Twitter at its best

One of the reasons why I enjoy being on Twitter so much is the fabulous support network offered by colleagues, virtual or otherwise. I also love finding out new things, and I just wanted to share with you some recent Top 5 Titbits from Twitter that I really like, as it has been a while since I have done one of these posts:

1. And the reading of other people’s favourite sites – thanks @valleseco.

2.Being able to search Google for ActivStudio & ActivInspire Flipcharts.

3. David Bisbal in the South African World Cup song

4. Web 2.0 Tools for Teachers – this includes some tools I hadn’t heard of, so well worth a read!

5. Shared stories such as this one and the ones on the MFL Storybirds Wiki:

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Activities Bag

Having just read a fab post by@valleseco I felt that I had to upload a word document that is a regular life saver for me. A friend made it a few years ago whilst we were on our PGCE and now, whenever I am stuck for an idea on how to introduce or practice language, then I pull out this ‘Activities Bag’ for some inspiration. I would love to update it, so feel free to leave a comment with your ideas.

Monday 25th January – MFL Flashmeeting #5

This evening I found myself sharing ideas and good practice with teachers from all over the UK, plus one or two from even further afield, such as New Zealand and America.

The meeting’s agenda included discussions on new technology that Santa brought us for Christmas, discussing our New Year’s resolutions with regards to using ICT to enhance language lessons, tips and tricks to help Year 11 with their speaking skills, ways to use collaborative tools such as vokis, wallwisher and voicethread safely in the classroom, and even how to turn your whiteboard into what looks like a Wii, with the use of a Wii Remote and an infrared sensor bar.

You can catch a replay of the meeting here. Enjoy!

I will (eventually) write a post about the Chinese course I have begun, and I have two idea in the back of my head for use in the classroom – the first being to use twitter to receive real-time responses to a target language question, and the second is to use voicethread to practice an AQA oral exam stimulus card for AS and A2 Spanish. Watch this space for an update soon.

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.

23 Ways to use Wordle in the MFL Classroom

Wordle: CV

And this is what my CV came out with in Wordle. 🙂 Click on it to enlarge.

I have spent the evening thinking quite a bit about this wonderful word cloud tool, and I want to implement it’s use in the classroom now that I will have some more planning time available as exam classes stand down. I have googled the topic of word clouds in education and came across many interesting sites and blogs. A very interesting document was this which I found after tweeting the word ‘Wordle’ – 32 interesting ways to use Wordle. Below I have written a few ideas of how we can use Wordle in the MFL classroom:

  1. Use to introduce a topic – encourage pupils to guess what they will be learning about (works for all levels).
  2. If you have an idea of what level of writing pupils want to be at by the end of a topic, you could use an example text in a word cloud as an introduction to the topic, but linking it back to the end activity or referring back to it as the lessons progress.
  3. Use to analyse the content and gist a longer written text, especially with exam or higher level groups
  4. To practise speed reading techniques for gist
  5. To introduce new vocabulary
  6. To memorise new vocabulary/vocabulary lists
  7. To encourage pupils to make sentences from the vocabulary learnt, using the word cloud as a visual prompt
  8. Revision of key topics and vocabulary – pupils can create their own or can be given them
  9. Comparing two texts at different levels (eg. Foundation & Higher) and discussing how the lower level one can be adapted to match the higher level
  10. To teach pupils how to do a presentation without reading from a sheet and just using prompts (useful for oral exams)
  11. Copy the RSS feed of a foreign news website and see what current affairs are (this idea came to me as there have been various tweets flying around regarding following FL newspapers on Twitter as a teaching tool)
  12. Encouraging creative writing from a selection of key words from a word cloud
  13. A way of noting down bullet points, but not in bullet point form eg. when commenting on pupils’ work
  14. Self-reflection on work – as Wordle makes a word larger the more frequently it is used, pupils will be able to see at a glance which words or phrases they are over-using. This would encourage variety in their work (‘range’ being a regular requirement in exams)
  15. Display posters on languages (eg most spoken) or commonly used phrases in the target language classroom or class rules/expectations
  16. Cross-curricular – literacy (words) and numeracy(frequency)
  17. See results of class survey visually
  18. Choose which words are relevant for a writing task eg. formal vs informal letter writing
  19. Prompt for word games eg. taboo, charades etc
  20. As Wordle doesn’t include many smaller words such as prepositions this could be a good way of practising them eg.input sentences that focus on prepositions, such as “the table is next to the door”. Pupils then have to construct the correct sentence as the only words the word cloud will show will be the key nouns (and any other words you wish to remove you can by clicking on them).
  21. Input target language vocabulary and English words – pupils match the vocabulary
  22. Input vocabulary and screen capture the word cloud, copy into a PowerPoint or FlipChart page. Then add images for another vocabulary game or exercise or just to add variety to text only
  23. Collate individual’s responses to questions (this could be linked to the ActivExpressions handsets that I am trialing at school)

Click on the image below to englarge it:Wordle: languages are cool

Update: 23rd November 2009

Here is a nifty trick to include phrases in your Wordle: just use ~ between each word and it will link them together when the Wordle is created. Read a blog post here on it that was passed on to my by @joedale.