Monday, 3 November 2014

MFL INSET at The Rastrick School, Monday 3rd November

I had a very reflective day discussing best MFL practice at The Rastrick School today. It certainly reminded me of "things I used to do and I have not done recently" and I hope this was beneficial to the rest of the group too.

As promised please find below materials on:
-developing pupils' independence in MFL
-Strategies to develop the use of target language and a wider range of speaking activities

Sunday, 5 October 2014

MFL Show and Tell at Marple Hall School: Prepare your Learners to be 21st Century Language Learners

Please save the  date for this great event in the North West!
A few words from Ana Castillo, event organiser.
«We warmly welcome your attendance and input at our Show and Tell. Our hope is that a broad range of language ideas are discussed and shared with some focus given to the challenges we face with the imminent curriculum changes. More so than at any time before we are tasked with inspiring our students to embrace language and culture and to immerse themselves in order to gain life-long skills. As teachers and lovers of language we understand this but how we get our students to, is our biggest challenge.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with what a Show and Tell is, it is an informal meeting for teachers, both primary and secondary, to share best practice, new ideas and personal experiences of teaching. Participants volunteer to discuss a strategy they have implemented in their classroom which they think others can use within their practice. This is a perfect opportunity to share, network and learn with your peers in an informal setting. It really is the best CPD there is!
Marple Hall School and Alderley Edge School for Girls are committed to sharing excellent practice and encouraging collaboration across phases and sectors and as such is extremely proud and excited to be hosting this event. We hope that it will provide teachers with a genuine and empowering experience.

When and where?
Saturday 14th March 2015, 11-1pm

Marple Hall School
Hill Top Drive

Contact Ana Castillo   Email:
Twitter: @anacastillo333
  • A computer (with internet access), projector and audio equipment will be available. Please let us know if you have any specific requests.
  • Refreshments and drinks
  • Car park
NB: Wifi may not be available at this event so should you require internet access on your own devices please ensure you have sufficient data/tethering capability.

The event is entirely free of charge and we are grateful to a number of sponsors who are making it all possible. We will on the day be having a retiring collection (bucket on the door) with all contributions however small going towards Cancer Research.
What can you do?

We want you to talk! Of course you can attend and simply watch the presentations but for the event to be a success and for everybody to get the most out of it, your input is invaluable.  Please start the ball rolling by spreading the word about this exciting event. Get involved on twitter using the #MHSSAT15. At Show and Tells, the networking opportunities are usually invaluable and help forge strong links between teachers, departments and schools.

Sign up!

If you would like to come along as a speaker or attendee, please sign up by clicking here to add your name to the wiki and add your details to the page. Don’t worry if you haven’t yet decided exactly what topic you will be discussing as this can always be added at a later stage. »

How to edit this page:
  1. Click the EDIT tab at the top of this page - you'll be prompted to login.
  2. Note that the PBwiki system has changed, so either:
    1. create a PBwiki account, which is quick and simple, and login; or
    2. alternatively you can login using the limited guest account - username guest password teemhcaet
  3. Return to this page and click the EDIT tab
  4. Add your name to the bottom of the appropriate list 
  5. Click the Save button at the foot of the page...
  6. That's it!

See you there!

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Considering Starting Teaching Spanish? Do Not Fear-Help is at Hand…

Spanish has steadily  been growing in popularity in the secondary MFL classroom over the past ten year. It is now considered as an attractive alternative to other European languages such as French and German.
A few years back, French and German seemed to be the perfect combination to find a job as a languages teacher in England. Spanish was growing but despite the appeal of Spanish holidays and the credibility of a language spoken all around the world, many schools were still hesitating to add Spanish to their language curriculum.
Although there are now many native speakers of Spanish teaching in England, a lot of colleagues who were originally trained to teach French and German, are being asked to add Spanish to their foreign language repertoire. Depending on their starting points, this can be seen as a daunting task…
I was delighted to be approached by Osiris to enable me to share my experiences as a non-native Spanish teacher in England as I have had extensive experience over the past twenty years to set up Spanish in a number of schools and support colleagues in developing their own language skills in Spanish.
I know that many MFL teachers are currently developing their language skills in Spanish in order to meet increasing demand in schools and colleges and I am aiming to provide a complete guide to setting up and enhancing Spanish teaching.
OK, the course is called “Perfect Spanish Teaching”, but I will aim to remain realistic. The idea is for the course to start a quest for constant development and improvement-one I am still on, for that matter-rather than provide a magic wand to make us all perfect by the end of the day. If only…
I will focus on:
Assessment, feedback and progress planning
Grammar teaching
Use of authentic resources
Independent learning (for pupils and teachers!)
Looking forward to seeing you in Birmingham on 21st November or in London on 1st December.
Click here for more details

Saturday, 17 May 2014

ALL Session at Woodbridge School, Saturday 17th May 2014

I had a great day with fellow language teachers and ALL members from East Anglia and Essex today.
Many thanks for your warm welcome to this lovely part of the country...
As promised here is a copy of the slides I used at the conference as well as an electronic copy of the handout. I also include here a link to Kathy Wicksteed's fantastic FLAME presentation. This is particularly relevant for KS2 teachers but many of the cross-curricular ideas and CLIL resources could be used at KS3 too or as a part of a transition module.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Join ALL project to discover ways to integrate Literature in the New Curriculum for French

What is literature? What do language teachers do with it?

ALL is this year undertaking a project, launched at Language World, to support language teachers with integrating literature into their schemes of work in national curriculum key stage 2 and 3 (for 7-14 year-olds) as required by the latest version of the national curriculum. The project's work has two parts - one is funded by FIPF (the international French teachers federation) and will focus on written text in French; this will be made available through the FIPF international platform online (with a link from the ALL website) - the other relates to literature and other sorts of interesting texts, in any language and will be made available by ALL.

You will read more on the project as it develops but, rest assured, the Project Team needs your help! We will, before long but not now, be asking teachers to contribute their suggestions:
  • What pieces of literature / text do you use with your classes? Which classes?
  • What do you do with the texts? What does the class learn? 
We are planning some sessions at events to explore this theme, but, if you do not currently include anything you would call literature in your schemes of work, maybe our project will give you the impetus to locate something and try it out this term?

More soon about the ALL Team and the project and how you can get involved.

In the meantime you can register interest with Steven Fawkes. Happy reading!
Steven Fawkes, ALL Membership Officer and Fellow

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Language World 2014, 4-5 April at Lancaster University

I had a great time at Language World 2014. As promised, here is a copy of my slides and reference sheet. If you are still not an ALL member, what are you thinking of? Definitely time to join this fantastic community...

Friday, 28 February 2014

MFL Conference, The Piggott School, Reading, 28th February 2014

I had a really good day at The Piggott School  in Reading today. Please find below the slides for the two sessions I delivered.


Saturday, 15 February 2014

Myths and Reality: Foreign Language skills for the 21st century?

This item was published on the Osiris Educational blog on 7th February 2014

I never really liked to describe the subject I teach as MFL. Modern? If you have to state something is modern, doesn’t it somehow make it sound old-fashioned? Foreign? The word never conjured up anything warm and accepting to me… 

Some people will then go on to tell me that MFL is a neat way to distinguish languages like French or Spanish from Community Languages. Does this mean that French is not a community language in London despite quite a large French community living there? Is this a polite but obvious way to discriminate between languages? After the Olympics and London being described as one of the most multilingual cities in the world, I had really hoped for this distinction to disappear. Languages are languages, aren’t they? 

If you are bilingual or multilingual, you have been given a special gift that needs to be celebrated. So why are so many school children hiding the fact they may be using a different language at home? 

The national debate about languages seems to be evolving in the UK and this is all good news. There is still a fair amount of myths circulating in and out of schools about how languages may not be “suitable” for all children and even a possible threat to the development of their language skills in English. Funnily enough, the vast majority of conversations I have had about this were with people who still consider that being monolingual is the norm. The thing is, there are now more multilingual people in the world and being monolingual is becoming more and more an exception to the norm. 

Some children will find learning a language easier than others but the truth is that proficiency in any language cannot be easily attained. It requires time, effort, resilience and equal opportunity of access as it is still optional in many schools. In addition, the examination system does not serve languages particularly well. It provides pupils with limited options-why can’t we study French for Food Studies at GCSE?-and does not always give pupils a positive recognition of their skills. 

There is indeed a language skills deficit in the UK at even the most basic level, probably the one some would say is not “worth bothering about”, justifying the narrow choice of language qualifications available, but is no skills at all better than some skills although limited? Clearly not. It would be like refusing to enter a race at school just for knowing that we could not possibly end up in the top 3. So what about the other benefits of taking part? Language learning needs to be embraced as an activity that will benefit all, in the same way as all children benefit from core PE. 

Is language learning a 21st century skill? Usually the discussions gravitate around the role of technology and core skills like literacy, numeracy and oracy, with no sign of language learning being included in the list. I find this odd as Language learning skills are part of literacy core skills-they also support the development of mother tongue literacy by allowing comparisons. 

Recently, the debate about languages for all has been hijacked by the “which language” debate. Do not allow yourself to get distracted-we have a language deficit in the UK and I am not sure whether stating publicly that some languages are more useful than other is helpful at all. We need more languages taught by qualified specialists in schools. If language skills are taught well, they are transferable so the “which language” discussion becomes redundant as we cannot predict accurately what will be of use by the time our current school children enter the job market. 

Language teachers should also be allowed to bring languages alive and tap into youth culture, which they cannot always do in the curriculum time they are given-one of the smallest in Europe. Languages, just like technology are in constant evolution. Using ICT and social media can provide very real opportunities to communicate quickly and effectively with different language speakers about all sorts of common interests. 

In schools, the question should not be whether all children should learn languages or which one but how language teachers can work with all areas of the curriculum to make language-learning an integrated literacy-enhancing experience. 

[I am looking forward to taking part in the languages conference organised by Osiris in the summer. For more information click  here and here. See you there...]

Monday, 10 February 2014

ICT into Languages Conference, Southampton University, 8-9th February 2014

Yet again, I had a fantastic time attending and speaking at the ililc4 conference held at the University of Southampton, 8-9th February 2014.
Please find below a copy of the slides I used for my two sessions as well as a copy of the slides I used at the Show and Tell.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

‘1:1’: Taming the Idiom in Today’s Language Classroom

By  Peter Smith :
Peter has over 30 years experience as a teacher of French and German, and is currently a member of the board of OpenExam and a director of Schoolshape Ltd.
For enrichment of students’ language learning, idioms are an important addition to the teacher’s toolbox. Idiomatic language can be as useful and diverting as games, poems, songs, drama, video and tongue-twisters. They are also a subtle gateway to the all-important understanding of a foreign culture.
The advent of ‘1:1’ (each student having an online device) has prompted new strategies for introducing new material. With the ‘flipped classroom, for example, students are encouraged to ‘think around’ the new subject matter, using online tools such Language Lab software and multimedia online worksheets containing audio, video and exercises, to support learning and encourage collaboration.
Why idioms?
So, why should idioms be presented to young linguists seeking to extend their linguistic and cultural knowledge?
Idioms are an important and enjoyable part of language and communication. They help to focus students’ attention on the imaginative side of communication, to dig beneath straightforward dictionary meanings, and launch them on the high seas of figurative language. They also offer a challenging way for students to develop their productive writing and all-important oracy skills.
Four good reasons for putting idioms on the agenda:
1. They can provide a way to improve the style and quality of students' written and spoken language. There will be many who will want to use such delightful francophone expressions as ‘appuyer sur le champignon’, ‘casser les pieds à quelqu'un’ and ‘avoir un chat dans la gorge’. Others may seek to use more complex figurative expressions.  
2. They are a useful addition to the teacher's assessment toolbox ... a good way to sort the wheat from the chaff amongst students.
3. They help to provide a springboard for discussion of culture differences, personalities and sensibilities of nationalities, as reflected in their language.
4. Their introduction will, at the very least, provide some light relief and enrich discussion in the classroom.
When to introduce idioms?
Plunging students too early and too abruptly into the ‘deep end’ of figurative language can be counterproductive.  The timing of their introduction is a delicate matter. Premature exposure can be fraught with misunderstandings, even in the students’ native language, and the potential quagmire of idiomatic language can be a daunting prospect.
The new ‘1:1’ strategies allow the teacher to be very precise about timing. Students can work from an agenda or ‘to do list’ on their online device, controlled by the teacher. This will display tasks appropriate for them individually, guiding them into new material which they can tackle on their own terms and in their own time. As tasks and worksheets can be online, the teacher can monitor progress, and see precisely the subsequent support required in the classroom.
How to deploy Idioms
So what is the best, clearest and safest method of unleashing idioms in the language classroom? How are foreign language teachers to explain the meaning of idiom with the greatest economy and clarity, by providing structured tasks which will help students to improve their language skills?
What to avoid
A ‘cold’ introduction to a complex or potentially difficult topic, particularly to a mixed ability class, can be counterproductive. The level of understanding will vary from one student to the next according to their respective abilities and learning styles. The ‘chalk and talk lecture' is a blunt instrument and class discussions are prone to red herrings. Much valuable time can be wasted when some members of a class are ready for the discussion and others are not, resulting in uncertain levels of comprehension and little tangible achievement.
A better way
 ‘1:1’ strategies, and the ‘flipped classroom’ method allow students to study the new material in their own time before doing follow-up work under the direct supervision of the teacher. This method has a ‘warm-up’ effect, allowing each student time to think around the subject in their own time, collaborate with peers, and, crucially, try the language out for themselves. 
Key teaching elements
Using an online language lab, the teacher can assign multimedia worksheets, adapting the content to the right level to suit the various levels of ability and achievement of the students. As students work on the material by watching and responding to video etc., the teacher can check how they are coping with their initial exposure to the subject matter, and see who is showing signs of using the new language correctly.  With preliminary exposure to idiomatic language thus absorbed, students will be ready and more confident for subsequent activity in the classroom.
In class the teacher will then be able to adopt a more individual approach, with slower students finishing their online work, and more able students working on more complex idiomatic language and structures.
An example worksheet: Se casser la tête
This worksheet introduces ‘se casser la tête’, ‘ne me casse pas la tête’ and ‘le casse-tête’. It is eand contains elements which:
(a) explain in theory how idiomatic language works. This could be a simple written explanation such as:
‘Idioms are expressions or sayings that do not make sense when translated word for word, but have meaning to a native speaker. They often carry certain cultural nuances that are relevant for native speakers’
(b) illustrate the meaning, literal and/or figurative, using a graphic
(c) provide opportunities to think about alternatives for translation into English
(d) give written and spoken examples, both in the students’ mother tongue and in the target language.
(e) provide opportunities for hearing and repeating the idiom in common usage and then speaking and writing it in context.
Introducing idioms in this way should help to preempt problematic questions such as: ‘How do I translate one idiom with another idiom? or ‘What does Je me casse la tête mean?’
This method will also hopefully whet appetites for learning more idiomatic phrases.