Celebrating National days – 国庆节快乐!

October 1, 2013

Today (October 1st) is China’s National Day, marking the founding of the People’s Republic of China.  It will be the start of a week long holiday, the so-called Golden week, when many Chinese go travelling.  The BBC learning zone broadband has an excellent short  introduction to National Day in China and customs associated with it. It’s perfect for showing to beginners as it includes basic greetings.

Talking this video clip as a starting point there are many ways in which the theme of National day could be exploited by linking it to the following contexts:

  • Significant dates, both for and individual and a communities (historical events, birthdays etc)
  • The significance of national identity – flags and anthems
  • Customs and traditions, such as dance
  • Travel and holidays – Golden week is a time when many Chinese go on holiday
  • Food – family get-togethers and meals

For more advanced learners the Confucius Institute online has a couple of dialogues discussing National day and they could even look at the words of the National anthem.


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!

Intercultural understanding – Mother’s Day

May 5, 2012

One of the recommendations of the 2011 Ofsted Languages specific report Achievement and Challenge was that secondary schools should “make more use of authentic materials to help develop students’ language skills and their intercultural understanding” (p 8. Modern Languages – Achievement and Challenge 2007 – 2010, Ofsted,  January 2011).  This means that we need to think actively about how we can embed the intercultural dimension of language learning into our schemes of learning.

With Mothering  Sunday in the UK falling on the 4th Sunday in Lent (usually in March) it’s easy to overlook the fact that most other countries observe this at a different time in the year.  In many countries Mother’s day is observed in May; first Sunday in Spain and Portugal, 2nd Sunday in Italy, Germany, Austria and Switzerland, and the final Sunday in France, although if Pentecost falls on this Sunday, then Mother’s day is pushed back to the first Sunday in June, which happens to be the case in 2012.

Looking at Mother’s day in the target language country can be exploited in a number of ways:

  • It fits in very nicely with the topic of shopping so pupils could look at internet sites in the target language promoting Mother’s day gifts, such as this one in German and this one in French.
  • A simple starter would be to cut and paste the descriptions and images of a number of gifts from such a site and get the pupils to order the pictures in price order.
  • Grammar points such as direct and indirect objects and/or pronouns, and the dative and accusative cases in German can be introduced.
  • It is a good opportunity to help students to develop their reading skills and language learning strategies by exposing them to some authentic materials. Simple texts about Mother’s day in the target language country and the UK can be found through an online search – try looking through search engines specifically geared towards children (such as die blinde Kuh in German) – which can be used to make comparisons about the TL country and their home country, perhaps in the form of a venn diagram.
  • Pupils could look at instructions in the target language for making a Mother’s day gift – could be used to introduce the imperative.  There are ideas in French on the Tête à modeler site or on this German site.
  • There are any number of  songs (and accompanying videos) on this theme on Youtube which can be exploited either as texts or for pronunciation practice.

Having a laugh? – Using jokes

July 22, 2011

When I was talking at Language World about using authentic resources I gave an example of how a joke in the TL can introduce a serious topic.  The joke I mentioned  addresses the issue of foreigners in Germany, and in particular the status of Turks:

Lehrerin: “Bitte alle die Hand heben, die Deutsche sind.„

Alle außer Ali heben die Hand.

Fritzchen: “Ali, du bist doch hier in Deutschland geboren und aufgewachsen, also bist du Deutscher. Melde dich.”

Ali meldet sich. Als Ali dann nach der Schule nach Hause kommt und dem Vater davon erzählt, holt dieser aus und haut dem kleinen Ali eine runter.

Ali dreht sich um und sagt: “Oh man, kaum ist man Deutscher schon hat man Stress mit den Türken.”


The beauty of jokes is that the language is often very accessible whilst at the same time addressing quite complex concepts and issues.  After all that is the challenge of CLIL; to introduce concepts at the pupils’ cognitive levels whilst at the same time ensuring that the language is not beyond their linguistic level.

The example above could be used:

  • to introduce the Ausländer topic at A-Level
  • at key stage 3 or 4 to teach citizenship in the context of personal identity
  • to enable pupils to reflect on the multicultural society in which they live
  • as a model to be adapted by pupils to give biographical information
  • to show examples of specific structures/vocabulary in use e.g. the perfect tense,  subordinate clause word order etc.

Of course jokes can often reinforce stereotypes so obviously we need to use them carefully to make sure that we don’t get the wrong message across, but sometimes they can just be a bit of fun at the start or finish of a lesson:

Pourquoi les poissons-chats s’ennuient-ils dans l’eau?

Réponse: car les poissons-souris n’existent pas!


Fussballfieber or more football fever!

June 13, 2010

If you are after some authentic texts in German for the World cup look no further than some of the many German sites geared towards children.  One of these is Hanisauland produced by the Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung.  The screenshot shows their home page for everything to do with the World cup.  On these pages you can find information about all the countries playing, including geography and climate, together with images and a clip of the relevant national anthem.

Another useful site is ZDFtivi  which not only has a blog about the world cup but also more general information about the countries of Africa.  There is also a video about a young girl living  in Senegal and one about a boy from Mali who aspires to be a professional footballer.  There are also some interesting materials and video footage about the “Big five”  in South Africa which could be useful for some CLIL.

The World cup – it’s more than just the beautiful game

June 4, 2010

The 2010 World cup in South Africa is a fantastic opportunity to either complement the text book, or to  get  away from it altogether, by making links with other subjects in the curriculum.  This can be done either through the whole curriculum dimensions or by borrowing content from other subjects and looking at those key concepts. 

The whole curriculum dimensions are:

  • Identity and cultural diversity
  • Healthy lifestyles
  • Enterprise
  • Community participation
  • The Global dimension and sustainability
  • Technology and the media
  • Creativity and critical thinking

Two of the most obvious areas to link with are Citizenship and Geography.  Here are some ideas:

  • Countries participating in the world cup, where they are located, the languages spoken there, their flags (and what these signify), cultural similarities and differences between these countries. (Geography/citizenship/Identity and cultural diversity/Global dimension)
  • A focus on one of these  countries eg. francophone Africa, South America or the German speaking world.  There is information about South Africa and the host cities (including images) on the FIFA website in French, German and Spanish.
  • Exploring the climate of the host country or that of countries participating.  The website Monjtquotidien has recently added a video about the French national team training at altitude. A few days previously there was a video about who had been selected for the French national squad and there has already been a video about the sale of tickets and the ball to be used in the competition.
  •  Using the texts of songs and football chants to develop listening and reading skills – some examples can be found in German and French on the songs page.
  • Issues to do with Fair trade and the fight against racism (Citizenship)
  • Sponsorship and the role of multinational corporations (Business and enterprise/Global issues).  You can see the list of official sponsors here.

This is just for starters……….

ALL Cambs branch event 19/05

May 19, 2010

It was great to meet so many of you today. You can see most of the slides from my presentation on the Presentations page. As promised here are the links to the websites I mentioned today:

5 rules for good/bad design of flags (French). This PDF includes good and bad examples of each rule.

SCIAF youth – video resources and blog about life in the Democratic republic of Congo.  The same site has just produced some resources in Spanish about Archbishop Oscar Romero.

Rules for the game of football, including the those concerning the size etc of the ball, pitch etc

The FIFA website in French for the 2010 world cup has information not only about the teams participating but also about the host country.  The same information is also available in German,  and Spanish

You can find information about Didier Drogba on wikipedia or on his own website

This is the link to the  video of the song  Ja der Fußball ist rund wie die Welt and here is the text.