Normally when pupils throw screwed up paper and paper aeroplanes around the room, it’s because they’re messing around. However, today I asked my pupils to do that, as part of my review.
Today, pupils learnt nine new infinitive verbs as part of a revision of the present tense. In the review, I asked them to take a piece of lined paper and write their name at the top. Using their verb tables, they created ten conjugated verbs based on the infinitives that they had learnt. Pupils then closed their books and put their verb tables away (this is the review part). Pupils then had to screw the piece of paper up and throw it at another pupil in the room (I didn’t mind that they had 20-30 seconds to throw the pieces of paper around…it broke up the lesson and allowed them to blow off some steam). Pupils then picked up the nearest piece of paper to them, wrote their name at the top of the paper and translated the verbs into English. I then asked them to throw the pieces of paper into a box in the middle of the room.
If you wanted to differentiate the task, you could set pupils into groups by NC level and give them a set criteria by which they create said verbs (all in the Yo form, a mixture, some with ready printed verbs and just the endings etc…). What I really liked about this activity though, was that each pupil did it, understood it, it gives me a way of knowing exactly how well each pupil has learnt today’s topic and, for them, it was good clean fun; a nice way to brighten up lessons on conjugation. However… do have a set of verbs ready on the board… in case one plane/ball of paper goes array.
Although I’ve started the new term in my new role as New Technology Leader without my iPad (it’s currently being repaired) I’ve still managed to look into some exciting new apps and Popplet is one of them.
Popplet is a fun way to mind map ideas and share them with others with an easy to use interface. As you can see in the picture below, each new project in Popplet allows the user to create several different spider diagrams/mind maps, colour code them and add pictures and or text. The starting point for each new ‘Popplet’ (the box from which you start a new map/diagram, within a given project) has buttons around the outside that signify the options available for each popplet. You can colour code them, add in pictures and write in each one. You can then touch a button that creates a sub-popplet linking from the original popplet, which in turn you can then edit.
Obviously, this lends itself to subjects that require mind-mapping in order to plan a piece of writing/essay or for revision of certain topics. However, I have found it particularly useful for my MFL classes (this example could apply to English Language too). When learning animals, I asked my pupils to create a ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ popplet and attached the relevant animals to either popplet. This could work for any kind of word classification exercise and thus is a effective way of showing understanding visually. Additionally, in order to increase your pupil’s word bank, the you could email the pupils of copy of some pictures so that they could research as many different pieces of vocabulary for a given picture (perhaps a sunny beach, to represent holidays). Likewise, pupils could use Popplet in order to increase their knowledge of synonyms; you could supply them with some key, yet overused, words (divetido, pero and me gusta spring to mind) and set your pupils an exercise whereby they look for as many different synonyms as possible in order to boost that all important ‘Range of Language’ strand in their controlled assessment. Importantly, it’s colourful and it looks ‘nice’; something which I feel helps children engage and thus altogether ‘better’ than simply a piece of paper and a pencil.
At Featherstone we are currently on curriculum week (which actually lasts two weeks) in which students go in trips and attend various themed workshops. Last Friday Year 8 took part in One World day, a day where pupils took part in various activities that promoted the values of global unity and exposure to other cultures. The reason for my blog is to talk about the languages session that I ran, which was a linguistic treasure hunt. More specifically I’m going to focus on the use of Weebly and Google Forms.
On laptops, pupils logged on to a prepared Weebly website which had instructions for an activity to be completed. Each activity was language based; verb sudoku, a word search and jig saw puzzle, to give a few examples. Each activity then had some form of question linked to it (the words in the word search formed a question e.g. What is the German word for India?) and each answer was inserted into a purpose made web link template that lead onto the next web page (mrclark[insertanswer].weebly.com). Pupils thus completed that activities almost entirely independently (they had three life lines for support) for around 40 minutes. This could be used in the classroom to foster independent learning, allow for extensions or personalised activities for the pupils as well as reducing teacher talk. You could also differentiate by resource as some pupils could work from the Weebly pages whilst the teacher works with another group.
The second resource which was effective was the Google Form used by the pupils to answer the data. Google Forma can be created for free (with a Google account) via Google Drive. You can choose between a range of types of questions (text answer, multiple choice and range (1-5) to give a few examples). You can also choose which you’d like to be ‘required’ questions, that must be answered so that the form can be submitted. Then once the forms are submitted, the answers are collated into a spreadsheet which can be made into graphs and charts so that the data may be analysed. This has a wide range of potential in the class room; they could be used for plenaries, formative and summative assessment and to generate information from your pupils pastorally or for any other use. All that you need to do is create the form, save it and share the link with pupils, who don’t need a Google account to complete it, who complete it and submit it and the results are saved automatically. I used it so that pupils could answer questions on a the cultural information written into each activity and it was really easy to use and I’ll certainly be using it next year for classroom and homework tasks.
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.
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.