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.

Half Term Top Five

This half term I have been able to get a lot done – not only have I been abroad (to Bilbao – a place very dear to me as I lived there for two years), but I have also had the chance to catch up on lots of paperwork and get to grips with a few more online tools, plus I have changed the them on this blog. So here are my recent top 5 from Twitter:

1. The first is Google Wave. I was able to get an invite and after a few days of waiting, here I am, with my very own account. Except I have very few people with whom to try it out! Luckily, as always, my Twitter network came to the rescue and @josepicardo and briefly ‘waved’ at each other – (h)ola – before agreeing that for now, Twitter is more suited to our needs. I am gradually adding other educators and I have bookmarked a few articles to read, but I reckon this tool will really take off when more of us are able to enjoy it.

2. Another tool that I really like the look of is Xtranormal, which (again, thanks to @josepicardo) looks as though it has massive potential in the classroom. See an example of the animated videos created by his Spanish 6th form students on his department’s website.

3. ImageChef is a wordle-esque tool that @icpjones has recently blogged about. It allows calligrams to be made (an image of a word made up with the word) and as Isabelle writes, it can be adapted, embedded and/or downloaded. I think the Word Mosaic tool and the Visual Poetry tools look the most exciting. Enjoy!

4. I have recently tweeting and blogged about a website called YacaPaca. It is a free website, where pupils log in with a given name and password, and teachers log in with theirs. Teachers can make interactive exercises and assign them to pupils so that when the pupil logs in, they see just the exercises they need to do. One or more attempts can be given to the pupils, and their results are recorded in the online markbook. It is also possible to look at the results in-depth and display the questions on-screen in ‘whiteboard’ mode. A pretty useful tool for independent computer room work or for homework – and not just for MFL!

5. The last of my top tools for now will have to be Storybird as my PLN has been talking about it over the last few weeks. See some exemplar stories from Dom, Clare and Lisa and now one from me too! For now stories written in a foreign language are not public, but you can access the ones you have made from your account of from a link, for now, just English ones are embeddable.


It is also definitely worth mentioning the many CPD opportunities that are coming our way this month. The first is this weekend at the Languages Show, Olympia London with its own Show & Tell session, followed by MFL Flashmeeting 4 on Monday 2nd November.  Saturday 14th November is the MFL Show & Tell event in Coventry. I am also doing two sessions for the University of Cumbria for the MFL PGCE students on using Spanish in the classroom and have set up a wiki for them where I have stored the session’s resources and where I want them to hand in their homework on the merits of learning Spanish. Fingers crossed the session will be enjoyable!

TeachMeet NorthWest

This Friday (2nd October)  dozens of us are going to meet at the BBC’s 21st Century Classroom in Salford for TeachMeet NW. I am looking forward to, not only meeting so many colleagues face to face for the first time, but also to doing my first ever presentation. TeachMeets only have 2 types of presentations: 7 minutes or 2 minutes. I have opted for the 2 minute nano presentation and, if I am picked, I will talk briefly about using Wordle in the classroom, as this has been such a popular post on this blog. If you are unable to attend in person, you can watch it via the Flashmeeting or check back sometime next week, when I will have had time to gather my thoughts and blog about the experience.

For now, here is the presentation that I will be doing:

Additionally, it is worth reminding that this Monday (28th September) is the MFL Flashmeeting, which currently has the following agenda:

1. Cunning tips: how do you save time in blogging/podcasting/resource creating and so on, to keep work/life balance & prevent divorce/forgetting names of children, etc.?
2. What did YOU do for European Day of Languages and how did it go?
3. Is there a place for audio feedback instead of written feedback for pupils’ work delivered via email or through a VLE?
4. How can blogging help raise intercultural understanding for pupils?
5. Is the specific teaching of phonics important and what difference does it make to pupils’ understanding?
6. What’s your favourite Web 2.0 tool at the moment and why?
7. How do you use your VLE and what sort of resources do you have on it?

See you there!

Favourite 5 from Twitter this week

Firstly, I should say how blown away by how many people accessed my last post – 23 Ways to use Worlde in the MFL classroom. Thanks everyone! Glad it was so useful. I have been trying out some of my ideas and have Wordled a few chapters of the literature book that my Year 13’s need to recap before they go on study leave and I am going to use it to jog their memories and get them discussing about key words (and therefore themes) of the book. I have also suggested it as a useful tool to my Lower School pupils (Years 7 -9) in preparation for their internal oral exam. Most of them (the visual learners – like me) liked the idea of typing up what they want to say, ‘Wordling’ it, and then deleting a few unnecessary words to use as a prompt for their presentation. The aim is for them to get used to the new specification AQA GCSE where they will have to prepare ‘tasks’ and they can only have 40 words to help them remember everything they want to say. To this end, we have created ‘tasks’ for them that encourage them to talk about, give opinions and expand upon the topics that we have covered this year. As it is a presentation and there is no questioning involved so pupils have approximately 1 minute to deliver their presentation and can only have 20 key words.

Now, onto the five favourite things I have learnt or found out about from Twitter this week:

  1. How to quickly use iTunes to convert a wma file to an mp3 file (import file as mp3 – easy!)
  2. I was recommended Zamzar and YouConverIt to originally convert the files, but I have to admit, I encountered problems.
  3. There will be another MFL Flashmeeting on Monday 6th July. Click here to join the wiki. Can’t wait to see everyone this time!
  4. There is so much scope for Twitter in the education. Try following foreign newspapers’ tweets  – for a list of some to start with check out Joe Dale’s blog post on Twitter for Language and Culture
  5. Second Life – I now have a grand total of TWO friends in SL and there is talk of a guided tour sometime soon for those of us who are interested. This is something I will look into over the summer I think.

I should also add that the number of people that I am following (and the number that follow me) is increasing gradually. I add people that interest me (when I have the time) by trawling through other contacts’ lists and picking those that I think would be good to follow. I am greatly enjoying the fact that everyday I can learn new things, and come across new people who can teach me so much! Thank you to you all.

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.