Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Buzzword Bingo #3 - The New Curriculum

At the start of this half term we had an Inset Day at school, and a large part of the day was dedicated to the development and preparation of the New Curriculum for September. The rubbish part is that I couldn't drive, so wasn't there. But I did put together ideas to start my department thinking.

My thoughts as they hit the page:

  • I see it as a great opportunity to further develop the way students learn languages. 
  • I don't think that any one unit should be taught the same way each year. Students change with each cohort, relevance changes.
  • I believe that all Schemes of Work should already be altered, depending on the length of the half terms and on the students each year. So creating a new curriculum needn't  and shouldn't be such a shock.
  • Something that needs a huge improvement with our students is the fluency and independence in speaking the TL. That is something that the new SoWs will need to address, and I will continue to seek different ways of doing this. 
Some useful insights into the new curriculum are below. If you know of any other links, please can you leave them in the comment box, or tweet them for me.

Rachel Hawkes website
Rachel Hawkes in TES
Frenchteacher blog

I am organising a get-together at my school in Bracknell for MFL teachers to chat about the new curriculum, to share ideas and to make more sense of it all. Moreover, to come together so that we all know we are going to be ready for September, and that we are doing right by our own students.

If you are interested, I will be publishing the date soon!

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Who lives in a house like this?

Year 11 continue to fill me with smiles.

This lesson was fab. I felt utterly redundant. A colleague walked by and said "You've set the auto-pilot and the plane is still in the air and flying", because I was doing absolutely nothing. The kids were very in control, very motivated, working brilliantly in pairs, and needed little intervention from me!

The focus of the lesson was to improve their accuracy and confidence with prepositions, especially with the dative case.

So, armed with mini-whiteboards, students watched the clip twice (muted so they concentrated on the visuals) and noted down everything that they saw - what was where, description of the rooms, making sure that they used prepositions. They did this in English, as there was an awful lot of information to take down.

They then worked in pairs to create the narrative in German. Off they went. They were totally motivated, totally focused. So fab to watch.

After 15 minutes I played the clip again, to let them see if they had missed anything out. It also gave them the chance to see if their sentences were long enough. So it helped them to consider editing and filling narrative.

They were keen to stand at the board and point at things that they were describing.

A huge benefit of this is that they were self-policing with the dative case, and helping each other out. They were also finding the vocab out for themselves, which has so much more value than me giving it to them.

Massive thumbs up. Their rewards?

Who lives in a house like this?

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Running Dictation and Other Animals

Following on from yesterday's blog I have had questions about running dictation. It is a task that has so many positive aspects, and I highly recommend it to anyone who hasn't used it in their classrooms.

It can be used for vocab introduction, reading skills, information-seeking purposes. It develops team work and is easy to differentiate for.

The task mentioned in yesterday's blog was the topic of House and Home, and was a way of students being exposed to and discovering the new vocab. So stuck around the walls of the classroom were a number of different House-For-Sale adverts. Students were put into groups of 3 and were given question papers that they had to work together to answer (these sheets have to stay on the table). The students have 3 roles - Hunter, Scribe and Researcher. They rotate these roles each time someone returns back to the table.

The Hunter goes to read the adverts around the room, with a question in mind, to find the answer. When they have, they go back to their group and tells the scribe what to write.

The Researcher looks for key words linked to the questions to make the Hunter's role easier. This can be done using dictionaries, vocab sheets, resources.

The Scribe will write down the answers and key words on the answer sheet.

Two of the sheets for the students are below:

There are many versions, and you can tailor it to suit your students.

Something else I use for new vocab and topics is Human Dominoes, which I showed at #ililc2 with great joy.

It is quite simple - dominoes, but each domino is a sheet of A4. I originally produced enough dominoes for each student in the group, because they have to move around the room to find their place in the chain.

But this doesn't expose students to all the possible structures. So I now give each group of 4 students a whole pack of the dominoes, and they work together to create the chain.

Some examples of the dominoes are below:

The students can then refer to it through the lesson as though it is a vocab sheet.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Handing the control to the students

On Thursday morning I had to have my cat put to sleep, so the whole week had been quite ghastly, as the cloud of sadness (and no sleep) weighed down.

Just when you don't need it... This week was Review Week at school. Which meant everyone was observed.

The last possible slot for observation was on Friday lesson 4.

I was observed Friday lesson 4...

I don't tend to change anything that I do when it comes to observation lessons, I refuse to have "the Ofsted lesson" in the bag for when it is needed. I have noted on my blog quite a lot that I feel a far better teacher now than 2-3 years ago, because moving schools has made me completely reconsider how I teach. But I just needed to make sure that the activities were right.

The feedback was the best I have had for any observation in my career, so I thought I would share the ideas I used, because it has taken me a while to work out what an Outstanding MFL lesson looks like! I will go through the 2 hours because the engagement of the students during hour 1 helped with their brilliance in hour 2.

Year Group: 11
Topic: House and Home
2 hours -
1st hour = Group Talk for description of Bracknell
2nd hour = House and Home vocab (when observers came)

In the first hour, the starter was a card sort for positive and negative views - as P/N/P&N is a favourite of AQA in the listening and reading papers. This was on the students' desks when they came in.

Students then used a different bank of statements about Bracknell for a Group Talk task, the focus of which was to offer spontaneously as much detail as possible. In order to encourage this further, the students had a tally sheet to assess each other's responses. This not only meant that students were listening to each other, but the responses were better in quality. The competitiveness in the students also helped the length and quality of their answers.
Students worked on this for 15minutes, after which we worked on a Twitter Snowball task, which I couldn't wait for! 

The first step was to pick a card from the Group Talk task. These were statements like "Reading ist besser als Bracknell". Students wrote that at the top of their Twitter sheet, and used the first Tweet box in the feed to write a response. After 3 minutes, all students screwed their Tweets into a ball and we had a 20 second fight. Which was hilarious. We only lost one out the window....

After 20 seconds, the students had to retrieve a snowball, open it up and respond to the tweet on the sheet. After 3 minutes, the same thing. After the 4th fight, students then used the Group Talk tally sheet to mark the responses.

The final task of this hour, as the plenary, was to respond to my marking. The plenary of the previous lesson had been to write a Tweet about Bracknell. The "Think Pink Go Green " action I gave all students as part of the marking was to correct any mistakes and make the Tweet 200 characters. So they were able to use all aspects of the lesson to write a better Tweet.

Engagement = HIGH!

HOUR 2 (first half observed)

This lesson was all about learning the vocab to describe the house. So we started with Foundation/Higher match up tasks with phrases from exam questions. Then the lesson came to life. For those of you who don't know, I am a fan of colours, especially when it comes to differentiation.

So the students were put into mixed ability groups, based on their Reading Mock Exam results. Each group had 1 Upper, 1 Middle and 1 Lower ability reader in. As I use this a lot, when I said "30 seconds to move into your Reading groups", the students were up and at it straight away.

I had stuck 3 House-For-Sale descriptions around the room for a dictation. I had also created a range of question styles, to cover the style in exams. The students knew exactly what to do, so I didn't need to explain, which meant all I had to say was "Running Dictation, ready steady go!" and off they went. It was great to watch, and the students were getting really competitive.

We were just moving into the listening task, which I also differentiated with my colours of green, orange and purple, when the observing time was up. What I have also started doing with the y11s is for them to write down after each listening task a) how they found the task and b) what stopped them getting all the answers right. So when I mark their books, I can give them individual advice. They are least confident with listening tasks.

We wrapped up the lesson with some conditional reinforcement, and then snuck out a minute before the bell so we could get to the front of the Chip Friday queue (rewards very important!).

The students have asked me to tweet them with my grade and feedback, they were that engaged in the whole process.

So I now know that staying at my school is the right decision. I have worked hard for two years to get that kind of feedback, and it has been hard. But totally worth it.

Teaching. Hard as anything but melts your heart when it counts.