Tell and my "Genius Bar" session.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

The June Event, 15th June 2013 at The University of Westminster, London

The June Event is a conference and exhibition for language teachers organised by the London Branch of ALL and Linguascope. The theme for the 2013 edition is "Keeping it real", focussing on the practical use of language in the real world.
Confirmed speakers so far include:
Steven Fawkes (Twitter: @StevenFawkes): "New wheels? Innovations in language; progress in language learning"
Rachel Hawkes (Twitter: @RachelHawkes60): "Joined up! Integrating skills and blurring the boundaries in language learning"
Isabelle Jones (Twitter: @icpjones): "Music to my ears - Motivation, Creativity and Cultural Awareness through Music in the Languages classroom"
- Frédérique Lane (Twitter:
@flane01): "TEEP activities to increase students' engagement in MFL"
Alex Blagona (Twitter: @blagona): "Bring an ICT idea, and come away with 10 more"
- Liz Black: "Bringing Languages to Life"
The June Event is supported by: Network for Languages, LondonEuropean SchoolbooksVocab Express
Follow us @thejunevent and tweet about the event using the #thejunevent hashtag. You can also refer to the June Event page for up-to-date information.

The June Event will take place at:

The University of Westminster
309 Regent Street

How to get here

Travelling by tube:
Take the Central, Victoria or Bakerloo line to Oxford Circus (200m)

Travelling by bus:
Take the C2, 12 18, 22 or 453 bus to Regent Street, or take the 6, 7, 8, 10, 15, 23, 25, 73, 94, 98, 113, 137, 149, 159, 189, 390, 453 or N207 bus to Oxford Street.

Car Parking:
The nearest car park is in Cavendish Square. The address is: Q-park Oxford Street car park, Cavendish Square, London, W1G 0PN. Follow
this link for more information.

See you there !

Monday, 8 April 2013

Motivating Students in the Languages classroom: Language is Music

Over the past few months I have been looking at different ways to use music to engage my students with French and Spanish language learning.

I started on the premise that music is a powerful mood-modifier and even I was amazed at some of the students’ responses…
Why music? I have always had this idea that if music is a language, conversely, language is music-and languages represent a range of music with different pitches and rhythms.
I have used music in a wide range of ways to grab students’ attention, sneakily modify their moods and get them engaged with the language and its related culture.
Just music-no words
It is up to the students to come up with words! The music is then used as a brainstorming tool.
Music associated with key parts of the lesson
Great to minimise instruction time and reinforce routines
Music as a link into a new topic
Students listen and/or watch and figure out what the new topic is. The clues can be in the lyrics or in the video. I have a French and Spanish playlist on Youtube (isabellejones)
Just music and words
I have used karaoke versions of music video for students to concentrate more on the words and to reinforce the learning of specific structures.
Made-up songs
I have used songs with a clear or repetitive structure as a stimulus to get students to write their own made-up song/ rap/ poem. Playfulness with words is the beginning of serious language manipulation.
Singing pronunciation
Go off-piste and slow down-sing to the students and help them remember the pronunciation of longer/ trickier words to a tune.
Parallel texts, translations  and cover songs
If the song studied has a cover version in English, compare the two versions and get the students to spot the differences as they are listening. Is it a straight translation? Why isn’t it a straight translation? Any important differences in meanings?
Students’ responses were varied but largely positive. Although I am passionate about using music in languages lessons, I do understand that some people will not respond to it. What I have tried to do is to use music in such a way that it cannot just be associated with a specific type of listening, speaking, reading or writing activities. Music is a very versatile tool and using it as a way to reinforce patterns or routines or as a mood-modifier is just as powerful.
A number of ICT tools have supported my use of music in the classroom:
I really like Amara, which can be used to subtitle videos. The only issue is that subtitling a music video is extremely challenging for non-natives and there is a lot of typing involved. An alternative activity would be to use background music and subtitle a short video in the style of old-fashioned silent movies. The choice of background music could reflect the characters’ feelings or the ups and downs of the story.
Freeplay music is a great site with free music to match moods (select by key words/ instrument/ style of music).
If you want to keep it simpler go for ibeat, free beats you can use to practise new vocabulary and key words-great to focus on pronunciation.
A good rhyming dictionary-online or as a mobile app- is essential to support the writing activities and it will also help students memorise the correct pronunciation of the new words if they are learnt in rhyming clusters.
Finding the words of up-to-date songs can be tricky but I found that using mobile apps like Lyrics + saved me a lot of time: find the sound, get the lyrics, copy and paste into a word document and use for cloze exercises and more…
Downloading YouTube videos was also of use, particularly as online tools like Amara do not really work well directly with You Tube. Using  or the mobile app iboltdownloader were the easiest way to do this.
Last but not least, how do you keep up to date with the music of the different Target Language countries?  I found a great mobile app called MusicTube to do just that. You can visit the top 20 songs for a range of countries and each song is linked to a corresponding YouTube video. As the lists are updated regularly, this is a fantastic up-to-the-minute resource ready to be used in the classroom…         
More resources can be found here

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Language World 2013: Nottingham Conference Centre, 22-23 March 2013

Language World is the annual language conference organised by ALL, the Association for Language Learning, the association that represents all foreign languages teacher in the UK.
Language World is really two days of top-class training and professional development for language teachers. I might be biased as I am running a workshop on the second day of the conference but Language World does have a unique atmosphere. The camaraderie and amazing choice of workshops and talks will leave you feeling energised professionally until at least the next conference-that's a promise!  
This year the theme is Imagine

Imagine how we could improve language learning; how we could get our young learners speaking and writing independently in another language; how we could bring creativity and excitement into the languages classroom; how we could get better results faster.

Imagine finding out everything you need to know about the changes coming with the new curriculum - at one time, in one place.

With a new curriculum on the horizon, in which languages will be statutory for the first time at KS2; where how we teach at KS3 will be very much in the hands of teachers; with a revised EBac performance measure and changes to GCSE and A level, there has never been a more vital time to get up-to-date and ready for a very different new future for languages in our schools.

At Language World you will find:
· Dedicated primary and secondary strands with over 12 major talks and 28 workshops across the two days
· All the latest updates on what’s happening in policy and practice
· National experts explaining the big issues
· Inspirational plenary sessions
· The opportunity to exchange views and meet up with colleagues from across the country
· A major free exhibition of language teaching resources

Who should attend:
· Primary subject leaders
· Secondary heads of department
· Established classroom teachers
· NQTs
· Trainees

Cost: From £100 a day for teachers, and just £40 a day for trainee teachers and NQTs. There are also a number of free places for trainee teachers and NQTs-just contact ALL for more information. 

And if you would like ALL to take your registration over the phone and do the paperwork for you, just call their office on 0116 229 7600.
Phone lines stay open until 5.30 pm, so pick up the phone at the end of the school day and help will still be available.
If you are there on the Saturday, I am running "Music to My Ears", a session on
Developing Motivation and Cultural Awareness through Music in the Languages classroom

See you there!

Thursday, 31 January 2013

The Universal Panacea? Trusted to improve
If I had the power to change one thing in the world of education in the UK, I would put trust at the centre of everything we do…
It all started about six years ago. I was running a Comenius school project and was invited along with two other colleagues and four students to meet with our partner schools in Finland. We were visited by OFSTED the week before and when asked about differences between educational systems, it was hard not to mention our inspection.
The headteacher enquired: “Do you mean, you still have school inspections?” I nodded. “Isn’t that a little archaic?”. I stopped dead and looked at him. “We don’t have these any more… very old-fashioned…”.  And then, the killer : “Why don’t they just trust you?”. All three of us started laughing nervously… but we could not really provide any immediate answer.
Why indeed? Is it really such an airy-fairy idea that the vast majority of teachers do a good job and want to constantly improve what they are doing? Maybe the vast majority is not enough, I will accept that, but more disturbing was the opinion from some of my colleagues that OFSTED could not be done without. I mean… How do we know we are doing OK? How do we know how good we are?
My response to that is that if we do not know deep down whether we have tried our utmost with a set of students or not, then our ability to reflect professionally is seriously lacking. Accountability is also a double-edged sword. It does safeguard children’s interests but it also dictates rules all have to play by as well as make attractive any loopholes and shortcuts to get to the same end result.
As for the second question, how good we are does not matter as much as how much better we can become. There is something dangerous about wearing an outstanding badge and not trying to change things for the better any more…
Trust does not just happen. It feeds through everything we do. Students should be able to trust us to be professional, prepared and constantly striving to get them to learn in more effective ways. Respect relies on trust, mutual trust, as that goes for students as much as it goes for staff.
Hyper-accountability can cause extreme stress and damage confidence, self-image and performance. The impact is negative all around but trusting is not providing excuses for poor performance. Trust contributes to setting up a context where improvement takes place not because it has to happen but because groups of individuals want it to happen. If improvement does not happen as planned, then the group agrees on further steps to be taken to rectify this rather than drop the whole process as it was unsuccessful and not meaningful.   
Acknowledging  context is not providing excuses, it’s humanising data. We do teach human beings who are probably at their most vulnerable emotionally and nothing saddened me more than the following comment I heard made by a student  “I am not a person, for some people I am just a walking A Grade”. 
Allowing committed teachers to sometimes feel disappointed rather than guilty is essential as guilt is a destructive downward spiral that affects teachers’ health and children’s education. Guilt erodes enthusiasm, energy levels as well as the willingness to take risk and be creative.
We don’t teach numbers, we teach children whose potential to learn can go up and down.
Simple but daring-Trust is the only way to improvement, a policy of openness where trying to paper the cracks is not a way forward.

Many more blog posts on "The Universal Panacea? The number one shift in UK education I wish to see in my lifetime" can be found on 

Enjoy the conversation...

Saturday, 5 January 2013

ICT and Languages Conference, University of Southampton, 9-10 February 2013

I am hugely looking forward to the third #ililc conference to take place at the University of Southampton. This year's programme offers a wide range of sessions aiming to meet all participants’ individual needs and giving them lots of opportunities to really get to grips with the new ideas being demonstrated and share good practice in a nurturing environment.
To register you can use the link at the bottom of this post or click here.
This event is renowned for its friendly and supportive atmosphere and whilst many sessions have an ICT focus, there are plenty of other sessions which will exemplify many aspects of creative and inspiring MFL teaching and learning.
Read all about #ililc3 speakers here: About our Speakers  
Joe Dale will be delivering the Saturday Keynote speech and I am delighted to have been invited to deliver the Sunday Keynote.
You can also find out more about JohnConnor, Amanda Salt, Helen Myers, Lisa Stevens, Jo Rhys-Jones, Jen Turner, Helena Butterfield, Claire Seccombe, Samantha Lunn, Dominic McGladerry  and John Bald via their blogs (just click on their names).
This year will include sessions on:

Mobile technologies Using iOs android Apps for interactive learning, iTunes, Podcasts and other for personalised learning, designing an MFL App, ‘Animating’ grammar. peer and self assessment through mobile technology
Social Media Using Twitter and other social media tools such as Edmodo & Posterous, effective Blogging, WIKIs and using online tools to record & share learning
Making the most of Web 2.0 Technologies A range of workshops to showcase how to get the best
learning from Web 2,0 tools such as exploring Google Apps, using Tarzia, Vocaroo, and Voicethread to name but a few
The Global classroom Developing and using international links effectively, eTwinning, using authentic materials, developing ICU through online resources, setting up a WIKI to promote your department, using Edmodo, the changing face of CPD
Developing Speaking Explore ways to develop pupils speaking skills through social media, on line tools, A level debating ideas, recording methods and more
Closing the gap Way to support SEN students using technology, supporting speech and language development, promoting Solo taxonomy, developing Maths skills through MFL, understanding the learning process, subtitling for learning

There will another fabulous Show and Tell Event on Saturday 9th February from 7.30 pm in Suite 104 at Jury’s Inn Hotel, Charlotte Place, Southampton, SO14 0TB.
Kindly hosted by main #Ililc3 sponsor Televic, places are free but limited. Guests will need to sign up in advance via the Show and Tell wiki.
The idea of the MFL Show and Tell session is to give teachers an opportunity to share good  language learning and teaching practice-ICT-related or not-in a relaxed informal environment. We will have access to a data projector, a screen for presentations and one to display the event's Twitterstream, plus wifi connectivity of course. If you don't normally speak at such events, do come along to have a go and share what you are doing in the classroom.  Last year’s efforts included quite a few songs and many laughs…
Prices have been frozen at last year’s rate and the fact that the conference is at the weekend also makes it a fantastic value quality CPD opportunity.
£175 for both days
£125 for one day
Concessionary rates available for PGCE students:
£100 for both days
£75 for one day
(name and contact details of your tutor needed when submitting your registration form).
Schools can also pay to attend both days and send a different person each day - please make this clear when booking if you would like to do this.
The conference is also supported by a sizeable exhibition including top publishers, software companies and other resource providers. If you want to take part as a sponsor, please click here.
See you there!