Thursday, 30 July 2009

Teaching my dog to whistle.

A small child brags to a friend, "I taught my dog to whistle."
"Wow!" says the other, "Let's hear!" "Oh, he can't whistle," replies
the first. "Why not? I thought you said you taught him!" "I did! He just
didn't learn it."
Geoff Hancock - Ofsted inspector


I'm going to be honest with you.
Tricky, for a bloke, I know.

But here goes, ahem, I am really struggling, trying to get my GCSE students to learn and retain vocabulary.

Teaching new vocabulary, is not a problem. I use many different techniques. I've even tried making it fun! I test them regularly; they get good results.

So, where's the problem?

Well, they don't know it the week after the test.

It is as if they never learned it in the first place.

And they didn't.

Not properly.

I've been reading up on this and the internet is full of excellent pages, sites, resources and ideas on how best to learn vocabulary.

Some of them are amazing:
David Bolton's website
Ripon grammar school's MFL site
Estrellas from MFL Sunderland
Task Magic 2 - Newcastle United 0 (Well, that's what my students call it!)
I could go on and on (and I often do!)

I've learned all about power glide (not gym equipment, the Transformer, or the automatic clutch system developed by General motors) and diglot weave (not a hairpiece for bilingual slapheads!). They aren't nearly as interesting as they sound!

But all these sites require a certain something and my students are missing that one key ingredient.

The student has to want to learn.

And mine don't.

Short of hypnosis, bribery, blackmail, and ill-thought-out threats I am running out of ideas.

Help me Obi-Wan're my only hope...

Thursday, 16 July 2009

No, I can't believe it either!

The 18th March 2009 was an historic day for me. It was the day of my first blog post.

I'd been toying with the idea of blogging since December, but never actually got round to it until March.

I had a lot of encouragement, (mainly from my long suffering, patient and gorgeous wife) and, in the last 4 months, I have learned so much about teaching MFL, ICT, Twitter, Webtools and, more importantly, me.

Since starting the blog I have met (virtually and physically) some excellent, friendly and helpful people, for whom nothing is too much trouble, from all over the world, except South America. I won't embarrass them, they know who they are, and, I hope, how grateful I am!

So, why this blog post?

Well, today I clocked up my 1000th visitor and I am very pleased. Obviously, some people (mainly my mother!) have visited more than once, but I never imagined I would make double figures. When I started this, I didn't imagine for one minute that anyone would read it, or be interested in anything I had to say.

Thanks for reading and, you never know, if you keep coming back, one day there might even be something here worth reading.

Thanks for your time. Enjoy the summer and may you be half an hour in heaven before the devil knows you're dead!

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Using short film in the MFL Classroom

On 6th July I had the pleasure of attending "Using short film in the MFL Classroom" at St Aidan's School in Sunderland.

The course was arranged by Links into Languages and was presented by our old friends Holli McGuire and Mike Tait from Tyneside Cinema in Newcastle. (You'll remember them from TMNE09?)

The session was in 2 parts:

1) Introduction to film grammar and using micro-short film

This included technical terms some of which I already knew e.g. close-up and costume and mise en scene to others about which I am still confused: diegesis? graphic matching? and POV?

We were shown some short films (less than 5 minutes long) and given exercises to complete whilst watching them.

These included tasks such as:

  • answering observational questions (like Michael Rodd used to do on "Screentest")

  • identifying aspects of life within the film

  • putting events into chronological order in the film

  • creating identities for the characters in the films

2) Short films in target languages and to use them to support grammar and curriculum themes.

This time the tasks were more MFL based. We were split into groups, Spanish, German, and French specialists. (As a jack of all trades and master of none, I joined the French group.)

We were shown short films (Yohann Gloaguen's "Comme un Air" and Philippe Orreindy's "J'attendrai le suivant") and asked to consider how, or if, we would exploit them with students of different ages and abilities.

The ideas we came up with were:
  • summarising the plot in the TL
  • stopping the film at certain points and asking, "What happens next?"
  • writing a story board and labelling it in the target language.
  • identifying and discussing the social and/or cultural implications of the film
  • creating, producing and editing a sequel or prequel
  • describing the characters in TL

If this is the kind of thing which interests you and you would love to get involved, the course will be run again at the Tyneside Cinema on October 13th 2009 from 5-7:30pm for a very reasonable £20.

If you are not in the North East of England, or cannot attend the course, the following films were used and I have hyperlkinked the sites for you:

One minute guide to planet earth (2007)

Comme un Air

J'attendrai le suivant

Lovefield (2008)


Le cheval 2.1

Thursday, 2 July 2009

European Day of Languages 2009 (EDL09)

Since it started in 2001, European Day of Languages, (EDL) has become more and more popular and celebrated in schools and educational establishments all over Europe.

In fact, after "Talk Like a Pirate Day", EDL is probably the most important day in the language learning calendar.

The first EDL was jointly organised by the Council of Europe and the European Union,the day they chose September 26th, and its aims were:

  • to alert the general public to the importance of language learning

  • to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and increase intercultural understanding

  • to encourage lifelong learning

There are over 200 European languages (How many can you name?) and many other non-European languages spoken throughout Europe and EDL is the perfect opportunity to celebrate all of them.

The sharper ones among you will have realised that this year the 26th September falls on a Saturday. This was pointed out to me by a colleague who said, "We don't have to do languages day this year do we?"

"Don't panic." I said, "If we can't do something on the 26th, then why not the 25th? or the 28th?"

Anyway, you have no excuse for not celebrating this year because, as usual, I have done the ground work for you.

I have set up a wiki EDLideas2009 where you can find links to resources, websites, and videos all related to EDL09.

Because it is a wiki you can apply to join and add your own ideas and resources or just take a look and use some of the ideas. That is what they are there for.

I must say a big thank you to all those who have joined and added ideas and resources already...

...thank you, danke, merci, tak, gracias, ευχαριστώ, köszönöm mercé, obrigado, tapadh leat, sagolun, mulţumesc is much appreciated.