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.



The recycled orchestra

December 11, 2012

Thanks to a Facebook friend who drew my attention to this amazing video  about young people living in a slum in Paraguay who have created musical instruments out of the rubbish they have found around where they live.

It has been produced by Landfill Harmonic and is a short clip from a forthcoming documentary in which the young people talk about how their instruments have been made  and how they have formed the “recycled orchestra”.  The video is in Spanish (with subtitles) and would fit in very well with lessons to do with

  • the environment
  • poverty
  • leisure
  • comparing the lives of young people around the world

Landfill Harmonic film teaser from Landfill Harmonic on Vimeo.

Didcot flip charts

November 23, 2011

As promised here are the shots of the flip charts created at our session last Friday.  It was good to meet you all there and thank you for all the fantastic ideas you shared.

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.

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.

Video resource for Spanish

May 13, 2010

Many of leading UK charities have resources to support the Global dimension in the curriculum, be they worksheets, photos or videos.  Some resources, like this video from CAFOD,  contain interviews in a target language, in this case Spanish.  It shows how a family living at altitude in Bolivia tending their alpacas are battling against the effects of climate change, and could be useful resource for a cross curricular project.