York Show&Tell 1st June 2013

I was one of the people who volunteered to present a quick slot at Suzi Bewell’s Show&Tell event in York today.

I shared a few ideas for using song in the classroom, and here are some links to the things I mentioned.

  • Firstly, there’s the ‘Adapting Familiar Tunes’, where we sang the time in German to the tune of Eastenders.
  • Then I referred to LyricsGap, a site where there are ready-made exercises in several languages, but where you can also customise your own based on the lyrics.


  • For Germanists, there’s this great website where a guy called Alex creates videos of popular songs which he’s translated into German. One of my current favourites is Preisschild, a version of Jessie J’s Price Tag. You can find some activities to go with the video on this site.
  • I also referred to a post I wrote having seen Greg Horton speak at Language World earlier this year. Greg had some more excellent ideas for using song – take a look and feel free to get in touch if you want more of an explanation.

#lw2013 Language World 2013: Greg Horton – Motivational Ideas with Song

I was actually at Language World with work this year, but I was able to sneak off and take advantage of a fun and highly useful session given by Greg Horton.

Firstly, it was a delight to be in a session dominated by German for once 🙂 – although most of these ideas would also work with other languages.

Greg made some excellent suggestions as to how music can play a part in language learning, so here are a few of his ideas:

Obviously, some artists have already recorded songs in German, and can be used for scene-setting, a classroom treat, or a means of showing that not all popular music has to be in English.  Examples which Greg gave were: Peter Gabriel, Kraftwerk, and Nena. And of course, David Bowie.

But here are some other ideas which Greg suggested:

  • Pupils choose any tune they currently like, and sing a question in TL.  Their partner answers, also using the same tune.
  • Ich bin dein Gummibär – use to practise masculine adjective endings “Ich bin dein kleiner, grĂĽner, sĂĽsser …. Gummibär”
  • Da Da Da – give simple opinions in four syllables: “Ich liebe grĂĽn, ich hasse gelb, aha” and sing their own version.  Can also look at how “liebe” becomes shortened to “lieb'”, and so can gain an extra syllable.
  • Sing personal pronouns to karaoke version of “We Will Rock You” – (Ich, du, er ,sie, wir, ihr, Sie, sie).
  • In a similar vein, sing the verb “sein” to the theme of Mission Impossible (actions and movement around the classroom make this very lively and memorable!)
  • Use the song Jeden Tag bin ich bei Facebook drin to reinforce the phrase “gefällt mir”.

  • Pupils can make their own lyrics to express what their mobile phone means to them using the chorus from Mein neues Handy.
  • Timeline Dancing: pupils work in pairs and must ‘waltz’. One partner says a sentence – if it’s in present tense, step sideways; past tense, step back; future tense, step forward. If it also includes an opinion, twirl! This can be scaffolded by having some phrases visible on the board if necessary.

*Gratuitous David Bowie video*

Blogging After Posterous – Quo Vadis?

So we now know that Posterous will no longer be with us after the end of April.  Whilst there’s clearly no point bemoaning the demise of this near perfect, friendly, blogging platform, one question does loom large.  Where to go now?

I’ve been having a little play with some other possibilities this afternoon, and have reached some preliminary conclusions.

Firstly, a few comments to take into account.

  • This blog (Lingua Franca) is, and has always been, on WordPress. It was the first place I blogged, and I have always stuck with it as I find it versatile for the range of more reflective content which my posts may contain.
  • My Posterous blogs (StrictlyMiniCine, Cine365 and The Reesiepie Retrospective) were more ‘hobby’ blogs, ie to indulge and explore my love of film and song.  To this end, Posterous is perfect, as it is simple to use, handles YouTube clips with ease, and can be used via a mobile app (which wasn’t perfect, but was handy).
  • What’s important for me when migrating my posts is that I don’t have to revisit each entry to tweak it – it must be as simple as possible.  As the posts generally contain a YouTube clip, whatever I migrate to must support this easily.

I took a look at moving one of my Posterous spaces to Blogger, Tumblr and WordPress by way of experiment.  Here are my preliminary thoughts – it’s worth bearing in mind that your needs may differ from mine.


  • I like the interface; it seems relatively easy to use.
  • Inserting a link to a YouTube video is slightly less straightforward than with Posterous, but still manageable, as is including a hyperlink to another webpage.
  • In order to get your Posterous blog into Blogger, you first need to import it to WordPress then export it from there into Blogger.
  • Whilst it brought in all the posts, together with tags, it didn’t handle the YouTube or hyperlinks properly, leaving just the (non-active) link, and no video.

Conclusion: If you’re heavily reliant on video, this probably isn’t the way to go, even thought it’s otherwise friendly to use.


  • Tumblr is allegedly as easy to use as Posterous. Even though I’ve been experimenting with it in secret for a while, I can’t agree. I’m not a fan of the interface, and still feel like I don’t know what I’m doing.
  • More importantly, after much research, it seems to be impossible to import posts from anywhere to Tumblr. I would have thought they would be falling over themselves to pick up the Posterous fall-out, but it appears not. *

Conclusion: Not worth considering at the moment for migration, but perhaps useful as a newbie startup?


  • I do find WordPress a little high-maintenance at times, but my posts from Posterous were imported without trouble.  Videos were displayed correctly, in the correct place. And there’s no need for the two-phase export/import as with Blogger.
  • I don’t find WordPress as easy to use as Posterous, but then it was designed for a different purpose, so that’s perhaps a little unfair of me.

Conclusion: Not necessarily the simplest for a novice, but if you’re more confident, then it works fine.

So what am I going to do? I’m going to experiment further!

  1. I’m only 48 days in to my Cine365 challenge, and so for this blog, I’m going to do the double export to Blogger, make some time to amend the 48 YouTube links that won’t import correctly, and continue to the end of the year with Blogger for this one.
  2. As there are significantly more posts on StrictlyMiniCine, which would mean a lot of editing, I’m going to bring that one into WordPress and continue with it there for the time being.

That way I’ll be able to trial both, and reach a more informed conclusion as the year progresses.

I’d be delighted to hear if you have any better suggestions, or can let me know things I’ve overlooked or missed.


* Edit – Thanks to @lisibo who has pointed out the JustMigrate service, which allows you to move your Posterous to Tumblr – if you really want to! It’s free for less than 100 posts. Thanks Lisa!

Breaking Dawn – Biss zum Ende der Nacht

I was experimenting with something for work the other day, and ended up with these suggestions for use with the German trailer for the final Twilight film, due for release soon.  If it’s of any use to anyone, feel free to help yourselves!

Suggested activities

Don’t tell pupils what the film is – see if they can work it out before the trailer is played!

  • Sorting activity:
    • Either: give pupils the sheet (download below) and ask them to cut them up into tiles Or: cut them up yourself first.
    • Play the trailer without showing it (ie switch project/computer screen off). Pupils listen and organise the text pieces into the order in which they hear them spoken.
  • Ask pupils to use dictionaries to look up selected words.
  • Ask pupils to pick out things from the text, eg:
    • past participles
    • future tense
    • verb endings
    • adjective endings
  • Show the trailer with the sound muted and ask pupils to write what they think they would hear, or write subtitles.
  • Ask pupils to act out the text in time with the trailer.
  • Pupils write and act out their own scenes based on the characters from the film.

Here is the text sorting activity, and here is the full text.

Harry Potter and the End of Term Feeling

At this time of year, what with sports day, visits to Alton Towers, and induction tours with Year 6, I find it difficult to keep both my classes and myself motivated, and I try to find activities which will hopefully keep pupils engaged.

Below the video are some materials which I have thrown together, which may be useful for part of a lesson – steal away if they’re of any use! (and apologies for any mistakes).

Suggestions for activities

Text sorting activity

Correct text order

Dictionary skills

Die Welle

I love using film in lessons, but I believe the audience should participate in some way; too many times, films are used as a method of keeping pupils quiet towards the end of term, which for me diminishes the art and craft of film making.  I want to encourage my pupils to watch foreign language films, even after they stop learning the language.

So here’s one of my favourites.  I absolutely love this film, and use any opportunity to show it to my students, because they usually love it too.

I find it interesting and useful for the classroom on many levels:

  1. First and foremost, it’s a great story.
  2. It’s set in a school, so has a lot of young protagonists, which is usually a bonus for hooking pupils in.
  3. The students are from a range of backgrounds (social, cultural, family).
  4. Tranferring the original story from USA to Germany provides an extra dimension when considering autocratic government/leadership.
  5. It opens up avenues to discuss some of Germany’s historical past, and to dispel some myths.

I use the film in a number of ways, depending on the class I have:

One year, I used the film as a stimulus for an extended piece of writing, before watching the film.

I showed my class some stills from the film, and told them nothing other than the names of the characters and that the setting was school.  I told them they could be either one of the characters, or a friend of one of the characters. I suggested that they think about describing the people, their relationships, the school, and what a typical day would be like.  For more able, I added that they might want to use their imaginations to describe something unusual that happened at school.

They loved it!  The less able (it was a mixed GCSE group containing pupils with targets from A to G) did basic descriptions of the characters, whilst the more able had one of the pupils with a crush on the teacher, or one of the pupils stabbing another!

After working hard on the task, the reward was to watch the film, and the pupils were intrigued to see what actually  happened to each of the characters. Some were very close to the truth.

With a much weaker group, I introduced the film and some of the historical/political references which they might have missed, and let them watch it.  Afterwards they used a gap fill exercise to summarise the story.

This year’s Year10 group get to watch it after they’ve done their next Controlled Assessment – 0n school!

Die Fremde

I was really excited last Sunday to be able to attend a free screening of a prize-winning film Die Fremde (literally translated as The Foreigner, but the film was shown under the English title When We Leave).  The screening took place at my favourite cinema, Cornerhouse, on Oxford Road in Manchester.  Here’s the trailer from the official website:

Recognising the difficulties in distributing a film in a multi-lingual market, the Lux Film Prize is awarded by the European Parliament, and covers the cost of subtitling its winning film in each of the 23 EU official languages, and of supplying a copy of the film to each of the 27 EU member states.  The film is then shown to invited audiences during the month of May in each of the countries, and the UK venue was Manchester.

What I found interesting about this film was the subject matter – a Turkish-German woman’s search for self-fulfilment, and the conflict this produces for her among her family and community, where the men traditionally have authority.  Touching on issues of forced marriage and domestic violence, the film also has some scenes of real happiness and love, along with some absolute heartbreak.

Although not officially released in the UK yet, I would highly recommend taking a look when the opportunity arises.  It’s a story which is highly relevant, not just in Germany or among the Turkish community, and raises lots of questions.

Congratulations to director Feo Aladag, Cornerhouse and the European Parliament for making, showing and distributing this beautiful and thought-provoking film.