My focus: EasiSpeak Mikes

Finally – I have finished the EasiSpeak microphone/Voki  lesson, and wanted to let you know how it went.

Wednesday’s 35 minute lesson went down a treat, and pupils used the time to create their own songs or poems in small groups. They made use of the ICT room by typing up their text and some pupils managed to record their songs on the microphones before the lesson ended.  As we needed a bit more time, I booked the ICT room for our next lesson (this time a double lesson) and after a quick starter on ¿Qué vamos a hacer hoy? (what are we going to do today), pupils got down to business and started recording their songs and uploading them to You can see the fruits of their labour here. At the end of the activity I set their homework, which is to access the group blog and to leave feedback on their two favourite Vokis, leaving a positive comment. As I am writing this post I keep getting notifications of comments to moderate, and it is great to see how supportive they are of each other and I can’t wait to give merits out to the best ones.

I did encounter one or two issues with the lessons – nothing major, just a few things worth mentioning:

  1. The microphones need recharging occasionally;
  2. If pupils are missing for the second lesson then it can cause problems;
  3. If pupils finish earlier than others they need to have an extension task to do (mine practised vocabulary games at;
  4. Pupils must follow the instructions! Two of my groups clicked on the ‘send this voki to a friend’ link, rather than sending me the HTML code, and they closed down the screen with their voki on, so all their hard work was lost as the send to a friend link did not send me what I needed.

Overall, I was pleased with the lesson, and some of the songs are very good, and very detailed. I look forward to more ‘experiments’ with this group!

This is the starter – instruction – homework PowerPoint I used with the group:

Recording with EasiSpeak and class instructions

My focus this week is…..

….EasiSpeak microphones.

Tomorrow and Wednesday I plan to finish off a unit of work with my Year 8 class. They are mixed ability, and it is only their first year of Spanish, so the activity plans to show off the skills that they have learnt so far which include basic personal descriptions including personality, age, name, birthdays etc and classroom language.

The task will be to record their own descriptions using the EasiSpeak microphones, and then we will upload the audio to use with a Voki. They will have to design their own characters, and we will display them in our class blog and give individual feedback.

What I need to do now, before the lesson, is to create a pupil sheet explaining what we are going to do and how we are going to do it.
I then need to actually create a blog for the group that will be accessible in school as well as ensure that is unblocked, and make sure I know how to use the EasiSpeak mikes properly, so that I can demonstrate.

This activity should challenge them to be creative and to use all the language they know so far, it is relevant to the pupils as they will be talking about themselves and using current technology, they have an audience because the whole class will get to see it, it is personal to each pupil and there is an incentive to do well  as the top three of the group will earn merits. This activity is also open ended as it allows a variety of responses, thus differentiating the task by outcome.

Later this week I will update my blog with some feedback on the task and how the pupils do on it.

Here are the resources I have made so far:

Recording with EasiSpeak

Instrucciones para hacer un Voki

NB – Voki states in its terms of service that users must be aged 13 or over. As I am using this with Year 8 (who are between 12 and 13 years of age), only the pupils who have turned 13  (‘Challenge Leaders’) will access the site, therefore pupils will work in small groups and the Challenge Leader will create the Voki for their group. Thanks to @amandasalt for the heads up!

MFL Show and Tell in Coventry Part 2

As promised earlier in the week, here is a more in-depth post about last weekend’s MFL Show & Tell get together in Coventry.

Firstly, I must say a huge thanks to @jjpadvis and @joedale who, together, organised the venue and ‘chaired’ the event for just over 20 people. We began the day by sipping (a much-needed) cuppa and introducing ourselves to our online ‘friends’. For me, one of the great things about the day was to finally meet in person people who I have begun to rely on so significantly through my PLN. Over the last few months I feel as though I at least ‘know’ them a bit (ie. if I saw them on the street I would know who they are) because of having seen their faces and heard their voices in the MFL Flashmeetings, but to meet face to face, and to have the chance to share ideas with like-minded people was brilliant.

After the caffeine fix and a comical attempt at us all trying to get online (cue laptops and macbooks and frantic typing combined with cries of “it’s not loading!”) we sat down and began to come up with some ideas of what we wanted to discuss. Typically, we all wanted to be able to talk about everything, so instead of breaking into small groups, we discussed things generally, kicking off with Isabelle Jone‘s Easi-Speak microphones. I was very excited (!) to see these in action as I am currently waiting for my own set of 5 to arrive in school to unleash upon my unsuspecting pupils. For those of you that have never seen them, they look like normal microphones but can also record voice and create sound files that can quickly be uploaded to the computer and adapted to whatever needs you have. (I have to admit though, I am just a tiny bit jealous of Isabelle’s pro versions!)

A natural follow on from this conversation was to look at other digital voice recorders – something which has been on my radar for a while too. With the new style speaking assessments we need to be able to record pupils without it being much hassle, and as we need to submit two assessments to go towards a pupil’s speaking grade, being able to electronically record and store their work is a sensible option. I will be looking into the purchase of these very soon.

I am afraid I cannot remember the exact order we discussed everything, but after a brief distraction with my dalek-sounding voice changer(Question: How can you make pupils speak? Answer: Let them feel as though it is not them speaking) @josepicardo gave us the low down on Edmodo. Edmodo is a safe environment to use as a platform to communicate with pupils and I have used it with my Upper VI and Year 10 pupils, however, after José’s demonstration I realised that I had not been making full use of all of the features – I have now updated my profile to receive an alert when anything on the page changes (eg. a pupil writes a comment or uploads a homework) and I want to start making use of the assignment feature for pupils to hand in work. I used Edmodo in a lesson a few weeks ago, in conjunction with Etherpad (a collaborative tool that allows multiple editors of a page) with the Upper VI where they not only had to hand in (electronically of course) an essay on environment, but they then had to translate each other’s in Etherpad, which I could correct from my PC, but they could see onscreen as well.

José also showed us how he has begun to develop his department’s blog with examples of Xtranormal videos produced by students and we also had a sneak preview of something he has been working on which is a private communication platform between the teachers he has added (eg. his department). Looks like it could be the next Twitter for Teachers guys……

After lunch we heard some presentations from a variety of teachers, including @joedale who spoke about moblogging (and he used Cool Iris to present with – a tool I would definitely like to look at more), @suzibewell who gave as an idea of how she used Skype in the classroom to connect to a classroom in another country, and she also did some things on French phonetics which got me thinking about phonetics in Spanish. Initially I thought that pronunciation in Spanish isn’t a massive problem for English speaking pupils, but throughout my lesson’s this week I have been even more aware of the lack of ability to make the ‘J’ sound, how some vowels sound together in Spanish (eg. causa) and the silent ‘H’. @valleseco was kind enough to tweet me a link to some resources she has on her site and on a blog for her pupils, and @lisibo has suggested I look at Rachel Hawkes – when  I get a moment this is something else I will research some more.

@Kath52 enlightened us with her use of wikis and blogs in the classroom to enhance pupils’ learning, and although I knew of some of the games/sites used there were two that I had not used myself – Quizlet and StudyStack – and it got me thinking about developing more games, not only for use in the classroom as an activity, or as a ‘testing’ tool, but also as a learning tool. Therefore, I have already begun to develop a few more games for my pupils to practise current and relevant vocabulary. Apologies that for now, I only have Spanish games! I will try to add some French stuff soon.

@icpjones gave us a presentation on her favourite tools for CPD in the MFL Faculty – I particularly liked how she compared the old style paper bulletins that used to be received in pigeon holes to how we can communicate now. And as she said towards the end, what will the future hold? The key thing from her presentation (for me) was to start considering Diigo instead of Delicious as a bookmarking site. As a newbie, I started my Delicious page which currently has over 450 pages bookmarked, and I also made one for my pupils so they could easily find revision tools, however, I would like to look into what Diigo can offer, especially as I know it is relatively easy to transfer my bookmarks over. Maybe I will keep Delicious for the pupils, and develop Diigo for me. Again, watch this space!

I gave a quick talk about ways to use Wordle in the MFL classroom and also showed my bag of tricks to the group. These include :

  • my faithful lion, Leo, who meets and greets every class I teach (he could even teach them sometimes, but I don’t want him to have too much power….),
  • a bicycle horn (various uses, especially to let a pupil know you have heard them speaking in English when they should have been using the target language!),
  • a very tactile ‘ball’ (if pupils have grown out of Leo, older pupils tend to like to catch this in order to answer a question/have permission to speak);
  • squidgy eyes and ears (to help with the pronunciation of ‘hay’ and ‘ir’ in Spanish – you could also use a soya sauce bottle and Bisto gravy granuals for ‘say’ and ‘visto’ if you want to go down the route of an item for each word….),
  • clackers and ringing mallets (to let me know when a team wants to answer a question, of course), and
  • my most recent acquisition – fly swatters. Pupils can come up to the board, and either on the teacher’s command, or a pupil’s, they have to be the first to whack the picture. Just don’t do this on a SMART board…).

We rounded off the talks with an example of SongSmith from @joedale and examples of using  Crazy Talk in the MFL classroom from @valleseco – I shall definitely be giving all of this a go sometime soon. In fact, I am downloading Crazy Talk as I type.

Thank you so much to everyone for sharing such innovative and forward thinking ideas. I love teaching languages, and I love using technology to help with learning and teaching (read what I have to say about it on my group’s newsletter on page 15 ) and without you all, I do not think I would be half the teacher I am today.

PS – José – I hope you don’t mind I have used one of your fab pictures in this post. The other pictures from the event are all on flickr.