Welcoming Bertha to the hen house

We had a death a month or two again – Houdini the chicken looked a little peaky in the afternoon, but she’d looked peaky before and rallied so we left her to it and went out to see Jason Donovan in Priscilla The Musical On Tour. By the time we came home, Houdini was dead, and in full rigor, under the feed bowls.

Going from two chickens to one answered a few questions in a slightly surprising way. We had assumed it had been Persephone laying the shell-less eggs, and that it had been Houdini who like to shout from the rooftops at 5am dawn. It had been the other way around.

We have postponed finding another celly for Persephone for the months since just because when you read about how hard it can be to introduce new birds to a flock, it seems awfully offputting. We had half-baked plans in our head of fencing off half the run, buying additional food bowls, keeping two chickens apart, maybe even using the cat transporting box as a temporary roost… but talking it through with our chicken supplier out by IKEA this afternoon made it all seem a little simpler. “Just chuck her in and see how she gets on,” was the advice. “There will be ten minutes of squawking and feathers and then it will be fine.”

The chicken lady was concerned our existing bird would try and injure our new one, but our concern, on seeing the birds for sale, was that they were enormous and it would be Persephone who would suffer.

It’s her size that gave Bertha her name: as the chicken lady hoiked her out of the pen and trimmed her wing, she said, “Come here, Big Bertha!” And that’s the name we’re going with.

Bertha arrives

We drove her home, chucked her in the pen, watched for half an hour and there wasn’t too much aggro. Persephone ducked and froze for a while and allowed herself to be pecked before flying up to a perch and sitting out of the way and bokking.

Bertha arrives

Then she jumped down and gave chase for a few minutes before it was Bertha’s time for the solitude of the perch. It’s quite hard to take pictures of a white chicken against the dark of the bark, she just ends up overexposed and ghostly. Chickens generally don’t stay still long enough for good photos anyway.

Bertha arrives

After a few minutes a sort of peace descended, broken by Bertha’s reaction to the cats in the garden. Persephone is used to them by now, but Bertha got into a complete flap and the cat ran past the hen house as fast as it could. (Not our cat – a neighbour’s cat comes up through a gap in the fence and spends most of its afternoons sunbathing in a corner.)

We heard chicken calls for a while after we got back into the house but now it’s after dark. Have the hens managed to roost together without another battle? Better go and check.

Random snapshots of my whiteboard

I started taking photos of the things I wrote on my whiteboard as a student teacher – it would normally be names of students who needed rewarding or punishment on the school’s computer system, and since I wasn’t in my own room I would have to take a record with me to type up in the staffroom.

A bit later I started taking the occasional snap of things I’d done in lessons I quite liked, or wanted to use again, or needed a record of the vocab I had given one class so that I could use it again with another.

Most of the time, I don’t spend a lot of time writing stuff on the board, because my handwriting isn’t very good, especially if I’m going quickly, and because it’s almost always easier and quicker for me to put my 60WPM typing into practice and make a quick powerpoint slide. Standard advice for new teachers is also not to turn your back on a class for longer than necessary as they might kick off when you’re not looking. Judging by mess in my classroom at the end of most days, there is still a fair bit of chucking stuff around the room going on when I am not looking.

Here’s a random selection:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/niles/10379348525/

Introducing forming the past tense to Y8 in context of sport. We attempt to drip feed past tense phrases in lexically throughout all they learn, but we focus on getting them to understand better early in Y8.

Fiddly extra bits is not a technical grammar term, that would be “complement” or “predicate” but I’m not confident enough that those are correct. I’m also focussing on the AU part of jouer AU foot as students often omit this, and those who have learned German first pronounce it wrong. I have countered this with two little classroom games: “I say JOUER, you say AU! Jouer (AU) Jouer (AU)” and “How do we pronounce this? Yes that’s right, as in AU my goodness I can’t believe you’re still getting this wrong!!”

http://www.flickr.com/photos/niles/10379370165/

Don’t know why I took this. Dictionary exercise to stage into better L4 sentences with opinions and reasons. J’aime le fruit parce que c’est sucré. I tell them they need CORN for Level 4 – connectives, opinions, reasons, negatives. Je n’aime pas les croissants parce qu’ils sont dégoûants ticks three of those criteria off straight away.

NB every time I have done this lesson there have been students who have confused the word they are looking up and come up with transpiration, so now I make sure I disambiguate sweet and sweat before we start. There are still some who don’t listen.

Snapshots of my whiteboard

Sport again, but with able Y9 so we add a variety of adverbs of frequency to try and get more sophisticated writing.

“Avec les extra-terrestres” – with aliens – is part of a little bit of fun I’m having trying to motivate boys with weird extra bits of vocab. Happily it works with girls too! The criteria say they have to use connectives, nothing about whether it has to be true. Indeed “It doesn’t have to be true, it just has to be French” is a bit of a mantra of mine. Last year in “describe your ideal house” we added “un bassin de requins” into the things we might have there (a shark pond). This year for sports I’m including avec les extra-terrestres and avec mon ami imaginaire.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/niles/8422378807/

This was turning facts from the morning news bulletin in the car on the commute to school into a numeracy activity for my tutor group.

NB, “how old will you be in 2033?” was a less tricky question than I had envisaged. “Um, sir, we’ll be 33, of course.”

Going to try school subject Cluedo on Y7 in my penultimate lesson this term. #mfltwitterati

This was the first time I tried Cluedo, a speaking activity I got from Dom’s MFL.

It worked really well, so I do it now with all classes that will be quiet enough to let me explain the instructions. It can easily be adapted to use a wholly target language approach. In this case, students love the opportunity to say nasty or nice things about other teachers, although I do stress that we are doing a GRAMMAR exercise about FRENCH and it should not be assumed that they are writing truthful accounts of other real people in school.

On teaching practice, the German textbook Echo 3 got students to compare teachers using comparatives and superlatives. After a gale of laughter and some dictionary use I went over to find “Herr S ist der schwitzigste Lehrer” – Mr S is the sweatiest teacher. Can’t fault the German language skill, and if the task is motivating, go with it!

The Cluedo task above was used several ways in the same lesson – I usually play the game once – this takes 10-15 minutes as a whole class activity – and follow it up with “write two sentences based on this frame.” If students have already done a lot of writing, the extension might be to play the game in groups on tables as further speaking activity. Then, often, we will look at ways to extend the same sentence even further. The task above eventually resulted in this poster, which I still think I should frame and stick to my door:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/niles/8956973739/

One final thing on Cluedo – there was at least one student last year whose writing was improved by a whole level simply because he memorised a past tense sentence generated by an activity like this, and regurgitated it in his writing test. Brilliant. If some can do that, then it’s worth continuing with the activity.

Weekend Zentangles

A weekend spent – so far – doodling and clearing my head.

Immensely tired as we come to the end of the first half term and so I ditched ringing for the third week at the home to stay slobbed out in front of the TV.

I also came to keeping my hands busy and doing a bit of creative doodling, and so combined two hobbies: sending postcards to strangers through Postcrossing and making Zentangles.

Here are three cards I made:

Some Postcrossing / Zentangle crossovers heading off to post tonight

Today, more of the same. Some work in my sketch book

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Some new types of different tangles.

NB, my sketchbook looks like this:

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It reminds me of my solo audiobook for Librivox, for which I still get a lot of email thanks from around the world.

I’ve also been having a go at making Zentangle tiles on Artist Trading Cards.

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I also thought I’d have a go at making one in colour, using my fab set of multicoloured fineliners. But it looks rather a dog’s dinner.

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Perhaps I should read teh chapter in my Zentangle book about colour before I have another go.

I’m quite impressed with how some of these turned out. I’m no artist but am producing little bits of work that when I return to them months later, I find myself thinking they look quite good. And that’s without the added benefit of the calmness and quiet you get from just sitting doodling for a few minutes.

Meal plan w/c 14 October

So, last week nearly went to plan, apart from our anniversary night when a choice was made about whether to spend 40 minutes waiting for sausages to roast or waiting for the guy from Dominos to ring the bell. We phoned so late the pizzas were with us in way less than the time it would have taken to cook sausages.

I really need to stop ordering such large pizzas as there were slices in the fridge bumping up the calorie count for days.

Mondayroasted pepper and caramelised onion wholewheat penne.

We’ll have half a jar of roasted peppers left over and some time on Sunday to oven caramelise some onions so this should make an easy veggie start to the week.

Tuesday – Beans and cheese baked potatoes.

It’s going to be one of those weeks with next to no time to do anything. Gonna have to rely on getting the timer on the oven to do the work and keep it really simple.

Wednesday – cold cuts, hummus and crudités

Yup, that kind of a week. Hot meals at school (must remember to take in cash to top up my fingerprint account) picnic food in the evening.

Thursday – frozen fish parcels

I don’t even think there’s a night this week I can have a shopping delivery so I’m going to have to spend some of Sunday battling the crowds in the supermarket. So one of those meals from the freezer you can just bang in the oven.

Friday/Saturday/Sunday – bacon joint

Finally by Friday there may be some time to catch up in the kitchen. I love the small bacon joints, shrink wrapped, long life, and can be forgotten about in the oven while you get on with the rest of the stuff. They last two people two or three days, so it will do a night of bacon joint and freezer veg, perhaps a night of ham egg and chips and there may still be some fab chunks for a third night of spaghetti carbonara to help us gear up for the final gruelling week before half term.

Meal plan for w/c 7 October

Monday – we’ll be having the Mackerel potato salad held over from Friday when I was unexpectedly home alone. I always struggle more to eat healthily by myself.

Tuesday – a supermarket stir fry vegetable pack with a ready made sauce.

Wednesday – sausages with onion gravy and frozen veg

Thursdayleftover sausage pasta – something like the online recipe but I usually do it with red wine, making it heavy on the veg and very light on the pasta – a handful of pasta for the two of us.

Fridayroasted mushroom tart – something a little like this one from the blog Manda gave me the link for last week.

On Saturday we are going to Clarkies Supperclub – hit the link for the menu. I’m currently thinking salmon, venison, pear, but I could just as well manage duck, pork, apple… We have to be a little careful as there have been too many nights with the Clarkies where we are too piggy, and massively overeat, and end up barely able to move.

Tonight – French Living.

Most awesome German words

Some awesome German words

It all started with Schifffahrt, a fab word with a ridiculous triple F brought to you by the Neuschreibregeln in the late 90s. Earlier spelling rules said that triple letters that are the logical consequence of joining Schiff to Fahrt, should in fact just have the two, because, you know, that would sensible.

Then, after I did most of my German learning, the orthographic reform came in, throwing everything I knew into confusion and making the difference between long and short vowels crucial into whether you use ß or not, and adding in triple consonants if they are logically there.

For a while I was under the misapprehension that it was Grossstadt, but Duden says it has to be Großstadt.

But talking about Schifffahrt recently has unearthed other German friends’ favourite three-consonant words:

Seeelefant (elephant seals)

Programmmusik (“programme music is a type of art music that attempts to musically render an extra-musical narrative”)

If one triple consonant just isn’t doing it for you, there’s also Flussschifffahrt.

And triple consonants are just the half of it. There are also the super long words. The UK press was full of the Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz over the summer.

But when I showed some of the stories to German friends on choir week, it was a completely new one to them – and they pointed me in the direction of the Eierschalensollbruchstellenverursacher. You can see one of those in the video below.

What are your awesomest German words?

Edit 6.x.13

Some more awesome words from this BBC discussion:

Imbissstube (how could I forget that?!)

Fußballländerspiel (international football game)

Balletttänzer (ballet dancer)

Betttuch (as opposed to Handtuch or Taschentuch)

Schusssicher (bullet proof)

Kaffeeernte (coffee harvest)

Useful ML GCSE grammar resources

Googling random French words looking for stuff to teach birthdays and celebrations (*), I found a useful booklet with hundreds of grammar drills, gap fills, copy-and-conjugate, match the sentence starts and ends. They were pitched at able GCSE candidates and had lots of useful vocab. I was a little worried to start with that I’d accidentally found something I wasn’t supposed to be able to have without paying, but on closer inspection it turned out to have come from the Northern Irish curriculum agency.

I imagine there will be areas where the NI GCSE does not quite match the specs of AQA or other English exam boards but there is still plenty of top notch useful information.

There are microsites for French, Italian, Spanish and German, and although I haven’t explored the higher level at all, there are also productive-looking links for GCE A Level materials.

The main useful booklet I found was “Resource Pack Expansion Pack” – I haven’t even looked yet in the Resource pack.

One further source of usefulness, digging back in my memory, was pointed out by Steven Smith of frenchteacher.net. If you have run out of past papers to try (and some schools I know of have a compulsory “we do a past paper every half term in KS4 and 5″ policy) it’s worth crossing the Irish Sea to try the archive of French exams over there.

(*) I just couldn’t stop myself: after we’d done “fêter” in five tenses, I pointed out you could do all the same for “peter” – to fart. Si j’étais poli, je ne peterais pas. Il faut que je pète.