Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Who dares to teach must never cease to learn

"But Miss, doesn't that make you a rubbish teacher, then?"

This was a genuine question from my year 9 dual linguists today. They were set the challenge of labelling a scene with as many items of vocabulary they could, using their newly acquired dictionary skills. These beginner Spanish students, were somewhat surprised shall we say, to hear that I said I always loved tasks like this, as my students usually ended up teaching me new vocabulary, words for things I hadn't ever needed before (wing mirror being a case in point). The pupil I quoted wasn't being intentionally rude; she really thought that as the teacher, I ought to know everything. Everything. Every single word in the Spanish dictionary. What followed was an interesting discussion about vocabulary and having an active working memory of words that are applicable to us as individuals, but it raises an interesting point, and one which I gave some thought to following this weekend's TLT event at Southampton University.
As teachers, we should be modelling the behaviour we expect of our students. For me, that's a positive approach to learning. I attended an excellent session on Saturday afternoon with Chris Moyse who talked us through the approach to lesson observations at Bridgwater College Academy. A gem of an idea I have taken from his talk is one that I am hoping to implement in my own practice. Teachers at his school share their short term target on a poster outside their classroom, so that the students can see what their teachers are working towards too. 
This approach to learning, this open attitude to continual professional development really resonated with me and I hope that as professionals, we would all have a commitment to our trade. After all, to continue to learn doesn't make you a bad teacher.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

I've taught you everything you need to know... Now you know nothing

Some #TLT15 inspiration
I attended Teaching and Learning Takeover at Southampton University and as ever, came away feeling refreshed and ready to take on the remainder of the term.
Chris Waugh's morning session was first on my list and it really struck a chord. The theme was planning and he titled his session 'The Wonderful Now'. I took my notes out from the weekend to help me write this post but I wasn't surprised to see I hadn't made many - Chris is a captivating speaker and I was taken in immediately, so I'll rely purely on memory
The main thing that came through to me was that we need to be giving our pupils an authentic experience of education. As a languages specialist, this is my daily challenge - how can I bring Spain / Germany / wherever to the classroom and encourage my pupils to feel as passionately as I do about this? I believe we do a good job of this, I have long thrown out the textbooks and favour creating my own resources to inspire and motivate but I came away from the session knowing we could do more. At Chris' school, they don't assess for assessment's sake. They don't write a letter to get a level 4. They don't do anything unless it has real value. 
Value. Worth. Purpose. A point. That's what I need to bring to my classroom. And I'll seek to do it from here on in. After all, ask someone what they remember from GCSE French and they'll probably tell you they like football and going to the cinema...

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

7 Monkeys - An old #ililc idea revisited

A couple of years ago at the annual ICT & Languages Conference at the University of Southampton, (affectionately called #ililc among the #mfltwitterati) I was introdcued to an idea called 7 monkeys.  Being that the session was a couple of years ago now, and my memory not being the greatest, I had a little google and luckily found a very good explanation of the activity here

The 7 monkeys themselves are not in fact primates causing havoc in your classroom but rather 7 stages of an activity. This can work well in language lessons, or in fact any lesson, to deliver a completely new concept, grammar topic or vocabulary. It works best when sharing something completely new, as each stage demands students to become more and more familiar with the content on offer and in going through the stages, decipher for themselves the meaning or key point that is being demonstrated. I have uploaded the slides I have created which I have used to share this idea with staff during our Teaching & Learning Tuesday slot. 

Monkey 1 asks students to read a description. This could be an explanation of a key term, as in the slides above, or for language teachers an extract demonstrating some new vocabulary or a new grammar point. Once students have read and digested, Monkey 2 asks that students highlight the key words, enabling them to pick out the new vocabulary or key points. Monkey 3 allows students to start to engage on a deeper level, by drawing a representation of what they have understood. You can see my beautiful doodle of Code-Switching in the example slides! Monkey 4 is the stage of the activity where students seek to explain their drawing, and hopefully through this dialogue with their partner, the two students can start to establish what they think is the key idea and pick apart any misconceptions. For Monkey 5 you would introduce an activity to enable students to practise the skill they have hopefully been developing, perhaps via a reading comprehension task or a card sort activity in MFL and then the final two stages consist of students having  go themselves. At Monkey 6 students will attempt to answer a question themselves using their newly acquired knowledge and Monkey 7 is the assessment of that answer, perhaps peer assessment if it suits your subject area. I'm sometimes unconvinced as to the merit of peer assessment in languages unless it is for a quick reading or listening comprehension task as sometimes students are lacking in the language skills required to pick out what is necessary to make an accurate judgement, (but we will save that for a whole other blog post!).

Thank you to Rach (@lancslassrach) for reminding me that it was in fact Tom Hockaday's session that we discovered this little gem!

Monday, 2 March 2015

Creating independent learners... Step 1! #ililc5

The gorgeous @lancslassrach delivered a thought provoking and intuitive session all about creating more independent learners in MFL. I have a million and one #ililc5 ideas that I will share, but as always after a conference, I like something I can do quickly and get going with straight away, so here is my poster! 

Rach's first slide asked if we had ever felt like a walking dictionary - unfortunately for me that was all too familiar. I had been thinking just last week that my class are constantly waiting for me to answer their questions, particularly KS4, so following Rach's example I intend to reinforce that pupils are welcome to, and in fact encouraged, to try and make sense of something they are trying to create themselves before they ask me for help or assistance. 

I shall keep you informed as to my progress... but there's always a good excuse to download a cool new font, right?

Sunday, 25 January 2015

The Madness of the Translation Joke

In the department, we were trying to come up with ways to bring a taste of translation in to warm the kids up for the big MFL GCSE changes. We had all recently become a little bit hooked on Pinterest and after a little think (and many hours browsing) came up with a little competition...

The hallways of the MFL corridor have been decorated with colour printed and laminated images such as the ones in this post. A notice went out in the bulletin to all tutors and my head of department went to Costco and bought 200 lollipops. Luckily too, since the little translation competition has really caught on and we have been inundated with faces knocking the door at break and lunchtime, proudly sharing the joke or pun they have managed to translate from Spanish, French or German into English. We picked images of varying difficulty and just left them up on display, the pupils then have to come and find us if they manage to correctly translate one and explain the joke. Year 7 have been just as excited as my year 11 classes, who too have smugly declared their answer and delighted in taking a lolly in front of their peers!

If you didn't want to go crazy and decorate your whole corridor, perhaps you could just stick one up as a starter now and then? 

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Using VOKI in lesson... without a computer!

This week I was observed in my new school for the first time. I wanted to use some new technology in the lesson, despite the lack of iPads available in the department, as it has always been the thing that people ask me most questions about with my teaching, particularly since I made the switch from a very Apple centred school to where I am now. The problem, however, was thinking of a way to incorporate the technology into the lesson without actually having devices for each of the pupils to use.

With my year 9 mixed ability German class (pre-option group as KS3 is years 7, 8 & 9 here), we have just begun the topic of School. Having revised school subjects and basic opinions in the previous lesson, this lesson was focussing on use of varied adjectives to justify opinions and to revisit comparison structures. At the beginning of the lesson, pupils matched some new adjectives and practised these before going over the formation of a comparison structure.

I decided I wanted to do a listening activity to enable the pupils to do some self assessment (and hopefully show to my observers that progress had been made in the lesson: tick!) so I quickly created a VOKI, incorporating the structures from the lesson that we wanted to practise, so comparisons and complex 'weil' clauses. You can see the VOKI avatar here:

We completed a simple listening comprehension worksheet where the pupils had to select the correct option from three given choices for 8 questions. Once we had been through this and marked it, it was time for the pupils to move on to producing a text of their own. I gave the pupils a transcript of the listening and we came up with a checklist for their own text - things they wanted to include to make theirs better than mine. Now it was time for the tech without the tech bit!

I gave pupils mini whiteboards and a 1 minute timer. They had to draw an avatar on their whiteboard before the time ran out. Once the time was up, I played the theme tune to countdown, whilst they played 'pass the parcel' with their mini whiteboards. As soon as the music had ended, whichever whiteboard they had ended up with became their avatar. Pupils then listened to one another's texts in pairs whilst holding their avatar up in front of their faces. This was just for fun but also within this mixed ability group I think it served a real purpose - we took the emphasis away from the awkwardness of speaking a foreign language in front of our peers and moved it towards enjoying the moment of being silly. Every pupil in the room spoke their text out loud and I'm convinced that we had longer responses from some pupils than perhaps I had had before. I really enjoyed the lesson and it seemed that the pupils were motivated and engaged too - fingers crossed my company enjoyed it as much as we did!