Monday, 27 January 2014

Colours and chains

Today, with Year 11:

"Miss, how long does it take you to prepare our lessons?"

"It depends on the lesson, really. For example, today didn't need much planning, because it doesn't need many resources, because you're doing the all work. What takes the time is thinking of new things to do."

 "We always do something different with you, you always give us something different to do. Not like some teachers. With some teachers we do the same thing all the time."

"I want you to walk in, not knowing what task you'll be doing."

"So do we, Miss. It's a good thing."

There is never better feedback than words from the mouths of babes. Let them be our judgers.

This was the conversation as I hovered from group to group this morning, as they made paper chains. And hereby follows the way they went about it:

Students have now covered the topic of The World of Work. They are starting their CA tomorrow. Time to reinforce!

So first they played Jenga, using all the work they have done so far as support. On the board was what they had to include in their spoken responses, by number, (ignore the colours at this stage!). This speaking task lasted for 20mins, as I moved from pair to pair, listening to their structures.

The next task was pair work again. The students pulled 8 Jenga bricks out at random, to select sentence type. Using strips of paper (you can make the perfect 1cm wide strips by folding a piece of A4 4 times and then opening it up again) the students had to write a sentence on each strip, using the appropriate colour pen - now you can use the colours on the slide! (The first group used biros and then underlined word/sentence type with the relevant colour.)

Once both students in the pair have done their 8 sentences, they then work together to see if they can create paragraphs with their strips. They then use yellow strips to link the ideas together - they soon worked out that they can use connectives, a phrase, or a whole sentence to link two ideas. They also used blank yellow strips to indicate new paragraphs. And then you have the creation of the paper chains. 

This is the last piece of coursework that the cohort will be writing, so I want them to have fun with the phrases, and be confident with how they can continually improve their work. 

We should all strive to not be the "not like some teachers" that the students speak of. Always be THAT teacher. 

Choonage? Chains, of course.


Sunday, 26 January 2014

MFLTwitterati Runners

Running. I love it. And I sometimes find myself angry that I let the amount of work I have to do prevent my run from happening.
I normally sign myself up for a race as motivation, as a kick up the bum. Otherwise I am a slave to homework.

This is where #Jantastic is really helping. Just a small run is enough. And knowing there are others out there, who are part of your virtual team, is incentive enough.
This morning I set off at 9ish. It started to rain, but I love running in the rain.

The Punch Bowl is 1.2miles from my door. Once I get there, there is a fab choice of routes. Today I ran a different route, and had horses for company for the first 30mins. The mile of uphill is hard work, especially on loose stones. But so satisfying.

Once I was up above the old A3 on the tarmac path, I began to see other people out. It was pouring by then, but it hadn't deterred the walkers (with and without dogs) and cyclists, who exchanged cheery 'good mornings' with me as I ran past. You feel kindred spirits with these folks, a silent acknowledgment of being a member in an unwritten club.

I love running. Days like today remind me of that.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Tongue Tied? Time for colours

I have posted quite a few posts recently for speaking tasks. So to help balance it out, time to look at reading/writing support tasks.

I have used colours to recognise word type in reading tasks for a good number of years. One of the ideas presented at #TMWave last term was about making paper chains, using different colours for different elements of formulating a written response for RE. I could see the potential in that for MFL straight away. I will move on to paper chains soon, but for now I am looking at colours.

So, to help access longer texts in class (that is a phrase I use a lot - we have a large number of students in the school whose reading ages are below average), I have introduced posters and standard colours for word and phrase type. The classroom displays will soon mirror these colours as well. Below is one of the posters:

Students are then let loose on the text with felt tips (a pot of 12 colours per 4 students), to read through the paragraph(s) and underline words that they recognise, as shown above. Topic-specific is a good way to recognise key vocab from the lesson or chain of lessons. We are currently on The World of Work with Year 11s, so it is making them consider key verbs like "arbeiten" and "verdienen". (We had played Strip Bingo as a starter with these key words).

How you then use the key vocab and structures in the text is down to you, what you want out of the text, and how you want the students to benefit from their findings.  Today I asked them to adapt the phrases to other aspects of the topic, as well as other topics.

I have also asked students to use the same technique to analyse written work. Visually it is then obvious which aspects of the language they are using readily and frequently, and which elements can be increased in frequency and depth. It gives students a visual reflection of how they can improve their work. In the build-up to CAs I find this of great benefit.

Obviously you can add colours for different tenses and other foci.

Today's choonage is a song that I cannot hear enough, and is perfect for a break in speaking tasks on here! CHOOOOOOOOOOOOON!

Thursday, 16 January 2014

The Post-it Game

This is a very simple game, and I have every confidence you have all been there, done that!

Another speaking game, this time the objective was to reinforce the structures covered in the topic of World of Work, to describe what they do in their part-time jobs, and to increase their confidence with questioning.

They stuck post-its on each other's foreheads, on which they had written a job, and the person with the post-it on their head had to ask the question "Muß ich.....?" to try to work out what job was written on the post-it.

Engagement - Tick
Improved word order - Tick
Improved pronunciation - Tick
Laughing children - Tick

As a wrap-up task, the students then wrote 5 clues using the same structure in their books. When I mark their books, I have to guess what job they are describing.

That way, I told them, marking is more fun for me!


One Fat Frog

Last week's blog was on a resource that I had tried out for the first time, to great success, to encourage the students to speak confidently and to have fun.

I am bringing a post back from the good old Posterous days, because the task makes me laugh. A lot. And when students can't do the task because they are wheezing with laughter, as a result of the task, you know you are on to a good one!

In August 2012 I wrote:

"I have based one resource on a drinking game we played on tour. Oh my word it made me laugh. Tempting as it is to enforce the command of "DRINK" when students go wrong, I think it will have to be avoided! The way it works, in English, is very simple (drinking games have to be really!!!):

  • Sit students in a circle - up to 10 is probably best 
  • Take turns, around the circle, to say the next word of the phrase "One fat frog jumped off the cliff aarrgghh" (one word each)
  • The person after "aarrgghh" starts again but changes the 'one' to 'two'.
  • Then each word has to be said twice, as follows, with each person saying only one word in the chain
  •  It then becomes "three" "four" etc. If students muck up, they could do a forfeit, or star jumps, press ups etc. You choose!
 It is an excellent listening and recall game, and I am hopeful it will encourage my Year 11s not to be afraid of speaking German! I have attached the slide I will be using - in German - after a while I will remove it from the board. The sentence can be changed/manipulated etc for variation from week to week."

So back to January 2014. Following the same idea to access longer texts, particularly from the Higher paper, I ask the students - in groups - to read out loud, one word at times. It is so funny to watch, the students all listen to each other, and focus on each word in the paragraph. By the 7th or 8th line in the paragraph, the students are saying the words of the line 2-3 times each.

Year 11s were doing it in groups of 4 on Wednesday, and the fun and laughter in the room was fantastic.

In other news, I went to see Wicked just before Christmas. Apart from now wanting a green witch for a friend (apply within), I love the songs. Just love. #unlimited

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Get the buggers talking

Before I start, know that it isn't me but my colleague and fab team member Luke who is to thank for this. He is an excellent practitioner, and often comes up with imaginative tasks just at the right time!

We are always doing all we can to increase the amount of speaking that our students do in each lesson. Group Talk is very important to us, but it always great to find new ideas.

The idea is very simple, but my goodness it is great fun. Students have actions and gestures to follow when they come across particular elements of a written text. They also have to work as a team to carry out the task together:

Capital letter          - Mexican wave
Comma                  - Finger flick
Full stop                 - Two claps
Apostrophe            - Finger click
Exclamation mark  - Panic expression
Question mark        - Shoulder shrug
Accent                    - One clap

Below is an example of a PPT slide with the text and instructions for the students. This was for a Year 9 lesson for The Apprentice project. And while the students were worried about looking silly at the start, they were reading out the sentences and having fun (dare I suggest it). The group takes seeing to believing, as it is normally an hour of peace-keeping and social work every time I see them. 

I then used the idea for Year 11s in accessing a text from the GCSE Higher paper. They were not in the slightest bit self-conscious about the task, and were so funny doing it. So animated, so much fun.

Why do it? It helps the students be aware of all the punctuation. It helps the students access the text without being overwhelmed. It allows the students to have fun. FUN, I tell you! And when you are still trying to improve the image and ethos of your subject, every second of laughter and enjoyment counts.

So try it. Whatever your subject.

And so to a song with gestures. There can be only one. But I didn't fancy YMCA....

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Raise your glass

As I sit here, on the first day of 2014, with the rain lashing down and the wind howling around my home, I flick through the 2013 calendar that I have just replaced with the new one. All I have written on there is the name of the person/people I am going out with on the dates, holidays and adventures. And for someone who feels that their life is completely dictated to be the overwhelming burden of work in term time, I actually seemed to have also maintained a good balance of friends and family in my life.

Yet I still don't feel it is enough. I feel that I am a slave to work every week night. Which is something I want to really stop. I want to put a stop to the get-home-put-laptop-on-make-a-cuppa-get-changed-carry-on-working habit. I will be doing my best, with the help of Jantastic, to change my routines.

I went on a PixL course at the start of December. The first session I went to had me despairing about how education is becoming a data-driven world, and the second session left me questioning my chosen (and beloved) profession. I left the course rather envying the hundreds of people around me who, quite probably, never have to do any work once they are at home.

Which wasn't the point of a CPD day. They should leave you bursting with enthusiasm and positivity.

Which is what I am looking forward to in February. #ililc4, to be precise. Not only is it the best CPD in town, it is also the chance to meet up with the beloved #MFLTwitterati. Every member is worth their weight in gold!

I was listening to an interview with Esther Rantzen last week about loneliness. She was talking about the stigma of being alone, and the burden that it may also bring with it. Talking about life after losing her husband, she said "I have plenty of people to do something with, just nobody to do nothing with." Very poignant and honest interview. Friends and family are so important to me, to help enrich my life. Given that my friends have now banned me from finding a potential mate, given my lousy track-record, it is to them I turn for the company and love! 

A few (too many) people have asked me recently if I had ever or would ever want children. Now I am 40 (not for much longer!) I am beginning to feel that the chance is passing me by. That has been a slight shadow over the last 2 weeks, but no way enough to hamper the lovely family Christmas I have had. My oldest and dearest friend has offered me his swimmers, but he is having the snip in 2 weeks' time. So I may have missed that boat!!!

But ultimately, 2014 needs to be filled with the same ingredients as last year. Friends and family. Adventures and rewards to counter-balance the hard work and long hours of work. Music. Laughter. Happiness.

Which I wish upon you all. In bountiful amounts. Today's choon is for us all to raise a glass to. 2014 started in my brother's kitchen, dancing to choonages. Later on in the morning, I was singing this in the kitchen, and the boys were jumping up and down with me. Choon!