Here is where you’ll find resources, comments, updates etc for the trial work with Year 9. For my initial ramblings on the subject, click here. For resources in a straightforward list, click here or choose the ‘Resources’ tab at the top of the page.
Preparation – part 1: A Good Start
Once I had reached the decision to hand over the lessons to the pupils, I needed to choose some of them to lead the work. Three pupils were part of the initial conversation with me regarding why learning and teaching was not happening properly with that class. They are all pupils who generally have an interest in German, don’t mind expressing their opinions, and are quite forceful personalities within their groups of friends. They were obvious choices, but I also had my eye on an able, but seriously under-performing pupil, whom I wanted to engage. I invited her to be the fourth leader.
I brought these four together during our Tuesday lesson, and outlined my plan. They were all very keen and enthusiastic, so I handed them the planning documents, and they spent the lesson working out how to take the plan forward.
Preparation – part 2: Confusion
On Wednesday (the second lesson that week), the leaders divided the class into four. They took a group each, and set about explaining the plan to their classmates.
After about 15 minutes of extremely enthusiastic work, I suddenly realised what they were doing. Each group was already learning a section of the work, ready to teach it to the rest of the group. They had already devised some kind of carousel activity and were working on their part frantically! Much as I admired what was going on, I got the four leaders together for a re-think. One group was merrily copying out phrases to teach the rest of the group with no idea at all about how the grammar worked or even what the sentences meant.
I asked them to get their groups to come up with ideas and suggestions as to how they would like to learn, so that when it came to their allocated section, they would be able to prepare to teach.
This is what they came up with – all their own work, and I particularly like the bit where they need me to relax!
However, my next action seems obvious – their suggestions for learning are very creative, but could end up being lots of low-level activities. Challenge and fun? Make it so!
Lesson 1 – Energize!
So, first day after the holidays, last lesson of the day. I’m tired, they’re tired, and they’ve forgotten what’s supposed to be happening.
After a quick reminder, the ‘teachers’ (as they like to be known) got to work with the tasks. Conscious of the low levels addressed by many of the activities they had suggested, I decided to give them this sheet, containing all their suggestions, and asked them to colour code according to which level they felt matched the outcome of the activity.
This actually generated some interesting discussions within the groups about what they felt they could achieve, and what they wanted to achieve. The four teachers then came forward and held up their coloured sheets. This then led to feedback and discussions as to how a role play could be both level 2 and level 5, and why Linguascope will never let them progress sufficiently.
At the end of this section, the pupils themselves reached the conclusion that:
- in order to progress through the levels, they were going to have to challenge themselves with some of the ‘more difficult’ activities
- people would have to stop talking and concentrate because the teachers were already annoyed by the level of chat
So far so good – and even better when I realised that, without a comment from me, one of the teachers had quietly rearranged two of the groups in order to split up the chatterboxes!
For the rest of the lesson, one of the groups wanted to get started straightaway by teaching parts of the body, and I didn’t want to stop the momentum.
The next ten minutes were, shall we say, highly interesting for me. As I sat back and let the group begin, it became obvious that at least half of them were chatting amongst themselves, and not paying attention. The teachers’ attempts to regain a sensible working environment were unsuccessful, and they ended up looking pleadingly at me to intervene. I took great pleasure in responding by opening my arms, shrugging, and suggesting that they implement their own sanctions plan. One of the teachers gave up in the end with the words ‘now I know how you feel, Miss’.
This prompted another to respond with a speech along the lines of ‘you come to school to learn and so youse [sic] should all shut up and give the teachers a chance. Grow up.’
As a plenary, each of the teachers nominated other pupils to talk about what they had learned that lesson (not a brilliant plenary, but there was method in my madness). Two commented about understanding the levels better, and knowing what they were aiming for (I regarded this as a success). Two repeated two items of vocabulary (Hand and Arm – both exactly the same as the English). This was, clearly, less of a success.
The German FLA who was with us is also enjoying the experiment – he is of the opinion that, if the pupils get fed up with each other’s behaviour, it will be the key to a more successful working environment. I’ve known them a bit longer and I’m not sure yet.
Lesson 2 is next Tuesday – watch out for the update!
Lessons 2 & 3 – progress?
Well it seems that I am almost superfluous to requirements for Year 9! I was ill for the first of the two lessons this week, but fortunately had already prepared the materials. My Head of Department located the folder, briefed the cover teacher, and off they went. The German FLA was with the group too, and he filled me in on events.
One group took charge of introducing the vocabulary to the whole class, asking for repetitions, checking understanding. Then in groups, each pupil labelled a drawing of a body I had left them. The ‘teachers’ led their groups through games and activities to help everyone remember the vocabulary – eg quizzing each other on meaning or spelling. One ‘teacher’ went so far as to write the vocabulary on slips of paper, getting her pupils to draw a slip and give the correct meaning. Both the cover teacher and the FLA said the class was a little noisy, but on task and in charge of their learning. The pupils awarded each other merits for good work.
I made it back in – the pupils were keen to show me the work they had done the day before, and were proud of their work. Good news!
We started with a rally robin (in pairs, pupils take it in turn to name an item of vocabulary, passing backwards and forwards like tennis).
The focus for this lesson was to learn and use the plural forms for the nouns. I played the class this song from the BBC website several times, which they firstly laughed at, then sang along with, and ended up spotting for themselves the plural forms. They made a note of them, then set about designing their own monster/alien with multiple arms, eyes etc, complete with description (to be completed for homework). The working atmosphere was excellent – I could hardly believe it was the same collection of pupils.
Can it last? …
Lessons 4 & 5 – Insurrection
It was too good to be true. The first issue – only 6 of them had remembered to bring the homework. Three out of four of the pupil-teachers had also forgotten the work. So the teachers decided that everyone should have until break next day to bring the work in, otherwise they would put themselves into detention. They announced this to the class, and everyone agreed this was fair. (I was keen to get them to decide and announce themselves, so that it wasn’t me who was seen to be laying down the law.)
And so to the lesson. To start with, the group allocated to take charge this week led the whole class in a rendition of Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes in German. It got off to a slow start, but eventually they all joined in and there were even smiles 🙂 (I tried to take pictures, but they didn’t come out well enough to use.)
But technology let me down for the major part of the lesson. I had prepared my first ever Storybird to introduce the language for describing aches and pains, but it seems that at 2.20pm on Tuesday afternoon, the whole world wanted to get onto the Storybird website. The site was showing ever-capacity, and I couldn’t access my creation :-(. The German FLA led the class in an impromptu game of ‘Simon Says’ whilst we waited for the bird of story to co-operate. By the time we actually got access to the website, there wasn’t much time left in the lesson, so we abandoned it. Naturally with the lesson structure falling apart, behaviour disintegrated, and I was left feeling frustrated.
I immediately set about turning the Storybird into a PowerPoint for future use – we live and learn!
The mayhem continued! Only a further three or four pieces of homework had been submitted by the extended deadline, so half the class (including three of the ‘teachers’) knew they were to be kept in detention. So much for handing over ownership of learning …
The intention then was for the Storybird to take over, to be the focus of the language learning for this lesson. The allocated group started their teaching, but it was like Delaney’s Donkey (for those of you who remember Val Doonican – pushing it, shoving it, shushing it). The class wouldn’t co-operate with each other, their own rewards and sanctions weren’t working, and it was just like it used to be when I tried to teach them. Eventually, they pleaded with me to take over “because they’re just not listening to us”. As another old-timer, Jim Reeves would sing – Welcome to my world :-D.
When I did take over, at least they ‘shushed’ enough to do some practise, but it was not the ideal set of lessons this week. I am not giving up – resistance is futile, year 9!
Lessons 6 & 7 – Nemesis
Once every four weeks, my class and I get to use the computer suite. It’s the only language classroom with a full set of computers, so I try to plan something that will allow the pupils to move their learning forward independently, or give them some well-needed practice in an interactive way.
Given the battles that we’ve had recently, I thought I would introduce them to the Alien Language website (thanks to @kec974, a Twitter colleague, for pointing me towards this, as I had not come across it before.) Fortunately, technology was on my side, and we had a quiet and productive lesson.
Two of the pupil ‘teachers’ have mutinied! One is too lazy to be bothered, and the other doesn’t want to do it anymore “because the rest of the class don’t listen”.
All this was very interesting to me, because it has started to separate out the real problem-makers from the hive mentality that appeared to present itself each lesson. Three of the four groups got on with the work, (one with a surrogate ‘teacher’ taking over), helping each other out and enjoying the competition with the other groups. The fourth group (with the ‘teacher’ who hates not being listened to) spent the majority of the lesson talking to each other, not working and ignoring me. The rest of the class was annoyed and reprimanded them, too. Needless to say, they came last in the quiz and won no prizes.
This week certainly clarified my mind about who the actual troublemakers are, and I will have my beady eye on them next week.
Lessons 8 & 9 – Kobayashi Marie
This was not the best of lessons – we had got to the point where the pupils knew they needed an explanation of the grammar they were working on, even asked me to explain it to them, yet at the same time wouldn’t stop talking enough to listen to me or each other.
Kobayashi Marie – my very own no-win scenario.
I battled on, and again realised who was causing the problems – same ones as before, including one girl who is quite intimidating to a lot of the others (and sometimes to me).
I wasn’t sure how far I got with the teaching, but I was really pleased to see one group really supporting each other – pupils who don’t usually even speak to each other, were working as a team.
Some you win …
Fittingly enough, we made Chatterboxes! I didn’t know the name for them, but we used to make them all the time as kids – remember? I used a template (below) which I’m not allowed to upload here, but if you want the Publisher version, please just let me know.
Pupils drew an arm / finger / eye on one of the inside flaps, and underneath, wrote the sentence that says ‘my arm / finger / eye hurts’. They each chose their own 8 illnesses from a longer list we had looked at, and then paired up to practice the language. Needless to say, far too much time was spent on the drawing, but they were focussing on the language, and were making their own choices.
Lessons 10 & 11 – First Contact!
For the first time, I felt that some progress had been made! Each group was to write a short role play, where one pupil was the doctor, and the others were patients. One lesson to draft and rehearse (noisily, of course), and part of the next lesson to perform and mark the plays.
I had anticipated that a few of the quieter pupils would not like this activity too much, but as there are sufficient drama queens in the group, I figured they should have their (legitimate) moment in the spotlight!
Apart from some really ropey pronunciation (because they hadn’t listened and repeated sufficiently, of course), I was actually pleased and surprised by the outcomes. Some of them brought resources, others had sound effects, and there was some magnificent overacting!
The class was surprised that the group which scored the highest marks was not the one everyone had thought it would be, which I enjoyed very much.
Hailing Frequencies Open
The final task of the session was to take some feedback from the pupils, to see how they felt the project had worked, and to find out how we move forward for next half term. Once I’ve collated their responses, I’ll write an update.