Thursday, 27 October 2016

Post half term break, renewed enthusiasm!

I don't know about you, but I was just about clawing myself through the last two weeks of last half term. I tried to be bouncy and whizzy, but I had no fuel left in my tank!

However, sitting down to do a bit of work today and finding myself procrastinating as usual, I remembered that I needed to produce a resource to help my Year 7 and 8 classes develop their routines and in turn, their classroom language. I am fortunate enough to have what I think is the best department in the world; we work together exceptionally well and we all contribute resources to our departmental Google Drive account (Which, by the way, is a wonderful way of collaborating and has completely changed the way I work. I never use a memory pen. If your school sets it up as an education establishment, you get the education version with unlimited memory and also you get the benefit of Google Classroom, which is also awesome! Anyway, I digress!). My amazing RQT @sophiamccrea had produced something of this ilk and I was able to adapt it, so that it is organised in a way that I could use it. I also made some minor alterations to suit the way I teach.

If you click here, you will have access to my 'Reg and exit' slides. If you want to edit it, you will have to make a copy. It will also download as a PowerPoint presentation, but you will lose the fonts and some of the tables will look different. If you want to know how I will use it, you will need to read my previous posts about routines, classroom language routines etc. I will add more as I go along (although not on the slides I have posted here) as their confidence grows.

Kinda looking forward to Monday!

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Another new year!

The start to another new year approaches. In a few days, I will be faced with a classroom full of bright, shiny, nervous new faces all wondering what their German lessons will entail. They have no idea what lies in front of them; so many changes and new challenges; new KS3 schemes of work and levels, new GCSEs which 90% of them will be expected to take in a language, new GCSE grading system and new A-Levels. All of this change means that it is even more important to get them listening to and using the target language as soon as possible to be able to cope with the demands of the new courses; spontaneous language will feature quite high on the GCSE agenda. So we have a job to do and sooner is better than later. I saw something in a Facebook group this week that resonated with me: "If you don't speak French in your English class, why would you speak English in your French class?" - Richard Smith.

My classroom language washing lines are up for reference, I have labelled items in the classroom, I have posted realia round the room to immerse them a little in German speaking environments and I think I'm ready to go.

The washing line of classroom phrases will be vital, especially in the first few weeks as I set up the all important register routine. This is the beginning of them using German phrases to communicate with me that they want to carry out a job for me, such as; take the register, do the team points etc. From here we will go on to use opinion phrases to express our thoughts about how we thought the register routine went. An altogether mundane part of the lesson, turned into an absolutely essential learning opportunity.

Once they start using the phrases spontaneously, I will reward them with stickers and we will move on to other, more complicated phrases. We will use structures and grammar that we will unpick in time, but not at the start. I'm not going to bamboozle them with grammar in their first few lessons with me; there's time for that when we start to look at things in more detail. I am merely paving the way.

I always feel excited at the prospect of a new year. I am genuinely looking forward to being there at the start of these pupils' learning journey. Some of them might take German to GCSE, A-Level and beyond; some might use the language on our trip to Austria, or in their German exchange partner's house in a few years. Who knows; some of them might well use German on a day to day basis in their chosen profession, or just because they can.

But for the time being, they will ask if they do the register, for now they will give their opinions about how well they thought the register went and most importantly, they will have fun doing it; and so will I!

Monday, 25 May 2015

Suspending reality in the MFL classroom

From the minute they walk into the classroom, my year 8 class know that suddenly, they are in a German speaking 'country' and they switch languages. From hearing them speaking in English in the corridor, to hearing a girl asking "um drei Uhr darf ich bitte auf die Toilette gehen?", it is clear to see that, for all intents and purposes, my classroom could be Germany! On the occasions that I forget myself and speak to them in English, they remind me that I have to wear the hat (see previous posts to see what I'm talking about) to do so, and so I do.

One might argue that it isn't real and the situation I have created in my classroom is contrived and fake, but I would argue that it is giving them a real purpose to speak in German. In any classroom, in any subject, there is a mini world going on; from carrying out mock trials in citizenship to making and letting off little rockets in physics.  I remember James Burch from St. Martins College telling us, that you have to suspend reality and we do and my pupils don't see it as being weird!  They have been taught in this way for as long as I have been teaching them and have progressed from me using many cognates and gestures to me speaking to them in more sophisticated German with hardly any gestures and they respond appropriately.

During a starter activity we were doing (we were describing a member of the class to our partners and they had to guess who was being described), one boy put his hand up and asked me, with no prompting at all, "x denkt, dass x hat braune Haare, aber ich denke, dass er hat schwarze Haare. Was ist richtig?". Ignoring the word order (we haven't looked as 'dass' in detail yet) I was bowled over. The boy hadn't even attempted to speak in English. He saw it as a natural thing to communicate with me in German and was actually seeking information he needed in order to complete the task. That was real. That was necessary. To him, that was important - just as important as it was for the girl at the start of the lesson to ask if she could go to the toilet. Although the situation was contrived and fake, the questions were real. The pupils had suspended reality and thought nothing of it.

How did we get to this point? Cognates, mimes, gestures, language mats, competition, team games, gimmicks, rewards, in fact any way I thought would get the most out of them. More important though, is the expectation that in my classroom one speaks in German and the acceptance that that does indeed take place.  By (memory) hook or by crook we do it and quite clearly it works!

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Mimes and memory hooks

I haven't blogged for a while for various reasons and I was spurred on to write this blogpost, not by something which happened in my class last week, but by a mixture of other things happening around me.  Firstly, I have been getting more and more concerned about what seems to be a growing movement in favour of teaching MFL in a more traditional way, the way I was taught at school (Back to the days of language sandwiches; dry and curling up at the edges) and without so much as a sniff of TL in the classroom.  Secondly, since I wasn't able to go myself, due to the fact that I live up in the wilds of Cumbria, I have been following the tweets from #ililc5 with interest and have been reading various brilliant blogposts about what took place.  Thirdly, just last night, I happened upon a twitter conversation about memory hooks, which I 'gatecrashed' and that is what gave me the final push to write this.

I try very hard to keep the teaching of my French and German classes in the TL, despite the fact that in my French classes, I am less confident as I only studied it up to A-Level myself.  On the whole I do quite well; in German, I would say I probably do better than in French, but I definitely make it the rule, rather than the exception.  I rely a lot on gestures to get my point across and to make myself understood; in fact we all probably do this in everyday life in our own mother tongue.  We point, we signal, we pull faces and we mime; talking with our hands, we call it.  The same applies in my classroom, but on a larger scale.  When I ask pupils to take out their whiteboards, I find myself 'drawing' a whiteboard in the air, which makes it easier for them to understand, especially in French, as the word 'ardoise' is nowhere near a cognate, not like German!  When I ask who would like to do the register, I pretend to take the register in my palm.  It has become something I do without thinking, AND IT WORKS!

This is purely down to my training.  I trained at what was St. Martin's College in Carlisle (now The University of Cumbria), by the brilliant Anna Bartrum and James Burch, who really inspired me and continue to inspire me.  They taught me how to make myself understood and how to make pupils work at meaning without giving it away to them.  The principles behind this have stayed with me for the 17 years I have been teaching; I might have gained a few years and matured as a teacher, but the basic bones of my teaching has stayed the same and the reason for this is that IT WORKS!

My classes as a whole love learning.  They enjoy the fun and games.  They like the challenge.  They accept the use of TL all the time as they accept that other subjects are taught in English.  I am certainly not perfect and I have moments, lessons and days when I haven't managed it and afterwards I feel disappointed, unfulfilled and that I have let my classes down.  My classes don't learn as well either.  However, I am human.

So, back to the Twitter conversation that I crashed and to the #ililc5 tweets.  There was talk about 'hooks' for vocab and there was a question about how you would come up with hooks for abstract things such as colours and numbers. The example I gave was the word for purple in French, 'violet', which I drill, whilst pretending to play the violin; so it becomes a mime of someone playing violin, whilst we sing 'violet, violet, violet' as we strike the strings of our imaginary violin.  A pupil made me smile recently, as the colours were needed to complete a coloured reading activity and we recapped them.  When it got to purple, the pupil got out his imaginary violin and sang quite proudly, 'violet, violet, violet', just as we had done when they first learnt it.  It is also a great way of reminding pupils of vocab that they are struggling with.  For example, when my pupils struggle to remember the phrase, 'est-ce que je peux...', I clasp my hands together like I am saying a prayer and hum the Can Can melody, as that it how I taught them this phrase (Est-ce que je peux...enlever ma vest/marquer les points? etc).

The mimes I use are either clues to the meaning of the word, or to how it sounds.  For example, when I teach the German word for black, 'schwarz', I make use of the funny pronunciation and allude to 'she farts' whilst wafting a smell away from my nose! (or rear end, depending on the class and my mood!).  They never have any problems with pronunciation after this, I can tell you!  Some more examples are the numbers in German:

eins - bouncing up and down as if I am on a pogo stick
zwei - I make my hand into a snake and make it slither in front of me
drei - I dry my hands
vier - I act terrified and throw my hands up in fright
fünf - I blow up a pretend balloon
sechs - tricky this one!  I defuse the possible hilarity, by making  a dentists drill with my finger and 'drill' my teeth, whilst saying it
sieben - I turn my arms into a seesaw and as I say the word I rock from side to side
acht - I pretend to spit!
neun - this is me watching a fast car speeding past me and I turn my head to follow it
zehn - I 'open' an imaginary can of fizzy drink (and drink it in the first instance, so they know what it is)
elf - I crouch down as small as an elf!
zwölf - I jump back up with hands as ears and make myself into a wolf

The colours in French:

rouge - I rub my cheeks
rose - I make a rose shape with my hands
blanc - I shrug my shoulders and make it into a comedy sound
noir - I say it in a mysterious way whilst waving my hands about through the air, as if it was all dark and I couldn't see
jaune - I bark it like a dog and mime appropriately!
gris - I make my mouth wide and use my hands to mime a bit like whiskers (I am trying to get them not to pronounce the 's' and am showing them the ee sound!  I don't know where the whiskers came in!)
orange - obviously, I peel an imaginary orange
vert - I mime a tree

and so on!

The question in French, 'Qu'est-ce qu'il y a dans ta maison?'  I break it into sounds:

kess - I mime blowing a kiss
keel - I mime a comedy 'kill' (a contradiction, I know!) with a pretend dagger
yah! - a karate chop
dahn - a bit like Homer Simpson's 'd'oh'.  I touch my fingers to my forehead.
ta - I make a 'T' with my hands
maison - I make a roof over my head.

To practise the sounds then, I pick them out at random.  I mime an individual sound and pupils have to say the correct one.  Then we put them all together.  It's brilliant fun!

The same principle would apply to using pictures - choose pictures which remind you of the word, whether it be from the sound of it, or from it's actual meaning.

It's not gimmicky.  It's a really good way of pupils getting these words and structures into their heads and keeping them there.  I know that IT WORKS because the receptionist at my dentist was taught by me about 10 years ago and still remembers the phrase 'Ich packe meine Schultasche' with the mime, despite the fact she didn't take her German past GCSE.  In fact, I was told by her colleagues that she is always singing songs in German, while she works!  If that's not testament to the power of learning languages in this way, then I don't know what is!  Maybe songs should be the focus of my next blogpost???  I've got a few up my sleeve!

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

99% TL teaching in bottom set Yr 8 Class - woohoo!

Well, how pleased with myself was I today?  I'll be honest; I had a dip in my use of the TL in teaching bottom set classes just before Christmas.  It was a reeeaaally long term and I was absolutely pulling myself up that mountain by my fingertips, especially near the end and our pupils were the same.  Everyone was tired and my planning was taking me so long, so my energy levels were very low and I 'couldn't be bothered' with it!  However, as I have said lots before, I know it can be done even with bottom sets and I was determined to sort it out!  So, I have been trying really hard.

Today was a 'hallelujah' moment!  The class in question is an extremely lively, quite large (25) bottom set class of mainly boys (there are 5 girls) with a hardcore of about 6-7 boys who 'push it'. Funnily enough, they are all blond?! (I call them my naughty blond boys!).  I have two other adults in the room with me as one is statemented and several struggle with things like literacy etc.  This is the same class that I blogged about on my other blog here, when I had to re-establish some ground rules and introduced a new rewards/sanctions system, which is working brilliantly; I really enjoy teaching them now - it can be so much fun!  We have been doing countries and nationalities to death and today we were looking at household names and saying if they were 'une voiture italienne' or 'un plat espagnol' etc.  It was very controlled and I was very bossy, but almost all of the lesson was delivered in French and they didn't even realise!  We have a very tight TL register routine - they ask in French to do the register on +ClassDojo , they ask to do the team points (everything is about team points, which they also ask for in French if they have done something worthy of them), they ask to time it, using the clock or their watch; we do the register, then find out how long it took, which we then give our opinions on in French (à mon avis, c'était très lent), then everyone who did a job asks for points in French (Which then may be disputed by the other team)!  They love this and are really quite competitive and the daily winner of the team points competition (we have PSG against Olympique Marseille! - cultural!), gets to colour in a football, taking them closer to their goal.
We have routines for handing things out - today, we had dictionaries and worksheets.  They ask in French (Est-ce que je peux distribuer les ...?) and of course, these need collecting at the end, so alltogether now, 'Est-ce que je peux ramasser les ...?'  All of these jobs earn team points of course!

In the midst of all that, loads of really productive work was being done - we can now say that a French/Italian/Spanish etc and they can now successfully use a French dictionary to look unknown words up.


Thursday, 20 November 2014


Haven't blogged for a while due to workload, then we had assessments...anyway here I am!

Got a little frustrated with myself today. I allowed myself to speak far too much in English and ... I didn't wear my hat! It all went wrong from the start. Consistency really is key. I didn't do my usual register routine because my tablet wouldn't pick up my class list on @classdojo, which is what pupils use for doing the register, while I take on our school system. I decided to take the register myself and we didn't make much of the team points and timing and so on, like we normally do. I didn't even record any of the details on my smartboard. We went from that to a pictionary type starter, which was a good activity, but not for this class then as they were already hyper after break. They loved it but they were very giddy.  It was really hard to get them settled back down. I wasn't sharp enough with them and allowed too much noise during transitions. I didn't make any use of the red yellow green cards and I forgot about my scratchcards! All of this resulted in me having to talk to them in english too many times. Didn't need to...could have been avoided with a tighter control on my lesson! Must try harder next time! Thinking about reseating them in the light of their assessment and general performance in class. Will keep you posted!

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Why classroom language routines are so important

Two marvellous things happened today that made me beam. The first happened in my year 7 German class which has featured on this blog. As I have blogged before, we have done lots of work on our register routine, which we religiously do each lesson. I ask, 'wer möchte die Namensliste machen/Teampunkte zählen/Zeit stoppen' and pupils ask if they can: 'darf ich die Namensliste machen/die Teampunkte zählen/die Zeit stoppen?'. We have built on this routine by me now asking 'wer hat ...gemacht/gezählt/gestoppt?' To which they answer, 'ich habe ... gemacht/gezählt/gestoppt' . This is impressive enough; they are using the perfect tense in the first half term of year 7 after all; however, it doesn't stop there. After we finished the register routine, somebody called out: gemacht! That's independent use and manipulation of classroom language to spontaneously communicate for a real purpose. Isn't that what we are trying to teach them to do?

The second thing happened in my year 7 French class. This class is super enthusiastic and love learning French. They have learnt how to say 'je n'ai pas de ...', which someone said to me when they realised they had forgotten their pen. This was great because they know we only speak French and in order to communicate with me the pupil knew he would have to also speak French. However, the best was yet to come when someone else in the same situation used one of our classroom phrases: 'est-ce que je peux avoir ...' to ask for a pen. (we normally use this to ask for points etc) . Yet another reason for taking the time to build up effective classroom routines in the target language. Its not a waste of valuable lesson time, but rather a vital tool to enable learners to experience language learning in as authentic an environment as possible, allbeit in a classroom!

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Guten Morgen Frau Wylie!

You know when it's going well, when your students shout at you in the TL from all angles as they are passing!  This is the language I love!  I also love the language you hear when you least expect it in lessons.  For example, something last lesson made of one my Year 7 pupils say under his breath: 'Das ist nicht fair!".  I giggled inside because I wondered if he had realised he was complaining in German?  When it becomes normality to speak in German in a German lesson and French in a French one, you've got it.  If they are speaking with each other in the TL, that's even better.

Along with all my routines in my lessons, their own use of spontaneous language is rewarded by the giving of small sticky dots, which they collect on a grid in the back of their books.  Once they have 5, they can claim a merit.  There is usually a race at the start of the lesson for someone to ask 'Darf ich meinen Blazer ausziehen?' before anyone else, because they know that copying someone else saying it won't cut the mustard; it has to be spontaneous.  I know it isn't completely spontaneous, but it has that feel of real communication for the sake of actually needing to communicate, rather than learning the words needed for the lesson objectives, then switching to English for the general running of the lesson, which is, in my opinion more false!  It's all about creating the right atmosphere, or as my wonderful and inspiring ex PGCE tutor, James Burch used to say, it's about 'suspending reality'.

Come to think of it, I should be rewarding them for shouting at me in German in the corridor; this is the ultimate example of spontaneous TL.  Pass me the sticky dots...

Friday, 3 October 2014

I love teaching mfl!

Yesterday was one of those days filled with highs and lows. However, the highs definitely outweighed the lows. I have previously blogged about the register routine and pupils asking if they can time etc. When we have done the register and have recorded the time, we then discuss what we thought of the time it took and when the pupils get more adventurous and I feed them more language, or they refer to my language mats, they are able to string together some rather lovely responses. This was highlighted by several pupils in another class in year 8 trying so hard to tell me what they thought of how it went. I have introduced a phrase of the week, which just happened to be 'meiner Meinung nach...' this week. So there were many attempts, which were great but one girl tried extremely hard and had obviously been thinking about this sentence for a while. She let everyone else have their say, then stuck her hand up. When I chose her, she said with real determination and with all the words in the right order: "Meiner Meinung nach war das besser, obwohl es nicht so schnell war.", for which she earned 5 teampoints and an impromptu round of applause from the class - priceless!

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Perfect tense through classroom language

I have blogged before about setting up language for future use and at the moment we are using the perfect tense as part of our ever growing register routine. Its logical really and a natural progression. Here's what we do at the start of every lesson: first the pupils ask if they can do the register, points, stopwatch.  Darf ich die Namensliste machen? Darf ich die Zeit stoppen? Darf ich die Punkte zählen? The register is then taken, using @ClassDojo on my tablet, while I take it on SIMS; the time is taken and points are given for pupils saying 'Nicht hier'. Afterwards, we keep a record of who has done what. I have a chart on a smartboard notebook, which is where we record this. I ask 'wer hat ... gemacht?' and at the moment I am getting them to say 'ich habe die Namensliste gemacht' etc.

You might think this takes up precious time at the start of the lesson and it does, but I would argue that this is time well spent. They are using some wonderful language which will stand them in good stead in the future.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Third week in and all is well!

I seem to have been playing catch up since the start of term, despite being super prepared with all my resources and new ideas that I wanted to implement this year, so my regular blogging has slowed down a bit!

Right then, what to tell you...

I have introduced a team point system (as I have already mentioned), so from this, they can now ask for points:
Darf ich ... Punkte haben?
they can ask to do the points too:
Darf ich die Punkte zählen?
and they can state whether the allocation of points is fair:
Das ist (nicht) fair!

We have started the register routine too, so added to:
Ich bin hier
Nicht hier
they can also say:
Darf ich die Namensliste machen?
Darf ich die Zeit stoppen?
They ask to time the register which then leads to the next piece of language which my Year 7 class are starting to say:
Das war langsam
Das war schnell
In our school, pupils can wear jumpers or blazers and they can only remove them if they have permission, so here is another brilliant way of introducing some lovely language:
Darf ich meinen Blazer/Pulli ausziehen? 
A lot of phrases start with 'Darf ich'.  Similarly in my French classes: 'Est-ce que je peux ...'.  This is a great one to build on and is extremely useful to know.

Soon, I will be asking them to give their opinions on what they thought of the register.  For example:
Ich denke das war gut...
and building up to:
Ich denke das war gut, weil das schnell war
This will set them up for when we introduce 'weil' and it should make it easier for them to pick it up, having heard and used it before.

The mats are helping a little.  However, we are not yet at the stage where pupils are using them to talk to me spontaneously in German.  Little steps.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Lesson 2

Really enjoyed today's lesson.  Content-wise, I didn't get through as much as I had planned, but it was fun and I veered off my plan somewhat!

Today we did greetings - Guten Morgen, guten Tag, guten Abend, gute Nacht and Auf Wiedersehen/tschüs.  We also recapped Wie heißt du and ich heiße and the register routine vocab; ich bin hier/nicht hier

They arrived in good spirits and were ready to learn.  I introduced team competition, which I think is a wonderful tool in any MFL teacher's toolbox.  I introduced a sheet handing out race, for teampoints, I introduced pupils telling me how many teampoints they should have (I gave them the choice; "drei Punkte oder vier?", whilst holding up the appropriate amount of fingers!); this led to "Das ist nicht fair!", as I 'forgot' how many points were awarded and wrote too many on one team's chart on the whiteboard.  We played 'Beat the teacher/Repeat if true', where the vocab was on the WB and I pointed at each in turn and said them out loud; pupils have to repeat it if I say the right one and if I say the wrong one, they remain silent and win the point, or I win the point if they make a sound.  First to 5 wins.  There were lots of opportunities for "Das ist nicht fair", "nein", "ja", which they delighted in!

When I needed someone to explain, they wore the hat, but this happened only once today and the pupils who were struggling last lesson, really pulled it out of the bag today and got stuck in.  Maybe yesterday they were a little shellshocked!

I gave myself 5 minutes at the end to talk about my website ( in English as I needed to explain about scanning QR codes and other technical stuff!

Here is the slideshow I used (Looks a bit weird below, but if you download it, should be OK! Also photo credits in 'notes' section of PowerPoint):

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Lesson 1

Today was my first lesson with my year 7 German class; well it was more of a starter lesson, given that it was only 30 mins long. They had 3 objectives: say what you are called and ask someone else, learn a little about Germany and learn a little about the Schultüten tradition in Germany. My objective: to make myself understood and deliver most of the lesson in German. Did I achieve this objective? Yep. How? See below!

To start, I had to seat them. We usually start by seating them alphabetically. I had done a seating plan on PowerPoint from their perspective, then for me I copied the slide then flipped the 'tables' to print off. So as they came into the class, all I had to do was greet them, then refer them to the plan:

"Hallo!  Findet eure Namen und dann setzt euch"  

I gestured towards the board and the tables and it seemed to work.

Next on my plan was to do the register.  I wanted them to say 'Ich bin hier' and 'nicht hier' (as mentioned in a previous post), so I showed them the phrases with accompanying pictures and we drilled each one ("die ganze Klasse") with mimes where necessary.  I then removed the phrases and we did the register.
Photo Credit: Wasfi Akab via Compfight cc

Learning how to say what you are called and asking someone else was the first objective and for this I had a speech bubble with 'Wie heißt du' and 'Ich heiße Frau Wylie' in it.  Again, some drilling and a few appropriate mimes did the trick.  To practise this, I asked them to ask 5 people in the class.  I simply said "fünf Personen" and then did some examples myself.  To finish off, I used my lovely new inflatable microphone to ask random pupils their names, which seemed to go down well!

Objective 2 was to learn a little about Germany.  Originally this quiz existed in English, but I was determined to do it in German, so I doctored it! (See below) They wrote the answers (A,B,C,D) on their mini whiteboards.  As you will see below, some of the questions are obvious, but some required a little explanation.  Where possible I gestured (Frage 4), but occasionally, we needed a proper explanation, so that's when the Union Flag hat came out (see post on 26th August - Chapeau).  I simply said, "Was ist das auf Englisch?" and showed the hat and I had a volunteer raise her hand.  I placed the hat on her head, which caused a little giggle and then she explained what it meant.  Sometimes having a pupil interpreter is extremely useful.  It means that they don't hear you speaking English, thus keeping to your TL.

Finally, the third objective was to learn about Schultüten and for this I had made a short explanatory video with PowToon (See last slide below for link).  I showed it and then asked for someone to explain (With the hat) and before they left to go to their next session, they were given a hand made Schultüte (Made by last year's Year 10 classes!) as a nice memento of their first German lesson.

To get them quiet, what I normally do is count down: "drei, zwei, eins, null, STOP!".  To accompany this I raise 3 fingers, then 2, then 1, then make a zero with my fist and on STOP I raise my hand to show my palm. It never fails.  I have done it in English with my form, but I have found that it always works best in German or French!! Weird!

There were a couple of pupils, who were clearly struggling with the quiz, but I dealt with this by kneeling down next to them and helping them out individually.  There were also 2 TAs in the room as there are a couple of pupils with SEN, but generally the class coped well.  No-one complained or mentioned that there was no English spoken; it seemed to be expected.  I have them again tomorrow for a full lesson, so we will see how that goes, but so far, so good!

I can't remember where this slideshow originally came from as we have had it for a few years now. We really like it!.  It was in English and as I mentioned above I translated it into German.  I also added the link on the last page and put some more pictures on to make the answers easier to understand. 

First Lesson Quiz About Germany

Saturday, 30 August 2014


I was contacted by a site called 'Skolinks' recently, which sets up penpals around the world.  Could be fun!  The link is at the top right of this blog. If there's a way to get your pupils using the TL, this is it!!!

Friday, 29 August 2014

Intro video

So, I was having a play with Powtoon (This appears on my latest post too!) and came up with this little video style thingy.  I think I am going to use it in my first lesson with Year 7, just to show them how easy it is to understand.  Obviously I have chosen my words very carefully and provided lots of images and so on.  Every little helps!  I might make a little sheet for them to sum up what they have understood.

Here it is:

Tuesday, 26 August 2014


If you're going to teach in the TL, you need every trick in the book, including a 'routine' for those times when you absolutely cannot speak in the TL and only English will do.  For these such moments I have one of these:

They become readily available when we have things like World Cups and Euros etc!  This is how I use it:

Child desperately needs to speak to you in English.  You will only allow them to if they ask in the TL if they can (and sometimes, I make them state a reason why, like 'because it is too difficult' etc).  When they have asked in beautiful French or German (language given to them on the language mats on a previous post), they then wear the above hat.  Whilst the hat is on and ONLY whilst the hat is on you are both allowed to speak to each other in English.  The SECOND it comes off, you are back in the TL.  This can work for you too.  YOU must ask for permission to speak in English (Sometimes they refuse you permission!) and on their approval, you wear the hat and the same situation applies.  Simple, but effective.

I love my hat!

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Some excellent resources

I was in school today, planning for the year; in particular planning what to do regarding the levels that we no longer have and how we are going to squeeze a quart into a pint pot; the latter being an annual discussion!  In our discussion, use of the TL came up and given that we are always on the lookout for practical resources, my lovely HOD, shared some great resources she found, by Rachel Hawkes.  In trying to find them again to look at, I uncovered this policy on using the TL, which I really like:

Here are the presentations.  The message is clear - be a role model and be consistent:

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Classroom Language mats

I have already posted photos of these (Original post here), but after having had requests for them, I thought it probably easier to upload them properly. So here they are, my classroom language mats, to allow my pupils to communicate with me and each other in the TL as much as possible:

Thursday, 7 August 2014


Actually, there hasn't been much so far!  I get all creative at the start of the holidays and loads of ideas find their way to the front of my mind and then I stall!  I just know that I have a lot to think about.  I have to think about how to make the language accessible straight away, whilst also intriguing my shiny new MFL learners and make them want to find out more.  It's like giving them a taste of a really yummy cake, but not the whole thing.  I don't want them to go away feeling confused and lost, but neither do I want them to think that they can understand everything immediately; I would be doing them a disservice because you often find yourself, as a language learner, struggling for meaning and this is good - it stretches your mind and makes you think about connections and word families and, 'Where have I seen that before?' and so on.  I am also lead teacher for Talented, Able and Gifted (TAG) education in our school and therefore am trying to challenge pupils as much as possible; although as language teachers, teaching in the TL, I think we are actually rather good at it anyway.

So, thoughts on the first lesson.  Well I will have 3 Year 7 classes; 1 German and 2 French.  As German is my specialism, I will probably concentrate on that class mainly for the benefit of this blog, although I am sure that the 2 French classes will pop up.  I will assume that most of the pupils in the class have done French before, which is the norm here.  Therefore, it will be appropriate to start from zero knowledge.  As I mentioned in my previous post, I do not want to start with the usual boring rules and expectations lesson, which is all done in English as this will be defeating the object somewhat.  What to start with and how to go about it is the issue.

I usually start with a registration routine pretty sharpish.  For those of you who have never done this I thoroughly recommend it to get the party started(!).  In German, I usually introduce 'Ich bin hier' as their answer to the register and 'nicht hier' for those who are absent.  I do this because it is all about thinking ahead and using structures that are going to be future friendly.  'Ich bin' is a phrase which will be used over again, so that's why I use this for the register.  'Nicht hier' is just a simple foot in the door.  In the future, they will be taught:  'Er/Sie ist nicht hier/krank/im Urlaub' etc.

However, before they even enter the classroom, they will have to be put in their seating plan; so, I think a visual representation of the plan on the SMARTboard would be a good idea, accompanied by 'Fred, du sitzt neben Bob und Joe' with lots of gestures and pointing.  After this, a greeting and a simple intro accompanied by a visual presentation (PPT, Emaze, Haiku Deck) with images and cognates where possible:

Guten Tag/Morgen!
Ich heiße Frau Wylie.  Wie heißt du?

Eliciting some meaning from them would be the next step, then drilling with mimes.  It's essentially a dialogue, so it would make sense to get them out of their seats and using it with their classmates as soon as possible to get to know each other - it is after all a communication tool - that it why we are learning it and teaching it in the TL!  After that I will need to use it to get to know their names, so a ripple effect conversation would be good:  I start it off and address one of them - maybe I will throw a ball (Or my knitted snowman, Peter) and the conversation will move from child to child.  An element of competition may need to be introduced - maybe a timer...teampoints for each conversation delivered.  Maybe a timer with a random explosion - if it explodes on you while you are talking, you lose points.  Maybe a musical chairs type activity - play some music quietly in the background (German of course!) and when it stops, points are lost???   Lots of things could be done.  I want them to leave their first German lesson, having had fun and excited to come to the next one.

Something that we do in our department is hand out Schultüten to all our new Germanists on their first lesson (like they do in Germany).  These have been made by our Year 9 and 10 and filled by Year 12.  We put sweets from our Austria trip in with stationery items, like rulers and pens.  They love them and it rounds off their first lesson really nicely.  The whole experience needs to be as real as possible, so that they expect the same kind of thing in the next lesson (not the treats, the learning experience!) - we use German to communicate and it is normal practice in our lessons.

Phew - lots of thoughts and possibly rambling here!  I'll have to come back and sift through to plan the lesson.  I also started to make some phrase signs for the door for colleagues in other subject areas to use with us if they knock at the door for something - got to lead by example!

Bis bald!

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Creating the right atmosphere from the start

First week of the summer holidays almost at an end and my brain finally has the space to think!  I've been giving some thought to how I want to start off my classes in September.  Usually, I go for the 'Rules of the classroom, sanctions and rewards and sticking things into books' lesson, but I am always left at the end with a really stodgy feeling;  I haven't been true to my beliefs about teaching in the TL, the pupils haven't learnt any German/French,  and most importantly, they have been bored to death with the 5th such lesson in one day. This year I have decided to break the mould and start all my classes off in the TL.

As far as rules and behaviour expectations go, I read an interesting article in the TES about a year ago about a teacher who launched straight into teaching and allowed the pupils to 'work out' where the boundaries were.  I must admit, it's a little daunting, but then I don't work in a school where behaviour is an issue.  I always put my classes in seating plans, which helps with remembering names and I have various ways of rewarding and applying sanctions.  I am going to re-launch Class Dojo with my lower school classes for an individual team point thingy and I will be implementing my yellow and red card sanction system.  I have also considered starting a football card collecting system off the back of the world cup - not sure yet; maybe too much.

Hopefully with all this in place, I should be able to jump right in at the deep end with the TL, using lots of simple language and cognates and of course mimes galore!

Any thoughts?  I would really love to hear them.  Post comments here, send an email (see right hand side) or send a tweet (@reebekwylie)