Thursday, 31 December 2009


Thanks for visiting my blog and reading and commenting.
2009 has been a rollercoaster of a year for me.
I can't believe that I've only been doing this for 9 months (it seems like a maternity!)
I have learned so much since March and I hope to continue to learn even more over the next year.

I'd like to wish you all a happy and successful 2010.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Switching off.

Woohoo! It's the Christmas holidays.
School is finished.
There is nothing urgent I have to do.
Finally, I can relax.
Do nothing.
I can switch off.

Or can I?

If that were true, why do I keep doing work-type things?
In the last 2 days...
I've made storybirds.
I've updated my department's wiki with some students' work and an Xtranormal greeting for the homepage.
I've spent ages looking into how I can get KS4 to use their mobile telephones in class.
I've just taken a look at some homework my year 8 and year 9 students have emailed me and emailed my thanks and encouragement back.
I'm working on my yr13 Scheme of Work, reading Ripon Grammar School's MFL site (really excited about the new Year 10 & 11 listening exercises), having a look at Ashcombe School's MFL resources for some inspiration as I haven't visited for a while, and I've been reading all the updates on the blogs listed below.
And later this evening, I'm hoping to find some time to read a bit more of Geoff Petty's Evidence-Based Teaching.

Can a teacher ever switch off?

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

MFL Storybird wiki

As you all know I am a huge fan of storybird and I have blogged about what a fantastic resource it is on a few occasions now.
If you have read my previous posts on this subject, and there is really no reason why you should, you will know that stories written in languages other than English are not yet made public.
The good news is that Fiona Joyce has started a wiki to which half a dozen or so MFL teachers, myself included, have added their storybirds in French, Spanish and German.
Please visit the wiki and read the excellent work which has been submitted. There is some excellent material there. Use the stories in your teaching, or read them for your own amusement, and share them with your colleagues, family and friends.
Then, why not make and add your own storybirds, and join us.
It's not a cult, honest!

Thursday, 10 December 2009

The Scope of Audacity.

If I had to name my top resources of all time, Audacity would have to be somewhere near the top.

For the uninitiated Audacity is free, open source software for recording and editing sound.

I have been aware of Audacity for a couple of years since I sent a colleague to a course run by Bernard Clark, the language college director at Durham Johnston School on how to convert cassettes to mp3 files.

She was unimpressed, but I was fascinated, so I took the CD of Bernard's materials and learned, to my great advantage, not just how to convert tapes (and clean up the crackly sound), but also to record students' GCSE presentations and model speaking questions and answers, and send them via bluetooth to their mobile phones and i-Pods.

I have also taught my students to use Audacity to record their voices and experiment with the voice-changing effects to make Crazytalk clips of French and German speaking celebrities. They really enjoy it.

This summer I accidentally discovered José Picardo's youtube video "podcasting in 5 easy steps", which does exactly what it says on the label, in 5 minutes and 13 seconds. From that I learned even more about Audacity, including adding effects such as changing voice pitch, adding backing tracks and fading sound in and out.

Then last week I attended a links into languages course at Sunderland's City Learning Centre in Washington (the original one in North East England) organised by Clare Seccombe and expertly led by Joe Dale, now of CILT.

The course was great in that, under expert guidance, I got to spend a few hours practising what I had picked up from Bernard's CD, José's youtube clip and my own experiments and got to put them all together to create an (almost) professional sounding podcast.

Unlike many of the courses I attend, this one was useful, fun and educational (funducational).

If podcasting sounds like something you'd like to do, click on all the links to the resources I used, set aside a couple of hours and teach yourself.

Better still, check out the links website and persuade your line manager to let you attend Joe's course next time he is in your Local Authority. You won't regret it.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Teach Meet North East 09-2 - the sequel

With the possible exception of Mad Max 2, sequels have never lived up to the original.

However, last Wednesday I attended what was probably the best CPD evening ever : The return of TMNE09 - Same venue, more fun.

It was a great opportunity to catch up with some old friends and make some new ones, and even with the noticeable absence of Steve Bunce and Mark Clarkson and their amazing enthusiasm, the evening still managed to provide a cornucopia of ideas, advice, and some excellent presentations.

There were amazing 7 minute presentations from:

Gwyn ap Harri. He gave us an amazing presentation on sharing ideas and self assessment and after bamboozling us (or just me?) with lots of equations, came to the conclusion that we need a new education system.

Chris Harte. Chris showed us how we could use international collaboration to bring the outside world into our classrooms and to prove it, he skyped about quizlet with Emma Risby who, coincidentally, was on the other side of the planet in Australia, where kangaroos come from.

Helena Butterfield. Helena is one of my MFL heroes (she's blushing as she reads this), her presentation "top tools to get pupils talking" was fantastic and I've already decided to use some of her ideas to get my own students to improve their speaking skills.

Darren Mead. Darren retold the story of the 3 little pigs but with the emphasis on SOLO Taxonomy. There's more info about SOLO, small pigs and waooo on his blog.

Fergus Hegarty. Fergus made us work! He put us into groups with a set of Q and A matching cards to prove to us that what looked like a simple exercise could be a trigger to get students using thinking skills. It worked. I hope his students have as much fun as we did.

The 2 minute presentations came from:

Alasdair Douglas. Alasdair demonstrated how educators can use etherpad as a collaborative tool.

Lisa Keenlyside. Lisa showed us some excellent animation made by students in science lessons which were really amazing.

Ben Barton. Ben presented to us how short (and free) video clips could be used to get students thinking. An inspirational and very modest man, his blog is an amazing resource.

Archie Cameron. Archie's "Why I fear the blackboard" was fantastic. He reminded us that amazing equipment and technology do not make an excellent teacher, but the ability to motivate those around us and move students on to achieve their best.

Me. My presentation was based on an earlier blog post "effective feedback for students." The most notable thing about it was how I managed to make a powerpoint presentation look like a "wordle".

There were also many learning conversations, lots of informal networking and a lot of wine consumed. The evening was a great success. My thanks go out to all who sponsored, helped organise, took part, and listened and learned patiently.

I can't wait for the next one. I just hope Tina Turner doesn't turn up and spoil it...

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Le petit Nicolas

Salut les gars,

Quand j'étais petit j'ai lu "les recrés du petit nicolas" de Goscinny. C'était fantastique.

Il y a le film de Laurent Tirard et la série animée aussi, et maintenant on peut acheter les DVDs.

Regardez! C'est chouette, hein? Ah zut, Le Bouillon arrive...