Celebrating National days – 国庆节快乐!

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.

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Beyond the text book

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.


Lesson plans

March 3, 2013

The following articles I wrote for Teach Secondary magazine have recently been published on their website:

KS3: Understanding grammar and parts of speech

KS3: Discussing Halloween

KS4: Improving speaking skills

KS4: Conversation

KS4: Olympic values

 


Did you know……..?

March 2, 2013

Did you know that Regional TV programmes are the second most popular type of TV programme that Germans like to watch?  In the number one slot come news programmes with sport at number 3.  Crime and detective series are number 4 followed by programmes about politics and economics.

All this is according to the statistics put out by Statista.de and comes from a section entitled Toplisten.  This section of the website includes picture galleries of favourite snacks (fruit and raw food comes in at number 1), the most annoying things that women say (!), the actual most watched TV programmes in Germany, what Germans like to do in their free time and the most popular uses of a mobile phone amongst other things.

Statistics are an example of an authentic resource that can easily be exploited in the classroom:

  • For giving a cultural angle to whatever topic is being studied.
  • In a Group talk type speaking scenario;  if pupils have been learning the vocabulary for food and snacks they could be shown pictures of Germans’ favourite snacks and ask to speculate which they think comes top and why and compare it to their own favourites.
  • For practising numbers.
  • As a comparison to the results of surveys that they carry out in the classroom.
  • The short text that accompanies the pictures in the “Top lists” mentioned above could be used for introducing language and/or helping pupils develop strategies for working out the meaning of new words.

This website also has infographics which are ideal for use with KS5 classes, although some like this one on fast food could easily be used at KS3 and KS4 as well.

Sites that have statistics relating to France include Statistique publique   and Insee, although neither of these present the information in quite such a user friendly way as Statista.de….


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

Chandeleur2

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.


All you need to know in under 45 seconds!

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.