February 25, 2008 – ¡Vámonos!

Day: February 25, 2008

What do the Kaiser Chiefs, The Bangles and the Pink Panther have in common? Not much you might think, but all provide the backing to French songs demonstrated today by Steph Hopkins at her conference Creating a compelling curriculum.

In a session entitled Phonics, music and rhythm – developing confident speaking, Steph talked of the enhancement of creativity, engagement, independence and communication skills achieved through the use of song and rhyme in the MFL classroom. Citing Heather Rendell and the work of Leigh McClelland and Rachel Hawkes at Comberton Village College as her starting point, Steph quoted research pointing out that a child cannot read aloud effectively in another language if they cannot decode single words using phoneme –grapheme links. Starting from that point, Steph showed us some examples of synthetic phonics in French – complete with very amusing animations – which she has used in her classes.

Steph went on to talk about the rhythms of French, clapping phrases to enable the cadences of the language to be more apparent, and to enable good intonation as well as pronunciation. I’ve always found this effective in PLL as it is something with which pupils are familiar from literacy. I liked the use of ‘encore’ by the pupils to ‘boss around’ the teacher that Steph cited – shows that they have engaged with the task.

And then to the Kaiser Chiefs! With one of her groups in need of practice of the French alphabet, Steph put it to a karaoke track of Everyday I love you less and less by the boys from Leeds – and off we went! Next up, the verb etre to the theme tune of Pink Panther, followed by Eternal Flame by The Bangles for the verb avoir, complete with lines about brown rabbits and mischievous hamsters :o) Certainly works as I’m sitting blogging on the train humming Je suis, Tu es, Il est, elle est, on est etc – and we were also shown video evidence of a class singing – and dancing! You can download powerpoints of these songs from here on Steph’s blog ( I know that Chris Fuller uses song in his Spanish classes – he blogged a lovely video of one of his classes singing the verb ir to Kumbya – and here’s another group recording it on their mobiles!)

Pigloo then made an appearance with a couple of exercises to complete as we listened to the little penguin’s take on YMCA Moi j’aime skier – ordering a text, grouping words from the song and a gapped text with all –er verbs missed out. A comment was made that there was more interest in learning the dance than the lyrics, but, as Steph pointed out, if you’re watching it enough times to learn the dance, something must be going in of the lyrics!

Some great ideas that can easily be adapted for use in any classroom – I feel the need to raid my record collection for inspiration!

Fun at Fernhill.

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I have now officially been up for 12 hours (it’s 4.45pm!) and could do with a snooze, but I can’t because a) I might sleep past by stop, b)my contact lenses will stick to my eyes and c) my mind is buzzing!

I’ve spent the day at Fernhill School and Language College in Farnborough, Hampshire at the invitation of Steph Hopkins. Having met at Joe Dale’s Isle of Wight Conference 2007 where I did a couple of sessions on Primary Language Learning and eTwinning, Steph had asked me to speak at her conference entitled Creating a compelling curriculum. Although it’s a long way from Sutton Coldfield to Farnborough, I readily accepted as it’s flattering to be asked and I do like a day out :o)

My session was entitled Keeping it compelling (more of that later!)

The day consisted of sessions led by Steph in the morning about the new Secondary Curriculum, the SLNs and then a session on phonics rhythm and song, followed by workshops in the afternoon

CLIL led by Louise Wornell from Ringwood

Podcasting with Steph

Blogging and wikis with Alex Blagona from Northgate High School and

Keeping it compelling with me.

Once more, I would’ve liked to attend all the other sessions, and am hopeful that I’ll be able to catch some of them – sure Joe Dale had all his iRivers in action ;o)

Steph’s sessions were really interesting for me. As an ex-Secondary MFL teacher it was good to see how the curriculum has changed in the few years since I taught it, moving towards a more creative approach and less proscriptive content. Almost made me miss it – I did say nearly! I’m sure it would be very different. We considered how MFL can contribute to the whole curriculum dimensions of the Big Picture such as Enterprise, Creativity, Community and Healthy lifestyles. My group were considering Technology – nice one! Managed to mention EdTechRoundup, various blogs (including those of Joe, José 2 and MarieFrance) and things other people are doing with Google, Twitter, Facebook ..as well as my own blog. In fact I could’ve gone on for ever but reined back so the rest of the group could have a say!

It was also good to see how things have changed from the point of view of informing what happens at KS2. It makes sense to me that KS2 practitioners need to have an understanding of what is happening at KS3 just as KS3 need to be aware of the KS2 Framework for their work to make sense. It’s all about being ‘joined up’ or ‘pulling together the threads’ of language learning.

There were some very interesting snapshots offered from various members of the SLNs represented at the event. They have chosen to focus on boys’ attainment and use of TL, and I really enjoyed hearing about the creative ways in which schools were addressing these aspects. One group of lads at Fernhill have been split into two teams competing in a Bundesliga to win points for their team – Bayern Munchen or Werder Bremen – with points awarded for use of TL and against for poor teamwork such as calling out. Another school were using the pupils’ interests as the focus for work on healthy lifestyles, having a lesson lead by a group of pupils on an aspect of the topic such as sport, diet etc. And Wavell School are rewarding pupils bringing in items from their travels etc related to MFL with house points, valuing pupils showing initiative and interest in the wider aspects of language learning. I particularly like the way that they had asked pupils what they’d like to do in terms of content and activity in MFL and then acted on it with a carrot and stick approach – give them what they want, and remind them they asked for it when they complain they think it’s boring. Genius!

Steph’s session on Phonics, Rhythm and Song deserves a post of its own – so it shall get one!

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