February 2008 – ¡Vámonos!

Month: February 2008

Tomorrow I’m off to the Primary Language Show in Manchester. It’s the first time I’ve been able to go for both days and, although I’ll miss the conference dinner (booked out by the time school decided I could go) and am not staying over but travelling in both days from home (don’t fancy hotel rooms at the moment), I am really looking forward to it. As CILT proclaimed today –

The 12th annual CILT Primary Languages Conference takes place this Friday 29 February and Saturday 1 March at the Manchester Conference Centre, and is the biggest event of the year for all those involved in or interested in primary languages.

With language learning due to be in all English primary schools by 2010, and 70% of primary schools already providing some form of language teaching, interest in the show is growing each year and both days of the conference are now fully booked.

With sessions on a wide variety of topics related to PLL including the use of ICT and story, football and dance, there’s something for all interests, and it will be hard to choose which sessions to attend.

I’m hoping to meet up with Jo Rhys Jones and other members of Talkabout Primary MFL for coffee and cake – we might even let Joe Dale (who is speaking on podcasting) join us as the token male if he behaves :o) So there will no doubt be plenty of blogging going on after the weekend – keep your eyes and ears peeled!

Although the conference is fully booked ( I applied four weeks ago and the plenary sessions on Friday and also the dinner were fully booked then) you can still attend the resources exhibition for FREE! So if you’re coming, why not leave a comment or contact me via Twitter.
Hope to see you there!

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!

¡Qué rápido!

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I was very excited to read in The Times yesterday that there is now a rapid train linking Madrid and Barcelona.

Reading on, 185mph train marks latest step in Spanish high-speed revolution reports that a journey taking 6 hours by car takes 2 hours 35 minutes on the new AVE rail link. This is not the only high speed link with a service linking Madrid and Valladolid in 55 minutes, and, most exciting of all for me, Madrid and Málaga in 2 hours 30 minutes. My family often holiday near Málaga and never before have we considered visiting Madrid – it’s now possible to do as a day trip. Whoopee :o)

Apparently, if the train is 30 minutes late, you get a full refund – great news! Having said that, the article does point out that this is unlikely as Spanish high speed rail punctuality is second only to the Japanese.

And the plan is that by 2020 there will be 10,000 km of high speed rail track and 90% of the Spanish population will live within 50km of an AVE station.

The comments on the article are varied – one questions whether this is a good way to spend money on rail travel when the the normal trains are overcrowded, smelly and late whilst another praises the cleanliness of them. There is praise for the service, pointing out that it’s better than flying (and faster if you factor in the rigmarole of booking in and collecting luggage etc).

And most of all, comments lamenting the contrast with Britain where we have 80 miles of high speed track. “It is ridiculous that the country that invented rail travel now has only 80 miles of high-speed track between Folkestone and St Pancras for the Eurostar trains,” Gerry Doherty, general secretary of the TSSA transport union, said. “We have to follow the example of Spain and France by making rail quicker and cheaper if we are to meet the challenge of low-cost airlines.” He goe son to point out that the journey between London to Glasgow – shorter than Spain’s newest line – takes 4½ hours with a walk-on, second-class fare of £130.

“We not only have the most expensive fares in Europe, we now have the slowest rail service as well,” he said. Disappointing isn’t it?

In the previous post, I suggested some ways to use items from IKEA in my teaching. Storage, cushions and soft shoes were all mentioned. This post focuses on items to enhance and facilitate speaking and listening in PLL.

One of the main obstacles I find in getting pupils to speak Spanish (or French, German, or any other language) is the ‘hang up’ that it sounds funny. Whilst this is not such a big problem, in my experience, in PLL, there is still some reticence on the part of some pupils to speaking the foreign language. Using puppets is one way of getting around this. Puppets come in all shapes and sizes – you can download patterns for card finger puppets here and here: you can use sock puppets – see Jo Rhys-Jones’ video in which pupils converse using their alien sock puppets; you can use glove puppets – I have a HUGE collection of those (including Ana and Jaime); and you can use finger puppets.

As well as charity shops , jumble sales and my childrens’ toyboxes, IKEA are the main source of my finger puppets. TITTA are sets of 10 finger puppets, costing £5. I have three sets (about time they brought out a new set!) – a sea set (right), a fairytale /royal court set (not pictured) and a jungle set (left). Pupils prefer the animals and give them names and different voices. By using the puppets they are distancing the ‘funny noise’ that some of them associate with speaking Spanish etc and displacing it onto the puppet. Using silly voices is another useful ploy – and is encouraged – as long as the voice doesn’t make understanding impossible! Additionally, puppets seem to increase confidence and encourage creativity in a way that ‘turn to your partner and practice the phrases’ doesn’t. Not hard to see why when you’re dealing with kids who associate role play with using props and dressing up and having fun.

If you were at the IoW conference in October, or even read about it, you may have seen a picture of me as a cat! For the benefit of those who haven’t, here it is!
The previous week I had popped over to our nearest IKEA in search of gingerbread for Christmas and come across these lovely animal masks and ears! There’s cat, a dog (with floppy ears on the mask), a rabbit (ears on a headband as well as mask) and a bear. I’ve used these in a similar way to the finger puppets – these give pupils even more to ‘hide behind’ as they are masked! We’ve used them for storytelling and for songs like El granjero tiene una granja. Always a clamour to wear them so there’s the incentive to take part and contribute to the lesson too, as ‘I only choose people who are working hard and trying their best’ ;o)

Well today, I made another discovery – more masks and this time not just animals! An alien with antennae, a flower, a spider, a princess, a dinosaur, a ladybird and a bumblebee form the latest set of play masks. This time I managed to find two ‘willing’ volunteers to model them for me (although I didn’t completely escape as you can see!).

As well as using these masks for the activities mentioned above, I’d like to use them to encourage pupils to be creative and make up their own (simple) stories that they can act for one another.

You’ll notice that some of the pictures are framed by a green and blue ‘stage’. Today IKEA were selling puppet theatres for 49p – made of cardboard admittedly but nonetheless worth a small investment! As demonstrated by my ‘dos voluntarios’, they can be used as a stage for conversations using the masks, and would work equally well with finger, sock or stick puppets.

Can’t wait to have a go in the classroom! But until then, I know two people who’ll be having fun giving me more ideas!

Inspired in IKEA


Anyone who knows me will vouch for my ability to shop ’til I drop – not necessarily buying lots but always on the lookout for something new and exciting. And anyone who has been in one of my lessons, or attended a session I’ve led will also know that I love IKEA. My first outing after having #2 son was not to a restaurant, or even a pub, but late night shopping at IKEA. And, if you ignore the wardrobes, beds and sofas, and look at the smaller items, there are many things that can be used to inspire and facilitate PLL.

boxes are great for storing bits and bobs – and are different colours so allow for spontaneous questions: ¿Qué hay en la caja verde? ¿Los dados, las tijeras o las cartas? or instructions: Dame la caja azul por favor. Pon los dados en la caja blanca por favor.

Also good for storage are MINNEN velvet bags. I have a collection of these – I keep my finger puppets in one, and my paper puppets in another. I also use them for games such ¿Qué hay en la bolsa? – hide a number of small objects in the bag and children name an item by touch. I’ve recently done it with small farm animals and also fruit. Note to self – next time use plastic fruit to avoid a soggy bag smelling of strawberries! The element of wondering what’s in the bag adds to the exercise and keeps the class on its toes. It also allows for self differentiation as a child can pull out an item that they are pretty sure they know rather than be put on the spot.

And finally on the storage front, NOJE storage boxes are collapsible so saves space – important at the best of times, but when your storage cupboard is the boot of your car, all the more vital – and, like the bags, have a use beyond the intended. I use mine for simple games.
A favourite is throw the beanbag into the correct box. For the youngest children, I ask them to throw the beanbag into the same coloured box, reinforcing the colour vocabulary: el saco rojo en la caja roja. Then, to make it harder, I ask them to throw it into a different coloured basket: el saco azul en la caja verde. Teaches and reinforces colours as well as enhancing motor skills.
I also used them to separate food into ‘healthy’ – es bueno (green), ‘unhealthy’ – no es bueno (red) and ‘undecided’ – no sé (blue) The physical act of moving food adds movement to the lesson and was again tactile, reinforcing the groupings.
And you can play memory games too – ¿dónde está la manzana?

What about these UNDERBAR discs – my boys use them as frisbees although they are intended to be seat cushions. Why not use them as stepping stones, or for dancemat activities (they are textured so no danger of slipping) – both these activities allow sequencing and enhance memorisation skills.

When I ask questions, I like to throw things! I think it goes back to my early days of learning Spanish when my Colombian teacher had the habit of throwing someone’s pencil case around the room to keep us on our toes. It certainly did that, especially as it was a well packed case! Anyhow, the theory make sense to me although I prefer to avoid the danger of knocking out my pupils and so favour a small soft ball. I bought one from IKEA that contains a bell, so we could play with our eyes shut to work our auditory skills! I find it adds to the pace of the lesson, and pupils love being the teacher and getting to throw the ball. Recently, I got fed up of the ball and decided to go for something a bit more exciting – cue BÄSTIS! Actually dog toys, but I now own a pair of shoes
(trainers) that fly around the room. I wanted the pink boots but was informed by #1 son that they were not aerodynamic enough and #2 son that they are too girly!

That’s just the start of my IKEA inspired ideas – the best comes in the next post! Back in an hour or so :o)

Ideas @ IKEA

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What has IKEA got to do with PLL? Come back later and I’ll let you know my ideas! Just got to do some more shopping …

Trying out Clipmarks, an add-on for Firefox that I’ve just added to my browser. It allows you to take a ‘clip’ of part of a page and bookmark it or save it, print it out or blog it! Seems a great idea – saves ink, time and effort. CTRL PrtScn and cropping was starting to become tedious!
I chose a random image – Spanish of course! Do you recognise it?

Salvador Dali Museum, Figueres, Spain
blog it


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Another of today’s discoveries was a bit of a surprise.

In amongst the Spanish rhymes and songs, I came across some videos with the prefix ‘NannyMóvil’. Reading the ‘About this video’ information I discovered that educamobile is someone called Alfonso from Barcelona and makes ‘Animaciones, canciones y cuentos en los teléfonos móviles de los padres, para distraer a sus hijos pequeños. (children oriented songs, animations and tales for parents’ mobile phones to distract small children.)
You can watch an interview with educamobile explaining and demonstrating the idea here – it’s in Catalan though! – I knew it was worth learning :o)
He has posted some of the videos on Youtube and they do look interesting. You can download the animations and songs etc to your mobile in Spain at a cost of 2€ +IVA (although there is a promotion at present to get ‘la granja’ free)- there’s an SMS number to contact. Doesn’t seem to work from England – I’m investigating how you might be able to download here. giving access to the menu of downloads – There’s also a wap address http://wap.nannymovil.com – can’t make it connect on my phone though :o(
So, I have another plan! Using Zamzar, I’m going to convert the videos from Youtube and then Bluetooth them to my ‘phone. Working out the format is the fun bit!

But even if that fails, the videos could be useful in class. The animations are cute and there are several types. There are the Nannyanimaciones that could be used to present vocabulary. There’s one of ‘bichos‘ (bugs) that would capture the imagination of some of the little lads (and possibly a couple of the young ladies!) I teach, and then there’s ‘animales de la sabana‘ featuring wild animals. Below is the ‘la granja‘ video.

I do think that to maintain attention you would need to selectively show the clips as they could become quite monotonous unless you play a game with them or just show a bit of the video – and the music could be a little more varied.

Then there are Nannycanciones like Que llueva and then Nannycuentos.

The cuento I found on Youtube was Caperucita Roja.
As the ‘blurb’ says –
‘Aquí mostramos a los personajes del cuento de Caperucita: el lobo, la abuelita, el cazador, y la caperucita. El cuento del móvil es mucho mejor. En este video no figuran ni los efectos especiales, ni los diálogos y algunas de las escenas que figuran en el móvil’ –
Because there is no dialogue, this would be a great inspiration/backdrop for pupils to retell the story in as simple terms as they wish – could be just naming characters for younger pupils up to older pupils (beyond primary) using more complicated language; perhaps it could be used to inspire a cross Key Stage / transition project? See what you think – I like the bold characters, especially the wolf dressed as Grandma!

You can find out more on the website – http://www.nannymovil.com
On the site you’ll also find some print and colour sheets and dice to download and make linked to videos. It’s new site so some parts are under construction – I’ve emailed about the possibility of downloading outside Spain so will keep you posted!

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