Tuesday, 23 March 2010

ALL West of England Branch conference Saturday 6 March 2010

Teachers are real gluttons for punishment, tipping out on a Saturday morning for CPD, but it was a great morning and lovely to see new faces and stalwart ALL committee members still carrying the flag for MFL.

Key Note address was given by Wendy Adeniji, consultant, teacher, "Regional Co-ordinator for dissemination of the New Modern languages Secondary Curriculum," general MFL mover and shaker.
Wendy knows the importance of being a realist and that was a most welcome introduction to the day. Any speaker tackling the renewed KS3 Framework has to be brave enough to take on the grumpy and over-worked like me and I enjoyed Wendy's Keynote speech very much.

Wendy focused on effective KS2-3 transition, aiming to provide coherence and progression, all with a dash of her key theme - "Teaching the usual in an unusual way " - the strap line from one of her websites, link here.

Main points of the new Framework were most helpfully summarised for us and we came away with simple ideas to integrate into SOWs straightaway and some publicity for ilanguages' really good SOW for the whole of Yr7 - I have sent for one of Wendy's sample CDs to try out a few lessons.

Wendy gave us a quick review of her take on covering new KS3 Framework in unusual ways.

1. Using songs for Linguistic progression - teach the grammar for finding je forms from the infinitive - Wendy used Lorie, Abba for -er or ir verb endings and Henri Dès' Polysong for teaching sound/spelling link.
2. Lovely idea for Vokis - get the year 7s to record who they are but then add the twist of saying j'ai les cheveux bruns mais je voudrais les cheveux raides et blonds. - Neat.
3. Wednesday is Wendy's midweek challenge day - She showed us some superb work on Fairtrade ideas with yr7 using Ethletic Fairtrade footballs - take a look at jeujouethique.com website and eco-sapiens.com. Wendy and her co-writers have used the ethical idea to give Year 7 work on sports a novel tweek. Her material was superb.
4. As Thinking skills are so highly promoted in the renewed framework, Wendy reminded us of "Thinking through MFL" by Sheryl Mackay & Mei Lin and demonstrated some materials which test pupils ability to identify facts from opinions for example. Unit 11 of the renewed Framework was brought to our attention again - I really appreciate the push to engage with the material!
5. Using the web to flash up front covers of teen mags in French or German etc will test ability to read and decipher meaning fast. Try "Jeune et jolie" for French or "Mädchen" for German. Realia has never been so accessible.
6. Exploiting poems for reading and creative writing.
7. Intercultural Understanding is of course now a huge part of KS2 and KS3 work but if you lack the resources or inspiration, then look no further than Wendy's ready-made materials. Stunning use of pictures of families' food for discussion, comparison and sobering reflection - how much do they get to eat in Togo etc?? I also loved the use of Amadou and Mariam's hit "Quelle heure est-il à Bamako" and video clips about Fast foods in Senegal - all for Year 7!
8. KAL - Knowledge about Language. Wendy and her co-authors have put in a lot of language awareness materials at the start of their Yr7 SOW, some of it based on Latin for example and also on the 100 most important words in English, French, whatever - I was very impressed by the snippets she showed us and felt inspired to investigate further.

Altogether a great opening to a day of learning and I have been reading Wendy's sites since, gleaning ideas and materials for next year. Her stand-alone modules on Chocolate, Fairtrade, Art for example are going to be life-savers...

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

MYLO - looking forward

It was with some curiosity that I arrived at CILT in February, not knowing quite what was waiting for us at an initial meeting - still, imagine, what a treat! A whole day out in the big smoke to join other interested ICT-minded teachers to discuss a new project - cool!

You try to do your homework, don't you, but as a product still in development it had been quite hard to get a feel for MYLO in advance. I therefore found myself taken aback by the enormity of the project and really excited by the scale of the assistance that it appears will be on offer to us. As a recommendation of the Dearing review, there is no doubt that the MYLO team's intention is to provide exciting resources for instant appeal in the classroom. This package is being designed to give MFL teachers resources in 4 languages for use at Breakthrough and Preliminary level but with an really modern , relevant feel.
After some more background about the product we were given a chance to play with some of the "challenges" already on offer and then to inspect some further materials and to feed back our initial reactions.
You can read the description of the Challenges designed by the team here. It involves introduction, practice, input and then production but cunningly disguised in interesting scenarios, set in a context with cultural relevance for the language. The pupils are then ready for a challenge, where they will also be led through training materials, but will be able to compete against the computer or friends in a group or against another registered school!

I found it heartening to see the thoughtfulness and care taken by the two guys representing Lightbox Education - they were incredibly open to feedback and criticisms in a way which I think is rare to find.

I couldn't start to write in full about the scope of the project and others have already done it far better than me - see Isabelle Jones, Simon Howells and Chris Fuller for example. However, as a Head of Languages in a good comprehensive school, not a Languages College, I felt able to say whatever I liked to the designers and I felt we were listened to. It looks good - trendy materials, excellent writers, lovely ideas to allow pupils to compete against each other and other schools and I won't be sniffing at this quality of stuff being offered free to us as a result of the Dearing review. We need all the support we can get.

My only reservation - and I told them this - is that life at the whiteboard is now so complex, there is a real danger that the average teacher will sigh from overload, even when presented with superb free materials, because no-one can work out how to pay for or provide training time. We are desperate for time and peace and quiet (in my case) to get to grips with all the new stuff.

That being said, I am going to enjoy trialling the materials - we have only one slot in 3 different computer rooms once every few weeks for all our lower school classes - that is life in an ordinary comprehensive i.e. I will be able to give the MYLO site a very "normal" user try-out - nothing fancy, just the usual range of Year9s becoming more difficult to motivate at this time of year! But I am looking forward to giving it a go and will be writing about it again.