Month: June 2013

Dice for speaking

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As a language teacher, nothing (in the classroom) gives me greater pleasure than hearing a child verbalising in the target language and even pushing themselves to go beyond simple structures; giving opinions and evening justifying them. Ultimately, by far the best thing, is hearing pupils experimenting and not being afraid to make mistakes.

One particular activity that I have used with my classes, which has more and more allowed children to move closer to what is desired, is the ladybird game. Pupils are given a picture of a ladybird (substitute for whichever animal the class desired, one of mine protested and asked me to change it to a spider…) and on each leg is a number (from one to six) with a picture, word or phrase. Pupils work in pairs and role a dice, they then say the information of that leg. Their partner then assesses if the utterance was correct or not and, if so, the speaker then places a tick by that leg on their sheet. Pupils take turns in rolling and speaking until one of the pairs has all of their six ticks. If a pupil roles a number that they have already rolled, then they have to say the utterance again but with more information.


The advantages of this activity is that it seems to really engage at least the pupils in our school into speaking because of the added element of competition and chance. Furthermore, it is really simple to differentiate, as you can have a range of sheets (laminated, so that they may be used again) to cater for the different abilities in your class. You could use a verb on each leg (six fits well in this case), a picture from which pupils should create a word, phrase or entire sentence (simple or complex, with opinions and justification). Furthermore, as pupils complete one sheet, you can easily move them, onto the next, more advanced sheet. Personally, I find the younger years tend to respond well to giving them all positive points, credits, merits or whatever system of reward is used at your school, and saying that these may be taken away if you hear any English used during the activity; in my experience this is highly effective. You can constantly reinvent the game too, so that pupils see it each time as a new game/idea.


Experimenting with IT in MFL

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If my main aim for today’s lesson with a high ability year 8 group was to engage and enthuse, then (modestly) it certainly ticked that box. Independent learning and use of IT, further so. However it wasn’t without its problems and, in hindsight, maybe I overloaded the cart with introducing too much new technology, in one sitting. Happily, my group responded well and were patient.

The set of iPods used by the class for independent learning and skills based work.

The aim of the lesson was to use new technology so that pupils could learn, practice and use some new infinitive verb phrases and create a text using 3 tenses. They were to use the iPods for research and practice, and the laptops for creating a text using their new found knowledge, whilst covering all but one for of the four language skills (time was a factor and, unfortunately, finding something suitable for speaking fell by the wayside). This an evaluation of the lesson for my benefit but also of the technology use for the benefit of anyone who may read this article.

The connector (iPod, wordreference)

The pupils entered the room to their seats complete with laptop, iPod and headphones. They were to log on and find the meanings of three new adjectives using and then apply them in a phrase in the preterite tense in their books; so far, so good.

Input (iPod, Weebly, word reference)

I then had a PowerPoint with a link to a prepared Weebly webpage with instructions for the lesson; I showed it to them and explained that they were by themselves for the rest of the lesson (… I acted more like a referee than a teacher…). The Weebly had instructions and the input, which was to match ten infinitive phrases of holiday based activities (tomar el sol, nadar en el mar, beber demasiada sangría…ok, maybe not the last one). All managed to match them correctly in their books and complete a conjugation exercise as instructed on the Weebly page (each stage had an appropriate extension etc and separate Weebly pages allowed for differentiation).

Activation (iPod, QR codes, Qrafter and YouTube)


Instructions for the listening activity that followed were in the Weebly but as you can see, the QR codes that linked to the YouTube listening (set up as a gcse listening, with each phrase read twice, although the video could be paused, stopped, rewound etc if the student required). The pupils got up and scanned the code with their iPod and were automatically linked to a YouTube video to which they listened (equally, the soundcloud app would be suitable for this) and on which they filled out a grid already placed in their table (again, with extension and higher level questions). In my opinion, this was the activity in which the pupils were most engaged and is arguably the single most valuable use of the iPod in he MFL classroom as it allows pupils to work independently and the possibilities of differentiation are huge as essentially (although unrealistic to this extent) each pupil could potentially have their own listening, tailored to their own ability.


A QR code and one of the texts

Next, pupils had four texts written from the point of view of four different Hispanic celebrities in the style of a tweet. The four texts were stuck up on the wall and pupils had to go and take a picture of each text. Now, I missed a trick here as potentially, there could have been several more smaller texts and students could go around reading and taking pictures of them according to the order in which they should be arranged, something to try for next time. Instead, pupils learned to use the camera function to collate the four texts on which they answered questions from the Interactive White Board; they also seemed fairly engaged by the Spanish adjective hash tags as well as some they may use to talk to their friends; a small thing but amusing for them as well as stretching their range of vocabulary.

Demonstrate (laptops, My Big Campus)

Pupils then used all that they had learned today to create a class blog on a discussion board on My Big Campus. I feel that it is important to note that at this point, I had taught them nothing; they researched the phrases by themselves, they used word reference to help them understand those phrases that they couldn’t work out themselves in the match-up as well as in the reading activity. On the board was a set of criteria about which they had to write; they had to tell me about where they had gone on a past holiday, including what they did/didn’t do and thought about it. They also spoke about where they normally go and where they will go on holidays this summer, although I must admit, not all had time to mention the latter two tenses. The potential then, is that using My Big Campus, pupils could peer assess each others work easily in class as it was displayed on the IWB and the log of their work in one page shows progression of the year or even key stage.

Review (laptops, Socrative, iPad and Apple Airplay)

Finally, pupils completed a ten question mini test on the phrases learned in the past tense Socrative; an online quiz software aimed at facilitating formative assessment. This class have used this software before and really enjoyed using it as I allow pupils to use made up names as long as they are not offensive and let me know which they are as again they find this engaging. I then use Apple Airplay to show the live results of those doing the test in the board (I actually now have realised that using fake names may actually be a bonus as it allows for anonymity…happy accident). The pupils and I are thus able to see exactly how well they have learned today’s material.


I really enjoyed today’s lesson, as it seems did the pupils and as I have already mentioned, it ticked many boxes. I could also use the story boards, iMovie or Voice Recorder pro for a speaking activity next time. Pupils still asked for help as much as possible in the target language (although admittedly in a limited way) and in return I explained as much as possible in the target language however, and this is my reason for mentioning it, I didn’t feel there was much teacher pupil dialogue which I feel is important in an MFL lesson for questioning and stretching what they know. Perhaps the reason for this was the absence of a speaking activity and so I feel that perhaps elements of this lesson are to be used in the future but perhaps the balance of new technology was too heavy as it didn’t have the dynamic of conversation in the target language upon which you could expand between a teacher and a pupil, but rather some short repetitive conversations between a IT user and an IT technician. In short, I feel each individual idea was a success and created well exploited opportunities for engagement and learning of new skills but their use should be very much in cooperation with activities that focus on the development of language skills based on pair, group and teacher-pupil work.

Voice Record Pro – the easier way to do oral assessment

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Controlled assessment can often take up a lot of administration time, if you don’t have the correct equipment. None of us went into teacher to do admin; it’s the part of the job we accept needs doing, so anything to make that process more time efficient is a bonus! In our department we use to use Audacity, which by all accounts is a useful (free) recording tool, there’s nothing particularly wrong with it, however, if you have access to an iPad in your department, we’ve found the free App Voice Record Pro to be very efficient and easy to use, for the following reasons.


1. The sound quality is very good, if you’re using a mic on an old laptop or perhaps even iPhone, then this app (although, perhaps the quality may indeed come from the iPad itself).

2. You can convert your file as soon as it has been created to MP3, which means no more having to go through each file and covert them from wav. Again, I’m aware you can save as an MP3 in audacity, but this process seems to be neater as you can convert it before you upload you file to whichever cloud account you use (my next point) thus only saving one file.

3. The biggest selling point, you can upload the MP3 file directly to your cloud account (mine being google drive) at the touch of a button rather than dropping and dragging. You can also rename the file before it is uploaded so that you get the exact version of the file you require ready for you, when you open google drive.

4. You can edit and trim easily with to eradicate things like coughing. You could also use the software for pupils to cream faux radio shows, role plays, speeches and thus, away from controlled assessment, you can use the software so that pupils can develop their speaking and listening skills, which other pupils could easily peer assess.

5. You can directly email the track using the email setup on your iPad, again at the touch of a button rather than having to attach to an email.

These may seem like piecemeal differences between software used on a laptop, such as audacity, and Voice Record Pro, but I have certainly found the latter to be a lot more user friendly and time efficient. I also find the fact that it is on the iPad means that it is a lot more portable, rather than having to drag around a laptop, wait for it to load etc, I find grabbing the iPad and going a lot easier in all aspects of recording students and anything that means there less admin in our work is surely a good thing.

Storyboards for MFL or literacy

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Just a quickie today, as it’s 5:30 and I’m just about to leave work, using the (free) Storyboard App is a good way to engage younger pupils in reading and writing through the use of new technology. It’s very child friendly in that you use your fingers to select drag and drop images and text into the slide provided by the app to create a comic book style scenario.


Students can have a lot of creative fun by adding in scenery, weather, props and changing the orientation of the characters as well as adding in the quotes as easily as you might use Keynote or PowerPoint, but with the tips of your fingers in iPad, which I feel would be more user friendly for younger children especially.

From an MFL point of view, students are able to create conversations that are larger than they might be able to produce ‘off the cuff’ and so students are able to practice the functional aspects of conversation, whilst maximising the amount of information given in order to create a script which will be easy to follow for pupils and from which pupils can practice with the view of replicating the storyboard on iMovie (a resource which deserves its own mention on another post) to play in front of the the rest of the class as a student created listening activity or for peer assessment.

Currently, I’m focusing on increasing the quantity and quality of student speaking within the classroom and I think this application will greatly increase target language use.

Google drive and Read It

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This is going to be an odd article, it’s sort of three in one, but all things mentioned I think you may find useful. It all starts with an article that I read by Daniel Edwards on Read.It! (Not sure if it’s pronounced ‘red it’ or ‘reed it’, either way it is a useful and interesting application). Firstly, Read.It! is an Internet based magazine where experts can post articles about your favourite interests which you can follow via an App (I believe the iPhone version is called! Or it may have changed names). It has been a good source to find resources and ideas for using new technology in the classroom and I highly recommend it. So, part one done.

Part two, on Read.It!, writers ‘curate’ topics (group similar articles together) which you can follow and you’ll be updated when new articles are written by a given writer. One particular writer I’d like to introduce to you is Daniel Edwards, his curated topics tend to focus on new technology in the classroom and I’ve found the following article (click here) particularly interesting.

Now, during my PGCE, I used to use a USB stick, which often I’d leave in the staff room, or at home, meaning that the hours of preparation carried out the day (…evening) before almost a waste of time. Google drives solves the problem of my particular case of absentmindedness and can make your life easier too. All you need is a google account and you have access to 15gb of free cloud (online) disk space (I pay £2/3 a month and get up to 25gb and there is more that you can pay for should you wish). All you need do when a resource is created is log on to google drive and save your work. You can also create folders, I have one for each class, CPD, my form etc just to ate things easier to store.


However, what makes things even easier is that you are able to download a google drive folder onto your computer where all of your work is saved offline and then synced automatically into the google drive cloud when linked to the internet (which I believe, but yet to test as I’m waiting for the go ahead to download a google drive folder onto my work laptop, that you can have a folder at work and thus would be synced when connected to that same folder on your home PC).

For 7-step explanation of how to use google drive, take a look at this article by Chris Hoffman (click link) and never be caught out by missing USB sticks ever again.