Beyond the text book

April 23, 2013

Looking forward to meeting teachers at Anglia Ruskin University today for the event organised by Routes into Languages and OCR.

We shall be looking at ways of addressing some of the issues identified by Ofsted as being in need of improvement in the report Achievement and Challenge, and developing pupils’ language skills that do not rely on the use of the text book.

A .pdf copy of my presentation is also available here.


What is happiness?

May 10, 2012

“Was ist Glück?” was the question that was asked of various members of the public by the  German rock group Silbermond.  Their  responses are featured in the video that accompanies the group’s latest hit single Himmel auf;  a video that is a wonderful example of an authentic resource that can be exploited in so many ways.

  • It’s a good example of something that is currently popular so provides a good insight into the contemporary music scene in Germany.
  • At a visual and concrete level without the sound the video can be paused for pupils to describe what they see – the weather, the landscape, the people, where they are, what they are doing (Wie sieht er/sie aus?  Was macht er/sie? etc) Depending on the level of the pupils this could then lead on to a discussion as to whether the images are “eher positiv oder negativ” and reasons for that.
  • The video could also be used to introduce the language of feelings:  glücklich, traurig, einsam, nervös, Angst haben etc
  • It could be used to link to the wider curriculum such as RE, PSHE and citizenship with particular reference to values and what is important in life.  Pupils could for example be given cards with words like “Familie”, “Freunde”, “Geld”, “Gesundheit” etc to rank according to what is important for them in their lives and to give a reason (…weil…..)  They could then be shown images of other people e.g. from other (poorer)parts of the world and asked to imagine how they feel and why they say that…  Activities such as this are good for developing pupils skills in being able to empathize with others, a key skill in developing intercultural understanding.
  • To introduce a specific grammar point, such as “wenn” clauses, e.g.  Glück ist, wenn die Sonne scheint/wenn man mit Freunden ist, wenn man auf Urlaub ist etc
  • As a springboard for reflection and creativity.  Pupils could write their own examples of what “Glück ist…”  These could simply be a noun, adjective + noun or a more extended sentence with a “wenn clause”, depending on their ability.  They could be challenged to speculate on who the people are, what they do, what their background is and to either write or talk about them.
  • The sound track could be used for developing listening skills, perhaps with pupils picking out specific bits of information, such as the numbers in the first verse, or filling in the blanks in a clozed version of the lyrics; there is a version of the lyrics here (looks like someone has done a transcription so can’t guarantee that it’s error free!)

In addition to the “official” video there is another version of the song uploaded onto Youtube with images that match the lyrics.  This gives a good impression of the other other side of the coin – “wenn man kein Glück hat…” and would be a good aid to understanding the song itself. Comments on Youtube on the official version on the song are additional sources of authentic text on this theme, as is the video that Silbermond have uploaded onto their website of videos people have made of themselves saying what “Glück” is.  Pupils at AS/A2 level could work on this independently and report back on which statements they most agree/disagree with.

The possibilities of “Glück” are endless…….

Viel Glück dabei!


Brookfield conference 27.01.12

January 27, 2012

Just returned from the languages conference at Brookfield school in Hampshire – it was a pleasure to meet with so many of you today.  As promised, I’ve uploaded the slides from my keynote address about motivation.

In the workshop sessions I talked about using the Olympic values and authentic resources;  I’ve also produced a document with links to useful sites to do with the Olympics.

If you are interested in using the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics song J’imagine just be aware that this Youtube video has some spelling mistakes in the French;  however, the images that accompany it are quite striking.   If you do a Google search for the song + paroles or lyrics there may also be some mistakes!!  The French lyrics on this video are more or less correct (although I did spot at least one typo) and it also has the English translation (albeit with one or two mistranslations!).  Of course you could always challenge the learners to spot the mistakes……

The living graph exercise we looked at was based on the life of Rick Hansen, a Canadian paralympian;  this site is in both French and English.  His biography also features on Wikipedia in both English and German.  A Living graph or Fortune line is one of a number of thinking skills strategies, along with Collective memory, which are described in more detail in the National strategies publication Leading in Learning.

The bits of text about Omega watches  in the “triggered” slide came from Wikipedia; if you are looking for text in another language, just look at the “other languages” section on the left hand side…

The Senegalese athlete, Amadou Dia Bâ,  talking about his experience of the Olympics came from the Parole citoyenne website; if you put “olympique” into the “recherche” box there are some more interesting articles on this website.  As I mentioned in the workshop the problems facing African athletes, such as the Congolese swimmers, can be an interesting starting point when thinking about equality (of opportunity) and determination, two of the Olympic values.

We also talked about using Wordles and how to use Audacity to slow down an audio file.


Strategies for motivation

November 30, 2011

Just back from a “flying” visit to the CIEP (actually travelled by Eurostar!) where I was a speaker and workshop facilitator yesterday at Forlang.  It was an impressive venue  as the CIEP occupies an imposing eighteenth century building (it formerly housed the Royal Sèvres porcelain factory).

It was a pleasure meeting and working with teacher trainers from across Europe.  Thank you for letting me work you so hard, especially after our two hour lunch break!  I think we had a very profitable session with a good exchange of ideas and views.

As promised, the various resources I shared and used yesterday are here:

Presentation slides

Forlang seminar Motivation workshop

The Forlang card sort activity_teacher strategies – card sort and photos

Authentic resources – Authentic resources_newspaper headlines activity

The Thinking skills strategies slides – The resources for the “mystery” thinking skills activity Ben and Sophie go on holiday can be found on this website (under Year 9).  A “mystery” is one of many thinking skills strategies that are described in this PDF from the Northern Ireland curriculum website.  This website is also listed in my own personal bibliography  for the seminar.

Here are the links to the two short videos I showed:

Fun stairs

French oral exam

…and finally here are the photos I took of the Forlang flipcharts


Pronunciation – does it matter?

January 18, 2011

“Does it matter?”

  If you are a teacher you’ve probably heard that question dozens of times;  does it matter if you don’t spell it right, does it matter if the grammar’s wrong, does it matter if you don’t say it right?  Of course the answer will depend on the context.  What are they trying to do?  Have they been able to communicate even if there are mistakes?  Are we trying to build their confidence and fluency,  in which case we might let a few errors pass. If our learners get too hung up on getting things right all the time they won’t experiment, take the risks and develop the skills of being creative language users.  If they are aiming for A* in their written controlled assessment at GCSE then it almost certainly will matter more – they will at least be expected to use their dictionary to get details such as spellings and genders. 

When it comes to speaking there used to be that concept of the “sympathetic native speaker”, but how sympathetic can we be?  Grammatical errors, the wrong words and mispronunciation can all get in the way of communication.  When teaching Chinese correct pronunciation takes on a whole new dimension because of the different tones, as we discovered in class yesterday when confronted with tāng and táng, the former meaning soup and the latter sugar or sweets – could make for an interesting meal if you get it wrong. 

For learners of Chinese there are a couple of useful sites that can help them work independently to  “tune” their ear into the different sounds of Chinese and learn to distinguish between the various tones.  New Concept Mandarin has an introduction to Pinyin with a table where you can click on any combination of initial and final and get the sound for each tone; this is also represented visually. 

There is something similar on Chinesepod, where they make the point that you can’t read Pinyin, just as you would English, something which learners find confusing at times.  Chinesepod also has all the sound files in downloadable form which can be useful if you are putting together resources. 

My learners often ask me the Chinese use Pinyin;  the answer is that they don’t, at least not apart from when they first start to learn to read.  Pinyin was developed as a way of increasing literacy amongst the Chinese population and certainly helps us non native speakers get into the language faster than we would do otherwise.  Another resource which I’ve just come across  is this song  (also accessible from the Chinese songs page) which groups the initials and finals together by similar sound; it then moves on to the tones.  I could envisage developing some actions to go along with it….

Actions associated with sounds is at the heart of Rachel Hawkes’ philosophy of teaching phonics early in the language learning process.  Her website has a wealth of resources for Spanish, German and French.


Make it real… in Krakow

August 24, 2010

It was a pleasure to meet with so many teachers from across Europe participating the  REAL seminar on How to motivate students:  innovation and creativity in the languages classroom held in Krakow last week.   The main plenary sessions were held in the historic Collegium Maius of the Jagiellonian University right in the heart of the old city and we just HAD to walk through the largest market square in Europe to reach the Department for Polish studies where the workshops were held!   All in all it was a wonderful event organised by our Polish hosts.

In the  workshop sessions for participants wishing to discuss and share their ideas and views on this subject in English we looked first of all at factors affecting motivation and then at the characteristics of the “creative” language learner.  We then considered the sort of contexts that can encourage and promote learner creativity.  In the third of the four sessions we looked at activities designed to promote higher order thinking skills which can also engage and motivate learners to use language creatively.  The final session started with a speed dating exercise for delegates to share their best ideas (we discovered a piano in the room which was handy when it came to marking the time to move on!)  before delegates worked in groups to produce their final ideas. 

As promised, the slides that I used to facilitate the discussions are here

Here are also  the  Motivation flip charts and  the Characteristics of a creative language learner flipcharts.  Also downloadable  Skills + creativity flipcharts (the results of a brainstorming session)  and the Summary of seminar flipcharts, produced in the final session. 

The resources for the “mystery” thinking skills activity Ben and Sophie go on holiday can be found on this website (under Year 9).  A “mystery” is one of many thinking skills strategies that are described in this PDF from the Northern Ireland curriculum website.  This website is also listed in this  bibliography that I produced for the seminar.


WWW or the wonderful world of Wordle

April 30, 2010

 

The image above is a Wordle of the importance statement of the MFL  programme of study.  It is a word cloud created by a free online application at www.wordle.net/  which randomizes text and displays the words according to the frequency of the words used (the more frequent the word, the bigger the word).  It has tremendous potential for use in the classroom in terms of developing language learning and thinking skills:

  1. As a starter – to introduce new vocabulary or topic.    At a simple level pupils can be given a wordle of vocabulary or text  from a new topic area and they can work individually/ in pairs/groups to identify which words they know, which ones they can guess (cognates) and which ones they need to use dictionary skills to work out.  At advanced level learners can be give a wordle of a text which they use as a starting point for a discussion trying  to predict the context.
  2. To apply their knowledge about  language to categorise the words in the wordle.  e.g. nouns/verbs/adjectives or to classify nouns by gender.
  3. As a plenary/tool for AfL – e.g. a wordle created of TL and English words which pupils have to match up or a wordle in the TL in which they demonstrate their knowledge about language  or phonics or their ability to use language creatively.
  4. To demonstrate understanding of phonics by classifying words by their phonemes/letter strings.
  5. As a revision aid – a summary of a particular topic or context or as an aide-memoire.
  6. To help pupils develop presentation and spontaneous speaking skills.
  7. To show the results of a class survey or poll or as a display.
  8. To promote creativity – pupils are challenged to create sentences/stories etc from words on a wordle.
  9. As a tool in a listening exercise – pupils cross out the words they can identify in a spoken text.
  10. To encourage self reflection (PLTS – reflective learners) and to  improve written work – the frequency count in a wordle will highlight words that can get over used e.g. “intéressant” or “lustig”.  A  wordle can also make it easier for pupils to spot their own mistakes (e.g. in the incorrect use of accents) as it breaks up the normal order of words, thus making it less likely that they will simply gloss over their mistakes.

These are just some of the few ways in which a wordle can be used and they are dead simple to create as you can see here:

View more presentations from lizfotheringham.