Tuesday, 30 March 2010

MFL Flashmeet 6

Tonight was the 6th MFL Flashmeet. It took place via the internet in my kitchen and other people's houses, hotels and, in one case, a bathroom.

The flashmeet experience is amazing. As I've said before it is the best kind of CPD and everyone takes part, or lurks, because they want to. It was great to see some twitter friends and put names and voices to faces (and avatars).

As with previous Flashmeets, interested MFL tech heads from weird and wonderful far away places such as Texas and Philadelphia,USA, Australia, New Zealand and Hartlepool all got together to discuss and share their ideas, links and experiences.

The agenda contained 6 main items:
  1. Ideas to help with the last few lessons before pupils go on study leave for their exams
  2. Ideas to keep Y9 on task after Options have been decided: small projects, resources that could be used etc... (World Cup project?)
  3. Reflections on MYLO ambassadors meeting and subsequent blog posts
  4. What were your highlights of Language World 2010? Were you there or did you follow virtually?
  5. Thoughts about the José Picardo's eBook A Practitioners' Perspective - Should we make an audiobook version? (We agreed that we should)
  6. So who's coming to MFL Show and Tell 2010 at Nottingham High School?

and was chaired by Helena Butterfield, who did an excellent job, particularly, when speakers went off at tangents and started to talk about other things. The other things being, alternative qualifications, what's the best kind of microphone and me recounting my recent input with the BBC. (Yes, I know, I won't mention it again!)

The meeting itself has been recorded and can be watched by clicking here.

The next one, will hopefully be on June 29th at 20:30BST when I'm looking forward to discussing plans for MFL Show and Tell 2010 at Nottingham High School. I hope to see you all there.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

The end of an era. (Part 1)

Yesterday my year 11 GCSE students did their speaking exam in French.
It was the last time I'll probably speak to some of them as I'm starting a new job after the Easter break.
It was also the last time I'll use cassette tapes to record speaking exams.
In fact, it was probably the last time I'll use cassette tapes, ever.
I realised when I was setting up for the exam that the last time I had used the tape recorder was for last year's speaking exams.
What are we going to do with all those Coombers?

Saturday, 20 March 2010

An interesting week.

This week has been a very good one.

On Monday I had a phone call from a BBC producer. They are making a documentary for BBC2 and wanted to talk to me about some teaching and learning techniques I have used, particularly my use of mobile phones.

Monday was also the day my blog received its 5000th visit. Woohoo!

On Thursday I helped out Clare Seccombe by giving a 15 minute presentation at an event she ran at the Stadium of Light, Sunderland, after one of the speakers let her down. The event was called: Making the Most of the World Cup. Her stuff was great.
My stuff, "The World Cup in my Classroom", was hastily prepared, but well received and involved a guest appearance by a virtual, bouncing kangaroo called Roo (see below).

Thursday was also very special because it was my blog's first birthday. It certainly doesn't seem like a year since I started and I'm really surprised that I've kept it going for so long.
I still can't believe that anyone reads it. Thanks for reading, by the way.

Thursday, 11 March 2010


Recently, at my school, there was an incident of cyber-bullying. As far as I'm aware it happened out of school hours and involved 2 young ladies, one sending unpleasant messages to the other.
However, it turns out that some students have been allowed to use Facebook and other social networking sites in school by some staff.

Because of this the people at the top have decided that all students will have no access to the internet for the foreseeable future. All sites, including the school's own website are blocked.

This means that my yr 7 students can't use wordle to create wordclouds to help them learn and revise the vocabulary for describing people.

My yr8 students can't use xtranormal to create movies based on some conversations they have been devising.

My yr9 students had to use Word to redraft their descriptions of their home-town rather than goanimate or toondoo.

Year 11 couldn't download the xtranormals they made to help learn their presentations or use Ashcombe School, MFLSunderland, wordreference or my own wiki to help with their revision and my yr13 class can't use google to look for information to help with their choice of cultural topics for the A2 French exam.

But there is some good news. The two girls are friends again.

Monday, 8 March 2010

CSI: The Experience Web Adventure

As one of 15,000 daily readers of Richard Byrne's Free Technology For Teachers blog, I often find out about some excellent applications. Not all of Richard's recommendations are relevant to Modern Languages but every couple of days there is something there which catches my eye.
One such eye-catching application was the CSI: The Experience Web Adventures game from Rice University's forensics department which is really interesting and which I recommended to a colleague who teaches science.
It's an online forensic science game designed for children which gives an insight into how an investigator would process a crime scene. There are 3 levels from beginner to expert.
Anybody can play the game online as a guest but you would need to register with the site if you want to be able to save your progress in the game.
On closer inspection I found that it can also be played in German and in Spanish.
If you are planning a cross-curricular science-MFL project, this could be ideal for improving students' motivation. If not, it may be worth showing it to your students as a bit of extra-curricular languages fun.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

The light at the end of the tunnel...

In four weeks I shall be leaving my current teaching post to start another in a much larger school. I'll be sad to leave after 11 years but I am really looking forward to a challenge of a very different type in my new school.

My colleagues think that I should be winding down and having an easy time, but unfortunately I still have a mountain of work to do. The most pressing task of all is speaking exams.
Usually, I would wait until May before conducting GCSE speaking exams but this year will have to do them before the end of March.

Due to the organisation of school events this term I have only one more lesson with my GCSE students before the exam and have spent the last few lessons desperately trying to prepare them so that they can get the best possible results.

Since the beginning of term I have been tearing my hair out in desperation at my students' lack of motivation and effort and at the very laid back and often arrogant attitude they have to homework and revision.

That is until yesterday. Yesterday reality kicked in. Yesterday they started to work.
They wanted to answer questions. They started to ask questions. "Would it be better to say this?" "Can I say this in French?" "Is this wrong because..."

It was unbelievable. I felt my efforts were being rewarded at last.

Finally, I can see a light at the end of the tunnel....

...and I don't think it's a train.