Thursday, 31 January 2008

Saved by the blog!

At 2.20pm today I Tweeted via my mobile -

'Tearing hair out with yr5 - perhaps rewriting Machado's Spanish poem Primavera was adventurous, but they only had to change 2 words!'

My words of desperation unfortunately did not arrive in the Twitterverse - Twitter seems to be having the sort of day I have - but by the end of the afternoon a new post had arrived on Vámonos proving that the lesson didn't end as badly as it might have done!

The Scheme of work for Year5 this half term is based around Unit 17 of the QCA KS2 Schemes for Spanish - 'El retorno de la primavera'. This covers the weather and seasons before looking at a poem by Machado called La Primavera and linking to the myth of Persephone. I'm trying to redo the KS2 scheme as I go along and thought I'd try out some of the QCA units to see what I thought - and also how the kids would like them!
Now, this particular class are lively and perhaps not your ideal 'guinea pigs' but nothing ventured...
The idea was to consider the poem La Primavera (not quite the same version but a lovely gerber daisy!), looking how we can work out what it means, and considering the rhythm and repetition, especially of the chorus

La Primavera ha venido
Y nadie sabe cómo ha sido

and then to focus on an extract -
En medio del prado
Hay una escuela y

Una margarita
Que es la maestra

replacing the pink words (una escuela - a school and la maestra - the teacher) with a new place and new job for the daisy ( la margarita) to carry out in the middle of her meadow.

Well, despite my beautiful Powerpoint (I'll put it in my Box of Goodies) judging by the ideas put forth by some pupils, the idea of poetic language was completely lost on some of them, in English let alone Spanish! However, when we arrived at the point of suggesting new places and matching jobs, there were some good ideas that seemed to fit the theme and feeling of the poem. We had a swimming pool with the daisy as lifeguard, a hotel with a receptionist and a playground with a Mum (we also had the inevitable football stadium with a footballer) Each child made their own version and wrote it up as handwriting practice.

But the class were still so noisy (in an annoying rather than naughty way) I was in need of some magic to regain my sanity.

Step forward and take a bow Sony Ericsson K800i and my lovely pink blog.

Joe had worked hard all lesson and had come up with an original idea of a circus and a clown, so I asked if he minded me blogging his work. Amazing the ripple of 'blogging' that went around the room as I took a quick snap of his work and proceeded to text my post. With my blog on the IWB, I pressed the refresh button and ..... the sound of 30 kids exhaling as one, and a hush only broken by Joe squealing 'that's my work!' and then a clamour to find out how I'd done it.

As I told them , teacher's can do magic - with a bit of help ;o)

La Primavera

Having a fun (!) afternoon with 5MW. We've been looking at La Primavera by Antonio Machado, and the pupils have been rewriting the middle by replacing images. Here is Joe's version.

Sunday, 27 January 2008

What makes a good teacher? Creative subversion?

My BBC email alert once again gave me food for thought this morning - also noticed by @acsutcliffe who tweeted about it.

What makes a good teacher? asks the article by Mike Baker. The conclusions of research carried out by a group of experts at the invitation of Cambridge Assessment agency make interesting reading. You can read the article for yourself, but I found it interesting to read some of the conclusions.

Professor Patricia Broadfoot argued that
"the highest quality teaching and learning comes when we have the greatest autonomy for the teacher and the learner". The good teacher, she went on, was someone who was "left to get on with what they think their students need".
She goes on to suggest that child centred learning is the key.

Another expert Professor Debra Myhill pointed to the ability of the teacher to reflect on and change his or her performance as key.

And another, Professor Mary James commented
"If learners are not involved in their learning, they do not learn".

My favourite phrase of the article is the call for teachers to be 'creatively subversive' - explained as not passively accepting Government initiatives and directives, nor dismissing them and refusing to comply, but instead, creatively adapting them.

Well - I agree with @acsutcliffe - there is a lot of relevant stuff here that the Government needs to note, and the conclusions of these experts make perfect sense to me. Subject knowledge is all well and good but it's what you do with it and how you share it that matters.

The article concludes with the writer questionning whether there are enough teachers capable of 'creative subversion' after years of being told exactly what to teach and how.

I know plenty of people who are ready, willing, able, and in fact, downright excited about a bit of 'creative subversion' .

What do you think? Are you up for it?

Thinking in Starbucks?

I find myself unexpectedly in Starbucks, enjoying a gingerbread latte and staring at the wall.

And thinking.

This picture struck me on several levels.
I like it, first of all.
It's simple and uncomplicated.
The subject is growing and blooming.
It's imaginative.
And it's in Spanish.
Just like one of my lessons??
I'd like to think so.

Friday, 25 January 2008


Trying out my new Sony Ericsson K800i - you can blog from it.
mobile+blog =moblog.
Having Tweeted about my new acquisition, I discovered courtesy of @joedale that there was the possibilty of moblogging on it. He referred me to @blaggers, but before he could reply, @acsutcliffe did, confirming that I can moblog with it!
My first effort went to a new blog that was automatically set up by Blogger, but after the initial post, I was able to redirect to ¡Vámonos!
So, thanks to my Sony Ericsson K800i and 'the boys', here's my first proper effort.

(photo - models from Animation workshop at ELLRSG with Oscar Stringer)

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

It's official - I'm hooked!

The time has come to admit something I've tried to ignore and hide for a while - I am addicted to blogging! I've just taken a test and, by asking me about my blog habits it concluded that ...
81%How Addicted to Blogging Are You?

Now that's worrying! What's more worrying is that I'm sure it would be worse if the questionnaire had asked questions like
  • how often do you casually drop your blog into conversation?
  • how many times a day do you 'pop by' your blog to check how many visitors it's had?
  • how much time do you spend looking for bling for your blog?
  • do you feel bereft if you can't look at your blog on a regular basis (Birmingham LA hasn't blocked blogs yet, but I did a course in Gloucester where they are blocked and was beside myself that I couldn't see ¡Vámonos!)
Joking aside, I am loving my blog, and the time I spend on it is well spent as people are reading it - and I hope finding it interesting and informative. My visitor counter clocked 1000 on Monday and I nearly hit the roof. May not seem many when you think that Joe Dale's blog is at 81,980, but I'm pleased as punch. In the words of Jaume Fuster De mica en mica s'omple la pica.

So keep stopping by and letting me know what you've found interesting and I'll keep feeding my addiction - which actually is a quite healthy one!

Monday, 21 January 2008

EdTechRoundup podcast

Whilst at the Teachmeet at BETT this year I witnessed Doug Belshaw announcing the official launch of EdTechRoundup.

As Tom Barrett puts it on his blog, ' EdTechRoundup is a place where a group of UK-based educators come together for discussion and collaboration around the use of technology in education. We believe in pedagogically-sound uses of educational technology, but don't believe in ramming Web 2.0 (or anything else for that matter) down people's throats'
'Our aim is to deliver common sense advice and guidance that is practical to teachers - much of what we will talk about has been tried and tested with our classes. The shows will be hosted by two different people each week - to see who is involved please visit the contacts page on the wiki.' that you listen in too.

The first edition of the podcast went live last week. It is hosted by David Noble (who I have met) and Sinclair McKenzie (who I have virtually met) and features a short interview with Joe Dale on reasons to use blogs in the classroom. I had a chance to tune in yesterday and would recommend that you do too.

I particularly liked the discussion of , a site I had heard of and meant to use but never got around to it! I was reminded of it at Teachmeet where the fruit machine was used to pick the order of presenters. The site offers the opportunity to create free games, activities and diagrams using Flash and is well worth an explore. I've already input the names of all the classes I'm teaching at the moment into random name picker and hope the kids will enjoy seeing their names spinning - and it'll also save me being accused of only picking the children in my house!

Anyway - listen to the podcast and find out about this, and much much more. You can listen to it via the blog or through an iTunes feed.

Episode 2, presented by Tom Barrett and John Johnston will be available soon so stay tuned to learn more!

Friday, 18 January 2008

Flying the flag for VOTW.

I've mentioned before the Voices of the World project, initiated by
Sharon Tonner creating links around the world using our voices / sound rather than solely as a way of written word. It's a genius project as it offers-

  • a monthly task - short sharp bursts are great for keeping up interest , and also work well for me as the whole school want to be involved so I can rotate classes to lead
  • a different tool each month - so far - Voki, Animoto, One True Media and Voicethread (not to mention using Audacity and Flickr to gather and create things!) so we're introducing new ideas and techniques into the classroom - and they're free!
  • links with classes across the globe - Greece, Thailand, Scotland, Wales, France, Germany, Australia, USA... the list goes on.
  • the opportunity for my pupils to 'be' Spanish. I teach them Spanish and, in the absence of a Spanish school, and because I have to be different, Whitehouse Common are doing their tasks in Spanish (the other schools are doing the tasks in their own language)
This month, the task is on Voicethread and is on the theme of customs. It's a two part task - Sharon has selected some slides featuring fruit, clothes, musical instruments etc and each school is going to record the name of each fruit, instrument and so on in their own language. Then each school is going to create their own Voicethread based on their country - the food, costume, sport that most represents it.

I must admit, with January half gone, we haven't started yet. There are many reasons but one is the issue of our icon.

We need to create an icon to represent our school on Voicethread, and Sharon asked that it be the flag of our country. Problem - we are in England, but our words will be in Spanish so which flag do we use? Sharon and I exchanged e-mails on the subject and concluded that it needed to be a hybrid! So, we were about to head off to Paint to redesign the flag when i discovered a very timely post from Langwitches, Silvia Tolisano, on a tool she had discovered on Twitter via Karen Bosch called We are multicolored.
This tool allows you to make a hybrid flag, based on three questions -
Where is your home?
What other country has affected you?
Where have you dreamed of going?
So, off I went and had a play and came up with these - not sure which I like best but it's a start.Is this one a bit boring and predictable?

I like this one with the English bit of the Union flag at the front - but does the St George's cross get a bit lost?

And this one is for our Euro08 project - we've drawn Sweden!

It's a tool I wish I'd discovered yesterday when I was teaching Year6 RE about signs of belonging and identity - but we'll be having a go next week for sure (they'll be thrilled - tweeting on Twitter with Ewan McIntosh last week, designing flags next week - what will it be next?)

And I also think it'll be a great new tool to add a new dimension to European Day of Languages next September - we've discovered the languages spoken by our school community - wouldn't it be great to have a display of the 480+ hybrid flags of the pupils? And we thought last year was brilliant!

Need a rest before my brain overheats....

Sunday, 13 January 2008

"Digital generation heralds age of 'emotional truant' "

Sifting and reading through the bumph I picked up at BETT, I came across an article in this week's TES (a bargain at 50p - although I admit I was more drawn by the potential of the bag in which it was packaged) with the above title.

In a speech this week at the Moving Young Minds conference in London, Lord Puttnam, who is chairman of Futurelab, said
"Technology savvy children are switching off and becoming 'emotional truants' because schools are not relevant in a digital age"

He went on to add that "the education system seemed 'out of sync' with all that counted for young people......children were disengaging from formal education because it did not reflect their experience of digital interaction."

The article concludes with some statistics about the use of technology by young people -

  • nearly all children do some homework on the computer
  • 77% use the Internet daily
  • three out of five use social networking sites like Bebo, and even more played video games, used mobile phones or digital cameras
The final statement was particularly telling - 'young people believed that understanding technology was almost as important in life as having a good teacher or a supportive family'.

Especially in the context of the comments by Jim Knight about Internet safety this week, it make sense to me that we use and embrace new technologies that children are already skilled in using and turn them to our purposes - for example, see this article about the use of Nintendo DS
If we allow children to use these tools in our lessons, we can guide them in using them responsibly and stop them from being taboo. And before we can use them in our teaching, we need to find out about them ourselves. That's one reason I went to BETT and Teachmeet - to find out. But you don't have to go to conferences. I bought a Nintendo DS after listening to Ewan McIntosh talk on this theme at Language World last year, and my 9 year old son has been having a marvellous time teaching me how to use it as have the pupils I teach at school. It's led to several discussions about their favourite game sand several have gone away and had a go at Brain training in Spanish - there's no greater incentive than beating the teacher's score ;0)

I'm not saying anything new I know but if people keep saying it and doing it .....

Friday, 11 January 2008

Teachmeet 08

After an exhausting day at BETT, I'm currently enjoying a glass of wine at Teachmeet and listening to lots of good ideas for using technology in the classroom. The rules are that you either have 7 minutes or 2 minutes to present your message. Powerpoint is mildly boo-ed and no sales pitches.

I'll let you know what I learn as and when!

Investigating Languages.

There are lots of different models for delivering MFL at KS2 , and the Pathfinder projects investigated a number of them. Coventry City Council was one of those Pathfinder LAs and developed an interesting project called Language Detectives, now Investigating Languages. I had heard a basic outline of what it involved and the theory behind it but never actually seen any of the materials or had the detail explained so, as I was starting to feel a bit of a fraud when I mentioned it as a model then failed to give any further detail, and also because I wanted to know, I jumped at the chance to attend Sian James’ presentation.

Sian has led the project for the last year, taking over from Nick Jones who began it. In a nutshell, it is a two year language awareness course with CD and activity book for each year which, as Sian put it, ‘aims to open up a world of language learning, of language awareness and language skills’. The USPs of Investigating Languages seem to be

  • It’s ideal for the non-specialist as there is no call for knowledge of a specific language.
  • It’s flexible – although intended for Years 3 and 4, and then followed by studying a specific language in Years 5 and 6, there are many different ways that it’s used: for Year 5 and 6; as a 4 year course with a discrete language taught alongside; as an intensive day once a term; as a bridging unit between Year 6 and 7.
  • It clearly meets the LLS and Language awareness strands of the KS2 Framework.
  • It enables pupils to become comfortable with risk taking.

It was originally conceived as a way for all Coventry schools, where the average number of languages spoken is 10 (one has 42), to have a combined approach to PLL. All schools in the LA have the materials and use them to suit their needs (as above) – I like this as it gives a common core whilst still allowing schools a say in the languages they teach, when and how.

Before explaining Investigating Languages, Sian actually highlighted a website I’d visited before, but hadn’t fully explored. Newbury Park School in Redbridge has a vast number of languages spoken by its school community and has developed a brilliant site featuring all the languages. For each one, a child from the school presents greetings and other short phrases in video clips with the word in the original script and also Roman script. There are also Q&A such as What’s your name?, a page that shows where the language is spoken not just as a first language but also as a second or third official language, and also a resource pack for each language to download. I love the site not just for the breadth of languages from which you can choose but also because it shows that this school values the experiences that its pupils bring in terms of their language skills and heritage.

Back to Investigating Languages (IL) – we began with a list of words. Sian asked us questions about what we thought we had to do, what we thought the words might be (greetings) and how we knew (we recognised some of them and made an assumption based on our experience). We then worked in pairs to work out the languages. Some we guessed, some we used deductions based on the way the words look, how they relate to other words we did know etc. which is a process that IL is seeking to nurture.

The next activity involved 16 strips, each with 6 words on, half with the language written at the top. We quickly worked out that the words were months of the year and the ones with the language labelled were January –June. Again we were asked for our thoughts and ideas, and encouraged to discuss our reasoning. Using clues such as script, use of capital letters, number of accents, we paired the cards. Then we had a go at pronouncing them, using one of the activities on the CD where four languages are featured at the top of four columns so direct comparison can be made. It was interesting to see how we were willing to hazard a guess when the script was familiar, but Russian or Greek was met with silence – how like kids us teachers can be! We found out interesting facts such as the months in Polish are named after activities that are done in those months and that the word for January in Dutch and Swahili is the same.

Sian showed us more activities from the CD and provided us with some examples from the book as well as the promise of a sample CD ( the previous group had taken all the ones she had with her!) Another favourite was an audio clip in French that she played with no preamble. We deduced that it was about someone visiting London, seeing Big Ben and David Beckham and saying hello to him. We put actions to the key words and then listened to the same clip in Swahili, using the same actions at the appropriate points. An amazingly simple activities but so much in it about use of cognates, word order, knowledge of linguistic conventions etc.

And another involved reordering words from listening to an audio clip. Whilst I don’t like English translations being displayed usually when new words are presented, in this case it demonstrated a point abut word order as the English word moved with the Spanish one.

Sian told us that after two years of this, when Year5 and 6 start studying a discrete language, the pupils are not content with single words; they want to know how to make sentences and paragraphs immediately because their confidence is such that they feel they can cope with it.

I’ll definitely be investigating further – even if we don’t purchase the materials (Sian is currently updating them so hang on until June was her advice!), the ideas and concepts are brilliant, aren’t they!

Practical strategies to ease the challenge of transition.

At the first run of the Preparation for Transition conference in Birmingham, everybody I spoke to seemed to be talking about the session delivered by Jacqui Tilt, aided by Helen Leigh, on Practical strategies to ease challenge of Transition in MFL, so I was eager to attend this time around when the opportunity arose.

Jacqui, a secondary MFL teacher and Primary MFL AST at Hanley Castle Language College in Worcestershire, works with a cluster of 8 feeder primaries and shared her experiences of transition and the approaches taken by her school to ease the potential nightmare under the headings COMMUNICATION, TRACKING and PROGRESS. s highlighted the importance of COMMUNICATION between all involved parties is vital. Ways in which this has been achieved at Hanley Castle include

  • regular network meetings, sharing effective practice, giving information and offering support with both primary and secondary colleagues attending.
  • Language College newsletter – primary colleagues are encouraged to share in this letter too so there is a ‘joined up’ approach to sharing. Where it was initially just sent to be put up on the noticeboard, primaries wanted to share this with their parents so it is now electronically sent for distribution.
  • an Annual Language Festival to which primary pupils are invited – the week before open days (good timing!)
  • The cluster (8 feeders and the secondary) were awarded the Leading Aspect Award which recognized their hard work – always nice!
  • Jacqui offers model lessons –although as she says, she is becoming increasingly redundant as primary staff have taken over the lessons to such an extent that they can be an example.
  • The Language College’s FLAs are also shared with the cluster of primaries, working on things like intercultural understanding and storytelling.
  • And there has also been the opportunity to observe one another thanks to funding from an external agency.

Something I liked about this was that it really is all inclusive – not just the teachers ‘plotting’, but pupils and parents are kept informed and involved too.

Pupils from the feeder schools all come with different experiences – so the Language College has a rolling programme with two of three language studied each year – French and Spanish, then the next year, Spanish and German, and the following German and French – so even if the child doesn’t do the language they’ve studied at Primary in Year7, there is the opportunity to pick it up in Year8, or at a lunchtime club.

TRACKING or Assessment is something that can be worrying – primary children often say that they enjoy MFL as there’s no assessment – but it does need to be done so how? The ELP is a long document to pass on to secondary colleagues – Jacqui pointed out that wading through 150 of them was unmanageable– and where to put them? I think there is a value to the ELP and that they can be used, but would suggest as a ‘show and tell’ document during the first week or so – this way, whilst the pupils share their portfolios of work with one another, teachers get a look too, gaining an impression of what has been included. A more manageable way of recording for tracking is using I can sheets and, with Helen Leigh, KS2 MFL Consultant in Worcestershire, Jacqui worked on some I Can statements based on the ELP and the KS2 Framework, and also a very simple proforma on which all the information from these statements can be synthesized into one A5 sheet. (Helen has kindly given me an electronic copy which you can download from My Box of Goodies)

And how to ensure PROGRESS? In the above way, prior learning can be seen at a glance and acknowledged, and children ‘buddied up’ with pupils of differing experience – eg a child with no previous French supported by a child who has done French for a number of years. Another way of aiding transition suggested was the use of the first few weeks for a cross curricular topic with pupils based in one place for most of the time so there’s less moving classrooms, enabling pupils to get used to the place – Jacqui is excited by this prospect as it allows collaborative planning with other colleagues at school and allows creative links to made between disciplines.

‘Creative repetition’ is a phrase Jacqui uses to explain how the potential problem of repetition – revisiting things in different ways – can be addressed. She acknowledged that it isn’t easy, but with the focus on skills rather than content at KS2, the new ‘independent learners’ that will begin to arrive will be more able to take a lead in how they learn as they exercise their LLS.

That’s the way one cluster of schools has met the challenge – lots of good ideas there with the focus again on communication between Secondary and Primary. Parts of this model might be unworkable for a school with a vast number of feeders where a ‘cluster’ would be more like a ‘mob’, but I think the more ideas the better – no two schools are the same after all, so to a certain extent every school has to find its own way.

Coming up …. Language Investigators, and the Languages Bridge.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Tweeting with 6JF.

This afternoon 6JF were introduced to the world of Twitter. It was unplanned but, as is often the case with spontaneous activities, was successful.

As I was half expecting a call from my boys' school asking me to pick one of them up (everyone is being really careful with this bug going around), my 'phone was not on silent as it usually is during lessons. Therefore when it chirped in my pocket, 6JF were amused. Then when it chirped again, they started wondering why I was so popular. At this point I hadn't looked at my 'phone but thought I'd better check, and it chirped again as I took it out my pocket. I'd just received some mobile Tweets from people I was following on Twitter, a Web site and service that lets users send short text messages from their cellphones to a group of friends. Launched in 2006, Twitter ( was designed for people to broadcast their current activities and thoughts. Twitter expanded "mobile blogging" (updating a blog from a cellphone) into "microblogging," the updating of an activities blog (microblog) that distributes the text to a list of names. Messages can also be sent and received via instant messaging, the Twitter Web site or a third-party Twitter application. A MySpace account can also be updated.

By this stage they were more interested in my 'phone than drawing mindmaps about communities for RE, so when I read the following message,
I decided to go for it and ask the kids what they thought.

Once I'd explained what you did on Twitter, and they'd grasped that the messages I was receiving were being sent to a huge number of people, not just me, (this disappointed them as they thought I had, as one of them put it, 'a thing going on' ) they all had a nose at my 'phone - it's a good one (they were distinctly unimpressed by the make and model ;-O), but because BGfL had blocked Twitter so I couldn't show them on the IWB - and came up with some ideas. I relayed their ideas back to Ewan McIntosh via text - again, kids were amused at ineptitude at predictive texting!
One thing I'd forgotten to factor in was the 140 character limit so the middle of the Tweet went astray (didn't learn my lesson - did it again later!) but the gist was there.

We had a good discussion about social networking, and it did fit rather well into my RE lesson about communities - very serendipitous!
And then, my 'phone chirped again with a Tweet from Ewan, thanking people for their ideas before another chirp and another message, this time just for them!
That really was the end of the RE lesson then, especially when we received Paul Harrington said 'Hola' to us as well!

Not sure if we can get past the firewall at school to use Twitter in the immediate future, but it certainly got one class of kids talking about the use of Twitter and social networking for their Spanish lessons and excited enough to want to find out more when they get home.

And it made their afternoon too that they got a reply - thanks Ewan and Paul (I owe you both a drink!) for proving what Twitter can do - and also that their RE lesson proved to be much more interesting and eventful than usual!

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Will KS2 language learning make pupils more motivated linguists at KS3 and beyond?

There’s no doubt that the implementation of Primary Language Learning for all pupils 7-11 via the KS2 MFL Framework will change language learning at KS3 – there’s no way it can be avoided. So, as worrying as it may be, transition and all related issues have to addressed.

Some of the issues that are generally raised include

  • wide range of feeder school = difficulty in adjusting languages on offer to provide continuity
  • poor relationships between primary and secondary schools
  • possible failure to acknowledge prior learning
  • LAs failing to give information to secondary schools about PMFL developments
  • Little awareness of the need to change practice in KS3, especially Year7
  • Poor transference of information re languages studied and skills / knowledge acquired
  • Inconsistent approaches and practices
  • Children will soon arrive with 4 (or more!) years of MFL
  • Need for HTs to be on board
  • Change of languages
  • Demotivated by new concentration on reading and writing
  • Loss of novelty value
  • Some distrust of teaching skills of Primary teachers in MFL
  • Lack of consistency (skills, approach, quality) within schools and clusters of schools

The following question was posed today - do you think that by introducing language learning at an earlier age... pupils will be more motivated and enthused at KS3 and will they want to build on their language skills at KS4 and beyond?

Responses included

In year 7 but perhaps not by year8.’ ‘If teaching is of a high quality at KS2 that’s fine but poor teaching can be demotivating even before they get to KS3’

The overall opinion was that increased motivation would not been seen if pupils are not challenged at KS3 -'starting again' would demotivate learners. Pupils need to perceive KS2 and 3 as a continuum, which implies significant changes to the way MFL is taught in KS3. I think a lot depends on the quality of teaching and also on hard work now to ensure that there is a smooth transition, avoiding the feeling that pupils are starting again even if they cover the same vocabulary again. There’s no one answer – but lots of good practice across the country that can suggest models and ideas.

John Connor and David Mee both spoke about the challenges raised and highlighted the need for the following to ensure successful transition:

Communication (between all agencies involved – schools, LA, etc)

Collaboration (KS2 <>KS3)

Consistency (e.g. in quality of provision)

Consideration (e.g. of prior learning)


Funding (I know – doesn’t start with C and spoils my pattern :os )

They talked from their experience in Wirral and Thurrock, giving examples of cross phase collaboration between clusters of schools, and suggesting ways of addressing potential problems of diverse experience such as 'starter packs' for independent work, a later start to the use of textbooks, 'master classes' for G&T linguists, early setting and fast tracking. One idea i thought sounded interesting was everyone in Year 7 starting a new topic presented during 2 of the 4 lessons, with the third lesson being used to support newcomers to the language whilst the others work on topic packs that revise and extend primary themes. Obviously this is dependent on having a number of lessons a week! The point was also made clearly that the focus at KS2 should be on the process and skills of language learning rather than the content, thus the gap should be more easily breeched.

Carmel O'Hagan from CILT picked up these themes as she made suggestions on how to welcome pupils with diverse primary language backgrounds. She began with a lovely animated French song – Il etait un petit navire. Using a similar approach to Paul Nutt (see Let's get active part3), we were given an envelope with fragments of the song to wave when the words were heard in the song. The slips were differentiated by colour and also by the size of font, amount of information on it. She then went on to offer advice on how to make moving into Year7 as painfree for all as possible! She highlighted that it’s not just about content but about making pupils comfortable enough to show what they can do and do know with confidence and pleasure so that assessing the way forward is clearer. Carmel acknowledged that doing the same thing again is boring, but 1) there is comfort in the familiar and 2) there’s more than one way to cover the same topic / vocabulary. Increased independence nurtured through the KS2 Framework will hopefully allow pupils to use dictionaries much earlier than was previously possible, and thus take a lead in the vocabulary employed in a certain topic, making their output truly individual. She summed it up in these comments about 'bridging units'

'A good unit will make pupils feel comfortable with activities, content and language - it will not matter if it's actually language they know - they will be using it differently and there will be familarity too.'

'A good bridging unit will encourage pairwork, groupwork, research and independence'.

Carmel clearly demonstrated through asking us to consider the descriptors in KS2 and 3 that there are areas of crossover between phases, and picked out the example of storytelling to demonstrate. This is an ideal choice as it covers so many bases -

links to literacy / KS2 Fwk / KS3 Fwk; covering listening, speaking, reading and writing skills; looking at language and culture, and uses creativity and imagination; looking at common letter strings and syllables; using texts as models; reading aloud and maintaining link between Yr6 and Yr7 with Yr7 acting out / reading out for or with primary pupils.

Outcomes include a sense of achievement for pupils and a feeling that their language skills from primary have been valued and good relationships established with teachers and one another whilst allowing differentiation and assessment to take place in an unobtrusive way.

By using a series of three books, the level of complexity in vocabulary and structure was increased over a period of time, culminating in the production of a new pupil written story. Beginning with a simple tale about not putting your fingers in strange places (just the kind of thing to appeal!!) and simple questions like Devinez le titre / C'est l'historie de...?, Carmel then moved on to a book, again with repetition but more text, called Le loup est revenu. Based in fairytale land, the characters all arrive for a meal and each new knck at the door is met with shrieks as they think the wolf is knocking. This lends itself to acting out with puppets, and performance to Year6 pupils by Year7, as well as audience participation with the refrain 'Le loup est revenu' The final book took things to another level, putting the story from the wolf's perspective, and including newspaper accounts of the wolf's past exploits, letters to important people and also humour that would be lost on younger pupils but enjoyed by the more mature ones! In the short time given it was not possible to explain in great detail exactly how it would work, but the idea was clear - that by using a familiar story and familiar activities, more complex ideas and tasks become less threatening.

Phew! And all that before 10.30am!

More to come in the next day or so - including Language Investigators, Language Bridges and Practical strategies to ease the challenge of transition, all of which I found very interesting.

Preparing for Transition.

When considering Primary Language Learning (PLL), one of the thorniest issues seems to be the transition from KS2 to KS3 – how will it be managed? The KS2 Framework for MFL and the introduction of language learning for ALL pupils in KS2 by 2010 has massive implications for KS3. In the past, many children went into KS3 with little or no knowledge of languages – now pupils will arrive with, in some cases, more than four years of language study. Added to this, not all experiences will have been the same. Some pupils may arrive with four years of French, others with Spanish, still more with experience of two or more languages. How can it possibly work?

Comenius West Midlands today held a conference entitled ‘MFL – Planning for Transition’ to discuss just this issue.

Led by John Connor (Associate Consultant, MFL, Thurrock), and David Mee (former General Inspector, MFL, Wirral), the day began with an overview of the challenges and opportunities involved in transition before Carmel O’Hagan (CILT) offered some advice on welcoming pupils with diverse PLL backgrounds. The day then offered the opportunity to attend three workshops chosen from topics including

  • Investigating Languages-a skills based approach
  • Practical strategies to ease the challenge of transition
  • Asset languages
  • Welcoming children into the MFL classroom in their new school
  • Video conferencing to support transfer and progression
  • Language Bridge
  • Liaison –the issues and how to avoid (or cope!) with them
  • Using the ELP to support transition (delivered by me - see My Box of Goodies on the right for the notes!)
before Phase groups (one for Secondary and one for Primary) to discuss the issues of the day, concluding with a plenary to draw the two lists of issues together and culminating in a highly entertaining example of using song to engage in the Primary classroom.

Over the next few posts, I hope to share some of the things presented during the day and my repsonse to them.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Blogging - a world of opportunities.

Checking my Google reader I came across the latest post by Jeff Utecht on his blog, The Thinking Stick.
In it, he relates how he has spent today teaching 9th graders about blogging -

The classes were each 80 minutes long…plenty of time to setup a blog, write a short blog post, learn about posts vs. pages, walk through how to manage comments, change themes, update options, change password, and have a discussion on the use of the blog.

Wow! He goes on to explain how he related blogging to Facebook, comparing their new blogs to Facebook pages, and the sidebar widgits to all the Applications you can add to your Facebook page. The language of Facebook was familiar to the students so it made perfect sense to them! That was the first thing that struck me - making things relevant.

The second was the fact that the teacher was in the room, and learning at the same time. It's a model I like - my best lessons have been when I've been learning with the kids - and particularly when they've been teaching me. I never tire of learning and hope my pupils are as eager to learn as me!

Jeff comments towards the end of his post-
'This is the reason why I love blogs, they open up a whole world of opportunities.'

I'd just read Ewan McIntosh's article in The Guardian as well in which he concludes
'The future (of using new technologies) is in teachers seeing for themselves what bounties await down this yellow brick road, before worrying about how they are going to bring Class 2C with them on Monday morning.'

I'm new to blogging and the like but I can see that the possibilities are endless. The kids need little persuading when I suggest using the latest tool I have discovered, and are learning without realising it much of the time.

For example, my 9 year old son had to do a topic on the Egyptians and decided to do half of it using Photostory3 - the quality and quantity of information he gave in his presentations was greater than he would normally have produced. And he learned how to use a new application - because he saw me doing it and it looked fun!

So, I'll keep learning and taking the advice of John Hunter quoted in Ewan's article -

'Don't think, try!'

Like my Favicon?

Continuing on the theme of 'bling for your blog', have you seen the latest - my Favicon. If you have the blog open in tabs, you should see my Weemee on the tab, and also by the URL in the address bar at the top. (Unless you use IE6 in which Favicons apparently don't work!)

I was alerted to these little beauties by Silvia Tolisano's post Add a Favicon to your blog
on her Langwitches blog. Although she offered the Wikipedia definition as well, I liked her 'non scientific description' - 'The little thingy that shows up as a little picture right next to the URL address in the address bar.' Sounded like a good idea - but couldn't work out how to do it as Silvia's blog is a Wordpress blog with a hosting company so doesn't work quite the same as a Blogger one!

Then Joe Dale blogged Favicon your Typepad blog
and, as usual, gave clear instructions on the way to go about it. But Typepad blogs are again different so still no joy!

However, I left comments on both blogs, and Silvia and Joe were kind enough to point me in the direction of Blogger Tips and Tricks and specifically Favicon for your Bloggerblog. (Thank you x)
And there, in words of one syllable and with clear step by step instructions, I discovered how and succeeded in adding my favicon using My Favatar.
And it really was quite easy! I could see that the post has been updated several times with additional information, and was cheered to see that the final ammendment was the idiotproof, step by step instructions in words of one syllable that I needed - so I'm not the only one who sometimes needs a bit of 'intervention support' ;o

And I'm quite fond of the latest use for my Weemee - she gets everywhere, that girl!

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Spell with Flickr.

I was just catching up on my tags (you can see them on the right) - haven't checked out the sites tagged by my network in the last few days. I usually do this daily to check what other people that I have added to my network are tagging (bookmarking). It's a good way of sharing ideas as the sites are marked by one person but many others can potentially benefit from that research. Whilst checking out 'what's new' I came across something in podfather's tags called Spell with Flickr. I checked it out and found podfather's blog name - Ddraig Goch spelt out in funky letters!

So I had a go - and the result is above.

If you don't like the randomly selected image for any of the letters of your chosen word(s), all you have to do is click on it and another image will appear. Here's another version -

Then you just grab the code and put it on your site - I had to choose 'square' to make it fit my page.
Possibly not going to revolutionise anyone's teaching, but it's fun!

Saturday, 5 January 2008

¡Felices Reyes!

I was off line for the New Year so a belated Feliz Año Nuevo to you all. And whilst my in-laws have no Internet access, they do have SKY so I was able to see in the New Year at 11pm GMT with those in the Puerta de Sol in Madrid on TVEi - and eat my 'uvas de la suerte' just like Gretel (clever pooch!). I discovered that, as well as ensuring you eat all 12 grapes to ensure your good fortune, your underwear has a deciding factor in your luck for the coming year. If you wear red undies, apparently it will bring you good luck and love. In Mexico, if you carry a suitcase onto your balcony, you'll go on lots of trips, and by putting money on you windowsills, you won't be short of money. If only .....

Tomorrow it will be El Día de Reyes in Spain and other
Hispanic countries, the day on which presents are traditionally delivered by the Three Kings. Epiphany is a big deal in Spain with parades called cabalgatas in most towns when the Reyes Magos arrive on their camels (or sometimes in a boat in Barcelona or Málaga) on the evening of the 5th before distributing presents overnight into the waiting shoes left out on balconies with some straw for the camels. For photos, check out El Paí where there are a number of good quality pictures from 2007. There are a number of clips of these processions on Youtube - there is a slideshow from Priego, Córdoba with stills and short clips of their parades accompanied by an interesting music (!) and one from Rociana in Huleva features some very generous Reyes who are throwing rather large parcels instead of the usual sweets into the crowd.

I also came across a couple of amusing videos. The first is El rap de los Reyes Magos in which they plot (and execute) the downfall of Santa who is increasingly taking over present giving duties - not recommended for use with young children! And the second below is entitled Los padres son los Reyes Magos.

On the subject of presents, there's a short voxpop clip in Spanish about the cost of buying presents for Reyes - good for more confident learners or for gist. Perhaps listen out for presents, or for the number of children / grandchildren people have, or even for cognates. A good discussion starter.That's a bit tricky for younger learners, but they could write simple letters to los Reyes with their present requests - two sites to do this online are El Boricua from Puerto Rico and - in English or Spanish - or even draw and label them.

There are numerous sites with information about Reyes - have a look at my tabs on the right under reyes - including recipes for the traditional 'Rosca de Reyes' and some activities from Tucson Children's Museum (a couple of the links are dead unfortunately).

And what would a festival be without a song - here's one version of
'Aquí vienen los reyes' - the words seem sweet but unfortunately there is no music but the more usual version seems to be this one. As the site points out, it's a bit odd as it suggests that the Reyes Magos can see Holland - either they have very good telescopes or they're very lost ;o) There's a .mp3 file with this one - always helpful if you want to use it and have no idea how it goes - but here's another version by Rayito 'con sabor flamenco y rumba'.

If you're interested in French resources for Epiphany, Jo Rhys-Jones has provided some ideas and links on Talkabout Primary MFL.

And, as the prospect of returning to work dawns, this cartoon sums up my request to the Reyes Magos ... ¡Felicidades!

Friday, 4 January 2008

I love Widgits!

Following an email exchange initiated by Chris Fuller today about making posts from our blogs appear on Talkabout Primary MFL, Jo Rhys Jones (creator of this NING network) sent Chris and I off to to acquire a widgit that could be put on our personal pages of the network. Thus, anyone popping by to say 'hello' will see what we have blogged recently. Worked a treat as you can see here

This got me thinking as one of the attractions of blogging to me (shallow as I am!) is what Leanne Simmonds calls 'the bling' - that is, the bits and bobs that make your blog look attractive. As you may have noticed, I have a few bits and bobs in the right hand column. Looking at it, there's a mixture of things for the reader (like my Box of Goodies and my tabs) and things for me (such as the visitor counter) and the odd thing that serves no purpose but to amuse (like Bart's blackboard hidden at the bottom.)

Having added my widgit to my page, I decided to have a nose around Widgitbox to see what I could find. I discovered that Jo has made a Talkabout Primary MFL widgit which I have now installed on the right, as has Natalia Garcia at Nodehill Middle School - Joe is not the only clever MFL teacher there obviously! ;o) - for the Spanish Club she runs. In fact, if you go to the Spanish Club blog, there are a wide variety of widgits belonging to the other Nodehill blogs in the left hand column. So, not to outdone, I've made one for Vámonos
- in fact, it's a Blidgit (a blog widgit) and you can subscribe to it, or add it to your blog through the My Blidgit button on the right.

Whilst I was there, I also added Las portadas de hoy which shows the front page of today's Spanish newspapers and also a site translator - although I'm not a great fan of online translators, Google Translation seems to be quite good - but it's on trial! I toyed with adding Sticky Spanish as the idea looked good ,bu the preview showed no content so I didn't!

More exploring seems advisable to keep my 'bling' quota sufficiently high, but there's a small child complaining of hunger so must go.

UPDATE - in fact, I've removed the site translator and replaced it with a (far superior?) link to Google Translation!

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