It felt a strange day, and, at the end of a tough term, I wasn’t as fully awake as I could be. But there was plenty of useful and enjoyable information I picked up.
Firstly a session on teaching languages to children with special educational needs. Started off with some theories of teaching and second language acquisition which were similar to what we have encountered on our course, specifically Vygotsky and ZPD and Krashen’s comprehensible input. Moved onto some ways of using flashcards with lower ability students: constrain vocab. Use cognates. Ensure understanding before continuing to further vocab. Play games. Allow students not to speak if they do not want to. Use visuals. Make bar charts out of Duplo. Consider extra ways of being physical with learning – eg don’t write on a worksheet to learn parts of the body, stick post-its onto an inflatable alien. Use inflatable hammer to teach “my X hurts.” The session ended with lots of laugh as we watched Joey from Friends learning French.
Secondly, a session on “Blagging Blogging” which extolled the virtues of intensive computer use in teaching languages. Have a departmental blog, have a password protected blog for every class. Set and receive homework online. Get students to use their school email to send in their work and set homework which gets students to peer assess other people’s homework. It was suggested that Posterous was the best free host for schools because it’s the main one that lets you have lots of different blogs off one email address.
There were also endorsements for Prezi (better than powerpoint for presentations), Quizlet (a flashcard creating vocab learning site), Zondle (a series of vocab games that produced participating stats for your class, and so could be set for homework, and also that allows (eg) girls and boys to practice the same vocab playing radically different sorts of games)
I found this session most inspiring and this is the Big Thing that I most want to try when/if I get my own classes in the autumn.
Then we lunched, and exhibitioned, so I got a bagfull of stuff, of which notable highlights for good quality stuff were the Goethe Institute and the European Commission, both of whom had books for free and the offer of lots more help. I thanked the Goethe Institute for helping me with my own A-Levels, which the nice lady said was good to hear.
After lunch was a slightly damp-squibby “Secondary Show and Tell” session, which I had chosen because it was broader than the ICT Show and Tell or the German Show and Tell, but in truth, maybe three simultaneous Show and Tells was too many? No-one in the Secondary one had actually arrived prepared to show anything, and so those who presented did so on a rather more ad-hoc basis. It was an enormous lecture theatre with barely 20 people in it; and we heard from a) a lady from the north east teaching in a school which could not afford text books for French and who had therefore created her own scheme of work which looked pretty fine, from what we saw of it. b) a chap of some experience who showed a text manipulating game, as an activity that does not need much prep: start with a paragraph of text and remove either 1, 2 or 3 words from it. If 2 or 3, words must be adjacent. The remaining text must make grammatical sense, but you can change the meaning. c) me, talking about my magic tricks lesson. Should have taken the hankies with me! d) another student teacher talking about a lesson learning how to use Prezi – took 15 mins to teach and then in the following 45 mins, the students created good presentations about monuments in Berlin.
Then, almost entirely just because I wanted to change rooms, rather than for any more serious reason, I went up to a small room on a higher floor to hear a Spanish guy talk about bilingual education. There were some nuggety gems (eg bilingual education has beneficial effects on preventing/postponing Alzheimers ), but partly because it was a postprandial graveyard slot and partly because the talk was greatly more theoretical than practical, I think the presenter lost most of his audience and got only a fraction of the way through his slides before his time was up.
Back down to the large lecture hall for the final panel discussion which included Joe Dale by Skype from the middle of the night in Australia, a guy from NAACE and a lady who uses Second Life in her classroom… Some of the fun bits included – a recap from what was being said about ICT and MFL in 1992 (eg “OMG! Wordprocessors!”) – a fab bit of awful machine translation about Madonna in Hungary that was debunked by a twitter person in the hall almost immediately – a challenge – do you think ICT will completely have revolutionised your classroom by 2022? (only two people present did, most people thought we’d still be mostly doing some sort of chalk and talk)
Worth a paragraph of its own if not a whole separate blog post – Joe Dale challenged people there to do the “10 minute mfltwitterati challenge” – spend 10 minutes a day for a week reading the twitter feed of the “mfltwitterati” – and see if, by the end of the week, you have found it worthwhile. All you have to do is go to this address and read for a few minutes. If you do that, you will get lots of support and lots of ideas. And, of course, the sense that the mfltwitterati are both teachers and ordinary people with a diverse set of interests. When I tried my first daysworth of looking at their messages for 10 minutes, I just got a huge wodge of posts about Saturday night TV. In my second attempt just now, I’ve found broadly off topic stuff, but also Miss T Dunne, who has just written a comprehensive review of everything she did at Languages World – and she was taking notes and can remember everything!
Some choice quotes from the day: “It has been clinically proven that boys cannot learn languages without dismantling a biro” (ahahahahahahahah!!!!!)
“Talk to the phone, the tourist isn’t listening” (about iPhone based speech translators)