May 8, 2014
It’s that time of the year again for the ‘Boom bang a bang’ jamboree that is the Eurovision song contest! It is an event that lends itself to exploitation in the classroom in a number of ways, so here are a few ideas:
- Pupils could consider what constitutes ‘Europe’ and think about the differences between the geographical (or indeed historical) concept of Europe compared to membership of the European Union and the European broadcasting union. Pupils could be given a list of countries in the language they are learning and match them to the English (or simply work out what the English is)/plot where the countries are on a map and/or create a venn diagram showing how the various countries relate to the different concepts of ‘Europe’.
- Pupils could practise their reading skills and using numbers in the target language by doing a quiz on Eurovision facts and figures. The example in this presentation is in French but could be easily adapted to other languages.
- Pupils could listen to short extracts from some of the songs and have a Group Talk type discussion about the songs/music/video they like and why. The Eurovision site has links to all the songs, including videos.
Those are ideas for activities that could be used year after year at Eurovision song contest time. Then of course, there are the songs themselves. Increasingly there are fewer and fewer entries where the contestants are singing in their own language (or at least in the languages most commonly taught in the UK classroom). A cursory glance through this year’s songs reveal that the Belgian, German, Austrian and Swiss entries are all sung in English.
Thankfully France has bucked the trend with a cracking upbeat number from the group Twin Twin entitled Moustache. On the Eurovision site you can see the wonderfully retro looking video which the group has created; this takes the form of a game show in which the contestant really wants to win a moustache! It has already proved to be a bit controversial with the accusation that the group has plaigerised the song Papaoutai by Stromae
On the face of it the desire for a moustache might seem very bizarre but actually the song is satirising modern values which puts material things above some of the more simple things in life. So some ideas to exploit the song and its accompanying video:
- Comprehension work on the lyrics – what words do pupils already know, what can they work out from the context and other clues etc. The lyrics are actually fairly straightforward and can be found on the Eurovision site here.
- Using the lyrics to do some grammar work, especially the use of the present tense.
- Taking screenshots of the video to describe appearance – there are some pretty wacky hairstyles!
- Using the lyrics to get pupils to think about their values in life and what other simple things someone might wish for, such as love, friends, happiness or health. Pupils could be given a list of things to rank in order of importance and say why. They could also be shown pictures of people in different situations; they have to imagine what these people would say that they would wish for.
Finally, for pupils learning Spanish there is Ruth Lorenzo’s Dancing in the Rain which uses a mix of Spanish and English – the lyrics can be found in a link from here.
October 2, 2013
Water, water everywhere is the theme of this year’s National Poetry day, an annual “nationwide celebration of poetry for everyone everywhere”. It falls on the first Thursday in October which this year just happens to coincide with Germany’s National day, or Tag der deutschen Einheit, on October 3rd.
When I was learning German (many moons ago!) both my grandmothers, a maths and art teacher respectively, took great delight in showing me what German they knew by reciting a German poem – Die Lorelei by Heinrich Heine. I’m sure that the reason that they could remember it word perfect years after first coming across the poem was due to the repetition of sounds, rhymes and rhythms. They may even have heard and learnt the words set to music. If so that too would have helped to fix the words in their mind.
The story of the Lorelei luring the fishermen to their death on the Rhine whilst combing her golden hair fits perfectly with the theme for this year’s National poetry day, so if you are tempted to give it a go here are a couple of videos that could be used to introduce it to students. The first is a spoken version of the poem showing the text with the music of the song version in the background:
The second version the song version without text but is of a boat trip on the Rhine:
Of course is the weather is not so good on National Poetry day maybe a rain inspired poem might fit the bill rather better?
Having got into the theme of water poetry I had a look for French as well.
For younger and beginner learners of French how about this poem entitled La Mer by Paul Fort? Paul Eluard’s poem Poisson is also quite accessible. A wider collection of water themed or inspired poems can be found here as well as this anthology put together by a class from Grenoble. Finally I found some examples of water inspired poems written by French school children.
With the requirement for pupils to be exposed to literary texts under the new national curriculum there’s no time like an occasion such as National Poetry Day to get started…
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.
January 31, 2013
Here in the UK we are just under two weeks away from pancake day, but in some European countries like France, Belgium and Switzerland they will already celebrating their Jour de crêpes this coming Saturday as this day, 2nd February, is La fête de la Chandeleur.
Depending on what you read and where, this has its origins both in a pagan festival of light (the roundness of the pancakes bearing some semblance to the sun) and in the Christian festival of Candlemas, or Christ’s presentation in the Temple, the word chandeleur being derived from the word for candle chandelle.
Either way it’s another occasion, like Mother’s day, when different cultures mark events in different ways. This means it’s also an opportunity to develop pupils’ sense of intercultural understanding by drawing out the similarities and differences between what we do and when, compared to other cultures. A simple activity is to sort some statements into those which relate to Pancake day in the UK, those in France and those which relate to both using a Venn diagram as in this .ppt slide: Le jour des crêpes.
There’s plenty more information as to the origins of La Chandeleur on Wikipedia as well as on sites like Mômes. This site also includes some rhymes to do with La Chandeleur and some recipes for crêpes.
For more advanced learners of French there is this video explaining the history of La Chandeleur and another on L’histoire des crêpes.
January 24, 2013
I’ve just come across a fantastic series of videos about regions in France produced by SNCF voyages courtesy of the J’aime le français page on Facebook. There are over 100 short videos most lasting under 4 minutes which cover the length and breadth of France. Some are a “visite guidée” to a town or region, so obviously tie in very well with any travel, tourism and holiday related lesson, but there are a surprising number of other videos that relate to other themes:
- Shopping – this video introduces viewers to Isabelle, a “personal shopper” at the Galeries Lafayette and to the language to talk about your clothes. It then moves to a boutique which sells some pretty wacky glasses and shoes, amongst other things, and finally it looks at some areas of Paris with small “trendy” individual shops.
- Green tourism – in this series of videos a number of personalities (the singer Nolwenn Leroy, the chef Alain Passard, and the explorer Nicolas Vanier) explain what “green tourism” means for them.
- Food – Un week-end gastronomique introduces some of the specialities from Lyon and sees the presenter in the kitchen!
And so much more….
These short videos can be exploited in a number or ways, some of which need not involve too much preparation beyond familiarising yourself briefly with the content beforehand:
- Give pupils a list of some words in French which appear in the video but which are new to them and which could be useful; get the pupils to put up their hands whenever they hear one of these words
- Give pupils a short list of words from the video, ask them if they can work out the meaning from the context
- Choose a few key words from the video, get pupils to put them in the order in which they hear them
- Pupils jot down words as they watch the video – these could either ones they can work out from the context, or ones they want to know the meaning of
- To gauge pupils’ level of overall comprehension – give them a series of true/statements to which they respond on mini whiteboards – these statement could be in English or French
- More advanced pupils could make up their own questions in French about what they have seen, or produce a brief oral or written summary
October 22, 2012
Whilst doing a bit of research on the origins and customs of Hallowe’en recently, I came across a Youtube video of a Hallowe’en song in French which I used to do with my classes when I taught in an international school some 15 + years ago. It covers most of the vocabulary to do with Hallowe’en and the tune is very catchy. The pupils loved it!
If you are looking for a song in German you could try teaching “Süßes oder Saures” (Trick or treat) – the lyrics can be found on a downloable .pdf Kindergarten 1 – Feste feiern.
July 5, 2012
I had a great day down in Croydon yesterday at the Exploring Excellence in MFL conference. As promised I have uploaded the slides from my keynote address An Inspector calls.
In my talk I referred to the subject specific guidance for Ofsted inspectors making subject survey visits; the full document can be downloaded here and the information about changes to the inspection framework from September onwards is here. I also referred to the Ofsted report Modern Languages: achievement and challenge 2007 -2010.
I have written in previous posts about some of the things covered in my talk, such as making the most of occasions like Mother’s day to develop intercultural understanding and the use of Wordles. I also referred briefly to Greg Horton’s group talk project and gave an example of a joke as an authentic resource.
When it comes to using video clips and audio clips there are a couple of useful tools that can help you make the resources more accessible to your learners. Many video clips, such as those from Youtube can be downloaded using Realplayer and then converted using Realplayer software to other formats including .wmv (to play using Windows media player) and .mp3 audio files. Audacity is a very useful free recording and editing tool which can be used to slow down the speed of an audio track; I have written about how to do that here.