Sunday, 29 November 2009

Learning the alphabet in French

Three bird puppets reciting the alphabet in French. What could be more fun than that?

Saturday, 28 November 2009

A matter of trust.

Mobile telephones are banned in my school.
I understand why. They can get broken, stolen, be used for bullying, disrupting lessons, etc, and if a student doesn't have the "right phone" then that can be a basis for bullying, too.

Two weeks ago, I was teaching a Year 11 (Grade 10) GCSE French class when I noticed one of the students using a mobile 'phone.
I asked her what she was doing.
She replied, "I'm using "wordreference"to look up a word I can't find in the dictionary."
She showed me the screen and, sure enough, she was.

I was pleased. A student taking responsibility for her own learning is a rarity in my school and I praised her for using her initiative.
Some of the other students were amazed that I didn't confiscate it, like some of my colleagues would have.
Now, if they ask, "Can I use my 'phone to...?" even though it is against the rules, I usually find myself saying, "Yes."

Saturday, 21 November 2009

MFL Show and Tell 09

On Saturday 14th November I went to Foxford School, Coventry to attend MFL Show and Tell 09.
I'd been looking forward to this for a long time and was not disappointed. It was a chance, at last, to meet some twitter friends in the flesh, and some other colleagues who have since converted to twitter, and share ideas, resources and links which will help us to be the teachers we would all like to be.

The day was brilliantly organised by James Padvis and expertly led by Joe Dale.
During the day there were many opportunities to talk with colleagues and a number of presentations given by some very willing and extremely knowledgeable volunteers.

So what did I learn?

Well, I knew I would blog this so I took pages and pages of notes. Unfortunately, I can't read most of them, so if you gave a presentation and I missed you out, I'm sorry.
(I've just realized that JP could be James Padvis or José Picardo. D'oh!)

There was a discussion about sound recorders and microphones. An important topic particularly with the new spec GCSE speaking exams looming. (So, do I buy an iriver, a sanyo ICR, an olympus WS300 or just one of Tesco's foam microphones and just pretend?)

José Picardo had us fascinated by edmodo, xtranormal and some ways of "keeping control" (his words, not mine) of students and staff in his department! He also took some great photos of the day.

Joe Dale showed us how to moblog, and gave a practical session using songsmith.

Suzi Bewell instructed us on the use of jolly phonics in French and shared her experiences of working with a French school via skype.

Kath Holton helped us to motivate students using nings, studystack, and quizlet.

James Padvis showed us how his career has evolved since integrating better use of technology into his teaching.

Isabelle Jones gave a presentation about her favourite cpd tools including delicious and diigo.

Samantha Lunn showed us her bag of tricks (which included rubber eyes and ears, fly swats, a voice changing megaphone and a small lion!) and advised us on the best ways to wordle.

Finally, Clare Seccombe impressed us by showing how she has used Crazytalk in her teaching.

Overall it was an amazing day and I'm sure that everyone who attended went away either having learned something new, or at least a way of using something familiar in a totally different way. I'm looking forward to the next one in June 2010.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Effective feedback for students.

I am a member of my school's Raising Achievement Team. We are a group of teachers from different subjects with a common goal, namely raising achievement.

Over the last year we have been trialling different ways of feeding back to students, choosing the most effective ways for our departments and our students to improve and sharing our experiences. Successful feedback, naturally, depends on our objectives and our outcomes for the task set and not all ways are right for all activities or subject areas.

I planned to write this post about 4 months ago and forgot all about it until we did a work scrutiny and my line manager told me, "There isn't enough red ink in the kids' books. Sort it out."

Below I have listed 10 different ways of giving written feedback to students (with my own personal musings thrown in to keep you awake!).

1) Traditional marking
This is the red pen, lots of crossing out, strange codes in the margin, type of feedback so favoured by teachers when I was at school (and still favoured by most School Managers!)
It confuses students and can demotivate them, too. (The ones who bother to read it, that is) Personally, I would avoid this like the plague.

2) The PEN method
PRAISE - the student's strengths
ERROR - point out areas to be developped
NEXT STEPS - suggest a way to improve

3) Highlighting
I love this one (and so does Chris Harte. Read his rainbow assessment blog post.) It involves highlighting where a child has achieved the set objectives and allows them to see clearly which are the good bits in their work, so they can use them again and again.

4) Medal and Mission
This is all a bit "Jim Phelps" for me. It involves identifying were objectives were met by giving "medals" in the form of stamps, stickers, etc and suggesting a "mission" to be accepted by the student to improve. Works well with demotivated boys, apparently.

5) Smile and a Star
Identical to medals and missions only for the less FBI-minded students. Smiles for achievement and a star to reach for.

6) PIE method
PRAISE where objectives are met
IMPROVEMENT suggestions
ENCOURAGE students to try new ideas

7) The Praise Sandwich
This is mainly used in industry during staff appraisals. It involves placing a development point between 2 slices of praise. (You need to be careful with this one and make sure that the layers of the sandwich are in equal proportion. I found a great article about this called "why the sandwich feedback technique is ineffective" but some of my colleagues love it.)

8) 2 Stars and a Wish
For this method, indicate 2 areas where learning objectives have been met, and use the wish to suggest an area for improvement. (Again, I don't like this, maybe because I don't feel it relevant to modern languages, or maybe it just seems a bit "too girly".)

9) A Bubble and a Box
This technique involves identifying and drawing a box around evidence of where objectives have been met and putting a recommendation for developments or improvements in a bubble.

10) Comment only marking
This involves writing comments based on success criteria having been met, and questions to consider for future improvements.

For any of these methods to be effective in improving your students' achievement, we need to consider 3 things:

Firstly, the students have to understand the system you are using, otherwise you may as well not even bother looking at their work.

Secondly, students have to be given the opportunity and the time to respond to your feedback. If you don't allow time for this, you are wasting your, and your students', time.

Thirdly, and most importantly, the teacher must realise that none of the above methods is a skive. It will take a very long time to mark a class set of books using any of these methods. Comments and suggestions need to be tailored to each student's individual needs. Ask yourself this, "Who are we marking for?"

It is a long process but, if done properly, definitely worth it in the end.
Now where did I put that red pen....?

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

MFL Flashmeeting

Did you ever think that, because you know something, then everyone else must know it as well?


Well, it's not true.

We can only share knowledge by communicating effectively, and last night I was lucky enough to attend the 4th MFL Flashmeeting; a virtual meeting with fellow language teachers from all over the world in the comfort of my own kitchen, their living rooms, studies, dining rooms, and, in the case of Steve Collis, his school's staff room in Sydney, Australia.

As professional development goes, this is the best kind. It involves no travel, hardly any expense (OK, my webcam cost £4 on ebay), brings together like-minded professionals willing to share ideas and skills, and, best of all, nobody was there against their will. I learned so much.

I missed the first flashmeeting, hid in the background for the second (I'm very shy), took part in the 3rd by text, and bought a webcam especially for the 4th. You can watch them all by following the links here.

It was nice to meet so many selfless and helpful people, if not in the flesh, at least virtually and moving, (or singing and dancing in the case of Lisa Stevens and her amazing vaca lola) and it will be less awkward for me to meet them at MFL Show and Tell in Coventry on 14th November. Join the wiki and I'll see you there.

I'm also looking forward to the 5th MFL Flashmeeting on January 25th 2010 and hope to see many of you there. If you haven't seen a flashmeet you can catch up on last night's fun here and you can follow most of the participants on twitter, too.