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, 23 July 2019


What's the secret to good classroom management? 


And planning.

OK and consistency. 

And differentiation...

And VAK..

Haha! Just kidding about the last one!!!!

I digress.

Students like routine. 

Adults like routine.

I'm not going to get all preachy here. I have taught students this year who have been less than compliant in their actions and at times have been a complete nightmare. Having said that, the majority of my students have been lovely and have enjoyed and actually learned things in my lessons.

 These are my routines:
  • Books are given out and a bell task is on the board before students arrive. My tables are arranged in 6 groups. Each group has a number. Exercise books have the group number written in the top left corner. It takes seconds to give out books.
  • I greet students at the door. A quick hello in TL, give instructions as to first task, or a sheet with the first task. I never do tests at the start of a lesson. Students who don't like tests, or haven't prepared, will arrive late... They're not stupid... 
  • While the students are completing the first task, I do the register and give out the fabled green pens. These are for self and peer marking and responding to any feedback in their books.
  • I give students a specific time to complete tasks and stick to it. Countdown timers are useful for this. It's also good time management for GCSE exam practice. 
  • I try to include elements of all 4 skills in each lesson. 
  • Marking is done regularly and is planned. Nobody wants to have to mark 4 sets of books in one evening. I try to get around to each group to give feedback during lessons. 
  • Reading and writing tasks are generally marked by students or their peers. Corrections with examples, and explanations, are completed (to stop students just guessing!).
At the end of the lesson, groups go out when they are calm and ready and are unable to leave unless they hand me their green pen.

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Saturday, 29 June 2019

Zipi 7 Zape y el club de la canica - teaching a Spanish film

I'm not a Spanish specialist but, due to me obviously upsetting someone in a previous life and being cursed for all eternity, I currently teach it to KS3 (11-13 year old) students.

At the end of each year, after all the assessments, for a few weeks we study a film.

When I say study I really mean it.

This year we are studying "Zipi y Zape y el club de la canica" in Spanish and Le Petit Nicolas in French.
I got the Zipi y Zape  DVD from ebay.

This is the first time I've taught a Spanish film but I've done lots of French films with students in the past.

Zipi y Zape are twins, famous for appearing in a Spanish comic strip, and in cartoons, and the live action film (I refuse to use the word "movie") didn't disappoint.

Most of my students loved it. "You forget it's in Spanish" was one comment I heard from a student.

They've seen the film and now are working through activities based on the film but which also use skills they will need to be successful in KS4.

I used (and adapted) resources from here:

Into Film (you need to sign up for this free resource)

Discovery Film Festival

TES (user myrtille)

TES (user jrcrawleynz) (These involve using the preterite)

I also used vocabulary for describing a photo which we use for GCSE.
TES (user C-Marie)

It's a good opportunity for revising/learning physical descriptions and personality, using adjective agreement, tenses, opinions, and improving speaking skills.

Not bad for something the students think is end of term fun.

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

MFL on a need to know basis...

It's the holidays and my brain has gone into overdrive...

I'm just thinking aloud....

(Is thinking allowed?)

Last week, I taught my one of my year 8 French classes the imperfect tense.

But I didn't really. I never mentioned the imperfect tense once.

I thought I was doing OK.

The broad objective of the lesson was to say what you did and didn't used to like at school.

A little "grammar note", some examples (je, tu, il, elle, and on) and some scaffolded exercises comparing then and now:

J'aimais le français, mais maintenant c'est barbant.

Then, a speaking activitity.

Job done.

Or so I thought...

One student raised a hand:

"This is wrong."

"What do you mean?"

"There's more to it. You've missed loads out. Look."

I was handed a tatty "grammar booklet" from this student's last school, which contained pretty much all the grammar needed for a grade 9 at GCSE.

The student was correct. I had, indeed, missed out loads.

On purpose.

Does this group (none of whom has chosen to study languages next year!) really need the stress of learning the full paradigm of regular imperfect tense verbs just because?

What would they do with it?

Isn't it better to teach them how to communicate a little in French rather than hammer them with grammar that most French people don't need to know?

Am I doing them a disservice?

I don't think so....

...but I've been wrong before...

Sunday, 31 March 2019

Updating resources and keeping it relevant.

One of the reasons I've never been a fan of MFL text books is that they date so quickly.

Even the most recent text books we have in school have almost ancient photos of sports stars, actors, and singers, and don't even get me started on the technology and cultural references...

This was made clear to me this week when a Year 7 student (12 years old) asked what an "internet café" was. There was one on a map of a town they had to describe in Spanish.

Remember, these students don't remember a time without smart phones, let alone the internet...and also have no idea who Thierry Henry is...or Robbie Williams (so it's not all bad!).

I update my resources regularly, but I'm now a very old man and I'm a little out of touch with what goes on in the real world...

The people who make text books and the exam boards, too, are also so out of touch...

...nobody watches TV any more, so asking students "What's your favourite TV programme?" is a redundant task you could have got 2 lessons out of three years ago.

"What's your favourite youtube channel?" would probably be a better task.

Mine is "Don't Trust the Rabbit" by the way...
It's the best place on the web to learn about German culture and language, but not always suitable for school use....

Young people these days don't have favourite singers or bands, either. They listen to play lists and don't even know the names of most of the artists filling their airbuds.

Why would they? They only listen to the first 12 seconds of a song before touching a virtual button and getting their next fix...

So the old "keeping it relevant" line is more important now than ever before.

How do we do this?

Speak to the students.

Find out what they like.

Who are the "celebrities" they admire?
Even if you're in your 20s, you won't know any of them!
And you'll hate them all!

What types of music are they listening to?
It's probably K-pop and you have no idea what that is!

My advice to you?

Keep it relevant.

Keep it real...

...and remember that google is your friend, youtube is your enemy's enemy and wikipedia might just save your life.

Good luck!

Thursday, 13 December 2018

How to Introduce Gendered Nouns in KS3 French

As well as teaching, and cobbling together this nonsense, I often do other things.

One thing I do is write funny things for satirical websites and occasionally the radio.

Another thing I do, once every Preston Guild, is write articles about teaching languages.

Here is my latest offering on Teachwire, the snappily named: How to Introduce Gendered Nouns in KS3 French.