Phoney Flipping aka Phlipping

Today I had a class that I was a bit too scared to flip with! I just knew that no matter what sanctions I applied, very few of them would do the home learning and watch the video on the Conditional Tense that I had created, which would then scupper the plans I would have for the rest of the lesson. The lack of technology available to me would mean that I could not have had all of the ‘red’ pathway students watching the video in lesson and then carrying on with the remaining tasks – it would have just been too much – and too many students would have no idea what we were doing.

So, I decided to use one of the techniques that I discussed with some primary colleagues – watching the video together in lesson. I produced a worksheet for them to fill in as they watched, which detailed the rules of the conditional tense and irregular verbs, which then put them in a good position to apply the rules for themselves and move towards applying the rule to our own context (which, in the case, is all about ideal holidays).

Most children seemed to engage quite well with the video (they were certainly a lot more silent than if I were standing at the front of the room attempting to explain it!) and most of them quickly became used to using the notes that they had made to check verb endings and irregular stems, so all in all I think it was a success.


Not quite flipping, I know, but more of a phoney flip or phlip!

SAMR ideas and tasks

Last night I received an email from a colleague asking for some advice and suggestions on how to develop her colleagues’ understanding of the SAMR model. She has cleverly divided her CPD groups into those that are more and those that are less confident with technology and she wants to take the next step and push the ‘higher’ group to come up with tasks that fit the Modification and Redefinition element of the SAMR model (Puentadura).

This lead me to thinking about what tasks in MFL can fit under these headings, and then I realised that these types of tasks are completely content free and can be done by any subject area. I asked on twitter, and the lovely #mfltwitterati came up with a few ideas as well (thanks to @joedale and @lancslassrach).

The main types of activities that I think fit well into this model are ones which allow students to use technology to enable the students to create something which represents the learning that has taken place (this could be an audio file, a presentation, a video or a poster) . Up until this point you could argue that technology has just augmented an activity that could previously have been carried out on paper or orally. However, by creating it digitally, pupils can share this work with the teacher and/or the class and this immediately moves us into the world of modification (where the tech allows for significant task redesign), as different medias could also be woven together. For example, imagine the poster creating site Glogster was used. In Glogster students can use a variety of audiovisual materials to create an interesting and worthwhile piece of work. However, in order to move to the Redefinition level of SAMR this task could be displayed online for all students to see and pupils can comment on each other’s work, collating the feedback in one place. A powerful tool, and reaching the upper limits of SAMR at the same time, creating a real purpose to using technology.

The discussion on twitter centered around the idea of App Smashing as a further way of modifying or redefining the use of technology. For those of you who are new to this term , App Smashing is when you merge content from a variety of apps. @lancslassrach has written about some things that she has done over on her blog and she mentions @ipadwells‘ video which you can watch here. I am yet to try this, but think it could be a very exciting way forwards!

In addition, I would argue the if you chose to flip your classroom, then you are modifying and redefining how technology is used within this context. The idea of flipped learning is not necessarily new, as previously, students have been encouraged to read chapters of a book or to research something before their lesson, but the development of technology has allowed us not only to create more engaging material, but to assess what students know before they even walk in the room – an amazingly useful tool that has certainly redefined what I do in a lesson that starts with a flip.

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.

A Guest Appearance

Early in January I wrote a guest post for José Picardo’s Box of Tricks Blog, along with a few other MFL teachers from a wide range of backgrounds. The one thing that we all have in common is the belief that technology can enhance both teaching and learning.

José has kindly collated all of our contributions into one, easily accessible document, which can be read here:

Audio in the MFL classroom

Having written about the need for a languages lab in my last post, and contemplating the necessity of one on twitter,  local primary school colleagues tweeted that they had found a way to help me around the issue:

So, having had a look at the “23 Interesting Ways (and Tips) to use audio in the classroom, I thought that you might like to take a look too, so I have added the slideshare below:

What do you think? Does this go far enough toward enabling us as MFL teachers?

We already use lots of audio in the classroom, so some of these ideas sat very comfortably with me. For example, I have used musical countdowns and music to encourage an activity or calm one down since I began teaching. I have also used tunes that pupils already know but with new lyrics, in order to learn vocabulary. (Have a look at the Register Routine song or the Lateness Routine song here, or the Daily Routine Song here). I have also set words to a beat in order to help the children remember them, and tap the beat back at them in order for them to remember a word. Creating their own audio is something that can be very fulfilling in an MFL Classroom too – Audacity is a great (free) tool to record voice, and as Joe Dale demonstrated recently at MFL Show and Tell, SongSmith is also another great tool.

I guess I am still trying to find an answer to the question in my previous post. Do we really need a languages laboratory? I still think the answer is yes…….What about you?

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.

MFL Show and Tell 2009 in Coventry

This weekend I finally got to meet so many of my virtual colleagues in Coventry at Foxford School where we discussed many, many, many issues. I have had a whirl of a weekend so do not have enough time to write a long enough blog post about the things I learnt and wish to learn, however, for now, here are the links to the wiki from the day and the etherpad I made notes on from the day.

More to come later in the week – I promise!

AQA GCSE – New Specification

Coursework…urm, I mean, Controlled Assessment is the name of the game in today’s post.Hand_writes

Having had a meeting with our Director of Studies I am now contemplating exactly how, when and where we are going to conduct the controlled assessments that are part of the new specification GCSE in MFL offered by AQA. As a department that has always shied away from coursework, in favour of the writing exam, we find ourselves in an interesting position as to how to meet the requirements of the examination, whilst still ensuring that pupils are challenged and motivated in MFL and without the teaching becoming exam orientated. The reading and listening examinations pose no problem for us, as this is what has always happened, however we now have no choice but to do a written controlled assessment and a spoken controlled assessment. Candidates must have two tasks (in each skill) submitted towards their GCSE and they are allowed to know what they are, before preparing it and then completing the final task in ‘controlled conditions’ with only a task sheet in front of them. On this sheet they are allowed a plan with up to 40 (TL or non-TL) words, no conjugated verbs nor codes. In the writing assessment pupils are allowed a dictionary.

Two ideas came out of our discussion: 1) Do we integrate the controlled assessment into our current internal examination system (January exam & Summer exam)?, or, 2) do we set aside an assessment period towards the end of Year 11 once all pupils have completed the GCSE course?

With the first option we have the potential problem of using external examination results to go towards an internal assessment. Is that right? It currently goes against our school’s coursework policy, but this may be revised in the light of so many subjects now having to complete coursework….urm, I mean controlled assessment. It also means that they can end up doing assessments when their knowledge is not of a high enough level and when they have not finished the course. Naturally, pupils’ ability is higher after a further year of study, so would that make any assessments completed in Year 10 a waste of time?

With the second option we can use tasks in the style of the controlled assessment for internal assessment at the relevant internal assessment periods, preparing them to some extent for what would be expected of them in Year 11. Then, in March/April, pupils can focus solely on completing the 4 tasks set (two for writing, two for speaking) having a complete knowledge bank behind them. The question here would be, what do we do in the mock examination in January? Another speaking and writing task that could go towards the final assessment (adopting the best of 3 approach)?

What would you do? Any other ideas anyone? I would be very interested in hearing from other schools around the UK to find out what you are considering.

MFL Show & Tell

I have just signed up, via Joe Dale’s Wiki, to attend an MFL Show & Tell session on Saturday 14th November in Coventry. The idea arose last weekend and I picked up on what was being suggested through my twitter network, and this morning I saw that Joe had organised the sign-up wikipage when I checked my twittter account. Joe writes “The idea of the MFL Show and Tell session is to give teachers an opportunity to share good practice on the use of technology in the classroom in a relaxed informal environment.” People can sign up to present or to attend and the £10 fee covers the venue and lunch.

I am looking forward to next term, with TeachMeetNWon Friday 2nd October and now with MFL Show & Tell on Saturday 14th November – I highly recommend signing up as soon as possible and I look forward to meeting you there!


MFL Show & Tell

I have just signed up, via Joe Dale’s Wiki, to attend an MFL Show & Tell session on Saturday 14th November in Coventry. The idea arose last weekend and I picked up on what was being suggested through my twitter network, and this morning I saw that Joe had organised the sign-up wikipage when I checked my twittter account.  Joe writes “The idea of the MFL Show and Tell session is to give teachers an opportunity to share good practice on the use of technology in the classroom in a relaxed informal environment.” People can sign up to present or to attend and the £10 fee covers the venue and lunch.

I am looking forward to next term, with TeachMeetNWon Friday 2nd October and now with MFL Show & Tell on Saturday 14th November – I highly recommend signing up as soon as possible and I look forward to meeting you there!