Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Becoming more attractive.

Before you start to get worried, this post is not about my impending visit to the plastic surgeon, but rather some thoughts on improving the way in which students at my school view modern languages.

I've recently started a new job in a much nicer, bigger school. The staff are friendly enough and the students are mostly keen and well behaved. The department is well managed and the students achieve well, right through to A level.

I'm really enjoying it.

This week, though, I discovered something which worried me. I found out that languages is the most unpopular subject in the school among the current Key Stage 3 students (11-14 years old).

You don't look surprised to hear this, but I was genuinely shocked. After all, Key Stage 3 students are the Key Stage 4 students of tomorrow. Without Key Stage 4 there won't be a department.

So, I have made it my mission to improve the way in which students view the subject and I'm also going to continue to try to get my departmental colleagues to do the same.

Using ICT is a no-no because the school system isn't up to the job. We still have IE6 and we aren't even able to install Flash (or download anything) onto the computers.

Most web2.0 tools are blocked and mobile phones are banned.
(Yes, I know. I wasn't going to mention phones again, was I? Did I tell you about the BBC? Oh, I did. Sorry.)

I don't want to worry you but you might want to sit down for this next statement. Ready? OK, here goes....a modern languages lesson in ICT usually involves students using Powerpoint or Word to redraft work.

We can't go on like this.

I already have some ideas for next term (thanks to Joanna Pickering et al) and I hope to pick up some advice from MFL Show and Tell next week.

I'll share my improvements with you as and when.

Watch this space. We might both learn something.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Vuvuzelas, Fluch oder Segen?

Loathe them or hate them, the vuvuzelas (or lepatata as they are called in Tswana) have been a huge part of the world cup so far.

The press here in Britain has complained that they ruin the atmosphere of the game and I put this down to a severe case of sour grapes as the over-paid, under-talented prima donnas in England shirts have not had the best start to the competition.

But then I started to wonder what the press in other countries thought about them. So after an hour or two trawling the world's press, it seems that a lot of countries don't like them either.

The Germans have even invented a new word to describe the effect of the vuvuzela, "Trötinus" a word made from the German words for "Hooter" (Tröte) and "tinitus" (Tinitus).

So here are some links to articles in various languages which you could use with your students and get them to discuss the attitudes in different countries.


Personally, I quite like the vuvuzela and thanks to those nice people at Marca in Spain for this vuvzela instruction manual.


Friday, 11 June 2010

The MFL Twitterati World Cup Sweepstake

As usual, someone had a great idea and I stole it.
This time it was the MFL Twitterati World Cup Sweepstake.
Clare's idea, hijacked by me.
Welcome to my world. I did apologise.

Apparently no-one in the world understands the concept of a sweepstake except the Brits so here is a quick run down of the rules:

Each player is drawn at random via classtools.net random name picker, then a team is picked randomly by the same method and assigned to that player.

The player who's team wins the world cup gets a MFL related prize which I shall buy in France next week.

Everyone else is a loser.

Here goes:
@javiera1974 gets ITALY
@gorsey gets AUSTRALIA
@simonhowells gets NETHERLANDS
@valleseco gets NEW ZEALAND
@jjpadvis gets URUGUAY
@mme_henderson gets PARAGUAY
@PreKlanguages gets PORTUGAL
@victoria35 gets CHILE
@joedale gets GHANA
@jowinchester gets SPAIN
@dominic_mcg gets HONDURAS
@wizenedcrone gets NORTH KOREA
@sghani gets ALGERIA
@bootleian gets SLOVENIA
@josepicardo gets DENMARK
@atantot gets SWITZERLAND
@Langwitch gets IVORY COAST
@ChrisFullerisms gets SOUTH KOREA
@zaragozalass gets ARGENTINA
@suzibewell gets FRANCE
@lisibo gets SERBIA
@amandasalt gets GREECE
@MissAmoros gets NIGERIA
@simcloughlin gets ENGLAND
@smaguire777 gets USA
@moodlefairy gets SOUTH AFRICA
@mrshampson gets SLOVAKIA
@spanishsam gets GERMANY
@blagona gets CAMEROON
@hicksie58 gets MEXICO
@Kath52 gets JAPAN
@lynnehorn gets BRAZIL

Good luck everyone.
I shall update the post on a regular basis.
If your team is on the left of the screen you are still in the competition.
If your team is on the right of the screen, you have been eliminated from the contest.
All comments will be moderated.
Thank you.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

MFL Show and Tell 2010

It's now almost 2 years since I dived into the world of twitter, blogging, flashmeets and becoming a wannabe-geek.
I still can't understand why my colleagues have a "why would I want to do that?" approach to the use of ICT for both personal and professional reasons, but the answer is, of course, that I'm turning into a geek and they are "normal".

Twitter is amazing for finding out about new stuff and sharing new ideas, advice, applications, and software you may come across but there is nothing like meeting people in the flesh and putting faces to the names you've been impressed by for the last 15 months or so.

That is why MFL Show and Tell is such a great idea. It is an opportunity for teachers of foreign languages (Primary and Secondary) to get together in the real world, chat and find out what is going on in the hectic, helter-skelter world of MFL education, to discover what other people are doing and to realise that, actually, you're doing OK yourself.

Following the success of last year's Show and Tell (thanks to James Padvis and Joe Dale) this year's event is being organised by José Picardo, and is kindly sponsored by Nottingham High School and Links into Languages East Midlands, so it will cost you nothing to attend and you might even learn something. If you can't attend you can follow all the shenanigans on twitter, here #mflsat

If you want to attend you must sign up to the wiki and turn up on the day.

How difficult could that be?

I hope to see many of you there and I promise I'll be on my best behaviour.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Truancy and Modern Languages.

In February last year, former Education Secretary Estelle Morris admitted to the BBC that the scrapping of compulsory Modern Foreign Language (she calls it "French") was part of a plan to crackdown on truancy problems in English schools. Scrap MFL and children will want to go to school.

Did it work?

Well, no, of course it didn't.

Recent news reports tell us that truancy has got worse and has hit record levels.

According to teen issues website, students truant from school for the following reasons:

  • To escape bullying at school.
  • Because lessons are hard and it is easier to play truant.
  • Because the truant has no interest in school.
  • Exclusions.
  • Taking holidays.
  • Visiting health professionals.
  • Running errands.
  • Bad relationships with teachers or other instructors

  • No mention of languages lessons at all.
    Funny, that.

    Tuesday, 1 June 2010

    Misreading the question.

    A few summers ago I remember reading in a Sunday supplement a special feature about Jack Douglas playing in a golf tournament in Mallorca. I thought it strange that the absurd star of the Carry On films should warrant 6 pages in an OK magazine style feature, he must be in his 80s if he's still alive* I thought, but carried on anyway thinking nothing more of it.
    It was only when I came to the line about "his lovely wife, Catherine Zeta Jones", that I realised something was wrong. On carefully rereading the article, I learned that Jack Nicholson and Michael Douglas were playing golf in Mallorca. D'oh!

    "Get to the point" I hear you cry.
    I've just finished marking my Year 7 students' exams and some of them have done really well. However, some of them would have done even better had they read the questions properly.
    I'm not talking about the students who have trouble reading English, but the more able students who write ridiculous answers to very simple questions.

    e.g. When does he play volleyball?

    The answers I got were: Tennis, A laptop, because he likes it, it's his favourite sport, his sister, at the beach, etc....

    The correct answer was "Saturday".

    Can we teach students not to misread questions?
    If so, how do we do it?

    Here are some ideas to try:
    • read the questions slowly and, if it isn't an exam, read it out loud.
    • write down the question before answering it.
    • circle or highlight question words. (who, what, why, where, when, how?)
    • teach time management, misreading questions can be a sign of rushing.
    • teach students always to read comprehension texts before attempting the questions.
    • teach students to read through the questions and their answers at the end.
    *Jack Douglas was still alive but passed away in December 2008 aged 81.