Sunday, 4 December 2016

Google translate - you get what you pay for.

As the term has worn on, my students have got more confident.

Sadly, this means that in order to try to impress me, they have fallen into the murky mire that is the online translator.

In particular, Google Translate.

So, how do I explain to a group of keen, well meaning 12 year olds that this is what Alfie Atkins would call a "nopey no"?

I can only take so much "Vivo en Puente de Shotley (I live in Shotley Bridge)" or "My  favourite actress is Angelina Pretty One (a translation from French to English)".


I've blogged before about Google Translate, saying how much I love it, but in the hands of an untrained amateur, it can be a very dangerous weapon.

Last week, I gave them "the lecture" but I tried to use an analogy they'll understand.

It went a lot like this:

Me: Who has a games console? A PS4 or an X-Box or something like that?

(Lots of hands go up.)

Me: And, who has ever downloaded a game for free from the app store or google play?

(Lots of hands go up.)

Me: And which are the best? The free, downloaded ones or the PS4 ones?

(Lots of shouting out of PS4, X-Box etc.)

Me: Why?

(Lots of hands go up.)

Students: They are more challenging and more fun... They don't have adverts all the time...You can play against other people online... The graphics and sound are better....

Me: Why are the games better? Why don't they have adverts?

(Silence. The sound of thinking)

Student: Because they cost a lot of money?

Me: Bingo! Give that child a coconut! (Coconuts are the main form of currency in north east England.)

Me: So why is Google Translate not good for our needs?

Students: Because it's free?

(I think they got it! In your faces, Janet Jackson and Luther Vandross!!!)

Me: Incidentally, a decent online translation service starts at around $800 a month...

Stunned silence.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

How the Snipping Tool makes better linguists

Quite an intriguing title for this one.

My school has an amazing VLE (Frog)

I mainly use the Assignment Manager feature to set homework.

It's great! You can issue a set and due date, it will send it directly to your students, you can up load any resources needed and parents can log in and see what their offspring are up to.

It's a fantastic way of setting listening homework, too.

It also saves a lot of paper and photocopying and therefore money!

Students can indicate when they have completed the task and can email their work directly to their teacher, so there are almost no "I left it on the bus" or "my dog ate it"s anymore.

One problem I've noticed though, is that if you have a text to translate, or a reading comprehension and you post a word document, there is nothing to stop the students copying and pasting this into an online translator.

So what I have started doing is using the Snipping Tool in Windows accessories to take screenshots of any texts I include in my students' assignments.

If you haven't used Snipping Tool before I recommend it. It's good fun and you can also use the Free Form feature to cut around things on your screen.

You can paste the images straight into a document and also save the snips as png, gif, jpeg or html files.

It won't stop everyone using google translate, there will always be one student, but it will make it an incredibly tedious task.

It'll be easier for them to just do the work!


Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Peer feedback - reading and writing

My last blogpost was about peer assessing speaking, today it's all about reading and writing.

Now, I really don't like marking so I came up with this idea to get students to do all of the work, leaving me with nothing, or at least, very little to mark.

I got my students to write a paragraph about their school.

Here is a couple of examples:

These aren't very good but that's the idea.

The task was that the students had to read and feedback on their partner's work.

They had to highlight all of the good things and write a comment on how the work could be improved.
e.g. include opinions, check spellings, check adjective agreement, don't miss out any verbs, etc..

Then, and this is the clever bit, they had to write the correct version of what they thought their partner wanted to say and, when finished, write why their version was better. 

I tried this with photocopies of students' work, too. Their marking of anonymous copies was really strict. 

They enjoyed it, too. 

Monday, 24 October 2016

Peer feedback - speaking

Peer feedback is something I've been doing a lot of recently.

It cuts down on teacher feedback and shows progress almost immediately.

So this is how it works:

  • Students prepare a paragraph in the TL based on certain success criteria. (In this case, they had to include: opinions, correct adjective agreement, different connectives, and intensifiers.)   

  • In groups (in my class groups of six) students listen to each other and, using the grid, keep a tally of how often the success criteria were used.

  • They then had to discuss and decide:
          Who was the best and why?
          What were the most common errors and how could they be rectified?
          What could they do to improve for next time?

  • They wrote up this information in green pen (self editing, peer editing and peer assessment are done in green at my school and teachers feedback in red.).

The whole exercise took about 10 minutes.

All of the students got to speak.

They were all listened to and given feedback from 5 of their peers.

They know what they have to do to improve.

Job done.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

European Day of Languages

Just a short post.

In 2009 I started a wiki people could join, share ideas and links specifically for European Day of Languages.

It still exists but now has a different address.

You can find it here:


Monday, 2 May 2016

Nothing to say...

I haven't been to any MFL events for a while.

The last time I went to an event was the ALL MFL Teachmeet in October 2015 in Newcastle.

I left all of the MFL Facebook groups for the same reason I stopped posting on the TES forum.

I was tired of the same old people complaining about the same old things, asking for people to send them resources for free, and bragging (I think that's the right word) about who has the worst classes, the biggest workload, etc..

My use of twitter has become much less MFL-based and more centred on my occasional comedy writing jaunts.

I rarely blog these days.

I didn't even go to #ililc6.

I have become disillusioned with the whole "MFL thing".

For 2 reasons:

Firstly, it would appear that I don't take criticism well.

I thought I did but it turns out I'm not very good at it.

I'm a one trick pony, apparently.

(I have at least 2 tricks BTW!)

Secondly, I have nothing to say.

Nothing new.

Nothing that anyone wants to hear, anyway.

So, what have I been doing ?


Getting on with stuff.

Managing my workload to maximise my free time.

Using some great resources:

Lightbulb Languages - especially the KS3 Spanish resources.

Languages Resources - especially the Maupassant resources for my KS5 groups. - regularly updated and  the best £25 any A level language teacher could spend.

I've also started to use more SOLO taxonomy in my teaching.

Pam Hook's SOLO hexagons and classtools hexagon generator are a great place to start and have been a great help.

So that's it.

I'm just happy doing my job.

Nobody makes me do it.

I do it because I love it.

It's not a competition.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Easter - links and resources

Only 2 weeks away so here is my list of free resources for Easter activities:


Lightbulblanguages has some lovely Easter minibooks in the primary resources section

TES still has some free Easter resources. For now.

(*Dom thinks to himself* I wonder what would happen if the people who owned the image copyrights had a look at the paid resources on TES?)

Lancs NGFL has some nice Easter resources in French and Gierman.

The grid has some primary resources in word documents here.

BCC has a powerpoint in English about Easter in France.

FrenchToday  has a page of Easter related vocabulary.

ielanguages has an mp3 file and some text to go with it about Easter.

Frenchabout has a page all about Easter in France.

Talkabout PrimaryMFL has some Easter links and resources in the March section of its Days to Celebrate page.

New 20/03/2016 Who killed the Easter bunny (cluedo type game) on TES


Goethe Institut has some resources here.

Lots of free German Easter resources on TES (for now) has some practical projects here.

Some Easter puzzles from kinder malvorlagen


Lots of (mostly free) TES semana santa and pascua resources

Lightbulblanguages has some Easter resources in Spanish.

Languagesresources has a Spanish Easter ppt here. has a couple of reading and listening online activities.

Tio Spanish has this youtube clip for advanced learners:

That should keep you quiet for an hour or so....

If you know of any others please let me know and I'll add them to the list.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Time Management 2 - Carpe Diem

Since I talked about time management in this blog and at various Teachmeet and Show and Tell events last year I have had quite a lot of people contact me telling me that they couldn't possibly do what I do for various reasons.

I understand and respect this, I have no kids so I can work whenever I want, but many of these people seem to be putting in a lot of time and effort on things which are not really, in my opinion, that important.

So, I've had a think about what I've been doing recently to make the most of my time:

I wrote the schemes of learning for the French department so I pretty much know what I'm doing with all my classes until the end of the year. I don't plan "in bulk" on a Sunday afternoon/evening/night. I don't get paid for giving up my weekends and neither do you. I do what we tell our students to do, little and often.

Due to my terrible memory I constantly make notes and "to do " lists. I have a lot of spiral bound notebooks where I write down important things.

This my current one which I got from The Works:
My pockets are also always full of slips of paper with cryptic messages to myself on them, Columbo style.


Which jobs are the most important?
What do you spend most of your time doing?
What do you do that someone else could do? (If you're a manager)
What do you do that you could just not do or stop doing?

I keep marking to a minimum. Obviously, I mark the important stuff, assessments and so on, but if the students can mark their own or each other's work, then I let them do it.
I find that 99% of my students can be trusted to mark their own work especially for listening and reading activities. It gives them instant feedback. They can then immediately write what they need to do/learn/revise to improve for next time.

I try to make sure that photocopying is done the day before I need it.
How much time do colleagues spend waiting to use the photocopier or looking for paper?


Cutting stuff out - get a guillotine/paper trimmer.
Get a volunteer/detainee to cut out Tarsias, Task Magic dominoes, Solo Hexagons, etc

Saving time in class.

I have 5 clusters of tables in my classroom. With a marker, I've written the number of the table where each child sits on their book. It takes seconds to give out the whole set.

I have these boxes which my boss got from ikea

There is one on each set of tables. They are small but big enough to contain 2 glue sticks, green pens for feedback, a set of highlighters, a pair of scissors and a couple of black ballpoint pens for the students who never bring their own pen.
This saves a lot of time, hassle and possible confrontation in lessons.

There's no point reprimanding a student for not having a pen - you're wasting the time the class could be working.

Life's too short!


I bought one of these:

It was £40 pounds or thereabouts in the sale at Argos.
It takes a minute to make a cup of coffee so I'm not wasting time queuing at Starbucks each morning like I used to. It saves me money, too. It had paid for itself after the first half term this year.


I used to leave for work at 7:30 and arrive at 8:00. Unfortunately, everybody else leaves at 7:30 too.
I started leaving at 7:25 and I arrive at 7:50 generally. It's much quieter on the roads.
OK, it's only an extra 5 minutes but it's enough time to check emails, the cover list, switch on computers, etc...
I also leave after most people, so avoiding the school run traffic, but not late enough to get stuck in the rush hour traffic.

I pack my school bag and put out my clothes (and shave most days) the night before, too. This stops me forgetting something and also means I don't have to get up too early.

Finally, I don't leave school on a Friday until I have everything ready for Monday's classes. That way, I don't have to work much at the weekend.

Monday, 29 February 2016

Cootie Catchers revisited

A few years ago I shared my cootie catchers (snap dragons, chatterboxes, fortune tellers) blogpost with you.

Today I found Gail Lovely's website which has a cootie catcher template in Powerpoint which you can customise and print out.

So, my German class made these:

Very useful for getting year 10 to speak German to each other.

I'm doing the same thing tomorrow in French.

One tip - print them A3 size.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

GCSE French Revision sites

As I'm teaching GCSE French this year I've put together a list of free sites our students can use to revise by themselves.

In no particular order, they are:

BBC Bitesize: no longer up dated but still useful

Revision World: includes core vocab and tips on how to revise

S-cool: topics and tips

Fun with Languages: interactive games for students of all levels from beginner to A2 level

Memrise: free but you need to sign up to this (or login via Facebook or  Twitter)

Zut: this site is free after 4pm - lots of interactive games, good fun

Gordano School's French Revision page

Revision Centre French page

If you can think of any more let me know in the comments section.

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Holocaust rememberance resources

Last week was Holocaust Memorial Day.
I wanted to put together a list of resources in French (because I mainly teach French this year) which could be used in the classroom with students.
However, I was incredibly busy and never got around to it.
I decided I'd write the post anyway and keep the links for next year but it turns out I could use them before then because Yom HaShoah 2016 (Holocaust Rememberance Day) is commemorated this year from the evening of the 4th to the evening of the 5th of May.

Remember, if you don't teach it, they will never know..

So here's my list:

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has resources in different languages.

United Nations ressources pédagogiques

Links and resources from Projet Aladin has resources and links in German

Canadian Government's holocaust resources page

Videos of interviews with survivors and witnesses in French

Enseigner l'histoire de la Shoah has a lot of information and resources for teachers

Mémoire d'Auschwitz resources, links and students work from

Lilly Osbert-Levy's L'évacuation d'Auschwitz

Resources from 1jour1actu here, on one Holocaust denial here, a video about Hitler and one about the Second World War

Resources and links from Café Pédagogique's Der Holocaust im Unterricht

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Staying positive.

Happy New Year!

Cast your mind back 12 months.

Do you remember your new year's resolution?

Did you keep it?

My resolution for 2015 was not to work at weekends.

You can read my  post about it here.

It wasn't 100% successful. I worked 4 weekends last year.

It was a little harder than I imagined, mainly because, since September, on Fridays I teach 3 classes which I also teach on Mondays.

I got around it by marking before I went home but this was not always possible.

For 2016 my resolution is similar but also includes a promise to myself to be as positive as possible.

This has meant leaving all MFL Facebook groups I'd signed up to.

Until recently I've been an avid reader of, and contributor to, these groups but things have changed.

Over the past few months these groups have changed from very supportive and collaborative fora to a place where many group members have just used them to complain, troll and breach copyright by sharing resources illegally.

My decision to leave them all was not taken lightly but rather than getting annoyed by the trolling and scrounging I just clicked "leave group".

It was easy.

So what else have I been doing?

Well, my time management is getting better all the time.

I don't leave school until the next day's work is prepared.

I mark books after every lesson. (You'd be amazed how quickly you can do this and it helps with planning!)

I'm happier and I like my job.

(I still regularly consider leaving teaching but I think everyone does that!)

So, my advice to everyone for 2016 is be positive.

Nobody likes moaner!