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#PracPed15 – Using technology to enhance Primary Language Learning

October 21st, 2015

Evernote Snapshot 20151016 104158My session at the wonderful Practical Pedagogies conference centred around the use of technology to enhance Primary Language Learning.

Key points I made included:

  • technology is not  just for the pupils but also for the teacher;
  • it is just one tool we have to use;
  • it is not always the best tool for the job.

I went on to suggest online tools as well as apps that might be useful in a range of contexts and situations.

My presentation is below and there is wiki with links to tutorials, examples and ideas that accompanies it. Feel free to ask questions via the contact form or @lisibo on Twitter.

Using technology to enhance Primary Language Learning from Lisa Stevens
And thanks to Marisa for sharing her notes (and photographs!) here.

#pracped15 – impressions and sketchnotes

October 21st, 2015

IMG_5969Screen Shot 2015-09-05 at 15.40.04I had the joy and pleasure of going to France last week for the Practical Pedagogies conference at International School of Toulouse. It’s not every day you get to go on a course that involves a ‘plane journey, and I was wondering about the wisdom of my exploits as I sprinted from one side of Brussels Airport to the other with 20 minutes to make my connecting flight thanks to high winds delaying my incoming flight… I made it, and it was well worth the travel and the late night.

What a conference! Why? Well, there were many reasons!

    1. The welcome received at IST was wonderful. The staff went out of their way to help us. For example, I tweeted that I was having plug adaptor woes (mine didn’t have a ‘top hole’ so wouldn’t go in the socket, the one loaned by the hotel wouldn’t work either as my plug wouldn’t go into it…) and within minutes I was presented with a working adaptor and was able to charge my ‘phone (thanks also to Chris Mayoh who seemed to have a case full of adaptors that he was lending out!)
    2. The organisation. Never have I been to such a well organised conference. Things ran to schedule, the gaps between sessions meant that you always had time for coffee even if you stayed behind to ask a question at the end of the previous one, and I never felt the vertigo I often feel as I rush from one place to another without breathing.
    3. The company. What a great bunch of people! I laughed until I cried at points and enjoyed the friendship offered by those I already knew, those who I’d only previously known online, and those who were completely new acquaintances. Fun and games involving hats, Lycra, yards of beer and bowling alleys spring to mind.
    4. Ewan McIntosh. That man has been so pivotal in my thinking and development as a teacher and learner, right from when he was still a language teacher and spoke at Language World at Oxford Uni. He will forever be known in my house as ‘the man who made Mum buy a Nintendo DS’ for which my sons are very grateful. Every time I hear him speak or read his blog he challenges me to think and consider what I do, how I teach and how I can best facilitate learning. And he is also very human and it’s great to talk to him. Loved this description of him:

And  5. The variety of sessions was amazing! Covering any subject you could name plus cross curricular ones as well as technology and even ukelele playing. It was very hard to select just 7 (I was told I had to choose my own session) but I did.
To sum it up in a tweet:

  I tried to sketch note all the sessions I attended, only failing twice as I couldn’t draw during the Drama workshop and it was hard during the AIM one as I needed to use my hands to gesture (and I’m also rubbish at drawing hands!) Anyway, I’ve uploaded my notes below.

Ewan McIntosh - opening keynote @ewanmcintosh @notosh

Ewan McIntosh – opening keynote @ewanmcintosh @notosh


Novel departures - Estelle Ash and Isobel Patrick (IST) @estelleash @isobel_patrick

Novel departures – Estelle Ash and Isobel Patrick (IST) @estelleash @isobel_patrick


Boosting language acquisition through a FUN reading program - Patricia Burgaud and Joanne Allcock

Boosting language acquisition through a FUN reading program – Patricia Burgaud and Joanne Allcock


Stimulating writing using technology to encourage reluctant readers - Julian Wood @Ideas_Factory

Stimulating writing using technology to encourage reluctant readers – Julian Wood @Ideas_Factory


Immersive Learning - Ewan McIntosh @ewanmcintosh @notosh

Immersive Learning – Ewan McIntosh @ewanmcintosh @notosh


Practical Straegies for teaching EAL students - Nick Fretwell (IST) @Nick_Fretwell

Practical Straegies for teaching EAL students – Nick Fretwell (IST) @Nick_Fretwell

All in all, an amazing time during which I’ve learned a lot and laughed a lot too. I hope there’s a #PracPed16 – or 17 if Russel needs longer to recover 😉 – already planning what I might offer to present! (This year’s offering is in the next post!)

If you want to find out more, check out Russel Tarr’s reflections on the event, and notes etc are here

PS I think that every good school needs a ‘crime scene’ in the foyer complete with police tape, forensics suit and evidence. Talk about capturing the imagination!

Practical Pedagogies Conference 2015

September 5th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-09-05 at 15.38.53I always get excited when people invite me to speak at conferences but I was very excited when Russel Tarr (created Classtools.net and was famously attacked by Gove for using Mr Men to help teach History resulting in a mass Mr Men Twitter avatar protest in solidarity!) asked me if I’d like to speak at a conference he was planning in Toulouse. A trip to France? Don’t mind if I do! And when he told me who else was speaking, I was even more excited and also perhaps a little daunted when I saw who else was speaking!

Practical Pedagogies takes place at the International School of Toulouse on October 15th and 16th and is

A high-impact training conference for classroom teachers by classroom teachers.
Two days of inspiring keynotes70+ workshops and networking activities: only 150 Euros!


I’m very much looking forward to the conference as there are so many different sessions under the umbrella theme of “Creativity, internationalism and innovation in the classroom” that it was very hard to choose which I’d like to attend. The programme is packed with goodies as you can see! And Ewan McIntosh @ewanmcintosh @notosh  who is keynoting and also delivering workshops always inspires and challenges!

Screen Shot 2015-09-05 at 15.40.04

My session will be about using ICT in the Primary Language Classroom:

Screen Shot 2015-09-05 at 15.08.09

There are threads for

  • Pedagogy, Personal and Professional development including sessions by Miles Berry (@mberry), David Rogers (@daviderogers), Bill Lord (@Joga5) and Marisa Constantinides (@marisa_c);             
  • Computing including sessions by Miles Berry (@mberry) and Chris Mayoh (@chrismayoh);
  • Drama, Music and Design and technology including a session that I want to attend on Using drama games and activities across the curriculum led by G. Fearnehough (@gfearnehough), Curriculum Leader for Drama at IST, and E. Renou (@emmanuelrenou31), Modern Foreign Languages teacher at IST;
  • History including a session about collaboration between History and Geography (and beyond!) led by Russel Tarr, author of ActiveHistory, and Matthew Podbury, author of GeographyPods.
  • Science which offers diverse sessions on data logging, helping EAL learners and using SOLO taxonomy;
  • English and Literacy with sessions led by Julian Wood (@ideas_factory), and staff from IST about using picture and story books to work creatively and cross curricularly (hopefully I’ll get to attend one or both);
  • Mathematics with sessions on using Lego and Geogebra;
  • Assessment and reporting with a session entitles Marking:Is it really worth it?;
  • Tech tools including sessions by Dave Stacey @davestacey and John Sutton @HGJohn;
  • CAS (Creativity, action, service) and TOK (theory of knowledge);

and of course

  • Languages that features people I know like Isabelle Jones (@icpjonesand those who I have yet to meet like Dico Krommenhoek (@dico_kr). Oh, and me! I’m very much looking forward to finding out more about AIM and how IST use a FUN reading programme to boost comprehension and expression with their upper primary language learners.

There’s still time to register if you’d like to attend. It costs 150 euros (very reasonable) and if you can get a cheap flight it’s not much more expensive than two days of INSET!

And if you can’t attend in person, you can follow on Twitter! You can follow the Twitter account @pedagogies and the conference hashtag is




It’d be great to see some of you there and if not, converse via Twitter. And of course I’ll share my thoughts (and sketch notes!) on my return!


Reading Macondo #FLMacondo

September 1st, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 07.55.27I’ve spent part of each week during the summer holiday taking part in a MOOC  run by FutureLearn. Their courses are free and run throughout the year and I recommend them. I took part in a course on Dyslexia and Language Learning in May and thoroughly enjoyed it. You can find out more about my thoughts and findings on that course here, and apply to join the course when it is next run here.

This course was entitled Reading Macondo: the Works of Gabriel García Márquez

Explore why the author of One Hundred Years of Solitude is one of the 20th century’s leading writers in this free online course

I’d read some GGM as part of my Spanish studies at school, and then for fun later on, and the course immediately appealed as I enjoyed the books I’d read and wanted to discover more. I have to say that rereading them, guided by the magnificent tutors on the course, has been very revealing and rewarding too, and I’ve discovered so many links and parallels in the work of GGM that I’m more than ever convinced of his genius!

Here’s an introduction to the course (shared from the FutureLearn site)

We began by looking at GGM’s novellas: in week 1 we considered La H0jarasca / Leaf Storm and  in week 2, El Coronel no tiene quien le escriba / No One Writes to the Colonel.

Next, in week 3,  we looked at a selection of the short stories contained in Los Funerales de la Mamá Grande / Big Mama’s Funeral.

In week 4 we moved on to consider La Mala Hora/ In Evil Hour, a short novel that is GGM’s first attempt at writing something longer.

And in weeks 5 and 6 we reached his ‘masterpiece of global literature’, Cien Años de Soledad / One Hundred Years of Solitude.

As with the Dyslexia course, I’ve sketch noted each week and shared the finished notes on Twitter and with the course participants via the comments facility on the site, and I thought I’d share them here all together.

Week 1 - The structure of La Hojarasca

Week 1 – The structure of La Hojarasca


Week 1 - La Hojarasca/Leaf Storm

Week 1 – La Hojarasca/Leaf Storm


Week 2 - El Coronel no tiene quien le escriba / No one writes to the Colonel

Week 2 – El Coronel no tiene quien le escriba / No one writes to the Colonel


Week 3 - Los funerales de la Mamá Grande / Big Mama's funeral

Week 3 – Los funerales de la Mamá Grande / Big Mama’s funeral


Week 4 - La Mala Hora / In Evil Hour

Week 4 – La Mala Hora / In Evil Hour


Week 5 - Cien años de soledad / One hundred years of solitude

Week 5 – Cien años de soledad / One hundred years of solitude


Week 5 - Personajes en Cien años de soledad / Characters in One hundred years of solitude

Week 5 – Personajes en Cien años de soledad / Characters in One hundred years of solitude


Week 6 - Tiempo en Cien años de soledad / Time in One hundred years of solitude

Week 6 – Tiempo en Cien años de soledad / Time in One hundred years of solitude

I was very excited to see this note at the end of week 6:

You may be pleased to know that we will be offering a second FutureLearn course on the work of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, which will examine The Autumn of the PatriarchChronicle of a Death ForetoldLove in the Time of CholeraThe General in His LabyrinthOf Love and Other Demons, and some short stories. We will contact you with more details about the new course once it has been announced.

This will be another course from the University of Los Andes on Gabriel García Mearquez, and this time it will look at how his work developed and changed course after Cien años de soledad. I just hope that it coincides with another break from work as I need time to read and reflect that I’m not sure I have in term time!



Top ten tips for Primary Language Learning

August 27th, 2015

If you’ve read the July edition of UKEDmagazine you may have read my article entitled Top ten tips for Primary Language Learning. If you haven’t, you can read the unedited version below or the official version at this link

Top ten tips for Primary Language Learning

A wide variety of people teach languages in Primary schools, probably more than in any other ‘subject’. Whether you’re a class teacher with or without language skills, a reluctant language coordinator or a visiting language specialist (to name but a few possibilities) here are my top ten tips for primary language teaching and learning.

  1. Phonics are vital

It doesn’t matter which language you teach, making the correct sounds of that language is key. Working on phonics from the start builds a strong foundation on which learners can build, enabling them to see new words and say them accurately. Have a look at Rachel Hawkes’ website where there are links to free resources covering French Spanish German and Italian. http://www.rachelhawkes.com/Resources/Phonics/Phonics.php


  1. Songs and rhymes motivate and teach

A good way to increase confidence in reading and speaking the language is by sharing songs, poems and rhymes. This is also a good way to reinforce phonic knowledge and explore the rhythms of the language. Mama Lisa has songs and rhymes in many languages, often with a sound file giving the correct pronunciation and a translation into English so you know what you’re saying! There are also many songs and rhymes on Youtube on channels such as Basho and Friends or by searching for the artist such as Alain le lait


  1. Dramatic stories

Using stories – in translation or original language – is another great tool for language learning as they are familiar and often very repetitive. My favourites include Oso pardo, ¿qué ves?, Le navet enorme and Kleiner weisser Fisch as they lend themselves to acting out (even Y6 like acting!) and are easy for learners to adapt into their own stories. For example, Y5 invented stories based on Le navet enorme that included a child who didn’t want to get in the bath and had to be pulled to the bathroom, a teacher stuck in the PE cupboard and a car that broke down and needed to be pushed.


  1. Technology has its place

There are many opportunities for using technology to enhance language learning such as recording, reviewing and refining speaking activities using Audacity or an app like VoiceRecordPro, or performing speeches and role plays using Tellagami, YakitKids, or Puppet Pals.  BookCreator app is an excellent tool for creating multimedia books including text, sound, video, hyperlinks, doodles and pictures; incredibly easy to use and suitable for young children as well as those who are less confident with technology. And why not use Build Your Wildself or Switchzoo to create hybrid animals then describe them in the language.


  1. Share!

Using technology is also a great way to enable sharing of the great things that go on in language learning. Whether it is via the school website or VLE, tweeted or shared on a class/school blog, celebrating language learning gives it status and also provides an audience and a purpose for learning. Additionally, learners are able to take their learning home with them digitally; the excitement of pupils when we made our first podcast nine or ten years ago was great. “I’m on my Gran’s iPod!” was my favourite comment.


  1. Use anything you can get your hands on

The primary classroom is full of things that can be used and adapted for language learning. Number fans are great for counting and also giving feedback with numbered images for example. Mini whiteboards allow learners to write and correct without committing it to paper as well as drawing images to show understanding of vocabulary or instructions. Unifix cubes can be used for ordering ideas or vocabulary and cushions make great impromptu puppets for speaking or islands for phoneme sorting!


  1. Grammar isn’t a dirty word

Primary learners are very familiar with grammatical terms and enjoy comparing the grammar of other languages, making links and finding differences. Sorting words into boxes according to gender, making human sentences to explore word order and creating verb flowers or spiders are just some ways of making grammar fun and memorable.


  1. Integrate language learning into the curriculum

Language learning shouldn’t be seen as a standalone but, as much as possible, integrated into the primary curriculum. As there is no prescribed content in the KS2 PoS, it’s possible to teach the skills through whatever topic if you use a little imagination. And where full integration is tricky or where a specialist delivers the lesson, a class teacher can always build language into routines such as PE warmups, lining up, the register and so on, even if their knowledge of the language is limited.


  1. Make links

Don’t just make cross curricular links, but also cross country and cross cultural links. Making contact with children that speak the language you’re learning is very motivating and gives a real purpose to learning. It also increases learners’ understanding of other cultures as well as considering their own in new ways. The British Council SchoolsOnline is a good place to start the search for partners.


  1. Celebrate all languages

Most of all, celebrate all languages. Many learners already speak more than one language which is a valuable skill. Encourage them to share how to say things in their languages; comparing and contrasting numbers or colours in a variety of languages is a fun activity as learners try to group similar words together.

This article first appeared in the July 2015 Edition of UKEdMagazine

If you’d like to read more of the magazine that includes other articles about language learning including one of target language by @reebekwylie and Progress in MFL by @jakehuntonMFL the links are below.

You can buy a printed copy of the magazine by clicking here, or

Freely read online by clicking Here

The Midlands’ most influential Tweeter?

August 26th, 2015

IMG_4570I received this tweet from @lisacov19 whilst I was holiday, offering congratulations.

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 15.57.10

I had no idea what I’d done – surely I wasn’t been congratulated on collecting owls? So had to check out the link which explained more.

Social media analysts Lissted have created a list of the top 250 Twitter accounts across Birmingham, Solihull and the Black Country which have with the biggest impact on the UK.

And it seems that I claimed 160th place. Of course, I then wanted to know who I’d superseded in ‘influence.’

So, apart from Black Sabbath (191st) and the Donkey Sanctuary (164th), I am more influential than Emma Jesson (ITV weather girl 196th) Bradley Will Simpson (frontman of The Vamps 187th), The Education Show (184th), Fifth Gear (177th) the Birmingham City FC newsroom (170th) Jaguar LandRover (167th) and Lloyds Pharmacy (162nd). I even beat The Bullring by one place – that pleased me!

And then onto the question of who’s more influential than me.

Birmingham Police and The Library of Birmingham are just ahead of me in 158th and 156th respectively. Ian Bell (cricketer 148th) CBSO (133rd) Birmingham Royal Ballet (131st) Ofqual (121st) Ed James (96th) DuranDuran (91st) Joleon Lescott (73rd – not beating him was a cause of much dismay to my boys!) The Gadget Show (55th) and Katherine Merry, 400m athletic hero of my childhood (although she never replaced Kathy Cook in my affections) in 50th all have more influence over

The top 49 can be found here. It includes paraolympian Ellie Simmonds, presenter Alison Hammond, various universities and quite few MPs ; in fact the top three are Liam Byrne (Labour MP for Hodge Hill), Michael Fabricant (Conservative MP for Lichfield) and number 1 is Tom Watson, MP for West Bromwich East and aspiring Deputy Leader of the Labour Party.

I can’t find any teachers ahead of me. There are a few parenting bloggers – Mama Geek @zoecorkhill and @V82CHRIS are 103rd and 102nd and @mrsshilts and @ericahughes are 70th and 69th – and Paul Bradshaw who is a media lecturer at Birmingham City University as well as ‘a data journalist’ is 5th.

So does that make me the most influential tweeting teacher in Birmingham, Solihull and the Black Country?  

Perhaps I should add that to my presentation next time I talk about Twitter


Related posts:

eTwinning National Conference 2015 

#ililc5 Are you a twit or a tweep?

Twitter thoughts – the results




We’re on our way – Staffordshire Primary Languages conference: 26th June 2015

July 26th, 2015

keep-calm-we-re-on-our-way-10On Friday 26th June I attended the Entrust Primary Languages Conference in Stafford, organised and led by Lorna Harvey. Entitled ‘We’re on our way’, the day began with an excellent keynote from Clare Seccombe aka @valleseco and genius behind LightBulbLanguages.

IMG_4685 IMG_4684

Sharing a title with the conference, Clare shared her ideas on the journeys involved in primary language learning – for the child, the teacher and as a nation. I love how Clare can express her ideas so well in images. I’ve tried to capture some of them in my sketch note below.


You can read Clare’s presentation for yourself here – We’re on our way!


There were a number of workshops during the day – I attended one on a cluster of schools who use a ‘language investigators’ approach to language learning in Y1-2 and 3-4 before focussing on one language in Y6. My sketch note is below along with a few images.


IMG_4687Plan for Y1-2 IMG_4688I loved the pizza/paella Italian/Spanish numbers!
IMG_4689 IMG_4690


The day was very much a celebration of a project between Stafford and Burgundy, and I’d been asked to speak after lunch about a similar partnership in which I’d been involved, between Birmingham and Barcelona. It was wonderful to prepare my presentation as it sparked so many amazing memories and caused me to reflect on where we’ve gone since the (official) end of the partnership. Below you can see my presentation (although without the video clips I’m afraid) and Clare kindly sketch noted it for me.

We had a brilliant presentation from pupils about their experiences as well as a culinary lesson based on tasting and making mustard. Great fun and with clear language goals too!

IMG_4693 IMG_4694


I finished the day by presenting about using technology to enhance language learning. You can see my presentation below and access the notes, tutorials etc here.

Enhancing Primary Language Learning using Technology from Lisa Stevens

A great day – not much tweeting as I was too busy sketching or making mustard as was Clare, but here’s the Storify of the tweets anyway.

A great day – thanks Lorna!

PS Clare’s workshop – Be a crafty language teacher is explained here too!

eTwinning National Conference: 5th-7th June: NCTL #eTUK15

July 26th, 2015

¡Más vale tarde que nunca!

CG1N4BwW0AE2Jg9 IMG_4558 CG1N38ZWoAAjerf

The first weekend of June saw the annual National eTwinning Conference take place at NCTL in Nottingham. Once more it was a weekend of learning, laughter and (can’t think of another L) celebrating the wonders of collaboration across boundaries.
IMG_4570I spoke once more about Twitter – Are you a Twit or a Tweep? You can see my presentation here –  twitter nottingham – if you’re interested! And there’s an eTwinning guidance document as well: TwitterGuidelines (thanks to Erszi for the photograph!)

During the weekend, I continued to sketch note the sessions.

Below are my sketch notes interspersed with pictures and comments on the sessions!

IMG_4529 Happy 10th birthday eTwinning! The cake was delicious too!
Dinner the first night in our regions – odd grouping but it meant that I got to chat with Helena. And special thanks to Kevin for being such an amazing sunshade when the setting sun got in our eyes 😉 IMG_4527
IMG_4555 Really brilliant to see – and hear – Ewan McIntosh once more. A very important person in my ‘learning journey’, both as a language teacher and an eTwinner. A very thought provoking presentation – I think I’m captured the main points in the sketch note but you can check out the NoTosh website for more details!
An important thought that I wanted to capture! IMG_4534
IMG_4556 Ewan’s workshop ‘Diving Deep into Learning’ introduced us to Guy Claxton’s 3Rs and 3Cs, and also to ‘The Squid.’ Too much to take in at once, especially as the very first session had overrun so the session was truncated, but the materials are accessible from the NoTosh site!
And then on to Action Jackson – The Power of Motivation.  Lots of the session was really common sense that isn’t often considered or applied, but it was an empowering and sometimes emotional session! Certainly believed I. Am. Amazing. IMG_4553


IMG_4544 Coming back after lunch, Action Jackson did a short reprise – this slide sums up what he was saying.
And then onto the wonderful Sugata Mitra who presented via video link about the future of learning. Interesting ideas about the future of teaching and learning, particularly about the role of the teacher, and moving away from subject boxes. IMG_4552


IMG_4551 Final session of the day was John Rolfe (standing in for Vicky Gough) and Joanna Speak talking about British Values and International Work. The conclusion they reached – and many of us concurred- was that British Values aren’t anything new, and actually are values that are held by many, not just the British! Great ideas and good to hear how Joanna’s link with Tabasco has developed.
Robin Hood and Maid Marion joined us for dinner!And Vikki Bruff was highly commended for her eTwinning project using Skype. IMG_4561
IMG_4568Lovely to see the LiPS girls, Erszi and Vikki – and Fatima too!
And good to see that selfies live on 😉IMG_4567

You can find out more about the weekend here and via the Storify, photos here and more presentations from the weekend here .

News this week that the NCTL is being sold off so not sure where next year’s conference will be. I’ll miss my pre-dinner early evening break by the lake!


UnderstandingModernGov conference – June 16th 2015

July 26th, 2015

IMG_4621A little bit delayed by end of term madness…

On June 16th I travelled to London for a day long conference organised by UnderstandingModernGov on the subject of Primary Languages – “Successfully implement the new Primary Modern Foreign Languages curriculum”. It was great to see Janet, Sylvie, Nadine and Julie, and to meet all the delegates to spend a day exploring how we can effectively plan, manage and deliver languages to primary aged pupils.

My part of the day was all about using technology; you can see the presentation below, and you can also access links to tutorials etc here.

I sketch noted all the sessions as you can see below.


Policy to practicality – Janet Lloyd


Phonics and Literacy – Julie Prince


Develop an innovative approach to Primary Language Teaching – Sylvie Barlett-Rawlings with Nadine Chadier

Additionally, you can see what Janet said on her blog.

And here’s the Storify of tweets from the day!

TeachMeetWMLanguages #tmwml

May 23rd, 2015


On May 6th I made the trip across Birmingham in rush hour traffic to attend TeachMeetWM organised by the irrepressible and absolutely bonkers Simone Haughey at her school Robin Hood Primary. I sadly missed the choir singing and the start of proceedings thanks to a staff meeting and the traffic, but I arrived in the end to be greeted by delicious Chinese food saved for me by Sim and lots of friendly faces including John Rolfe and AnaPaula Booth from the British Council, and the staff of Robin Hood who are obviously well used to Simone as they didn’t bat an eyelid when I asked if they had a couple of hula hoops I could borrow!

There were many great presentations on the night including a couple via video, and you can see what you missed by looking at the Storify of the tweets at the end of the post. However, my presentation is below as promised for those who were there. How I managed to explain it all in 7 minutes I do not know but I avoided being attacked with a cuddly toy! Do leave a comment if you have questions!