Friday, 26 May 2017

GCSE French Reading Challenges from WJEC.

What's the best thing to come out of Wales?

No, it's not the M4!!!

The Wonderful Welsh have given us many things.

They gave us really cool stuff like powered flight, the theory of natural selection, radar, and the microphone.

They have given us such stars as Shirley Bassey, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Charlotte Church, Dylan Thomas, Tanni Grey-Thompson and that opera singing bloke from the Go Compare adverts.

But these all pale into insignificance* when compared to the WJEC French reading challenges website.

* No, they don't!

I came across this site purely by accident but it is really good for revising and practising vocabulary.

If you are teaching the new specification French GCSE this is an ideal place for your students to do some independent study. 

The home screen looks like this:


The challenges are categorised into the 4 topics: 

For each category there is a choice of activities (even some listening tasks).

There are different levels of difficulty.

From easy vocabulary matching games...


to sentence building...


to exam style reading comprehension tasks...


I've done some of the challenges on my laptop and on my fruit-pad and they work well on both devices.

My only criticism is that I couldn't find anything similar in the other languages offered at GCSE by WJEC but I'm sure it's only a matter of time before they arrive.

Enjoy! 

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Le Hand Spinner, l'objet le plus satisfaisant du monde ?

Loathe them or hate them, if you're a teacher you'll no doubt have seen these, the latest must-have gadgets...

You've probably even confiscated a few and had a sneaky play by yourself when you thought there was nobody watching.

Well, they have become a huge phenomenon all over the world and your students may like to know that it's not just them annoying the bejaysus out of everyone over the age of 25.

Your students love them, so why not harness their enthusiasm by engaging them in some French?

Here are some links to share with your French classes:


























  • Even FNAC is getting in on it, claiming it is based on a Tibetan meditation technique! 





There you go there's got to be something there your students will like and which will drive you into an early grave....

How about using these links for some translation, a reading comprehension, or a vocab finding exercise?

Personally, I don't have a problem with them.

Enjoy!

Monday, 1 May 2017

Remaining positive at this difficult time.

This isn't a post about the EU.

Sorry.

We voted for Brexit. (I didn't.)

It's over.

It's happened.

We are all going to hell in a handcart...

...but look on the bright side, it's a right hand drive handcart, painted in Union Jack colours, which will be driven on the left hand side of the highway to hell...

No, this post is about GCSE.

Specifically, remaining positive.

Negativity breeds negativity and I know this because I'm a very grumpy old man.

So, how to be more positive with a group of Year 11 students about to take their GCSE exams and who haven't really learned enough vocabulary?

This is my list of positivity for very intelligent students who have breezed through the last 11 years of their education without ever really exerting themselves:


  • Let them know, individually, what they're really good at. (Even if it's just recognising cognates!)

  • Reward them. Have a bag full of lollipops and Haribos on hand to distribute. If you did an Easter holidays revision session (You shouldn't have! See here) I can guarantee you were a different person (probably because the kids who needed to be there weren't!). You even took in sweets and/or cakes, didn't you? And you smiled! You were the MFL equivalent of cabin crew and you know it!

  • Get them used to a familiar lesson structure. I have 2 lessons each week with my students. Lesson one is reading and lesson 2 is listening. Each week we revise a different topic. We complete half a dozen or so different types of questions and revise the vocabulary to go with each question before attempting it. I'm using GCSE reading resources from zigzag education and listening resources from the Pearson German GCSE Revision Workbook

  • We are doing what I call pre-listening and pre-reading. Exam technique, if you like. For instance if we are doing a listening question I show them the question title and the GCSE Grade for that question. e.g. Shopping. C grade. I give them a few minutes to come up with a list of vocabulary they think they might hear for a question of that grade. They then share their list with their partner. For reading questions they highlight any unfamiliar words and then share those with their partners. Doing this makes them feel more confident about their own abilities. They are actually surprised (and you will be!) at how much they actually do know.

  • Distractors. Spend time revising and learning distractors. Get the students to specifically listen for time phrases, however, but, never, not, didn't, etc... Show them the examiners' reports for questions like this. If they can see where most candidates fell down, perhaps they can learn not to.

  • Everything we do  is marked by the students in class. Less for me to do. Instant feedback for them. They make a list of al the vocabulary they didn't know and they learn that for homework/revision

  • Forget about Target Grades. The student who is currently working at a D grade is not going to get an A star. So don't push it. You can't learn it for them. Just get them to do their best. If that means a foundation listening paper for an A star target student, then so be it.

  • Give them homework! Don't just tell them to revise. Give them guided revision. Some students will not have a clue how or what to revise. Give them lists of key vocabulary to learn. Give them listening and reading activities to do. I do this via a very good VLE. Again, you needn't mark the work. Give them a clip, a question, a mark scheme and a tapescript. Use sites like audio-lingua.eu to find some authentic listening clips they won't have heard before.

  • And finally. Don't panic. You know who will ace the exams and you know the ones who on a good day will scrape a C and on a bad day will get a D. GCSEs are designed for some people to fail. (Look at last year's marks to ums conversions.) Someone has to get a D, someone has to get an A. That's how it works. You can't control it, so don't fret about it.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Easter revision sessions.

Easter is often a time of panic for secondary teachers here in the UK.

The GCSE exams start in about 6 weeks.

Yes, only six weeks, stop reading this and go and prepare some last minute listening questions.

Quickly!

Off you go!

Now!

They are all going to fail!!

Aaaaaarrgggghhhh!!!!!

See?

For the past few years I have been into school during the Easter break to put on a "revision session" for my GCSE students.

A morning, or afternoon, of practise exam questions, revising exam technique, vocabulary revision games, etc...

This year I've decided not to for a number of reasons:

Firstly, I know for a fact that the students who would benefit from such a session are the ones who are the least likely to attend. I have put on "voluntary extended day" lessons for an hour after school every week since January. Only one student out of 29 has attended any of these sessions.

Secondly, apart from reassuring the students, I don't see much value in putting on a session. After all, all they really need to do is learn the vocabulary and I can't do that  for them. They have access via the school's VLE to all the resources they need, it has links to every past paper available, I have set 40 odd pages of listening and reading revision exercises, and I am only ever an email away from any student, or parent, with any worries or concerns.

Thirdly, I need a break. I work very hard in term time and plan my work so that holidays are not used (or at least hardly ever) for school work.

Finally, and probably most importantly, the students need a break. Ten subjects, ten revision sessions. That's at least five days in school. When will they get to rest or relax? They need to "recharge their batteries as much as their teachers.

Oh yeah, one other thing, why should I give up a day of my holiday for kids who have misbehaved and done no work for the last 18 months?

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Guess Who? An amazing speaking game

Guess Who? is a game by Hasbro.

I love it.

It has been around since 1979 and currently looks like this:

The object of the game is to guess your opponent's character using only yes/no questions.
For example: Il a les cheveux noirs? Elle a les yeux bleus? 

It lends itself really well to all languages and is a great way to get students of all ages speaking in the target language.

It comes in various different editions from travel size through to an electronic version, there's an app and even a tea towel...seriously. 

Look:
 

There is also a corn-who-copia of copies available too...if you are Guess Who-ing on a budget....like this...

and this...

Anyway, you can play this in your classroom without spending a huge amount of cash.

If you go to the Hasbro Guess Who website, you can download extra character sheets.

You can also do a google search and come up with hundreds of characters you could print off and use.

If your printing budget doesn't allow for colour, you can paste an image into a powerpoint presentation.

In the past I've even used photos of teachers, students and celebrities, too.

About 15 years ago I bought cheap versions from the Pound Store and laminated the cards.

I'm still using them.

Students always seem to love playing it.

Enjoy.


PS

I discovered today (from wikipedia) that there is a fan-made version of the game, "Guess Who: The Utley Rules".

In this version "players can only ask about the assumed characteristics of the characters" based on their physical appearance.

This sounds like it might be a lot of fun for the more able students I teach.

Monday, 27 March 2017

PopXport - Bands, Trends and Events - the Best Music from Germany

If you, or your students, want to find out more about contemporary German music, bands etc., Deutsche Welle has a great music magazine programme (I refuse to say, "show", it's the Brit in me), PopXport.

This programme (see?) would be ideal for those studying the new A level German specification in the UK and is a great place to start for anyone, anywhere with an interest in German music.

PopXport has its own Facebook page and twitter account too, so you can stay up to date with all the programmes without having to trawl the DW website.

The presenters are Markus Schultze and Kate Müser (who has the most amazing hair!).


The programme itself is in English but is a cultural programme not a language learning programme. DW has plenty of language learning resources here and so can be forgiven for this.

If you are interested in popXport you may also be interested in Kate Müser's other projects:

Meet the Germans is a series of videos about all things German, from food to idioms to pronouncing funny German words.

justkate.de is Kate's website with links to her videos, etc..

Kate's youtube channel featuring #germany24, Best ever German words, Learn English, #realgerman

Saturday, 18 March 2017

¿Quién es el asesino? A murder mystery for Year 8.

This week I finished teaching the preterite in Spanish to my year 8 class.

I wanted to do a lesson which was fun, but challenging, to consolidate their learning.

So I came up with this (all photos I used have been removed for copyright reasons or to protect the innocent/guilty):



Starter: The setting

Students in pairs or groups figure out what has happened.
They explain it to the others in their group.

Task 1: Alibi

Students write an alibi in Spanish saying:
- where there where and the time
- what they were doing and giving an opinion about it
- who they were with

Task 2: Taking statements

Students are now a police officer taking statements.
An opportunity for speaking and listening.
In groups, students give their alibi, the others take notes in English.
They then use the information they have gathered to decide who has given the least plausible alibi.

Task 3: Giving evidence in court

Students now have to prepare a statement to give in court.
This involves writing a paragraph to say what the murderer said they were doing and giving alternative explanations as to what you thought they were really doing.

Plenary

Volunteers give their evidence to a massive photo of Judge Judy.

There are no wrong or right answers to this task.
As long as the students are using their Spanish, then that's fine.