Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Revision....and this time, it's personal.

Season's Greetings Everyone!!!

Ah yes, the season is upon us at last....

*Clears throat and sings*

Deck the hall with chairs and tables
Fah la la la la la la la laa
As and Bs for the most able
Fah la la la la la la la laaaaa!

OK, I know my singing is appalling and it's not Christmas, but the exam season.

My Yr 11 class are about to sit their GCSE in German.

They are stressed and panicking.

Some of them.

Everyone is telling them to revise!

So, what's the best way to revise?

If you google "German GCSE revision" there are a million (slight exaggeration, there are only 964,000) webpages which claim they can help you.

But can they?


Ah, but can they?

Well, yes.

Obviously, but how relevant are they to the needs of your students?

I like to think that I know my students quite well.

I tried to personalise their revision by  producing a chart of what they are good at based on the past exam questions they'd taken.

I produced this:

For each Reading and Listening exam paper they'd taken so far I made a sheet for each student based on their achievement for each question.

If they got full marks, they highlighted it in green.

If they got more than half marks it was orange.

If they got half marks, or fewer, it was pink.  

So each student now knows which topics they know well and which ones they need to work harder at.

Rocket science it ain't.

How do I use it?  

Well my bell activity might be: "Write 10 key words from one of your red topics"
or a main activity might be: "Create a mindmap for one of your red or orange topics"
They could even find a partner who has a green topic which is one of their red/orange topics and test each other.

So far they're responding well to it.

Only time will tell...

Friday, 10 April 2015

It's the holidays

Put down that red pen... 

Close that book...

Just walk away...

Don't look back...

Just keep walking....

It's the school holidays!

For me, they're almost over but some UK teachers still have another week.

Holidays are for relaxing, recharging the batteries, fiddling with old Volkswagens, spending quality time with loved ones (or your family!), mowing the lawn, cleaning the house, getting a haircut, watching television, and, if you are a male teacher, not wearing a tie.

Holidays are not for working.

Of course, most teachers never switch off.

Every time I go to the supermarket I see things which make me think, "Ooh, I could use that in my beginners' Spanish class." or "I could use that clothes line, Lego, ball of twine, coloured paper, squeaky ball thing with ears, etc. with my Y10 French group.

Teaching is the only profession where people steal stuff from home and take it to work.


I spent lots of time last week working on a new classroom game show format, reading a lot of teaching blogs and having a look at some new resources.

I even stuck some homework sheets into some sets of books but I haven't been marking.

There is no point marking in the holidays.

Why do we mark students' work?

I'm quite sure that it's so that the students can be guided as to how they can improve their learning and that teachers can improve their planning.

Most students (and many teachers) won't remember what they did 3 weeks ago so giving them feedback on "old work" is pointless.

I plan to get all my marking done before the holiday begins.

"Ticking and flicking" is also pointless as it serves no purpose whatsoever.

It is merely a waste of ink and probably will indirectly increase global warming.

You don't want that on your conscience as well, do you?

There is nothing which will ruin your break more than knowing the last weekend will be spent getting yourself stressed about work.


It's the holidays.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Google translate is your friend...

Je ai une scarabĂ©e.*

* I have a beetle. 
Source:  https://translate.google.com/ 

"If google translate was any good, I'd be working at Starbucks." - Me. Last week to Year 10.

Always start with a couple of good quotes.

Right let's go....

In my experience, there are 2 types of student who use google translate:

Bad ones and good ones.

The former use it because they are lazy and think they are being clever and that you won't notice that they are using the imperfect subjunctive in year 7 after 15 lessons.

Or they write "Je suis appelé Jordanie" despite having been taught "Je m'appelle Jordan" and you can feel your blood pressure rising, a throbbing in your temples and smoke starts coming out of your ears.

The latter because they don't have the language skills or vocabulary to be able to convey their thoughts and opinions in the foreign language. (BTW, this isn't going to be another "pencil case" rant.)
Think of writing descriptions of people. They want to include much more detail than colour of eyes and length of hair. So they head for the translator...

They do it to please their teacher.

They aren't cheats.

They want to learn and have nowhere else to turn!

There are lots of resources available made by teachers designed to show the pitfalls of using online translators.

The TES has some here, here, and here.

They are good and I've even used a couple of them with my students.

There is even a thread on the forum dating back to 2009 dedicated to getting students not to use the dreaded translator.

However, I like google translate.

It helps me when I mark my students' work.

I know what they are trying to say and I change my planning accordingly.

It has also stopped me from buying one of these:

although I'm seriously considering investing in one of these:

Perhaps banning students from using online translators is not the way to go.

I know that if someone tells me I can't do something it makes me want to do it even more.

I'm a rebel.

Deal with it.

Perhaps, then, we should design tasks which prevent them from using translators at all.

I've already cut down on getting students to do written homework. Most homework set now is reading, listening or learning but even with reading homework the translator sometimes gets involved and starts to confuse the tenses:

I read the book - J'ai lu le livre or Je lis le livre ?

It's not a losing battle.

In fact in some ways, it's the teacher's fault for not preparing the students properly.

We need to teach them how to research properly: teach them the skills they need to progress, not lists of vocabulary.

Like many things, the online translator can be summed up like this:

Just because it's dangerous in the wrong hands doesn't mean we should ban it for everyone.