Saturday, 30 May 2015

Brilliant Language ideas: tried and tested tips for lessons

Language teachers share some of their favourite ideas to spice up MFL lessons
Language teachers share some of their favourite ideas to spice up modern foreign language lessons, including Chinese whispers, chunks of fun, strong language and toon town

Ages 5 to 13

Speaking out

If I am practising, say, weather phrases, I hold two flashcards behind my back, one saying “Il fait froid”, the other “Il fait chaud”. A pupil plays “La Marseillaise” on the CD player and I march around the room swapping the flashcards between each hand.
The pupil pauses the music and I stop and ask another child, in French, “What have I got in my right hand?” If correct, the class shouts, “Bravo!” and “Oh l... l...!” if wrong. I do this until everyone has answered. Pupils get to practise speaking, hear the French national anthem, and learn to congratulate and commiserate each other.
Margaret Riley teaches at Rumworth special school in Bolton, Lancashire

Ages 8 to 11

Getting the message

Psssst... pass it on. Play Chinese whispers to pass on newly learnt target language. Teach the pronunciation of simple vocabulary or phrases to the class.
This may be recapping work you have already covered or introducing new material. Once pupils have absorbed the new information, divide them into teams of seven. Have each team form a line standing one behind the other. All but the first pupil must turn and face the opposite direction with their fingers in their ears. The pupil at the front will be the first one to pass on the message after you have whispered some of the target language in their ear. They must wait until each first pupil in each team has the message before passing it on. They tap the next pupil’s shoulder so they know to take their fingers out of their ears and listen to the message. The last person to get the message runs to the front and shouts it out.
Points can be awarded for the most accurate message. Begin again with the last person for the new messages so all pupils get a turn.
Vary each team’s message or use the same one. Make the task difficult by using more than one word or a phrase.
Lindsay Slack teaches at Queen Elizabeth Grammar School in Wakefield, West Yorkshire

Chunks of fun

“A verb is like a bar of chocolate.” This is my lesson title when I introduce tense in French or German. Pupils need to understand about “breaking up” the verbs they will need (avoir and ĂȘtre in French or haben and sein in German). A great way to demonstrate this is with chocolate bars. I label one bar avoir and another ĂȘtre. I then tear off the wrapping and break off the first piece. I say: “j’ai” and the second piece “tu as”. Pupils are all ears and by the end of the lesson can form sentences.
Sara Sullivan is head of languages at Woodlands School in Basildon, Essex

Play with words

Give each pupil a small piece of paper and ask each one to draw a specific picture representing an activity — a football, a TV screen or iPod. Fold the paper in four to conceal the picture, and place in a bag. Shuffle and ask pupils to pick one each.
They mustn’t show the picture to anyone. They must pick another if they get their own. Give them 10 minutes to get up and find who has the picture they drew by asking everyone the question: Tu as regarde la television samedi dernier?/ Tu as joue au foot samedi dernier?
Forbid any use of English. Answers might be: Non, je n'ai pas joue au foot, etc/Oui, j'ai joue au foot, etc. Once they find what they are looking for, they sit down.
When everyone is seated, the game is over. Pupils have now practised the perfect tense, negative construction, je and tu forms and their accent.
Ana Anstead teaches at Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School in Ashbourne, Derbyshire

Not so stupid

Estupido. This is a game that requires a sense of humour on your part and a sensible class that won’t get carried away with the opportunity to insult you and question your intelligence. Estupido is, of course, Spanish for stupid. Small groups or a divided classroom listen attentively to you speaking in the target language. Adapt the rules to suit the learning point, but you are asking the pupils to recognise certain triggers, at which point they will call out  “estupido”.
Leave deliberate gaps or mistakes in your sentences for pupils to pick up on. Have the language written out because doing this from memory can cause scoring dilemmas. Have a log of all missing verbs, unconjugated verbs, missing adjectival agreements, wrong genders etc, so when each team calls out “estupido” you can award them a point, or take one away if they are mistaken or cannot tell you why something was wrong. At the end of the game, the scores from all of the teams should add up to the number of mistakes you had planned in your speech. If there are discrepancies, you can give a transcript to the teams so that they can sort out the remaining errors for bonus points. Tailoring this activity renders it more useful and directs learning on specific issues. Pupils start to make connections from previous games or examples.
Andrew Bruton is a cover teacher in Herefordshire

Ages 14 to 16

Strong language

I play “The Weakest Link” with my language pupils. They sit in a circle and play for sweets or merit marks. Each pupil is given a statement or asked a question. For instance, “How do you say ‘how do I get to the railway station?’” After you have five correct responses, the fifth child must say “Bank” and they bank a sweet or point.
We play until we have banked enough for the class. Anne Robinson-style insults can be a bonus. For instance, in German: “Du redest volligen Blodsinn” (You’re talking complete nonsense).
Sara Sullivan is head of languages at Woodlands School in Basildon, Essex

Ages 7 to 18

Welcome to toon town

Gorseville is an imaginary French town situated on my dining room table. It features characters and locations bought at the Early Learning Centre (Happyland range). My pupils record the voices of the characters in French and, at the weekend, my own children bring them to life with stop-motion animation. At this early stage, the project features a purchase at the market, a pedestrian asking directions, and the arrival of an English tourist who sends a video postcard. The process is time-consuming, but inspires and motivates pupils — they all want to appear animated in Gorseville.
It is a resource I have made available to other teachers. The process is as follows: I record monologue/dialogue at school, save it on a pen drive and take it home. My children then set up the characters on Saturday. Using my standard digital video camera, I take a still picture. We move the people a bit and take another snap. On the PC, we import the pictures and sounds to Windows Movie Maker. Patience is required to synchronise the movements and music/sounds. It is saved as a movie file and uploaded to YouTube or similar.
Stuart Gorse teaches at Lancaster Royal Grammar School, Lancashire

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