Water, water everywhere….

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…


Activities for Chinese New Year – Papercutting

February 10, 2013

Paper cutting charactersThis week I’m planning to do some paper cutting activities with the Chinese club I run. This traditional handicraft is particularly associated with festivals such as Chinese New Year (celebrated today), both as gifts and as decorations.  As ever I will show a video first and there are any number to choose from;  this one from Hello China gives some information about the origins of paper cutting and the cultural significance of them.

Then there are a range of videos on Youtube which demonstrate how to do papercutting.  This one shows some beautiful examples of some paper cuts before demonstrating a very straightforward and easy pattern to follow.   Chinese Papercutting HQ has a wholes series of videos starting with a general introduction to papercutting, followed by specific videos such as the basic equipment needed and simple designs to cut out, such as the classic double happiness character. For the more ambitious there is the Monkey pattern and the Butterfly pattern.

Intercultural understanding – Le Jour des Crêpes

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.

Time for Action!

August 31, 2012

The last week of the Summer holidays will have seen many teachers beavering away at preparations for the start of the new school year.  It’s very easy once we’re back into the swing of things to lose sight of the bigger picture so taking a moment or two in this final week to pause and consider some of the wider issues concerning the future of languages and language teaching could be no bad thing.

There are currently a number of consultations going on which are due to end within the next few weeks; this means that time is running out if we want to have our say.

The future of A levels

The first is a survey run by Ofqual on A level reform which runs until September 11th.  Ofqual has published a consultation document on its proposals which include changes to assessment as well as to the content and structure of A levels.  Amongst other things Ofqual is proposing an end to the January series of exams and a limit on the number of resits that can be taken to one; this will be with effect from September 2013. They are then looking for revised content for some “priority” subjects to be taught as from September 2014;  languages are included in a group of subjects that could form part of the initial phase of reforming the content of what is to be taught.  A summary of the proposed timetable of reform is in paragraph 82 of the consultation document.  The questions to which Ofqual are seeking responses are listed at the end of this document, and the means of responding are here.

Languages at KS2

Secondly there are just 4 weeks left to make your views known on the government’s proposals for making languages compulsory at KS2.  The consultation  document can be downloaded from the DfE website as can be the response form.  Alternatively responses can be sent to the Association for Language learning who will collate responses that have been sent to consultation@all-languages.org.uk  by September 14th.

Save community languages

Finally there is an online petition to OCR in support of retaining a broad spectrum of languages that are accredited under the Asset languages scheme.  At present OCR is planning to offer Asset languages qualification in just French, German, Spanish, Italian and Chinese from 2014;  this represents a cut from the current of offer of 25 languages (many of which are community languages) and is OCR’s response to government policy that does not recognise an Asset language qualification as part of the Ebacc.

Join the Campaign for languages

Finally, Speak to the Future is THE  campaign for languages and has a whole host of resources which can be used to make the case for and promote languages and language learning – could be useful in the lead up to the European Day of Languages on September 26th. There is also the opportunity to show support for this campaign.