Thursday, 29 December 2016

Teaching film for Year 12 MFL students

Teaching film in Year 12

One of the pleasures of teaching 6th form MFL has always been the opportunity to study a film or literary work.  The cultural and linguistic richness which this brings to the study of a language has the ability to light up the experience of learning a language.  Usually, however, I have been used to teaching this in Year 13, where it has been much more about learning about a film, play or novel in the medium of the target language. With the majority of the students that I’m currently teaching, I’m not yet in a position to do this in the way I was used to doing – most of them are simply not linguistically advanced to be able to cope with the material I’ve developed.  Simply put, the needs of my Y12s are very different from the needs of any previous Y13s I have had. As my school is entering all Y12 for the AS, I also have the eye-wateringly tight time constraints imposed by external deadlines to contend with. All of this means that my current teaching materials for teaching a film are in dire need of an overhaul.  In this post, I’m going to reflect on the ways in which I’m going to have to adapt the way I teach a film or a text at Year 12 needs to change to reflect the different stage in learning which are students are at.

What do my students need?

Some of my students still need intensive practice of verb conjugation and work with the cases.  That means incorporating lots of follow-up grammar practice, much of which can be done in their independent study sessions or as part of homework.  It also means identifying the key verbs / vocabulary for each session and giving them more prominence.

Teaching new grammar – I am going to need to introduce more complex relative clauses, the use of weak masculine nouns, for a start.

Essay-writing practice.  Although it will be a while before they can write a full essay, they can write structured paragraphs from the start which could form an essay, and that teach essay-writing language.

Summarising skills – summarising is now part of the requirement at AS.  This needs practising in general, as well as in the specific way it is required for the exam.

Ideas for starters:

·         Summarise what happened in the scenes from last lesson

·         Screenshot – describe the picture – note techniques / who is doing what

·         verb games using the verbs from last lesson

·         prepositions and cases gapfill

Ideas for follow-up work:

Each week needs a mix of the following:

·         Grammar work with the identified focus – gapfill / word order / cloze text

·         Translation – either from the script or from the language work provided

·         Summary of the action – choose a tense to do it in – practise imperfect / perfect or even present tense

·         Structured paragraph “exam-stylee” focused on either how the themes are developed / how technique is used / the role a character plays / what we learn about society from these

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Helping pupils with challenging reading texts for GCSE

I thought I would share the following resource which I have been using with my year 11s to help them improve their exam technique.  The tendency my students have is to snatch at one word, then build their answer around that one, single word, which inevitably leads to disaster.  Alternatively, they have no idea where to start.  Taking them step-by-step through the process, slowing them down so that they are forced to think about what they are reading - these have been useful.  Especially for AQA GCSE, where obscure answers are part and parcel of preparing for the A-A* type questions,

 I have a golden rule: Show me the evidence!!  You have to be guided by the words in the text.  We have just done a past paper question where the answer to the question, "How do you know the family are despairing of getting Louis to school on time?" was "They are thinking about having breakfast the night before"  Previous attempts at these types of obscure questions has led to blank expressions all round.  Although not all got it, some did because they had taken it step by step.

This template is also good for homework support.  If they have done all of these steps, you know that they have really engaged with the text.

Guided Reading Template
Stage 1.  Look at the clues which could set the scene.
1.  Is there any photo / picture?  What does it show? 
2.  What’s the title of the article?  Translate it here:
3.  What’s this article about?  Which topics might be included in this reading text?
Stage 2.  Skim read – getting the gist of what has been written
List the 3 most important things you have learned from the text.
Stage 3.  Focus on the first line of each paragraph – find the theme of the paragraph.
Translate each first sentence, and then tell me what the probable theme of the paragraph is.
Probable theme


Stage 4.  Find out what the key words are each question – underline them!
Stage 5. Find the section that gives you the answer to the question.
a. Underline the sentence or phrase which gives you the answer.
b. Translate as much as you can from that sentence into your exercise book.
Stage 6.  Answer the question, using your translation to help you!

Monday, 22 February 2016

Using film in MFL lessons - integrating it into the scheme of work

Necessity is indeed the mother of invention.  The lesson sequence I'm going to describe came about when it became clear that I really needed a Plan B.  The danger of the spiral curriculum, where topics are revisited, but with increasing difficulty, was laid bare a few months ago by one of my Year 9 French classes.  The textbook we loosely follow is Tricolore, and the not-so-inspiring topic was family, and the grammar covered revision of adjectives for description and reflexive verbs including reciprocal verbs such as "nous nous disputons".  I made the fatal mistake when introducing the new topic of mentioning "family" and the shutters came down." Family? Did that in year 7." and although the phrase, "What's the point?" wasn't actually uttered, the body language said it all.    

Back to the drawing board.  This is when I came upon these fabulous resources by Rachel Hawkes and colleagues on the film "Neuilly sa mère!". I liked these resources, but I wanted to try a different approach.  The joy of this film is that it allows the pupils to comment on the family and characters shown in the film, and that from this, I could also teach them what I needed.  I think there is much to be gained from pupils seeing and experiencing a full film in the foreign language - their ear becomes more attuned, and the cultural references and sights are also often easily absorbed.  I have been less impressed with the overall effect that watching a film over, say, 2 lessons followed by language work. In recent years, I have tended to use short excerpts of films instead.  I decided, therefore to blend the 2 approaches, and show approx. 20 - 30 min clips over a period of lessons and use these as the stimulus for the rest of the lesson.  

This was the sequence that developed.
Aims of unit and the film:
·         revise and extend knowledge of family members
·         revise and extend personality adjectives
·         introduce a wider range of reflexive verbs to be able to talk about who you get on with
·         revise and extend adjectives for describing appearance
·         revise la futur proche to predict the end of the film
·         to develop phrases for introducing your opinion
·         to write about your own family based on the language learnt

·         to write a review of the film

      Lesson 1 start – 17:00
      We introduced the characters.  Using grouptalk and with a support sheet with personality words, they discussed which characters they liked and why, and compared them.  Who was more spoilt? Who was funnier / nicer?  They also worked out who was related to whom.  After they had completed exercises about the fictional family, I got no complaints about applying that language to a description of their own families for homework.
L  Lessons 2/3 17:00 – 39:00
      After watching the relationships between the characters develop, I used this section to teach "s'entendre bien avec" with other reflexive verbs e.g. se disputer.  We used a tarsia game to get to know the key verbs and structures, and they were then able to say who got on with whom.  They then applied it to their own families.
      Lesson 4 39:00 – 1:00
       This section allowed more use of reflexive verbs e.g. ils se moquent de lui.  And, as Sami doubted whether he would ever get his girl because he thought he wasn't her type, this seemed a good time to revise appearances, as it fitted with the plot. 
      Lesson 5  1:00 – 1:15
      Something a bit different this time.  We watched the party scene and then used the near future to predict what would happen for the end of the film.  I taught them a few phrases to introduce their opinion.
      Lesson 6 watch to the end
       We found out which of our predictions were right!  We then did some work to review the film.  Who was the favourite character?  Which was the favourite scene etc.
       The class really enjoyed this sequence of lessons, and they were willing to use more challenging French because they were motivated.  I prefer this way of watching a whole film.  We still got through all of the language for the scheme of work, and it felt much more organic.  

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Preparing for the new GCSE - some of the nitty gritty

The last couple of posts have been about Big Ideas and Principles, but the nuts and bolts stuff also needs looking at, and certainly we need to be getting our pupils used to the question formats in KS3.  I wanted to share our initial to-do list. This is with AQA in mind.

What needs to be looked at:       

1.  Getting used to literary texts and more authentic materials

2.  Answering in more detail in reading questions  -finish the sentence

3.  Transcribing – spelling to be taken into account in the new listening  -also part of the NC

4.  Photo-cards – starters with “what can you see in the picture”?

5.  Role-plays – situational and talking with a friend – bolster these in Y8 & 9 especially, but also in Y7

6.  Forming questions – make sure this is given more priority

7.  Intensive practice of key verbs – “emergency kit” in 3 tenses

8.  What does a good model essay look like? Preparing pupils for this – key phrases needed

9.  How assessment will change – making sure the teaching prepares pupils well for this

10.  How to keep language fresh so they don’t forget (Homer Simpson syndrome)

11.  Translation both ways.

To do list:

1.  Identify good transcribing resources (for use with micro-listening tasks (The language gym))

2.  Join the ALL wiki for good sources of material

3.  Identify a minimum of one literary/authentic text (song / poem / letter) for each module

4.  Identify a time once a month where material from other units/topics is either incorporated or used in a cross-themed writing activity to keep language active

5.  Embed grouptalk / roleplay opportunities into the scheme of work à how to progress with it?

6.  Review reference material for pupils – to support question formation / grammar aspects for correcting own work (à support feedback ticksheet)

7.  Review assessment formats in all 4 skills (roleplay should be easy to implement, even for peer assessment)   The writing assessment to mirror the format of the writing exam, including not giving advance notice of the extended writing and giving a choice.

8.  Translation – we do a lot of it in drills, but maybe not a little paragraph as often into English.  Needs to be done monthly

Preparing for the new GCSE - literature in KS3

This is the second post about KS3 and literature. The previous one has various links including to the wonderful ALL wiki on literature. in this post, I want to continue looking at the literature aspect of preparing for the new GCSE. Ks3 should be about enjoying the language, and songs and poems so far figure more prominently than prose. As far as prose is concerned, the priorities need to be:
  • Getting pupils used to texts which combine language from lots of diffrerent topics and to dealing with a manageable amount of new words
  • Coping with unfamiliar words
  • Capturing pupils' interest
  • Opening the world out to them

Letters can be an excellent way to get them to experience prose.  I have a rather battered letter which describes Christmas and the pupils enjoy reading it - real person their age, and real experience.  It doesn't need to be just such "normal" letters. There are other ideas which could prove a rich vein of material. There has been lots of work this year on WW1. I found this collection of soldier's letters. Seeing the WW1 from the "other side" could be very powerful. For the French teachers reading this, Liz Black recommended "Lulu et la Grande Guerre" by Fabian Grégoire. Some vivid writing which is accessible with some adaptations.

Other prose - stories, newspapers

We do a project week after the January exams and read a simplified version of "Aschenputtel" using the Grimm's rather bloodthirsty original. It has lots for beginners to get their teeth into, phrases such as "schwarz von Herzen" ("black of heart") - what's not to like?  Vivid phrases but also well within the capability of pupils to work out with access to a glossary or dictionary. It also gives pupils lots to think about - why the difference between the now well-established Disney version and this?  The boys enjoy reading it out loud and working with the text.

My searches so far haven't found any contemporary short stories yet that would fit the bill, although I remain hopeful that I might get some inspiration from the DaF (the German equivalent of EAL) community in Germany. It seems to me that letters and brief, adapted newspaper stories would be suitable at this stage of  learning. Which brings me to...

Bild newspaper. This tabloid paper does a great line in punchy daft stories. Search for "dümmster Einbrecher" (most stupid burglar) or similar (bank robbers is another favourite) and you find what are, in effect, mini-stories. They will still need to be adapted. It is also good for human interest stories. I found an interview with a refugee who survived the hell of the Mediterranean. Great for helping pupils understand the world.

Now to share another great tip from the training by Liz Black: Der Spiegel does a monthly news magazine aimed at 8-14 yr olds called "Dein Spiegel".  It has stories aimed at our age range, even if you will have to adapt them. And for my French teaching colleagues, there is Le petit quotidien for young people. These are going in my reading corner next year.

Breaking out of the box

One of the reasons I think we may be hesitant to use literature sources is the fact that there are inevitably words beyond what we usually teach, and certainly beyond just the topic we are trying to focus on at the minute.  That has to be a good thing, but does need approaching carefully. It must be said, however, that if we don't want pupils to compartmentalise their language, then we need to model that in our lessons.  Language (and life) is not neat and closed off into little boxes, and we need to reflect this. Still, look at this poem for Nikolaustag:

Nikolaus, du guter Mann,
hast einen schönen Mantel an.
Die Knöpfe sind so blank geputzt,
dein weißer Bart ist gut gestutzt,
die Stiefel sind so spiegelblank,
die Zipfelmütze fein und lang,
die Augenbrauen sind so dicht,
so lieb und gut ist dein Gesicht.
Du kamst den weiten Weg von fern,
und deine Hände geben gern.
Du weißt, wie alle Kinder sind:
Ich glaub, ich war ein braves Kind.
Sonst wärst du ja nicht hier
und kämest nicht zu mir.
Du musst dich sicher plagen,
den schweren Sack zu tragen.


By December, we have just done descriptions, and  this fits in very well - lots lines with words on description and clothes, and that's where we concentrate our work.  Liz Black made the point that it depends on what you want the pupils to do with it and the support you give. We shouldn't be afraid of tackling these texts with them.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Preparing for the New GCSE - Carpe Diem! Part 1

In our languages department, we are beginning to make preparations and changes to our Y9 schemes of work in preparation for the new GCSE.  There is trepidation, but as @spsmith45 points out in this blog, there is no need to start completely from scratch.  Good teaching remains good teaching. If you want a good summary of key things to consider when preparing to teach, then that is a very good place to start.

I want to talk about opportunities. Yes, opportunities.  Opportunities to open the door to other worlds, opportunities to really revel in the language.  On a more prosaic note, opportunities to help our pupils get to grips with how the language sounds.  As languages teachers, we know that a great song, poem or prose piece can transport the readers, and what better way to give pupils a glimpse of what we all fell in love with? The number of genres that can be defined as "literature" is only as limited (limitless?) as your imagination.  If you need a helping hand, look at ALL's wiki on the subject. Whilst I'm talking about inspiration, this blog is my initial response to some great training on Literature and the use of authentic texts which took place at Newcastle University on 23rd June, led by the ever knowledgeable @rene_koglbauer and @LizblackMFL, and as you can see has many links to what other people are doing.

I teach German, which we start in Y9 as an express course, so time is short.  In terms of our schemes of work, this shouldn't be yet another extra, but a vehicle for teaching.  I'm a strong believer that whichever resource is used should do the heavy lifting, and be used in multiple ways, and should be integrated into the learning. It should give pupils an opportunity not just for comprehension, but also performance of the text and use of the language they have found, either in a creative writing response.

Opportunity no 1 - reinforcing phonics work
Think about this song from the Prinzen "ich wär so gern Millionär".  Here is the chorus:

Ich wär' so gerne Millionär
dann wär mein Konto niemals leer.
Ich wär' so gerne Millionär - millionenschwer.
Ich wär' so gerne Millionär

I love die Prinzen because they sing so clearly, and they have really singable tunes, and this chorus has lots of potential. You can get the pupils to think about the sound of the "ä" because of the strong rhyme. And then you can test your knowledge on the lyricstraining website, a new and exciting discovery, which was recommended to me recently .  This could also then lead to some creative work using "wäre" to speculate on what could happen and be applied to different situations.

Silly rhymes such as the following are also perfect for beginners and reinforce key German phonics:
Eins, zwei, Polizei
drei, vier, Offizier
fünf, sechs, alte Hex'
sieben, acht, gute Nacht!
neun, zehn, auf Wiedersehen!

If you are about to tackle a longer text, it is worth laying the groundwork and making sure pupils can decode the words in front of them. This post from @gianfrancocont9 has some great warm-up ideas for listening, and is well worth a look.

One tip which came from the CPD session to help find sources for quick transcribing which also doubles as something more interesting than simply sentences from last lesson are dictation resources for primary school.  Liz Black gave an example from a Duden book, and I have found a book called "100 lustige Diktate"  which also includes little riddles (one "guess what"? riddle is about a mouse).  I have yet to get my mitts on that little number, so I will follow up and let you know what that is like.  Watch this space!

Well, this was just going to be one post, but it looks like I need another post to finish..

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Revision - making it stick

This is the first of a couple of posts about revision.  This has been inspired (if that's the word) by my need to help my pupils understand what revision looks like, because between you and me, I'm shocked at how vague many of them are about how to learn.  My holiday reading has therefore been "Make it stick" by Peter C. Brown. Reading this book made me think about how I can make the process of revision explicit for my pupils. This is not a review of the book, but is my attempt at thinking through how I want to get the pupils to apply the principles in their MFL revision in the coming weeks (apologies to my colleagues teaching French GCSE, who don't have the luxury of time).

The goal
To recognise and understand all of those words IN A FLASH in the exam - that means you need FAST RETRIEVAL from your LONG-TERM MEMORY
The principles
1. Use it or lose it
Done your revision on Healthy Living? Lovely. Well done,you. But if you want it to stick, you've got to return to it and practise it again for it become part of your long-term memory. The more you return, and the more defined the path will become.
2.  Mix it up
Switch between topics, switch between skills.  You don't get bored, your brain doesn't get bored, and the effort you have to put in to remember different topics strengthens your long-term memory.
3.  Get your learning spaced out!
Don't bunch everything from one topic up in one session or week.  Space your revision of the topic out, so you have to dig the knowledge back up again
4.  No pain, no gain
Maybe not pain, but definitely effort, but that doesn't rhyme. The more effort you need to remember something during your revision, the better you remember it.
5.  Don't assume - it makes an ass out of u and me
You've done a whole hour's revision! Woo-hoo! But have you tested yourself to see what's gone in?

Making it manageable AND effective

So - what should their revision look like at home? We still have quite a lot of lessons ahead of us, so this is in addition to what they are doing in class. Asking pupils to do 20-25 minutes a day sounds much more manageable to them. They may not always do it, but if they can sign up to the principle of it, then we are getting somewhere.

1.  Every day – 5 minutes quiz on what you did yesterday

                        - 15 minutes active learning new topic with flashcards (
                           Learn difficult words/irregular verbs in a phrase or sentence
                       - 5 minutes make yourself a quiz to re-use tomorrow and later on
                          Good types of quiz questions:

                         1.  Fill in the gap
                         2.  find the opposites
                         3.  word association games

2.  Once a week (MINIMUM) – skills practice. 
Either a past paper or listening/reading exercise from kerboodle from last week’s topics.
Make a quiz out of the questions you got wrong.

3.  Once a week – do the quiz you made from things you got wrong