Friday, 28 October 2011

Hallowe'en resources.

It's that time of the year again. The shops are full of Christmas Trees, there are adverts for toys everywhere, there are Christmas lights in every town centre. The clues are all there.

Yes, it's almost Hallowe'en.

Even my dog has entered into the spirit of things with an amazing costume!

Here are some resources and links to MFL hallowe'en-y type things:


A few years ago Jo Rhys-Jones put together this page on the Talkabout PrimaryLanguages site. It contains some excellent links.

A TES vocabulary resource here

Lanternfish has some hallowe'en worksheets here

Some links here from canadacyberschool

A lesson from MFLSunderland "potion magique"


A TES German resource here (based on Clare Seccombe's potion magique)

Another TES resource, this one for KS1 German and another one for KS4

From a halloween graveyard project.'s information in English about how Hallowe'en is celebrated on Germany.

Some information on Martinstag from

Hallowe'en is not a big deal in Spain, but there are still resources available.

This one from TES La noche de brujas

Some lanternfish Spanish worksheets

In Mexico dia de los muertos is celebrated at this time. Here are some links to resources:

Some really good stuff from

Excellent lesson plans and resources from Mommy Maestra

Lots of links and information from

There are also some good ICT Hallowe'en resources on Linguascope if your school has a subscription to it.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

I'm a chimp.

Last Thursday, I taught a full day in school, went on a twilight management course from 4:30 'til 6:30 and then spent the rest of the evening until 9:30 or so at Cramlington Learning Village at the Teachmeet.

When I mentioned this, one of my colleagues said, "Why would you want to do that? You are completely mad. "

This could well be true. There is every likelihood that I am, if not completely mad, definitely a bit mad.

Although, I'm not sure that I am mad because I love my job and I'm keen to improve the way I teach.

Yesterday I read José Picardo's blog Chimps and Ants: The politics of innovation and, on reflection, I realised that, because of the way I look at and complete my work, I am a chimp.

I am a chimp, not an ant.

Don't laugh.

The very fact that you are reading this proves that you are most likely a chimp, too.

The majority of my colleagues at the exam factory are ants. They don't realise and they can't help it.

Shame, really.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Tintin (Bande annonce VF)

I am a huge Tintin fan. This looked really good, so I thought I'd post it here.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Cramlington LV Teachmeet.

Last Thursday evening I attended Cramlington Learning Village's Teachmeet. It's the first time I've been to a Teachmeet as an enthusiastic lurker rather than a speaker, as I generally have discovered the next big thing or have something to share. And I like the sound of my own voice. A lot.

Sadly, due to a middle management course, I arrived late and missed a couple of the early presentations but, what I did see was very good.

There were a number of good ideas presented, but these are the presentations which stuck in my mind (by which I mean I'm going to steal their ideas):

Mathematician, Rachel Futo showed us different ways of using the game Connect 4. She uses grids and counters to assess prior knowledge, revise, stretch and support learners, for pairwork, for peer assessment and as a tool for A4L.

Geographer John Sayers was amazing. He shared 3 ideas: The personal learning chair (which some of you'll be pleased to know can be used with QRCodes), mission explore, and concertina form information. You can read more about John's ideas at his blog which is excellent.

Fellow linguist, Chris Harte, showed us the difference between Feedback and Assessment For Learning. You can find his presentation on slideshare.

Polymath, genius, and all round good egg, Steve Bunce, rounded off the evening with a presentation entitled, Reality hits you hard, Bro (alcohol and singing). Steve told us about the songify app and showed how it can be used with an i-pad by getting audience members to record text and then used songify to create a song. I can see how great it would be if we could use it in school for MFL lessons.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Portable WiFi hotspot

I currently find myself staying in a house with no internet connection. (Yes, they do still exist!)

I used to have an internet dongle for such situations but it proved very expensive.

What, then, can I do? Not use the internet for a few days?

Well, I have my netbook and my HTC Wildfire android phone and I have an app called Portable WiFi Hotspot which I downloaded for free from Android Market.

This app turns my phone into a wireless router and by activating it and the wireless connection on my netbook I have an instant and safe internet connection. It is password protected and, I haven't done this, but you can add more than one user if you need to.

Luckily, my mobile contract includes 3GB per month internet usage.

It is more practical than using the internet on my phone and for some strange reason seems to be quicker, too.

It is great for using internet at school for accessing sites like twitter and any addresses which my employers have seen fit to block.

It is ideal in an emergency situation and if you don't have it or something similar, I recommend you download it. For the less fortunate among you, there is also a version available for iphone and blackberry.

Friday, 21 October 2011

No excuse not to use mobiles in schools.

If you cast your mind back a couple of years, you'll remember I wrote a guest post for José Picardo's box of tricks site which even ended up as an e-book.

The post was all about how I had used, and intended to use, mobile phones in class with my students. The opening paragraph was about how the Stewart Enquiry or Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones had advised UK schools in 2001 about the dangers of children under 16 using mobile phones.

Now new research from the Institute of Cancer and Epidemiology in Denmark, reported here by the BBC news website, has found that users of mobile phones are at no greater risk of developing brain cancer than anyone else.

So school leaders, apart from the bullying, abuse and theft issues (I'm still working on these), you really have no excuse to continue to ban phones in schools.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Ipad or My pad? 10 reasons why paper is better.

My friends and colleagues know me as a bit of a technology fan and most of you know that I've blogged about mobile phones a lot.

Over the last 2 or 3 years I have attended a lot of Teachmeets and Show and Tells and one of the things I've been interested in is the use of technology by the presenters and the attendees.

A couple of years ago almost all attendees at these unconferences had a laptop. At the next one, laptops had given way to netbooks. Then netbooks vanished and smart phones ruled. Then it seemed that anything made by Apple was de rigueur.

Technology is not always best. Recently I've been taking notes using this:

and this:

So, why do I think my pad is better than an I-pad?

1) It was a lot cheaper. Less than £2 in Wilkinson's sale.

2) It doesn't need a battery or recharging.

3) If I drop it onto a hard, or for that matter soft, floor it won't smash into a million pieces and I won't cry.

4) I won't get upset when Wilkinson's start selling a more up to date version with a rust resistant spiral bound centre.

5) It doesn't need a WiFi connection.

6) Nobody will want to steal it.

7) Each time I write something, it is automatically saved.

8) It won't break down. Ever.

9) If I meet someone without one I can tear out some sheets and share with them.

10) If I spill tea or coffee on it, not only will it still work, it will look funkier and smell nicer. (Or should that be look nicer and smell funkier?)

So, there you have it. 10 reasons (and I could think of dozens more) why my pad beats I pad any day.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Reall languages - update

I have blogged about Reall Languages before but now it is even better. The brainchild of Chris Reall, the site has been updated and is now even more user friendly.

It has a collection of games and activities to help learners of French, German, Spanish, Italian, Swedish and Latin. The games can be played at home by students and can be used on an interactive whiteboard in school, too.

Here is an example of one of the games:

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Ben (sort of...) speaks German.

Clip from the BBC's comedy show "Outnumbered". It made me laugh and makes a lot of sense, too (if you're German). Enjoy.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Teach Meet Tees11

This week I attended the first Teachmeet Tees. It was organised by Steve Bunce and Simon Finch and the venue was the ARC in Stockton. It was reasonably well attended, but it wasn't the quantity of attendees but the quality which really impressed me.

I got to meet some old friends and some new ones but the most important thing was I actually learned new things.

I think teachmeets can be great for linguists as you get to see what teachers of other subjects are doing and I love the informal atmosphere. Very often you can find a use for an idea, a piece of software, or a website that is ideal for use in languages lessons that was not intended to be used in MFL lessons at all.

The presenters were:

Martin Waller who told us about his Growing Greener Together project. This is a whole school approach to creative learning through gardening, cooking, conservation, enterprise and using digital technology.

Pete Fox. Pete showed us some excellent resources for improving numeracy across the curriculum. One of which was tutpup which allow users to play lots of maths games but also compete with other children from across the world.

Alasdair Douglas told us about an amazing year 7 project at his school which was based on the Angry Birds games. The pupils designed, created and played their own versions of the game using skills they had learned in science, maths, geography, technology, etc. He tells it a lot better than I do, perhaps because he was one of the instigators and facilitators.

Mark Clarkson showed us his "image of the week" idea. This is where he uses photos to engage students in tutor time to get the to think and speak about the world around us. The pictures come from where there are galleries of news related photos from around the world.

Simon Finch showed us the history of his dealings with the apple corporation from buying his first mac to reviewing for mac user magazine in the early days and everything since and also showed us how to make mini books and gave us a few dozen reasons on how we could use them creatively in our classrooms. Simon also took dozens of photos of the event which can be found on his flickr page.

Lynda Dixon shared her love of writing implements in her "Stationery or stationary?" presentation which (as well as looking like a plug for all things Apple-y) also included a video of José Picardo's ideas on how people currently use technology in their everyday lives.

Helena Butterfield showed us all about e-twinning with schools around the world and the adventures of Michel, the teddy bear traveller, who has visited schools in many different countries as a result of a recent e-twinning project.

Fiona Joyce showed us the amazing world of Storybird an amazing site for collaborative storytelling. Fiona has even set up a storybird wiki for teachers of languages to share storybirds they have made. If you haven't seen her wiki yet, you should visit and be inspired.

Steve Bunce also presented in collaboration with Simon and urged us to look at his Kindles and play on his Xbox kinect.

Helen Daykin, representing sponsor I am learning, provided the most amazing cupcakes, too.

My presentation "10 ways to use mobile phones in your classroom" included a phone poll to gauge how great it would be for the attendees to use mobiles in their own classrooms. I made it with the free version of smspoll. it seemed to go down OK despite my terrible cold and sounding like the offspring of Mariella Frostrup and Joe Pasquale.

Here are the results of the online mobile phone poll:

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Agreeing with Gove? Surely not?

For those who don't know, Michael Gove MP is the UK government's Secretary of State for Education.

He has more cunning plans than Baldrick and, usually, they are just as ridiculous, but today, I find myself agreeing with him.

It was this article in this morning's Guardian which made me stop and think.

My first thought was, "Who are you, and what have you done with Michael Gove?"

I continued reading.

This quote really floored me:

"Just as some people have taken a perverse pride in not understanding mathematics, so we have taken a perverse pride in the fact that we do not speak foreign languages, and we just need to speak louder in English. It is literally the case that learning languages makes you smarter. The neural networks in the brain strengthen as a result of language learning."

Teaching languages from the age of five?

In all primary schools?

Is it really going to happen?

I doubt it .

We'll just have to wait and see.