MFLSAT – the place to share

Following on from other successful events, the North East became the latest region to host a meeting for MFL teachers to share good practice.  Hosted at Cramlington Learning Village and organised by the most wonderful Chris Harte, the day brought together colleagues from up and down the country, who brought some examples of tricks and tips to enhance language teaching and learning.

I can’t begin to do full justice to all of the presentations here, but I’ll share the highlights, and where possible, link to people’s own blogs or presentations of their own work so that the information comes straight from the horse’s mouth.

First up was Mark Purves.  Mark is an enthusiastic advocate of singing as a tool for learning, and he got the day off to a rousing start by sharing some strategies for just that.  Music lifts the mood, and singing helps with controlling breathing – warm up exercises for voice,which is the instrument of languages.

Samantha Lunn was next, with some fabulous  suggestions for routines in the language classroom – she explains it all – and posts links to relevant documents – on her blog, so head on over and see what she has to say!

Thinking skills were the feature of Lynn Smith’s presentation, and she shared with us a multitude of ideas for developing these in MFL teaching and learning:

  • Odd one out
  • Give a selection of words, use each word once only to make 8 phrases in past tense
  • Almost encouraging pupils to be confused, part of the learning and thinking process
  • Memory map – a house is described on page outside classroom – pupils must take it in turns to read description, return to group and draw what they have read
  • DeBonos hats to promote discussions
  • Plenary- create mind-map ( = synthesising)
Clare Seccombe (whose article was recently published in TES) spoke to us about reading books for use in language learning.  Her presentation, including audio, can be found here, because she will explain it better than I ever could!  Oh, and she blogs here!
Emma Bains talked about some changes which she is in the process of introducing to her department’s curriculum.  They sound fabulous, and really imaginative.  Here’s a taster:
  • Pupils become a SatNav when learning to describe their town
  • Cluedo-type activity to encourage pupils to repeat several phrases whilst trying to guess the correct response
  • Rights and responsibilities
I had been looking forward to meeting Simon McLoughlin, as I am a huge admirer of the work he has been doing with his primary pupils.  He started by sharing a clip from Friends, to illustrate his point:
Simon uses Audioboo to record his pupils speaking, then lets them listen to themselves so that they can improve their pronunciation.  It works a treat!

The University of Newcastle’s computer aided learning resources were shared by Thomas Snell, who showed us the link to a vast archive of  language materials available at www.universed.co.uk.

Blockbusters was enthusiastically championed by Terri Dunne.  She presented an interactive template and a variety of language structures which work with the game, including practising different tenses.  Intensely competitive!

Dominic McGladdery shared some of his favourite classroom activities, which included:

Amanda Salt had flown over from Belfast just to attend this event, and she didn’t disappoint.  Amanda related the details of her school’s annual Spanish immersion weekend for A level students.  During this off-site weekend event, students take part in Dragon’s Den and treasure hunt style activities, and are not allowed to speak English in the presence of their teachers.  Amanda’s school wiki has all of the details …

We were then challenged to alter the way we mark our pupils’ books by Alex Blagona.  Alex was looking for ways to re-engage a group of demotivated year 8 pupils, so he began by asking them what they liked and didn’t like about their lessons.  Alex then adapted his teaching to suit the responses, and at end of each of lesson, asked again for feedback from pupils in their exercise books.  The marking process then became a dialogue between teacher and pupil, personalising the learning and assisting in developing conversations with parents too.  Pupils enjoyed the fact that they felt free to comment and had ownership of learning.

Joe Dale extolled the virtues of the QR code in this presentation so wander on over to have a look.  If you’re not sure what a QR code is, there’s an example below (you need a smart phone to read it), and there’s an explanation here.

Next up was Suzi Bewell, who graciously has blogged her own presentation about using Vocaroo – much better to have it from the person herself!

We then has a very special guest appearance, live from Oldham via Skype – Isabelle Jones told us about some cross curricular work she had done with music and art, resulting in some amazing rap music produced in French by some of her most demotivated boys.  We were all well and truly bowled over. and it was lovely to see Isabelle with us virtually!

Rene Koglbauer has done some lovely work with social media to improve writing, particularly that of boys.  Initially it was a dialogue for marking through email, and expanded to using Facebook in German for writing film reviews.  Pupils and staff commented on posts, and despite initial concerns over safeguarding, it turned into a very successful venture.

Fortunately, Alex Bellars has also posted a link to his presentation, in which he talked about three tools which he uses in the classroom:

  • Class Dojo – real-time behaviour rewards in class – increases engagement
  • Triptico – suite of IWB tools, eg Word Magnets for grouping, class timer, scoreboards, ordering priority of sentences
  • Lingro – turns a webpage into a clickable dictionary resource
During the day, there were also several ‘genius bar’ sessions, where people sat as experts during coffee break on a variety of topics.  As I was hosting one myself I don’t know what went on, but given the calibre of the other speakers I have no doubt they were worth the effort.
If you’d like to see the notes from my own genius bar, you could use the QR code above to take a look (see what I did there!), or check out this post.

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