Eurovision – it’s that time of the year again….

May 8, 2014

Eurovision image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 


Water, water everywhere….

October 2, 2013

water

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…


Songs for hallowe’en

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.


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.


Getting ready for Chinese New Year

January 16, 2012

Chinese New Year (春节 Chūn Jié or Spring Festival) is almost upon us – Monday January 23rd.  This year is the year of the dragon (龙年 lóngnián), the fifth animal of the Chinese zodiac.

I was looking for a suitable video of the story to show the pupils in my Mandarin club and came across this version in English which is attractively illustrated.

I also found a song about the animals of the Chinese zodiac (十二生肖歌  shí’èrshēngxiào gē).  It has a catchy refrain in which the Chinese for the animals of the zodiac are repeated in order – useful for fixing this in the mind! This version is in pinyin and is relatively easy to follow, although the last word doesn’t match with what is sung.  This other version is slower, has images of the animals and the meaning of the song, but otherwise is just in characters, so not so suitable on its own for my KS3 club.  However, I’ve done a transcription in characters and pinyin for use with beginners.


Christmas songs 圣诞节

December 11, 2011

Christmas is coming and it’s song time!  I’ve just added a few links on the Chinese songs page to videos for Jingle Bells, Santa Claus is coming tonight and We wish you a merry Christmas.

If you really want to go to town and do some carols in Chinese, John Pasden’s blog Sinosplice has some downloadable zip folders of mp3 files and pdf files of the lyrics of some popular Christmas carols such as Silent Night, Joy to the World and the First Noel.  Happy singing!