Wednesday, 30 November 2011

A list of Christmas resources.

Yes, Christmas has come early.

Your one stop shop for some decent (mostly French) resources to keep your classes quiet for the next 2 weeks or so.

Let's start with MFL Sunderland. Lots of good stuff here in lots of languages.

Clare Seccombe's site has an amazing Christmas card idea in 3 languages.

Some resources from TES in French, Spanish and Italian.

Some culture from the BBC languages site in French, Spanish, and German.

Linguascope has some good Christmas resources (but you need to subscribe)

Lots of stuff on

Stuff to do and print off at

Teteamodeler has some Christmas projects including recipes. has a page of resources which could be used for KS3, too.

mflresources has a page of Christmas activities. has a selection of Christmas e-cards you could send to your friends.

Hertfordshire Grid for Learning has lots of Christmas links here.

There you go. It'll take you more than 2 weeks to get through all those.

Have fun!

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

All things random.

Apparently, I never posted this, my MFLSAT3 presentation on ways of harnessing all things random and unleashing them on to unsuspecting pupils, who are then made to think.


Sunday, 27 November 2011

French Grammar Revision Mind Maps.

This morning on twitter both Lauren Crawley and Alex Bellars posted a link to a flickr page created by Marion Charreau.

The page contains grammar points in French in the form of mindmaps. They have been created by Marion Charreau and Thomas Zannoni and can be found here.

There are some for tenses and other grammar points, and would be ideal for revision for GCSE and A level students.

Here is an example of the one on negation:

Sadly, the images are copyrighted and therefore cannot be downloaded from flickr. You could, I suppose, show them to students on the IWB and get them to make their own versions. After all mind maps are very personal revision tools.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Update on Rory's Story Cubes.

Today, I finally got around to using my Rory's Story Cubes with my year 12 French class. I bought them recently and blogged about my excitement here.

I used them at the beginning of the lesson as a warm up exercise to get the students speaking.

Today there were only 9 students in my lesson so I made 3 groups and gave each group 3 cubes each to play with.

We played three games.

In the first game the students had to roll one dice and say a sentence in French relating to the picture. For example, if the picture was the apple, the student could have said "J'adore les pommes mais je n'aime pas les bananes"

In the second game the students had to throw the 3 cubes. They had to pick up a dice quickly and come up with a sentence relating to the image. This left less of a choice for the other 2 students who would have been left with pictures which made them think much more.

At times, I allowed them to make connections with the pictures when they didn't know the vocabulary. One student was left with the "L" plate image and said, "Je voudrais une voiture."

In the 3rd game we played they rolled the 3 cubes and had to make a sentence using as many of the pictures as possible. For example: one student rolled the pyramid, the tent and the book. His sentence could have been: "L'année dernière j'ai fait du camping en Égypte et j'ai acheté un livre."

Fairly basic, I admit, but the students had very little thinking time.

For a first attempt it was quite a success and I shall be using them again soon and, as time goes on, I shall introducing more cubes to increase the challenge.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Independent learning and the 4 "B"s.

Trying to get students to learn independently can be a bit tricky. Many children are taught lots of good stuff but not how to find things out for themselves. In many schools there is a culture of "do this, learn this, and you will pass the exam".

I've been trying to get away from this and train some of my groups to embrace the 4 Bs. So far, I'm having some success with some of my classes, and in particular, one of my year 7 classes.

The 4 Bs of course are:

Students ask themselves: Have we done this before? When did we do this? What do I know about this?

Students use their resources to look up facts, words and/or grammar points they don't know.

Students ask the person nearest to them on their table for help and/or advice. If that person is unable to help, then they should ask up to 2 more others. If 4 people in the group don't know, it's probably a safe bet that none of the class knows. (All my students sit in mixed ability groups of 4-6 on clusters of tables around the room.)

If the first 3 steps are unsuccessful then they can ask me (the boss). I will advise them where to find the information or explain to them why they are not quite getting it.

So far this has been working well and the students have taken to it well. Rather than teaching lists of vocabulary I have been setting them tasks to create their own.

In an ideal world I would do this with all my students and all other subject teachers would do it, too.

But, for now, I think I'll try to get it right with a few groups and then see how it goes. I'll report back later.

Obviously, I have more faith in this than in learning Icelandic in my sleep.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Rory's Story Cubes and spontaneous speaking.

This week I bought a set of Rory's Story Cubes. It is a story generating game. It contains of a set of 9 dice-sized cubes (19mm) with different images on them. They cost around £7. The box is sturdy and quite small and will easily fit in my jacket pocket.

To play, you simply throw the dice and invent a story based the 9 pictures you see. There are over 10 million possible combinations of images so even someone like me should not get bored with it.

I thought that they would be great for Languages as starter activities and vocabulary building exercises, particularly with my older and more able students. They need not use all nine dice, but a small group could play with two or three of them. They would be ideal for revising tenses, too.

If I included model answers and grade descriptors I could get my GCSE students to use them to improve their speaking and writing skills, too.

There is also a second set of cubes available, called "Actions", which contain pictures of different sports and activities. These would be ideal for my KS3 students for practising hobbies, opinions, tenses, etc

If I had both sets I could mix the two and get my students to produce some really good sentences.

Spontaneous speaking opportunities and fun at the same time.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Only Connect and MFL.

Only Connect is a BBC Four quiz programme (we don't do "shows" in the UK, we do" programmes"!) where two teams have to find connections between apparently unconnected things. The game isn't just about knowledge but also, to quote the BBC, "patience and lateral thinking".

So, a TV programme with no prizes where teams (with captains who always seem to lisp!) have to answer questions using thinking skills. I thought I was the only person who watched it, but after a quick google, I discovered that it gets a weekly audience of 700000 viewers.

I mentioned on twitter this evening that I was watching it on iplayer and I've now discovered that many of my twitter friends watch it, too.

@bonjour_miss commented that it might be an idea to adapt some of the games for students to use in class. I've had a think and come up with some ideas:

1) The connections round

The students are given up to 4 clues and have to decide on the link between the clues. They are shown each clue separately and earn 5 points if they guess the connection after one clue, 3 point after 2 clues, 2 points after 1, and 1 point for guessing after receiving all 4 clues.

It could be something like this:

Clue 1 Clue 2 Clue 3 Clue 4
aller tomber partir entrer

Obviously, the answer would be that each of the verbs takes être as its auxiliary verb.

2) In this round, students have to guess what the 4th word is. Scoring is on a similar basis.

It might look like this:

Clue 1 Clue 2 Clue 3 Answer
chat chien oiseau

The clues are all animals kept as pets. Each clue has one more letter than the preceding clue, so the answer would have to be a pet with seven letters. In this case, it could be "hamster", "serpent" or any pet with 7 letters in its name.

3) The 3rd round is the connecting wall. It consists of a 4 X 4 grid containing 4 sets groups of 4 words with some connection.

It could look like this and can be made easier or harder depending on the ability of the group:

un chaise grand chat
super deux table crayon
stylo nul trousse cinq
trois chien petit tortue

To solve the grid the students have to identify the 4 groups and explain what the connections are. In this grid we have: 4 numbers, 4 masculine nouns, 4 feminine nouns and 4 adjectives.

4) The final round is the missing vowels round. Teams are given a category, for example numbers, and are shown words with the vowels removed.
For example:


would be "vingt-huit".

It would take quite a while to set up the questions but they could be used on many occasions and you needn't do all the activities in one go.

I haven't tried any of these, but it looks like it might be fun.

Thanks for the idea, Trina.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

I discovered a while ago.

It's a wordfinder site which allows the user to do a number of cool things. These include entering a prefix or suffix and receive a list of words with those details. It's ideal for helping with crosswords, finding rhymes, etc.

You can also enter definitions and find words beginning with a specific letter or words with an exact number of letters.

It's great.

But the best thing about this site is that it is available in French and Spanish, too.

I found this useful when looking for words to practise phonics with my students earlier in the year and when I was doing rhyming poetry with my very able year 9 group.

I recommend you investigate and play.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

The problems of sharing text books (another mobile phone rant).

At my school, languages is becoming more popular at GCSE. This is a good thing, many of you would say.

This is mainly because of Ebacc, students are cajoled into, by which I mean almost forced into, studying a language to improve their chances of getting into university.

Unfortunately, more students means that my year10 class have to share text books. This causes major logistical problems when setting homework exercises.

It means photocopying the exercises, many of which are in colour and don't copy that well or, as is usually the case, rewriting the questions, putting them on the whiteboard and getting the students to copy them into their homework diaries.

This week, one of my students had an epiphany. "Why can't we just use our mobiles to take a photo of the questions?"

I replied, "You can if you like. I think it's a great idea."

Sadly, the reaction of the students was, "Oh, but what if someone comes in and sees us?"

Would that be:

What if someone comes in and sees us using our initiative?


What if someone comes in and sees us using technology to save time?


What if someone comes in and sees us taking control of our own learning?

We are supposed to be educating students to use their initiative, become self-learners and survive in a digital world, yet we stifle their creativity and excellent ideas at the same time.

We risk turning our lovely, inquisitive young chimps into ants.

It's the educational equivalent of Invasion of the Bodysnatchers.

Whatever you do, please don't fall asleep.