Saturday, 28 April 2012

Sorry, your name's not on the list.

I was talking to a French colleague the other day about the names given to babies in France and it surprised me that she wasn't aware of the list. When I told her she was really surprised and had never heard of it.

I guess you didn't either, so I shall explain.

You know when you were at school and your teacher told you that French children celebrated their "saint's day" and their birthday?  You thought that it was unfair because some kids, like Jade, Holly, and Jason weren't named after saints so wouldn't get extra presents.

Well, as far as I understand it, at the end of the 18th century, after the Revolution, a law was passed which allowed parents only to name their children after saints or famous French historical figures. If the name wasn't a day on the calendar, you couldn't call your child that name.

This law, Loi du 11 germinal an XI states that:
"... les noms en usage dans les différents calendriers, et ceux des personnages connus dans l'histoire ancienne pourront seuls être reçus, comme prénoms, sur les registres de l’état civil destinés à constater la naissance des enfants; et il est interdit aux officiers publics d'en admettre aucun autre dans leurs actes.”

This was on the French statute books until 1966 when the law was changed when a limited number of other names were added to the list. These included some foreign names, regional names and even a few mythological names, too.

Or, as the French put it: “la force de la coutume, en la matière, a sensiblement élargi les limites initialement assignées à la recevabilité des prénoms par les prescriptions littérales de la loi du 11 germinal an XI.”

In 1981, this was changed so that parents could more or less call their children anything as long as it was not deemed to be a stupid name: “les parents peuvent notamment choisir comme prénoms, sous la réserve générale que dans l’intérêt de l’enfant ils ne soient jugés ridicules..."

This all came to an end in 1993 when new legislation (article 57 du Code Civile) gave parents the right to call their children pretty much anything they wanted.

That's the reason why in 2011 among the most popular boys' names in France were: Tom, Anthony, Ethan, and Enzo and popular girl's names include: Jade, Lilou, and Eva.
picture from

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Outstanding lesson plans?

There is a thread on the TES MFL forum called "Outstanding lesson plan" in which a GTP student asked for an example of an outstanding lesson plan.

Obviously, this teacher is ambitious and wants to do a good job and I applaud her for this.

The thing I can't quite get my head around is the fact that a trainee teacher is expecting, or being expected by someone, to plan, and teach, outstanding lessons.

Teaching is not something you can just turn up and do and be brilliant at.

I could produce a lesson plan and tell you that I followed it and was deemed outstanding. Another teacher could follow it to the letter and be deemed satisfactory, or worse.

If I follow Jamie Oliver's soufflé recipe to the letter will I become an outstanding chef?

Of course, not.

Can you learn to ride a bike by reading a book called, "How to ride a bike"?


There is no holy grail of lesson plans. There's no quick fix. It's hard work.

Becoming a good teacher takes a lot of time and experience.

On the odd occasion when I have taught an outstanding lesson, there have still been parts of it I have been not too happy about and would change for the next time.

Like many teachers, I am my own worst critic.

Teaching is a vocation in which, I would hope, we are all constantly learning and trying to improve.

Don't try to plan outstanding lessons. Try to plan lessons where the students do the most of the work, prove that they have understood, are showing progression, and enjoying themselves.

If you really want to know if your lesson was OK, ask yourself this: "Would I be happy if my child had been in that lesson?"

Then ask yourself, "Why?"

Monday, 16 April 2012


Blabberize is an online tool which allows you to puppetize photos and give them voices.

To make a "blabber" you upload a picture, record some dialogue (as mp3 or wav) and follow the onscreen instructions. It takes a couple of minutes.

It's a bit like voki meets crazytalk.

It's good because it's free. However, both voki (also free) and crazytalk have many more features.

I can see that it would be good to use in the classroom for a 5 minute activity. It would be good for speaking homeworks, too.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Class Dojo - a fantastic behaviour management tool.

I am a huge fan of Class Dojo.

I first heard about it in September last year when Alex Bellars talked about it at the MFL Show and Tell at Cramlington Learning Village. I've since heard other teachers praising the virtues of Class Dojo, so I thought I'd give it a go.

Class Dojo is a web-based application which allows teachers to give points to students for positive behaviour and take points away for negative behaviour.

You can start using it in fewer than 5 minutes and it will have an immediate effect on most students.

To set up a class just paste in your class list and Class Dojo will create avatars, store your classes and keep the students' scores.

To use this app you can use your computer, IWB (this is best as the students can see rewards as they happen) or even your smartphone. just click on the student's name and choose positive (or negative) behaviour and click the reason you gave the points:

Not only will all your scores be saved but you can also get a summary of the percentage of positive to negative points for each class and you can email results to parents should you so wish.
I was sceptical at first but after a few minutes of using it in my class I became hooked. My students think it's a good idea, too. They like to hear the "ping" as points are awarded. 

One of my colleagues, who is a self-confessed technophobe, has started to use it recently on my recommendation (and tuition) and has found that it has had a great effect on some of her most difficult students.

I don't pretend that it is a surefire way to improve the behaviour of unruly pupils but it certainly has helped with my classroom management.

I recommend that you give it a go.

If you do and like it, tell your friends and colleagues. It could make a huge difference to the way they teach and the way their classes respond.