Saturday, 15 February 2014

Sparkle in my mind

Love is a very splendid thing. Love lift us up where we belong. Love....

I must dig out Moulin Rouge this half term, is only for a singalong.

I was meant to be on interview on Feb 14th. But having done a lot of soul-searching, both on my own and by seeking the opinions of my devil's-advocate  and much-respectedcolleagues, I feel at peace with my decision to withdraw. I have a lot of unfinished business to deal with in the department, and I feel so much more determined to make our department a brilliant one. My presentation at #ililc4 really helped. I had to reflect a lot when I was writing it, and then afterwards it left me thinking "Why am I walked away from a half-built project?".

So since making the decision on Wednesday, I have been skipping and dancing. Lightened hugely by the offloading of anxieties, worries and concerns at work. Buoyed and driven by the weekend and my wonderful #MFLTwitterati friends. And imagine my delight on Friday when I found this on my desk:


I planned a Valentine's lesson for year 11. They finished their last Controlled Assessment on Weds, so rather than start the final topic with them, I said that they would be writing some love poems on Friday. What made it even better, was they had been telling other teachers that they would be doing it in their other lessons. (More than I wished for when I wanted to "Get the buggers talking").

So. How did we do write poetry in German? Well, we had a double lesson (2 hours), and this is what we did.

Step 1

Get them thinking about rhyming words - I put some on the board to start them off, and they then took over and came up with some of their own. They matched up pairs that I hadn't even thought of. They were also creative with the words. Which I love. I love students being creative with the tools they know. Love it.

Step 2
(and this was taken from an idea I found on TES)

Students then had to pick out the pairs from the two columns that I gave them. It was interesting to see who made the connection between this task and love poems. Again, they then found their own combinations.

Step 3:
Offer the students one structure and ask them to work in pairs/small groups to work out other structures that they can use. They came up with:
  • Ich bin das Salz und du bist der Essig
  • Wir gehen zusammen wie Salz und Essig
  • Wir passen zusammen wie Salz und Essig
  • Du bist der Essig zu meinem Salz (a good opportunity to revisit the Dative!)
Step 4:
Song Time. The group still struggles with listening tasks, so I prepared some tasks based on Tim Liebt Tina, by Anna Depenbusch.

1. Gapfill. (DM me if you want a copy!) The first time I played the song, it was just audio. The second time I also ran the video. The third time I advised them to watch the video, and where they had gaps unfilled, they should watch the singer's voice to help work out which word was being sung. The result = all gaps filled. The consequence = students' confidence with listening goes up a notch.

(Which got me thinking. When will exam boards issue listening exams on DVD rather than CD, because understanding language is much more than just audio. We rely on gesture, body language and setting to help support our understanding.) 

2. The next task was to draw a web of the relationship, to understand the content a little bit more. Some students added extra detail readily and voluntarily. It looks a little like this:

The best thing about this task was how involved they were in the discussions about the relationships. It was great. My job in all of this was hot-desking around the room helping with the finer details.

Step 5:
Writing the poem and making it look beautiful!!!!

The results are below:

And, while we shouldn't have favourites..... The poem below came from out of the blue, from a student who sometimes finds German a real challenge. It warrants an enormous BOOOOOOM!

Of course, the lesson came with a slight amount of manic-ness. Mainly from the students...

One student said, "Miss, would you say 'I am the door to your knob' or 'I am the knob to your door'?".

To which I replied (and of course the class went silent), "Thinking about semantics, I would probably say 'I am the knob....' I didn't think this through, did I?"

The class seemed disappointed that SLT hadn't popped in at that point.

An overriding success, the students making me utterly proud.

And to the choon for the day? I was playing this through the speakers in my room on Friday morning. Play it loud!

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Buzzword Bingo #2 AfL

So. AfL. I really am launching the buzz words this month!

I wanted my Year 12s to read each other's essays, and offer feedback, but I wanted a different way to do it. Casting my mind back to #TMWave in December, and thinking about the item in the 100 Ideas book, I decided to give Post-Its a go. (There is shortly going to be a shortage in the shops, following @valleseco's bit at Show and Tell at #ililc4!).

In short, I chose 4 different colours. The essay was about Mass Tourism. I had read through the essays, so chose 4 categories that I wanted them to focus on, which areas of the essay needed development.

Yellow = Advantages of Mass tourism - www/ebi
Pink = Disadvantages of Mass Tourism - www/ebi
Green = Intro and conclusion - www/ebi
Blue = Range of structures - www/ebi

Task 1 = Students read through a peer's work and completes a peer assessment/reflection using the post-its

Task 2 = Students read through their peer's comments on their own work, and commit to the changes/improvements they are going to make to their work in the next draft.

Task 3 = Teacher assesses in the same way, using the post-its.

As a three-step assessing for improvement, it has worked really well. We then watched a short report about Mass Tourism, to give them more ideas for the content, and they are now redrafting again.

Considering the group has missed out on a lot of quality teaching, they are doing brilliantly.

And this was a great way to peer assess. Plus the books look pretty.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Pay It Forward

A small pastoral intermission in amongst all the MFL and #ililc bits and pieces. I hope you don't mind.

Tutor time activity, to encourage positivity amongst KS4 students and to continue to support their socialisation. It also addresses the problems with NekNominiations that are sweeoping the world at the moment. Gladly, my tutees' responses mainly covered the "But they're idiots, Miss." response.

1. Show them the trailer for Pay It Forward, so they understand the idea.

2. Discuss NekNominations. Show them a positive response to NekNominations, for example:

3. Students then spend 5-6 minutes writing a ThankYou note to a teacher, to start them off on their 3 Pay It Forward acts.

Today we have KS4 tutors delivering notes to staff. These are some of the ones I received:

And my particular favourite:
You're amazing.

So thank YOU for all you do to inspire those around you. You truly are fantastic.

Monday, 10 February 2014

#ililc4 Subtitle Yourself - James Gardner

Forever in the search of ways to engage students, and now on the start of my AS teaching adventures, I was very keen to attend James Gardner's subtitling session at #ililc4, because everyone had spoken so positively about it last year.

James used to work in the subtitling world, so was keen to harness the resource in his teaching. He believes that subtitles can be used for a number of reasons:
  • They help students to develop transcribing skills
  • Videos can be made, and peers (or self) can watch the videos and translate or write captions for the performances
  • Using videos and captions can allow teachers to give access of videos to students
  • They can be used to create funny stories or videos, to encourage and develop creativity and imagination in students
It is a really good way for students to listen to Target Language and capture the essential bits of vocab and structures.

The website that James introduced us to was which can access YouTube videos, but the finished subtitled file can't be carried back over to YouTube. They can, however, be accessed on Amara.

I am very sure that James will make his presentation available, but I most certainly will use this in the future. I chose a video on YouTube at random, which was a Harry Potter trailer in German, and went for it. It took me maybe 20-25 minutes? It was exceptionally straight forward, and by the end of it, I wanted to watch the film. And I am not a Potter fan!

Here is the link to my subtitled video, and I highly recommend it. Harry Potter with Subtitles ELA

Sunday, 9 February 2014

In At The Deep End - #ililc4 presentation

It was Clare who said "You should present at #ililc4", and I knew I wanted to, but I didn't know what about. So we chatted a little, and she said "Why don't you talk about what you have done in your current role?". The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea.

I joined my current employ in April 2012, and at first, I broke a lot of the rules that can be seen (or at least could be seen in the 80s!) at the side of any swimming pool... There was plenty of bombing (when tried and tested lessons failed), plenty of times when I wanted to run, and there was plenty of pushing - of colleagues and students alike.

In the first term, I had quite a challenge, but was told by my line manager "Do what you need to do, and change it". I was more or less given free reign. It was scary at first, but I didn't have time to be overwhelmed.

My objectives were:

And ultimately I wanted to see the transition shown below:

There was a lot of things that needed to be done, but ultimately, the one thing that was very clear, was a lot needed changing. The reality check was that a lot was missing:
  • No Head of Department
  • No Schemes of Work
  • No means of assessing
  • Unreliable data
  • Totally disengaged cohort of students
At first, I felt like a fraud. After 3 weeks I realised that none of my previous experience really mattered, as the cohort of students in front of me on a daily basis had entirely different needs, and completely different experiences. So I basically threw all my resources out and started from scratch. And I had breakthroughs.

Changing the Schemes of Work

My first one, which ticked the Engagement and Project-Based SoW, was the Britain's Got Talent Project. The language skill that we were teaching the students was the Imperative. It was the week after the BGT final on tv.
So the way it works is (and the delegates attending the presentation took part in this exercise): 

1. Show the students the footage of Ashleigh and Pudsey, and they write down all the commands that Ashleigh would have been saying to Pudsey. It may help if students work in pairs, with one saying the command and the other writing. 

2. They then assign commands in French (or whichever language you are teaching!) in the order that they have written the English in. How the students do this depends completely on their ability, how you differentiate it, whether or not you have taught the imperative before.

3. You then play the clip again, and the students then shout the commands at the screen, as they have written them down, to pre-empt each manoeuvre that Pudsey makes.

Dare I say that the students enjoyed a French lesson? That was the first breakthrough.

Assessment and Assessment Data

Tracking the progress of the students was essential. Not only did it track how the students were doing, but it was also the best measure to see if the changes I was introducing were having any impact.
So we used the text book assessments as a standard control, because it meant not overburdening the work load.
I also introduced data spread sheets to the department, and a standard way of working out sub-levels, based on the four skills.

We also had tracking sheets and assessed (alternating formal and informal assessing) each half term.

Anyone wanting to see what the tracking sheets look like, please feel free to email me!

But I needed reliable, standardised testing for each year group, which would offer true and reflecting data.

Students' progress is also shared in the MFL corridor, with all students' names on the level ladders, and they are moved after assessments.

Breakthrough 2 = Grease

Performing Arts is massive at our school. I went on a walkabout in the summer term, and came across Year 9s working on dance routines to the Grease medley. They were loving it. We were working on the topic of Media at the time in MFL. So I knew we could link into this to increase engagement. 

So I then had to find a way to justify showing Grease to the students. We did a film review, character analysis, film posters. I also wanted the students not to be afraid of the subtitles. So I switched the subtitles to German, and gave the students the bingo grids I had created, using the words from the subtitles from a 2 minute bite of the film. It was a great game, and again, students could work in pairs, with one student relaying the words from the screen, while the other crosses the words off.

What was most important was to lead a department that was in turmoil. It was about trusting colleagues when they worked on SoWs or resources. It was about challenging the behaviour and supporting colleagues on an hourly basis. 

While I haven't found the magic wand, we have a large number of students coming to the MFL corridor smiling, asking "What are we doing today, Miss?", which for me is a massive step forward. 

While this isn't the complete presentation, it has covered an awful lot of what was discussed/delivered. Feel free to ask questions or leave comments below and I will gladly get back to you.   

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Buzz Word Bingo: Differentiation

For me, differentiation is, and remains, an area of teaching that I don't think I ever get completely right all of the time. This is partly due to the fact that the needs and abilities of the students each year are ever changing. (For example, I am teaching a Year 7 Drama group with a range of reading ages from 5-15).

Let me explain my Year 10 German group to you, if you don't mind...

There are 15 students.

10 students studied French in Year 7, then studied German in years 8 and 9.
4 students studied German in Year 7, then studied French in years 8 and 9.
1 student studied French in Years 7 and 8, then studied German in year 9.

(Only since I have been at the school will students in KS3 be studying just the one language, in the hope that the foundation and knowledge they have will be greater!) 

I started teaching them this term, because of the tempestuous staffing issues of last term. To add to the complexity of the matter, out of the 6 lessons they have German, they have me 3 times and a non-German speaker for 3 lessons, as they are on at the same time as my Year 11s, so I couldn't swap.

Differentiation is, therefore, a huge part of how I teach them. I have trialled my 'colours' approach with my amazing year 8 group, and it really works, certainly from a planning point of view.

So this is what I am doing.

1. Based on class work and past papers, I assessed them in all 4 skills just before Christmas, as a baseline for the rest of the course.

2. I have split the students into 3 groups for each of the 4 skills, based on their ability and performances in the tests and coursework. You can see by the picture below that most students have strengths and weaknesses.
Green = E/F/G
Orange = D
Purple = C

3. The students now know which group they are in for each skill, and they know who to sit with for the different types of tasks, depending on my instruction and on the task. They also have stickers on their books, so they know without having to remember!

4. For tasks that require differentiation, the resources or instructions are then colour-coded, so the students know which part to do. Below is an example of a listening task we did, and each student did the task that was relevant to their colour. It is also a good opportunity to create questions in exam-paper style.

It is an easy way to manage both mixed and ability groups, and it is an easy way to plan. The kids now no longer accuse me of being racist when I say "Right, get into your colour groups."...!!!!!
And I love colours! There may be a blog soon that doesn't centre around colours. But until that, paint me up, buttercup!!