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Noticias Locas.

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One of my Google Reader / Feedly subscriptions is to a site called Noticias Locas which offers ‘Noticias curiosas, insólitas, raras …. pero rigurosamente ciertas‘, a bit like a site that catalogues ‘And finally…’ news items in Spanish.

I thought I’d share with you one that tickled me!

You can search here by title – find such gems as the Japanese biscuit with a special ingredient, the unfortunate Austrian girl with the tractor driving boyfriend, or Rory the horse who thinks it’s a dog.

A warning – you couldn’t use the site directly for pupils due to some dodgy adverts at the bottom, and some of the stories are of an ‘adult’ nature e.g this one about an interesting side effect of beer. However, if you pick your article and take a screen shot, or print it out, I think you could use some of the stories for gist reading – certainly in a secondary context, but also as an example of using all the clues you can to decipher meaning without understanding every word.

And, for amusement value, it can be quite amusing :oD

Regular readers may have realised by now that I’m a sports fan – and even irregular readers probably have an inkling! So you can guess that I’m currently having a fine time keeping an eye and ear on events at the Olympics Games in Beijing. My boys are quite interested too and it’s fun trying to work out the rules of various rarely seen sports like fencing and judo as well as explaining those that I do understand like badminton and canoeing (again rarely seen on TV!)

Of course I’m particularly enjoying the cycling – Sami Sánchez (left) came good in the road race although Contador failed to make it a Spanish double this morning – my eldest was pleased though as he’s a Cancellara fan.

For those of you who are also enjoying the Games and fancy finding out more in Spanish, you can access the official site in Spanish – as well as English, French, Arabic and Mandarin.

Other places to check out –
Olimpiadas Beijing 2008
Clarín from Buenos Aires for a South American view
the sports pages of ABC and also El País (interesting article about Michael Phelps)
El Universal (Mexico City)
Terra (Miami)

And whilst I’m still on holiday for another three weeks (well, bit under I guess!), those of you in other countries will soon be back to school so here’s a link to some great Olympic resources from the Australian Olympic Committee – five lessons worth of stuff available in Spanish but also Arabic Chinese Croatian French German Indonesian Italian and Japanese. I’m thinking that I might use them anyway as part of EDL day – I know all the languages aren’t European but it’s about celebrating different languages and I’m never really very strict on them being European ;o) You could also check out this blog for some further ideas in Spanish.

And of course, don’t forget the Chinese policeman about whom I blogged before the Games – wonder how many people he’s helped – and in how many more languages he’s mastered greetings!

Anyhow, back to my sporting activities – I have a fantasy football team to complete – and it’s not going to plan as there are too few Spanish defenders in the Premiership to make my team fully Spanish so I’m haivng to cheat more than a little. Oh well!

Photo by zen
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License

Posts have been a bit sparse recently as the frantic end of term rush took over! Sports days, Year 6 leaving plays, Performance Management meetings and generally tying up loose ends got in the way of blogging. However, the holidays are here, and I’m hoping to make up for my failings over the next few weeks.

I noticed a couple of articles last week about schools in the news – Halesowen school wins award for languages and Loving languages on which I wanted to comment.

The first report is congratulating Earls High School in Halesowen (not too far from here!) on winning a European Award for Languages for their project , Project Croissant where older pupils from the High School mentor younger (primary) children through a weekly afterschool club.

I think this is a brilliant way of making links between local schools and of raising the profile of languages. I also think it’s great that the older pupils are given responsibility for activities etc and, through the project, are gaining life skills. And the activities are very appealing too! Now onder they won an award!

The second article also highlights links between phases, this time in Portishead in Somerset. Pupils at Gordano School visited St Joseph’s Primary School and taught them songs in french, Spanish and German as part of a project called Raise the Roof with Languages. Again, an activity that shows how older pupils can ‘teach’ younger pupils, making links and promoting languages. And the older pupils volunteered to help!

This kind of project is a brilliant model for encouraging language learning – not just for primary but for secondary. It’s really important to make and maintain links between phases, particularly as the Primary Languages Framework increasingly impacts on Key Stage 3 and 4.

So well done Earls High and Gordano Schools!

Whilst checking my Google alerts for MFL a couple of weeks ago, I noticed a news article about Young Enterprise in the NorthEast. And as I read, I was excited to see that I knew the school whose virtues were being extolled.

Lesley Welsh, AST and SSAT LP, is the Madame Welsh referred to in the article, and it is pupils at her school, English Martyrs Schol and Sixth form College in Hartlepool, who have won not only Company of the Year but also Most Creative Company of the Year in the awards sponsored by the Arts Council North East to reward an innovative and creative way of running business.

Here the group from English Martyrs explain –

Our company, LanguAges, provides educational resources to aid the teaching and learning of French in primary schools at Key Stage 2. We have created a compilation of three different games, The Clothes Game, The Class Card Game and The Shopping Game, and an Interactive CD, which form the LanguAges Pack.

All of our games are tailored to be fun, yet educational, comprehensively covering the Key Stage 2 curriculum, and helping to improve vital comprehension and speaking skills.

The initial idea around which our product is based sprung from a discussion with our business adviser in which we discovered that, as of next year, it will become compulsory for all primary schools to teach a modern foreign language at Key Stage 2. This meant that there would definitely be a market for teaching and learning tools.

We then sold more than £100 worth of shares in our company to get us up and running, which allowed us to design and develop our own prototype games. We tested these in several classes across Key Stages 2 and 3, and realised the LanguAges Pack was bound to be a great success.

Indeed the team has gone from strength to strength, selling several packs, and scooping up the ‘Best Sales and Marketing’ award at the MetroCentre Trade Fair, then going on to gain an order for 12 packs from Stockton Schools and ultimately securing a contract for 34 packs via the Hartlepool Local Authority.

This means that at the start of the next academic year, every Primary School in Hartlepool will have a full LanguAges pack – a true achievement for any company!

Furthermore, we have impressed pupils, parents and teachers alike. In fact the representative from the Hartlepool local authority, Tom Argument, said about us: “Their materials are creative, fun, very practical, and of a high quality. The group present themselves in a business-like manner and have real entrepreneurial potential.”

Our sales revenue is nearly £2,000 which has generated a healthy profit. Shareholders will receive at least a 100% return on their investment, and LanguAges will make a donation to charity from the net profit. However, we, as the directors, will be receiving a well-earned director’s bonus!

Young Enterprise has opened our eyes to the world of business. We learnt about the different departments of a company and the importance of each. Since our product was very time consuming and labour intensive it was essential that we learnt time and resource management. This was the first time many of us worked in a large group, therefore this experience enabled us to gain valuable team working skills. We learnt that communication and problem solving are two of the most vital components for the success of a business.

Of the many highs involved in the running of LanguAges, the development of our sense of team camaraderie has certainly been one of the most enjoyable. The shared responsibilities and experiences have led to solid professional relationships and firm friendships. These particularly flourished during the creative process of developing our product, which we all found both testing and fascinating.

Of course, one of the biggest thrills of business is the pursuit and accomplishment of sales, and this we enjoyed thoroughly with some of the team finding their niche in enthusiastic and mostly successful sales pitches. However, the extensive manual labour involved in the production of our product has at times been difficult to manage, but with close and effective teamwork, this challenge has been overcome.

Our hard work and determination has been recognised with a number of awards. As well as winning ‘Best Sales and Marketing’ at the MetroCentre Trade Fair, we also won Best Company Report at the Tees Valley Area Finals.

We have furthermore very recently forged strong links with an international company, who are acting as business advisers and supporters after appreciating LanguAges’ potential as a viable commercial product at the Area Finals. Working with them has been hugely beneficial and we look forward to the possibilities that this connection will lead to.

We realise that LanguAges has a huge amount of potential, and are currently investigating the many options available to us. Several possibilities are being considered, such as selling the idea, or even continuing the company even after the Young Enterprise Company Programme is over.

The prospect of mass producing the LanguAges Pack and even expanding the range to include a variety of other modern foreign languages is a very exciting one. We also appreciate that there is much scope to produce games, not only for younger or older students, but even for companies who wish to train their staff. After all, you have to think big to be big!

Needless to say, as a company, we have shown creative flair, dedication, and determination to reach the top. We have all greatly enjoyed the valuable experience that is the Young Enterprise Company Programme, and have learnt so much throughout the process. The experience and skills acquired will be invaluable to us in the future, whichever careers we choose to pursue.

So, congratulations to Faye Greason, Gayatri Sivakumar, Sreenag Krishnamoorthy, Jennifer Laws, Joseph Harrison, Charanya Ravi, Stuart Christie, Katie Wheelhouse, Francesca Tosson and Mariusz Cichomski, and of course to Madame Welsh and Linda Ward.

What a great idea – no wonder they won awards by the bucket load! And I will be very interested to follow the progress of the group -hopefully thye will expand the project to other languages and market it outside of the North East. As they say – every school in England could potentially use the product!!

According to the Euro 08 blog, Spain have been reported to be using voodoo in their pursuit of that elusive championship win.

Originally reported in Russia Today (bit suspicious that, eh?),

Someone in Spain has been making and selling football player voodoo dolls, which come with a pack of flags. La Furia Roja fans can simply fix the flag of whoever Spain are playing onto the doll, and write a name and number on the back, then perform some amateur voodoo on whichever player they want.

The article seeks to give credence to this by citing the example of Luca toni who spent the quarter final inexplicably rolling around in pain, and suggests that..

.. if you see a certain Russian playmaker inexplicably holding his sides in agony or his legs doing things he clearly doesn’t intend tomorrow, you’ll know it’s due to an army of Spain fans poking a “10 Arshavin” doll with sharp sticks.

To be honest, I think the dolls are quite cute and remind me of Cobi, the Barcelona 1992 mascot. And if Spain win, well…..

Today I received an email from the Ministerio de Educación y Ciencias about a record breaking attempt at the largest ever flamenco display. Here’s the message!

Come and join the world’s record breaking Sevillanas dance!
London’s Regent Street will be given over to hundreds of Sevillanas
dancers on Sunday 25 May as they a
ttempt to set a new Guinness World
Record™for the largest ever flamenco dancing display.

If you want to take part and help break the record, simply register at and we’ll be in
touch with details.

If you are also interested in attending free sevillanas lessons in

London, find further information at

The record attempt launches a two week festival of Spanish culture in
Regent Str
eet, Heddon Street and Borough Market organised by the Spanish
Tourist Office, and marks the start of the build up to Big Dance 2008,
the week-long celebration of dance organised by Greater London

Click on the menu to the left for details of Spanish cultural events
including live entertainment and the chance to try the best food and wine
from Spain.

If you would like to receive further information, please go to

So, if you’re at a loose end, fancy a trip to London and have a bit of angst to express, why not join in?

I went to ‘sevillanas’ lessons for a year when I first began teaching – I loved it and it was SO therapeutic but the lessons were on the other side of Birmingham and life got too hectic – unfortunately. But I still feel the urge to stamp, clap and look very haughty when I hear the music. This is just the sort of thing I’d have loved to be involved in, but I will be in Spain, possibly not dancing flamenco, but having a great time I’m sure ;o)

A couple of local news items about been brought to my attention by Google alerts, both related to young language learners.

The Mirfield Reporter covered the story of a Year 4 class at Battyeford Primary School who learned a song in French, La Meteo, that they performed in assembly. Not just for fun, but also in order to achieve Asset Languages level 1.
The class teacher mentions that they are the first class to achieve the award – how many other schools are already going for accreditation for their pupils? She also thanks the teacher at Castle Hall School for her help. Sounds like an example of cross KS links / liaison to me.

The second article, from the Liverpool Echo is headlined School girl wins award for language.
It reports that Elizabeth Foulkes, whilst a pupil at Grassendale’s St Austin’s Catholic primary school, achieved the highest score of all primary children tested in Spanish for Language Ladder Asset Languages exams. With Liverpool so hot on primary languages, it doesn’t surprise me that the girl comes from that area, especially as St Austin’s is a centre of excellence for Spanish, having a FLA and an advisory teacher working with them as well as a link school in Spain, parents encouraged to learn alongside their children and weekly language lessons for teachers. Shows that the effort is worth it!
Elizabeth has now moved on to high school and is quoted as saying –
“Learning it means now when I’m on holiday in Spain I can understand things, like menus – especially useful because I’m vegetarian!”

The children I teach love learning Spanish and one of their reasons for enjoying it is that they don’t have to do exams and aren’t labelled as ‘level 3s’. So there’s a tension for me between knowing that there is a need for some kind of assessment of progress but also not wanting to remove one USP of PLL. But here we have examples of pupils having fun and learning useful stuff for personal interest, and at the same time gaining recognition for their efforts. Mmmm.

What do you think? Should we be looking at formal ways to assess PLL like Asset, or is informal assessment sufficient?

I’ve travelled by train several times in the last few weeks and each time have acquired a free copy of Metro. I knew that there were different editions for major cities, but didn’t realise that it is an international paper.

Today, courtesy of MinkiePinkie aka Emmanuelle and via MFLresources Yahoo group, I discovered that not only are there editions in a number of countries, but also that they are accesible and downloadable online. You can download today’s paper in PDF from Metropoint
choosing not only from the coutries below but also from the regional edition you fancy in a number of countries, including Spain.

You can also read the papers online at Readmetro, selecting the country, region and date of the paper you require. Added to this, there is the facility to change the language of the site between English, Spanish, French and Danish.

A great feature is that, as well as a ‘global search‘, there is an ‘advanced search‘ facility, allowing you to search for a specific theme, in a specific country, region and/or time frame.

This looks a great way for older pupils to access authentic newspaper articles, weather reports, TV pages, puzzles and advertisements as well as for teachers to keep up to date not only with the language itself but also with their knowledge of countries speaking the language they teach.

I’m off to read the article about Bryan Adams on page 12 of today’s Edición Nacional from Spain.

After an early start to get to Manchester for the Primary Language Show, I didn’t check my BBC News email alert as usual so was slightly puzzled by José Picardo’s Tweet –

Having checked it out, I’ll tell you, José, and anyone else who’s interested in my opinion!

The post is called ‘Primary Schools ‘have got worse – I don’t like the title – designed for maximum impact obviously! Primary schools ‘have got worse’ – compared to when?? The kernel of the article is that the various bodies reviewing the primary curriculum will report that whilst results in tests are higher, this is due to the increased focus on literacy and numeracy at the expense of others areas of the curriculum.

“While test scores have risen since the mid 1990s, this has been

achieved at the expense of children’s entitlement to a broad and

balanced curriculum and by the diversion of considerable teaching time

to test preparation.”

I would agree that there is a huge emphasis on literacy and numeracy in schools – basically because that’s how the school is judged by many. League tables report on SATs results, not the exciting visit from a local artist, or the afternoon spent lying in the school grounds counting mini beasts.

Year 2 and 6 at school are dominated by SATs – booster classes, practice papers and all – and the rest of the school is affected too as the ICT suite is out of action as an extra classroom. (Not such as big problem this year as we have laptop trolleys in KS2, but KS1 and Foundation are affected)

And we have assessment week for the whole school several times a year during which pupils are under pressure to raise their levels in literacy and numeracy.

I recall being working hard in numeracy and literacy at middle school – lots of mental arithmetic, and tricky spellings, and the like. But I also recall spending whole days painting huge pictures of the Victorians, or a week of working independently on personal topics – I did one about Scandanavia and on another occasion, Sign Language and Braille. Perhaps I have a rosy view of my school days – I did like school- and have forgotten how much time we spent on different sections. We had a test every year – we all went into the hall and did three tests but it wasn’t pressurised, nor had we been ‘hothoused’ to pass them, and we didn’t have SATs.

The LibDem Education spokesman David Laws said “Young children should follow a broad and balanced curriculum. Too much time in primary schools is now spent on test preparation. Creativity is at risk of being squeezed out of our classrooms.”

I’ve blogged before about my wish for creativity, and creative subversion in the primary curriculum, and I don’t think that being a good school with high levels of literacy and numeracy should exclude a creative approach to teaching and learning.

At the Primary Language Show, I’ve heard about several cross curricular projects involving languages, and all have reported increased levels in basic skills as well as the kids having a marvellous time, doing unforgettable things that have blown their minds. I’ll try and find the time to blog about as many as I can (hopefully others will too, eh Joe and Jo??) as I really think school is about more than stuffing minds with facts and coaching kids to pass exams.

What do you think?

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?

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