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)

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Year 9 pupils teach Year 6 pupils in the TL!

Yesterday was great.  A day to feel really proud. This year we have run our own voluntary 'Language Leaders' course for Year 9 pupils, based on Rachel Hawkes' language leaders course, which you can find here.  Pupils have come once a week, at lunch time, with their lunch and have learnt how to set context, present language, drill language, set up pairwork - all in TL.  Our aim was to get them to help out in our annual Year 6 taster day.  26 Year 9 pupils successfully managed to teach 24 Year 6 pupils in French and German, all about clothes, colours and opinions and it all culminated in a French and German fashion show.  Throughout the day, our Year 9s taught language in chunks, in small groups.  They taught from their own plans that they had written and used activities that they had devised, based on ones they had learnt from us.  The pace was a little slow, but there was a languages teacher in the room to move them on, if needed.

The result - the Year 9s loved it, the Year 6s loved it and the languages teachers were nowhere near as worn out as they normally are after one of these extremely intense days.  The most impressive thing is, that they managed to deliver the lessons IN THE TARGET LANGUAGE!

If they can do it, all of us can!

Please get in touch if you want more info about how we went about it.  Thanks to Rachel Hawkes for inspiring us to do this in the first place.  Roll on next year!

Wednesday, 18 June 2014


I am a German teacher with some French and therefore I am not as confident with using the TL in French.  However I have the luxury at the moment of observing my colleague and Head of French, teaching my class, so I can train myself up in useful classroom phrases.  If any of you get the opportunity to do this, even if you are quite happy with the standard of your TL, please do.  It is such a fulfilling experience.  I have gained so much in terms of TL phrases and also confidence, that I am happily using all I have picked up with other French classes and it is making it much easier for me to keep my lessons almost entirely in French.

The trick is to find some really simple phrases and to use them consistently.  I find that less is more and often, rather than barking long winded commands at my classes, I prefer to use short phrases and sometimes single words and gestures;


'On pose les stylos'  or simply 'stylos' and gesture for it to be put down
'C'est quoi, la date?' or simply 'la date?' and gesture writing it on the board
'Ouvrez les cahiers' or simply 'les cahiers' and gesture opening a book

If you have good routines and if you are consistent, your learners will quickly catch on.

More on routines later!
Signing off!


Back again!  Just came across these photos I took of my classroom a couple of years ago.  They show classroom language displays for pupils to use to communicate with me and each other.  I have taken them down now, in favour of the language mat (See previous post - Prep), but for those of you wanting to put displays up and who are not sure of what to include or how to set it up, they might be useful:

I also don't have the seats set out like this.  I have changed the layout to rows again, so that everyone is facing the front (avoiding too much chatter).

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Before I start!!

Obviously, this is not the start of my project, given that it is June, it is hot and sticky and we are almost at the end of a year.  I just wanted to mention a few things before I got the ball rolling.  The aim of teaching a foreign language is ultimately to get your learners to communicate in it.  Therefore, it makes sense to lead by example, doesn't it?  I find it a little weird teaching in language sandwiches - English, German, English; like it isn't real.  Your learners need to see that it is a real tool for really using in real situations.  Your classroom is a mini Germany, France, Spain etc.  Everything that happens inside it should be, for the most part, conducted in the language of the lesson.  Teachers that enter should be trained to speak only in that language when they enter, or at least try!  Learners love to see other adults having to abide by the same rules they do and are very impressed when Mr Blahblah shows them he can 'get by' in German etc.

There are of course things you can do to help this communication happen.  Your walls and noticeboards are a brilliant place to display useful language, or if you are short of space, why not provide 'language mats' to give your learners the vocab they might need to say various important things, such as 'Can I go to the toilet?'

 They will not need all of the language on there to begin with, but they can start to make connections and maybe surprise you by coming out with something else from the mat that they have worked out themselves!  Do not underestimate the power of teampoints and prizes, or indeed, praise.  Learners like to win, so use that to your advantage.

The main thing is that you start off small and build up, so routines such as taking the register, handing books out and keeping score become a language opportunity.  Then you can build it up to asking for points and giving reasons why they should have those points etc.  Before you know it you have got complex 3 or 4 clause sentences, just as a result of the 'incidental' language.

You have to put to one side your thoughts about not having time to fit in the content language and understand that THIS IS the content language that they need.  The structures and phrases you teach them to communicate with in lessons are the structures and phrases that they can use for a variety of 'topics' if you are clever about it and choose wisely.

Finally, what if they don't understand you and switch off?  This won't happen if you use cognates and simple language to begin with.  There is always a way to make yourself understood, including gestures and mimes; anyway, isn't this what we do when we travel to other places - we make ourselves understood!  Your learners will feel great when they make themselves understood in your lesson too!