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…
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.
February 10, 2013
This 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.
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 29, 2013
In my previous two posts I wrote about a series of short video clips in French and in Chinese. Now for German…..this website has a terrific collection (approx 146,000!) of short video clips lasting a mere 45 seconds or less.
They are principally information videos covering a huge range of topics including famous places, people and events. The sound is, I suspect, computer generated and uses text from Wikipedia articles (Wikipedia.de). Don’t let that put you off however, as each video is accompanied by a selection of images relating to the topic which make it clear what it is about even if pupils are unable to understand all that is said; these images on their own without any sound are particularly useful for giving a culturally specific angle to a topic
These videos would be perfect for developing listening skills at KS5 – pupils could attempt to transcribe what they hear and then compare with the Wikipedia.de entry for that topic. Even at KS3 and KS4 there are some that would be accessible with some support, or with a simple task; for example pupils could be asked to list the order in which the colours blue, green, red, white and yellow are mentioned in this video about Newweling (a traditional candle from Mainz). In the video about the Oktoberfest they could be asked to pick out numbers and dates.