January 2008 – ¡Vámonos!

Month: January 2008

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At 2.20pm today I Tweeted via my mobile –

‘Tearing hair out with yr5 – perhaps rewriting Machado’s Spanish poem Primavera was adventurous, but they only had to change 2 words!’

My words of desperation unfortunately did not arrive in the Twitterverse – Twitter seems to be having the sort of day I have – but by the end of the afternoon a new post had arrived on Vámonos proving that the lesson didn’t end as badly as it might have done!

The Scheme of work for Year5 this half term is based around Unit 17 of the QCA KS2 Schemes for Spanish ‘El retorno de la primavera’. This covers the weather and seasons before looking at a poem by Machado called La Primavera and linking to the myth of Persephone. I’m trying to redo the KS2 scheme as I go along and thought I’d try out some of the QCA units to see what I thought – and also how the kids would like them!
Now, this particular class are lively and perhaps not your ideal ‘guinea pigs’ but nothing ventured…
The idea was to consider the poem La Primavera (not quite the same version but a lovely gerber daisy!), looking how we can work out what it means, and considering the rhythm and repetition, especially of the chorus

La Primavera ha venido
Y nadie sabe cómo ha sido

and then to focus on an extract –

En medio del prado
Hay una escuela y

Una margarita
Que es la maestra

replacing the pink words (una escuela – a school and la maestra – the teacher) with a new place and new job for the daisy ( la margarita) to carry out in the middle of her meadow.

Well, despite my beautiful Powerpoint (I’ll put it in my Box of Goodies) judging by the ideas put forth by some pupils, the idea of poetic language was completely lost on some of them, in English let alone Spanish! However, when we arrived at the point of suggesting new places and matching jobs, there were some good ideas that seemed to fit the theme and feeling of the poem. We had a swimming pool with the daisy as lifeguard, a hotel with a receptionist and a playground with a Mum (we also had the inevitable football stadium with a footballer) Each child made their own version and wrote it up as handwriting practice.

But the class were still so noisy (in an annoying rather than naughty way) I was in need of some magic to regain my sanity.

Step forward and take a bow Sony Ericsson K800i and my lovely pink blog.

Joe had worked hard all lesson and had come up with an original idea of a circus and a clown, so I asked if he minded me blogging his work. Amazing the ripple of ‘blogging’ that went around the room as I took a quick snap of his work and proceeded to text my post. With my blog on the IWB, I pressed the refresh button and ….. the sound of 30 kids exhaling as one, and a hush only broken by Joe squealing ‘that’s my work!’ and then a clamour to find out how I’d done it.

As I told them , teacher’s can do magic – with a bit of help ;o)

La Primavera

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Having a fun (!) afternoon with 5MW. We’ve been looking at La Primavera by Antonio Machado, and the pupils have been rewriting the middle by replacing images. Here is Joe’s version.

My BBC email alert once again gave me food for thought this morning – also noticed by @acsutcliffe who tweeted about it.

What makes a good teacher? asks the article by Mike Baker. The conclusions of research carried out by a group of experts at the invitation of Cambridge Assessment agency make interesting reading. You can read the article for yourself, but I found it interesting to read some of the conclusions.

Professor Patricia Broadfoot argued that
“the highest quality teaching and learning comes when we have the greatest autonomy for the teacher and the learner”. The good teacher, she went on, was someone who was “left to get on with what they think their students need”.
She goes on to suggest that child centred learning is the key.

Another expert Professor Debra Myhill pointed to the ability of the teacher to reflect on and change his or her performance as key.

And another, Professor Mary James commented
“If learners are not involved in their learning, they do not learn”.

My favourite phrase of the article is the call for teachers to be ‘creatively subversive’ – explained as not passively accepting Government initiatives and directives, nor dismissing them and refusing to comply, but instead, creatively adapting them.

Well – I agree with @acsutcliffe – there is a lot of relevant stuff here that the Government needs to note, and the conclusions of these experts make perfect sense to me. Subject knowledge is all well and good but it’s what you do with it and how you share it that matters.

The article concludes with the writer questionning whether there are enough teachers capable of ‘creative subversion’ after years of being told exactly what to teach and how.

I know plenty of people who are ready, willing, able, and in fact, downright excited about a bit of ‘creative subversion’ .

What do you think? Are you up for it?

I find myself unexpectedly in Starbucks, enjoying a gingerbread latte and staring at the wall.

And thinking.

This picture struck me on several levels.
I like it, first of all.
It’s simple and uncomplicated.
The subject is growing and blooming.
It’s imaginative.
And it’s in Spanish.
Just like one of my lessons??
I’d like to think so.


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Trying out my new Sony Ericsson K800i – you can blog from it.
mobile+blog =moblog.
Having Tweeted about my new acquisition, I discovered courtesy of @joedale that there was the possibilty of moblogging on it. He referred me to @blaggers, but before he could reply, @acsutcliffe did, confirming that I can moblog with it!
My first effort went to a new blog that was automatically set up by Blogger, but after the initial post, I was able to redirect to ¡Vámonos!
So, thanks to my Sony Ericsson K800i and ‘the boys’, here’s my first proper effort.

(photo – models from Animation workshop at ELLRSG with Oscar Stringer)

The time has come to admit something I’ve tried to ignore and hide for a while – I am addicted to blogging! I’ve just taken a test and, by asking me about my blog habits it concluded that …
81%How Addicted to Blogging Are You?

Now that’s worrying! What’s more worrying is that I’m sure it would be worse if the questionnaire had asked questions like

  • how often do you casually drop your blog into conversation?
  • how many times a day do you ‘pop by’ your blog to check how many visitors it’s had?
  • how much time do you spend looking for bling for your blog?
  • do you feel bereft if you can’t look at your blog on a regular basis (Birmingham LA hasn’t blocked blogs yet, but I did a course in Gloucester where they are blocked and was beside myself that I couldn’t see ¡Vámonos!)

Joking aside, I am loving my blog, and the time I spend on it is well spent as people are reading it – and I hope finding it interesting and informative. My visitor counter clocked 1000 on Monday and I nearly hit the roof. May not seem many when you think that Joe Dale’s blog is at 81,980, but I’m pleased as punch. In the words of Jaume Fuster De mica en mica s’omple la pica.

So keep stopping by and letting me know what you’ve found interesting and I’ll keep feeding my addiction – which actually is a quite healthy one!

Whilst at the Teachmeet at BETT this year I witnessed Doug Belshaw announcing the official launch of EdTechRoundup.

As Tom Barrett puts it on his blog, ‘ EdTechRoundup is a place where a group of UK-based educators come together for discussion and collaboration around the use of technology in education. We believe in pedagogically-sound uses of educational technology, but don’t believe in ramming Web 2.0 (or anything else for that matter) down people’s throats’
‘Our aim is to deliver common sense advice and guidance that is practical to teachers – much of what we will talk about has been tried and tested with our classes. The shows will be hosted by two different people each week – to see who is involved please visit the contacts page on the wiki.’ that you listen in too.

The first edition of the podcast went live last week. It is hosted by David Noble (who I have met) and Sinclair McKenzie (who I have virtually met) and features a short interview with Joe Dale on reasons to use blogs in the classroom. I had a chance to tune in yesterday and would recommend that you do too.

I particularly liked the discussion of www.classtools.net , a site I had heard of and meant to use but never got around to it! I was reminded of it at Teachmeet where the fruit machine was used to pick the order of presenters. The site offers the opportunity to create free games, activities and diagrams using Flash and is well worth an explore. I’ve already input the names of all the classes I’m teaching at the moment into random name picker and hope the kids will enjoy seeing their names spinning – and it’ll also save me being accused of only picking the children in my house!

Anyway – listen to the podcast and find out about this, and much much more. You can listen to it via the blog or through an iTunes feed.

Episode 2, presented by Tom Barrett and John Johnston will be available soon so stay tuned to learn more!

I’ve mentioned before the Voices of the World project, initiated by
Sharon Tonner creating links around the world using our voices / sound rather than solely as a way of written word. It’s a genius project as it offers-

  • a monthly task – short sharp bursts are great for keeping up interest , and also work well for me as the whole school want to be involved so I can rotate classes to lead
  • a different tool each month – so far – Voki, Animoto, One True Media and Voicethread (not to mention using Audacity and Flickr to gather and create things!) so we’re introducing new ideas and techniques into the classroom – and they’re free!
  • links with classes across the globe – Greece, Thailand, Scotland, Wales, France, Germany, Australia, USA… the list goes on.
  • the opportunity for my pupils to ‘be’ Spanish. I teach them Spanish and, in the absence of a Spanish school, and because I have to be different, Whitehouse Common are doing their tasks in Spanish (the other schools are doing the tasks in their own language)

This month, the task is on Voicethread and is on the theme of customs. It’s a two part task – Sharon has selected some slides featuring fruit, clothes, musical instruments etc and each school is going to record the name of each fruit, instrument and so on in their own language. Then each school is going to create their own Voicethread based on their country – the food, costume, sport that most represents it.

I must admit, with January half gone, we haven’t started yet. There are many reasons but one is the issue of our icon.

We need to create an icon to represent our school on Voicethread, and Sharon asked that it be the flag of our country. Problem – we are in England, but our words will be in Spanish so which flag do we use? Sharon and I exchanged e-mails on the subject and concluded that it needed to be a hybrid! So, we were about to head off to Paint to redesign the flag when i discovered a very timely post from Langwitches, Silvia Tolisano, on a tool she had discovered on Twitter via Karen Bosch called We are multicolored.
This tool allows you to make a hybrid flag, based on three questions –
Where is your home?
What other country has affected you?
Where have you dreamed of going?

So, off I went and had a play and came up with these – not sure which I like best but it’s a start.Is this one a bit boring and predictable?

I like this one with the English bit of the Union flag at the front – but does the St George’s cross get a bit lost?

And this one is for our Euro08 project – we’ve drawn Sweden!

It’s a tool I wish I’d discovered yesterday when I was teaching Year6 RE about signs of belonging and identity – but we’ll be having a go next week for sure (they’ll be thrilled – tweeting on Twitter with Ewan McIntosh last week, designing flags next week – what will it be next?)

And I also think it’ll be a great new tool to add a new dimension to European Day of Languages next September – we’ve discovered the languages spoken by our school community – wouldn’t it be great to have a display of the 480+ hybrid flags of the pupils? And we thought last year was brilliant!

Need a rest before my brain overheats….

Sifting and reading through the bumph I picked up at BETT, I came across an article in this week’s TES (a bargain at 50p – although I admit I was more drawn by the potential of the bag in which it was packaged) with the above title.

In a speech this week at the Moving Young Minds conference in London, Lord Puttnam, who is chairman of Futurelab, said
“Technology savvy children are switching off and becoming ’emotional truants’ because schools are not relevant in a digital age”

He went on to add that “the education system seemed ‘out of sync’ with all that counted for young people……children were disengaging from formal education because it did not reflect their experience of digital interaction.”

The article concludes with some statistics about the use of technology by young people –

  • nearly all children do some homework on the computer
  • 77% use the Internet daily
  • three out of five use social networking sites like Bebo, and even more played video games, used mobile phones or digital cameras

The final statement was particularly telling – ‘young people believed that understanding technology was almost as important in life as having a good teacher or a supportive family’.

Especially in the context of the comments by Jim Knight about Internet safety this week, it make sense to me that we use and embrace new technologies that children are already skilled in using and turn them to our purposes – for example, see this article about the use of Nintendo DS
If we allow children to use these tools in our lessons, we can guide them in using them responsibly and stop them from being taboo. And before we can use them in our teaching, we need to find out about them ourselves. That’s one reason I went to BETT and Teachmeet – to find out. But you don’t have to go to conferences. I bought a Nintendo DS after listening to Ewan McIntosh talk on this theme at Language World last year, and my 9 year old son has been having a marvellous time teaching me how to use it as have the pupils I teach at school. It’s led to several discussions about their favourite game sand several have gone away and had a go at Brain training in Spanish – there’s no greater incentive than beating the teacher’s score ;0)

I’m not saying anything new I know but if people keep saying it and doing it …..

Teachmeet 08

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After an exhausting day at BETT, I’m currently enjoying a glass of wine at Teachmeet and listening to lots of good ideas for using technology in the classroom. The rules are that you either have 7 minutes or 2 minutes to present your message. Powerpoint is mildly boo-ed and no sales pitches.

I’ll let you know what I learn as and when!

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