Starting the year with your Google Classroom

As we face the start of the 2020 academic year, our Classrooms from last year will shortly be archived (which I recommend you do – nothing is lost, the previous resources are still accessible to import into another class, your markbooks are still there, its just not sitting clogging up your home page), and we will start with our new Classrooms. Hopefully your school will be able to pull in your students and classes

Before we start I would recommend the following actions when setting up your classrooms:

-use a name format that makes each class recognisable (eg the SIMS class name)

-use colours to help you to differentiate different classrooms (or even make a header to upload – have a look at this advice on how to do it)

-organise your page in a logical order for you by grouping them. I go for simple chronological Year 7-13 on my homepage

-disable notifications in the Stream (access a class, click the cog, scroll down to Classwork on the Stream and select Hide notifications): this stops assignments appearing on the Stream, and only has them in the Classwork tab and frees up the Stream for important announcements.

-when you add material or assignments to your classroom’s Classwork page, use Topics to help you to categorise tasks. When we were working remotely, I could divide into topics or previous work/current work. I will probably do the same this year.

-number your materials before you write the name eg 00 introduction lesson, 01 personal information 02 saying your age etc… as it keeps your drive tidy and it is easier to stay organised

Have you got any other tips to share for your first week back and using Google Classroom?


Google for MFL Education: a beginner’s guide

I’ve jotted down a few ideas for you to read through to get the most out of your Google Classroom experience. When you use Classroom, you aren’t just using Classroom, you are using Docs, Sheets, Slides and Drive, so here are my top things to know to help you get started. Each of these are similar to the Microsoft counterparts of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneDrive.

General Tips:

To get the most out of everything I recommend that you use Google Chrome to browse the internet. Once you’ve used your Google ID to sign in to Chrome it automatically signs you in to all of your Google apps and you don’t need to worry about signing in again. Don’t know how to do this? Look at the top right of your screen – you should have an icon representing you. If you don’t, click the button with your name or People, then click Sign In to Chrome and sign in with your Google Account.

Google Chrome Automatically Signs You in When You Log in to Gmail ...

Everything in Google saves automatically in real time (so long as you are on the internet) and can be shared very quickly with other users in your school by clicking the blue share button (top right). This could be a document you want to collaborate with colleagues, or could be something that you wish to share with someone outside your organisation. You can choose to only allow people to ‘view your document’ or set them to be editors or commentators. To do this click “Get shareable link” in the top right of the “Share with others” box. To choose whether a person can view, comment, or edit the file, click the Down arrow next to “Anyone with the link.”

You can add something called Extensions which you can find in the Chrome Store to find “extras” to enhance your user experience. I use one that gives me a shortcut to inserting accents , and I’ve also got the Bitmoji extension to add images/cartoon like character. Browse the different extensions to find something you might find useful and feel free to share what you have found over on our Facebook group.

Google Drive:

All Google Docs/Slides etc are saved in your Google Drive, in the cloud. If you are using Classroom as well, then Google automatically creates a folder in your Google Drive called (funnily enough) Classroom which is then organised into your classes and then into your assignments.

You will have My Documents in Google Drive, where all your own resources are found, and you may also have a Shared Drive. In my school I have created a Shared Drive for our Faculty to easily store and share resources, which makes them easier to add into Classroom as they are already on the Google platform somewhere and are easier to find.

Make use of the search bar at the top of your Google Drive page to easily find documents.

If you have lots of ready made Word and PowerPoint resources that you want to move over to Google Drive, make sure your settings in Google Drive have the Convert Upload box checked, so that these files automatically turn into Google versions. Trust me, its a lifesaving hack!

Google Drive: Uploading Files to Google Drive

Google Docs & Slides

These work very similarly to Word and PowerPoint, and are fairly user friendly, but some handy things that I like are:

  • you can easily search the web for content or images by clicking on the Explore icon on the bottom right of your screen when you’re in Google Docs/Slides
  • you can use the fonts/insert/animation tools in a very similar way to PowerPoint/Word etc
  • you can link to different online resources by creating a hyperlink (right click on your word/image you wish to make the link in and scroll down to link then just paste in the URL)
  • you can make a quiz easily using a form and you can even set it to self mark

If you want to know some other specific features, better writers than I have written extensively on the topic. These Tips & Tricks for Docs are a starting point or this blog here on Slides.

I hope that is a useful starting point for now.

Google Classroom-MFL teaching during the Coronavirus lockdown

So, like many teachers up and down the country (world?!), I am having to focus on online setting and marking of work. In my school we use Google Classroom.

I have long been a user of Google Classroom and a few years ago did my training to get up to Level 2. I would consider myself a fairly competent Classroom user but having moved schools recently and battled with many other issues in my previous school, my use of Google Classroom was simple, and often a repetition of what was already in our schools chosen homework platform: Classcharts.

Now we have moved over to setting and checking work remotely I have dived head first into getting back in touch with my tech/geek self and have really enjoyed remembering all the different things I can do.

At first, all I did was post a Google Doc that kids could write in (but that was very boring to mark/check), then I turned a few lessons into Forms, that were self marking (they worked very well), but now I’m getting back into using HyperDocs to organise the flow of learning better and make it look nice at the same time.

I know that many of my colleagues are learning the ropes or are developing their GC knowledge at the moment, so I have created a Facebook group to share ideas. If it interests you, please join!

It’s been a while

Timehop today reminded me that I started to write this blog 12 years ago yet unfortunately I haven’t blogged for a long time. There are multiple reasons for this:

  • lack of time – my authoring work in the last year or two has just been crazy. And then when it finally calms down A Level marking starts or family life needs me.
  • lack of ideas – I feel that have not been very creative in the last couple of years. I think that the role I was in previously stifled me and as so much needed to be ‘sorted out’ it left very little time for creativity. Things were quite prescriptive in that role, so I didn’t/couldn’t spread my wings very much at all, but I’ve moved on now and I’m slowly getting my mojo back
  • Blogging isn’t at the forefront of my mind any more. I’m not sure if it’s a time thing as I am a full time working mum, or whether the people who started blogging around the same time as me feel the same, but the blogosphere is just saturated these days. And if I’ve got nothing interesting to write, why would I want to add to the chatter?

I’m grateful for the opportunities that this blog and my website have afforded me. My authoring work makes me very proud and I have also been able to get involved with delivering national CPD, inevitably because of people googling me and the things I have done such as flipped learning.

My new role takes me to a new school, with a different ethos. I love the fact that we offer not only Spanish and French, but also German, Latin and Classics and I’m Head of our Faculty. As with any new job, there’s lots to do and lots to learn plus colleagues and kids to get to know, but I am excited again and enjoying this challenge. I have already been involved in teaching and learning whole school activities (discussing the book Teaching Backwards) and I have been working on developing the use of technology within the faculty. In addition, recently I have begun to use qwiqr to help me with my marking which has been game changing as it’s so much faster to give valuable feedback. I hope to be back blogging more as my creative juices flow again, but if I’m quiet, know that I’m still here, working hard, as always.

Knowledge Organisers

Today I posted a question in the MFL Secondary Matters facebook group, as I wanted to get some opinions from other teachers, and wondered if anyone used Knowledge Organisers.

I have seen examples of Knowledge Organisers (KOs) from Michaela, examples that are a sort of vocabulary list – with questions and verb conjugations included-presented on quizlet/memrise  and an example that is like the second one but presented as a single sheet.

The general consensus seemed to be that they are a sort of language mat, something which linguists have done regularly for years. The version used by Michaela is very specific, in that it doesn’t provide the sorts of lists I would expect to see in my languages classroom, they use chunks of phrases, which they then work with repeatedly in lessons. I applaud their approach and recognise that it works for the style of teaching that they use in their MFL classrooms, but I have my own pedagogical approach and I have spent a lot of today think about how best I would expect to use them in my department.

I would not want to give the KOs out until we are a few weeks into the topic being taught, or else we would end up giving the students the language before going through the process of teaching them the new words, and I believe that helping students to understand new words through introducing new language using a variety of techniques is an essential part of an MFL teacher’s arsenal, therefore I would prefer the KOs to be given out towards the end of the topic. Weaker students may receive them sooner, and digital versions will also be available online on quizlet.

If you want to read my thoughts that I will be discussing with my department then please have a read of this document, and here are the KOs I have spent some time making this evening.

Ma Ville – Year 8

Intro to Spanish Year 7

Intro to French Year 7

They are all in Google Drive. If you wish to make a copy, please feel free.



I know I’ve not been blogging as much lately but life has been busy, as always. Plus I really only like to blog when I actually have something to say! I’ve not been enthused by that much recently either, what with lots of text book writing, exam marking and new spec planning, but this has got my juices going! Hyperdocs! 

My school has recently turned to Google and we now use Classroom across the school along with all the other tools which G Suite offers. Now I used Google in my last school but just 18 months on and the tools have improved massively. Hyperdocs are typically constructed in Google Docs (although I’ve seen examples in Google Slides) with a full lesson plan, which is student focused and student friendly, allowing them to move at their own speed through a lesson, documenting their learning at different stages by filling in a Google Form or completing a page of their own Google Doc or Slide.  There’s some great examples of lesson plans here, and I really recommend looking at this site and this book.

I have tried to make my first hyperdoc ready for my Year 10s after half term. As my Year 10s don’t all bring their devices into school I’ve booked a computer room for two lessons to really get this way of working off the ground. Here’s a snapshot and I’ll let you know how it goes!

Shelterbox Challenge

Thanks to Chris Fuller, I am running a SoW this term with year 8 based around his Shelterbox Challenge series of lessons.

Due to a change in staffing for a short period of time we decided to make the teaching and learning more project based, so have designed a series of lessons around what students would want , need and feel in the aftermath of a natural disaster. The lessons build in the opportunity to look at the conditional  tense, daily routine, ideal houses and opinions and feelings. Pupils will then have to create their multi media presentations ready for the competition.

Tomorrow we have a volunteer from Shelterbox coming in to talk to the year 8 pupils so we can try to make the whole project feel worthwhile and purposeful. 

Pupils have begun to develop their language skills making use of language mats to support them.

Lead Practitioner

Today I’ve been at a Lead Practitioner meeting, with a focus on effective teaching, ensuring progress and coaching. I really enjoyed creating a sketchnote for the first time. I only had a handful of biros, but I will certainly remember key elements now. I never though this way of note taking would suit me, but as I’ve become more aware of my own learning styles I’ve learnt a few things: I prefer to listen than make copious notes, I like to do something with my hands whilst I’m listening (crocheting whilst marking A Level speaking exams for example) and also using different colours.

Here’s my attempt.

May and the inevitable sigh of relief…


On Friday many teachers up and down the country breathed an audible sigh of relief as they posted off their controlled assessments and waved goodbye to the last few years’  work as they wing their way to their examiner.

For the last few weeks I have felt like Year 11 take me on a roller coaster ride every lesson. I read amazing ideas online about what I could try with Year 11 to keep them engaged in the revision process and really get them to understand what they still need to do, and its definitely been harder for me this term as I only took over as HoD at this school in January so I have been getting to know these new students since then. I’ve had the challenge of completing the syllabus (and hoping that we’ve managed to cover everything), ensuring that the final CA was completed and moping up any that remained from previous runs, as well as encouraging those with poor grades to give up their time to commit to working on an extra task with me. Challenging at the best of times and I have felt quite worried at moments when I look at the data in front of me, and how they achieved overall in CAs and then with the Listening and Reading exams added in. Then today, I decided to simply give them a full reading past paper. They haven’t done one since March as they had also done them in February and January and I felt that it was getting too much for them, and they hadn’t yet gone through the full array of topics. Well.By George. I think they’ve got it. I was pleasantly surprised (and I think so were they) that the majority of them were achieving a C grade or higher. Even those who are going to be entered for Foundation. It gave them (and me!) a much needed boost! I use a tracking spreadsheet so that simply by entering their marks it calculates the UMS for the exam and then pulls all the UMS into an overall front page so I can see what grade each child is on for each exam. It is very useful and I highly recommend using something similar. I have a tab for each of the different skills and tiers, and I also log exactly what they get on each question so that if there is a pattern of difficulty emerging, I can see exactly where they are having problems.

With just over a week to go until the exam I will be doing two more listenings and one more reading paper, and hopefully the students will begin to see that a) they CAN do this b) they need to revise certain topic areas and c) spending 8 minutes on a half an hour exam is NOT sufficient.

Good luck to all of you working so hard at the moment to help our students get the best grades they can and fingers crossed for the summer!