Sunday, 25 October 2020

Halloween murder mystery

Hello there, It's been a while, I know. This is a lesson I threw together for my Year 7 classes last week. It involves thinking skills, knowing all about genders of nouns, cognates, and speaking in the target language. It's called Who Killed The Big Pumpkin and is loosely based on the game Cluedo. Or Clue if you're American. There are 4 tasks:
The students really seemed to like it. If you'd like a copy, email me. PS: I used this lesson for a recent job interview. Luckily, I didn't get the job...but that's another story...however, one pupil came to me at the end of the lesson and told me it was the best French lesson she had ever been in. The Teaching Assistant also told me that the autistic pupil she was working with had never taken part in a lesson until that lesson.

PS. I have now put this resource on the TES website. It is free and you can even pass it off as your own work if you like...

Sunday, 30 August 2020

Languages are meant to be spoken – MFL verbal skills at KS3

Earlier this year I wrote an article for Teach Secondary magazine about the importance of speaking in MFL. Sadly, due to some pandemic you may have seen on the news, it hasn't yet appeared in print. The good news is that you can read it on their Teachwire website here.

Monday, 20 July 2020

Zipi y Zape y la Isla del Capitán - studying a spanish film.

At the end of each academic year, KS3 students at my school study a film.

I've written about this before here (German), here (French) and here (Spanish).

This year was a little different. Due to lockdown, the situation was weird to say the least.

Usually, all of our Y8 students would study the film. This year, however, only those who have opted to continue with Spanish next year have studied the film.

The film I chose this year was the sequel to last year's film, Zipi y Zape y el club de la canica, Zipi y Zape y la Isla del Capitán.

The reasons for the choice were quite simple:

1) The film is widely available to watch on the internet, on Netflix and other streaming sites. 
2) It's quite easy to follow.
3) None of the children had seen the film.
4) It's quite good.

Normally when studying a film, we would spend two or three lessons watching and discussing the film.
This wasn't possible this time, so I made a true/false quiz which would help the students follow the plot.

This year's project was a GCSE transition project so I wanted the other activities to be similar to the type of tasks the students might encounter in their GCSE course.

I found some really good resources online:

The Discovery Film Festival (I mostly used this resource)

TES user iuliamorgan

and I included lots of activities so students could use their knowledge of describing people and personalities which they were studying just before lockdown.

The feedback from students has been very positive and they are really looking forward to studying GCSE Spanish next term.

Thursday, 2 July 2020

That's not George Clooney! a game for language students.

Today I was watching Meet The Germans on

It is a cultural programme in English presented and written by Rachel Stewart.

This is's description of the programme:

From beer to nudity and ridiculous grammar - Meet the Germans uncovers the quirks and idiosyncrasies of the German culture. Through videos with presenter Rachel Stewart and other online content we bring you insider tips and a light-hearted but informative look at life in Germany.  

While watching one of the videos on youtube today (about German TV and how a lot of it is American drivel dubbed into German) I invented a language game* to practise describing and comparing people.

* I find if I call something a game my students are much more willing to participate.

I started with this photo:

This is Martin Umbach a very well-known (in Germany) German actor.

But he is also George Clooney...

...and Russell Crowe...

...and Gabriel Byrne...

... and Geoffrey Rush...

So here's the game:

Students are given a photo of the foreign language voice actor and write/speak a description.
Er heißt Martin Umbach. Er kommt aus Deutschland. Er is vierundsechzig Jahre alt...usw.

Then let them search for who he is, or make them guess, or play a match up game with photos.

They then have to compare and contrast the English speaking star with their FLVA counterpart.
Martin ist älter als George aber sie haben graue Haare. 

This can be as detailed or as basic as you wish depending on the ability/experience of your students. 

You could even play this as a True/False guessing game with pictures of the stars, where students have to decide if their partner is telling the truth.

Have fun!

PS: Here's a list of German actors and the American actors they dub.

PPS: You could introduce some real culture and controversy here, too as many African American actors are voiced by white actors in German films and TV shows. e.g. Uwe Friedrichsen, a white German actor, was the voice of Danny Glover in many films.

Sunday, 28 June 2020

Rows or Groups?

Over the past few days on Twitter there has been a lot of discussion as to whether students learn best sitting in “traditional” rows or together in groups. The UK’s current Secretary of State for Education this week said that students should “face the front and pay attention” which many have interpreted as “children must be sitting in rows”. 

Many tweeters have attached themselves firmly to one side, and like Swift’s Big-Endians and Little-Endians are refusing to listen to the arguments from any side but their own and some seem quite happy to go to war over it..... They do both agree that the “horseshoe” set up is wrong though...

Personally, as a teacher of modern languages I like my students to be sitting in groups. My current classroom, I seem to remember, would be impossible to set up in rows as it has circular tables which lend themselves well to group work. It was never intended to be a classroom but that is another story. My room doesn’t have a “front” either. There is no whiteboard but a large touch screen TV which can be wheeled around as is my wont. Sounds awful, doesn’t it? 

With my students sitting in groups they can complete speaking tasks more easily. They can work with up to five different people without leaving their seat and I can easily put groups of students with similar needs together. 

This has been ideal when teaching GCSE classes where some students have been working on Foundation tasks and others on Higher tasks in the same class. 

It also is ideal with mixed ability KS3 groups where I can spend time helping smaller groups on a specific question rather than explaining the same thing fifteen times to students seated in different seats all around the room. I move the groups around too. I noticed in my year 7 class that the table in the far left hand corner from the door was not achieving as well as they should be and wondered if it was because they were difficult to get to. I solved this by rotating the groups around the tables. It worked. 

The reason many teachers have expressed their love of rows is to manage student behaviour better. This might be true in many cases, but believe me, if a student has a mind to misbehave in your lesson it doesn’t matter where they are sitting. They are going to do it anyway. 

Many classrooms I have taught in over the years have not really been comfortably big enough for groups and I have managed quite well with rows but my preference is for groups simply so that students can speak and listen to each other and to different people. In rows you can only talk to the person next to you or in front or behind you. Groups adds another couple of people at least to work with.

I’m not sure there is any reliable research on the rows versus groups debate; would you need to test the same students in two different room setups in the same subject over a period of time? I don’t know.

I think it comes down to preference, situation, furniture, comfort and probably, a few dozen other things.

It’s your classroom, do what you think is best. 


Monday, 17 February 2020

Battleships! From beginner to A Level.

Hi there, it's been a while.

I've been busy with a lot of other projects recently so I apologise for the lack of posts over the last 8 months or so.

Anyway, here's the post...

One of my favourite speaking tasks ever is Battleships.

It gets the students involved (particularly the boys) and also has a nice competitive element to it.

It works best with beginners but can be differentiated up to A level and getting students to create their own is even better.

There's a powerpoint template on TES from agcb256 here.

I always make a powerpoint version to play as a group before letting the students loose on the task, as some of my students may have never played this before.

Usually, it will be "Où est X?" with a few hidden photos of me or Lindsay Lohan.

The students are then given a slip of paper with a grid on it, like this:

They then add crosses, faces, etc...

and with their partner they then try to guess where the battleships have been hidden by reading out sentences: e.g. "J'adore les maths" is a hit and "J'adore l'anglais" is a miss.
For those of you thinking it's far too simple, you can differentiate it for more able/experienced students.

Here's a version for A level students. In this version, based on Maupassant's Boule de Suif, students have to either come up with a relevant quote from the story or explain the link between the character and the theme.

You could even make a GCSE version to practise possible speaking exam questions, although personally, I prefer the cootie catcher, snapdragon, fortune tellers to do this.


Tuesday, 2 July 2019