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.


I posted a link to this site on Facebook earlier this week, and said it was a bit addictive.  It really is!

Geoguessr is a website which uses Google Maps.  You get ‘placed’ somewhere in the world, and you have to work out where you are.  You can pick up clues from things such as buildings, vegetation, landscape, weather, and even the side of the road cars are driving on.  Occasionally you can find a word, signpost or flag which helps.  Once you’ve decided roughly where you think you are, you drop a pin into a world map, and see how close you were.  You get five ‘goes’ in each round.  It’s amazing how much two places thousands of miles apart can look like each other!


I’ve kept coming back to the site over the last few days, wondering if it could be used for language teaching at all.  I don’t think it’s perfect, because as a teacher you don’t really have enough control over what appears, but it does have some possibilities, such as:

  • describing what pupils see in front of them
  • giving opinions on what they see
  • justifying those opinions (I think it could be …. because ….)
  • comparing what they see to places they have been or seen before

It could also be a good tutor-time filler.   Or it can just take up your own free time – as I said, it’s addictive!

#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 GabrielKraftwerk, 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, grüner, süsser …. Gummibär”
  • Da Da Da – give simple opinions in four syllables: “Ich liebe grün, 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!

I heard it through the (grape)Vine

Since I first came across Vine just over a week ago, I’ve been mulling over the possibilities for use in language teaching.

Vine is brought to you by Twitter, and is an app (currently only available for iPhone and iPod touch – sorry Android users) which invites you to create a video of no more than 6 seconds, which then plays on loop after it’s been created.

Here’s my first attempt (created with my not-yet-fully-formed MFL idea in my head) to see how it could work (there is sound, so you may need to click the sound icon to activate it).

The ‘Vines’ are easy enough to create, and the fact that it runs on a loop means that you get a quick snatch of vocabulary which get repeated and repeated … until you hit stop.

There’s definitely something in there for vocabulary and language learning, and I’m thinking that pupils could listen to or create their own for revision etc.

Watch this space as I try to find more things to do with Vine.

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.

Why you should join NALA

I have just spent my Friday and part of Saturday attending the NALA annual conference in lovely Stratford-upon-Avon.

NALA is the National Association for Language Advisors, and I have been a member for around 10 years now.

I find NALA a great source of CPD, information and updates on all things related to language teaching and learning.  Particularly now that I am out of the classroom, it’s been one of the best ways of keeping right up to date with things.

Organised geographically, each region meets regularly (usually termly or half-termly depending on the region), to share and discuss the latest in language education.

Each year, members from all regions are invited to gather for the national conference (often in Stratford-upon-Avon).  This year’s speakers brought us updates and comment from :

  • John Stephens, NCSL
  • Alison Peacock, on the Cambridge Primary Review
  • Josephine Howarth, DfE
  • Carmel O’Hagan, CfBT and Mike Humphreys, Stourport High, on Teaching Schools
  • Lynn Erler, Department of Education, Oxford University
  • Alex Blagona – The Language Learner of the Future?
  • Hugh Baldry, Teaching Agency
  • Fil Nereo, Higher Education Academy
  • Domini Stone, Network for Languages
  • Nikki Perry, NALA and Speak to the Future

As you can see, wide-ranging topics, and featuring key people and organisations.

Despite the name, you don’t have to be a language advisor to join. If you are involved in any way with supporting the learning and teaching of languages in the UK, no matter which sector or stage of education you work with, I would encourage you to join. As well as the CPD aspect, NALA is also a vehicle for engaging with policy makers on behalf of its members.  For example, NALA is currently collating members’ comments in order to respond to the Call for Evidence on GCSE Controlled Assessment, the A level consultation. It will be doing the same for the Primary curriculum consultation, announced – with perfect timing – on the first day of the conference.

Find out more about NALA here, or you can contact me by leaving a comment below (or on Twitter – @Reesiepie) and I can put you in touch with  the relevant person in your region.