Quiz quiz trade revisited

Over – gulp – five years ago I wrote this blog about things I’d tried in the classroom and enjoyed, or felt beneficial.  Most of them I no longer do. I’ve lost my dice, somehow.  It’s quite moving to reread my own enthusiasm from my NQT year.

Snakes and ladders I recently did again as a no-planning revision activity that worked quite well, but we had to borrow dice from a colleague when I discovered halfway through the lesson that mine were missing. It involved a plain snakes and ladders grid with the numbers 1-30. Students spend the first half of the lesson in pairs producing 30 target language sentences with their English language translation, then the second half with another pair playing snakes and ladders. To successfully land on a square a student has to do the translation from the other pair’s list. This has the benefit of a) making them look in their books for 30 minutes and b) getting them to encounter slightly less familiar language from someone else’s book. Mine were a young class so I relented and they did 15 key words from the topic and 15 sentences.

Top tip on dice – buy foam dice. They’re cheaper, and they make much less noise than a class set of heavier ones.

Anyway, quiz quiz trade.  I have quite a lot of sets of cards I have made and I still use this fairly regularly with most of my classes. The  basics are in my original post, link above, and there’s a one-slide instruction powerpoint included in my TES resource on where you live in German.

If you are struggling with students going off task whilst doing this (it’s a moving around the room task, some students use this as an excuse to natter) here are some strategies:

Employ a TL police officer – allocate one student to take names of people not doing the task properly and have a moderate sanction.  I’m sure you can think of a child in every class who is reasonably well liked but who would jump at the chance to dob in classmates. #stanfordprisonexperiment

Set a target – each person must trade at least 7 times in the next 5 minutes.

Join in – have a card yourself and be part of the activity.

Make explicit what they need to know –  there will be a quiz at the end and if you don’t know then sanction.

Deploy inside/outside circles – if you feel the need to be much more in control then instead of allowing the students to roam freely, you put them two lines facing each other and then control who moves, eg one person from line A goes from bottom to top, line B doesn’t move. Everyone does their trade simultaneously then they move as instructed.

Have a plan for what to do at the end. – eg recently I was practising opinions about school uniform in German that practised a variety of opinion structures: ich mag / ich mag… nicht. Ich liebe/ich hasse … gefällt mir (nicht). ich trage (nicht) gern.  At the end they needed to write down 8 examples that got one of each structure.

Anyway, the main point of this was to talk about a series of QQT activities I have been doing recently and enjoying and which the students seem to have got a lot out of too. It can be quite time consuming…

The start of this has to be where the entire class has been writing their own sentences using reasonably constrained vocab – enough for everyone to have written personal sentences, but so that everyone has used the same core language and no-one has gone massively off-piste and written something so personal no-one else will be able to understand it.

For example, a German class has been writing opinions about food and using adjectives to make comparisons. So they have all been working with the same opinion structures, the same list of food words, the same list of describing words – delicious, deliciouser, crispy, crispier, juicy, juicier.  With some support they can all recognise all of these words and structures.

From the sentences you then get the students to write their own QQT cards with TL sentence at the top and English at the bottom, and, crucially a big space in the middle. I havae been doing this on single-sided A5 scrap paper.  (The first few times this takes quite a bit of explanation, but we get there eventually.)

They play QQT as the plenary to one lesson, and then you collect in the sheets as they leave.  You then divide the English from the TL and sort through the TL to make any corrections as necessary.  I have also been typing up the list of TL sentences for use later on.

The following lesson, students collect TL and English sentences at random so that each student sentences which do not match.  Whilst you take the register they think in silence about what each of their sentences would be in the other language.

The actual activity is then aural dominoes / follow me. A student reads her TL sentence, all students look at what they have in front of them, and the person who has the English puts their hand up, reads it out and moves on with their own TL sentence.

In the classes I’ve done this with recently, it’s been quite engaging. Easily enough to get students past their natural antipathy of speaking foreign out loud and almost enough to get a chatty class quiet. In one younger class where it took longer than 25 minutes and I felt it was dragging a bit, I tried to end it prematurely only to have the students insist we continue to the grim end and give every single person the opportunity to read their TL sentence out loud.

And the typed up selection of sentences?  So far I’ve used them in a couple of ways. One class needed refresher revision – they did the first stages before Christmas, and then after the holidays I gave them a selection of sentences back as a translation task.  For another I am holding onto them and plan to use them for the 1 pen, 1 dice translation task that is presently all the rage.


Lifeboat tasks

When I was on teaching practice a senior leader introduced me to the concept of a lifeboat task – something to have in reserve for the times when the class in front of you finishes all the work you had planned in record time.

The concept was not introduced in time to save me from a very long and desperate game of hangman with some very able Y7s who must have finished their secondary education by now.

The best of these are ideas that need very little prep, and there is a super document on the TES of “minimum preparation, maximum effectiveness” tasks that did the rounds in my PGCE year and which I definitely recommend.

The simplest of my lifeboat tasks is a game of noughts and crosses or connect four where each square in the grid has the initial letters of a sentence that has been worked on in the lesson, eg “HSJRGD” as a cipher for hier soir, j’ai regardé Grand Designs. Students have to guess the sentences before drawing a naught or cross for their team.

But I also have a small selection of simple printed resources that have helped me out no end from time to time when the class is quicker than anticipated.

my lifeboat task file

Clare Seccombe’s hexagon booklets

I have a wodge of blank hexagon booklets that students can use in many different ways. This works as an extension task for fast finishers as well as a whole class lifeboat task.

Follow the link above for Clare’s template PDF and some examples of how to use it. (telling the time, verb conjugations)

It’s a great example of HOTS not MOTS (higher order thinking skills not more of the same) because you can get the students to consider it as a teaching tool.

Lifeboat tasks - strip bingo

I have some blank sheets for playing strip bingo on, made by simply drawing horizontal lines on a landscape sheet of A4 and guillotining into strips. Students put one vocab item from the a constrained list into each square. You call out the vocab items. Students are only allowed to score the two outside squares of their sheet, so you have to have a way of calling the same vocab item more than once (return the paper to the hat, for example.) If you call the item from the outside of their strip, they tear it off. You have to be strict about keeping the discarded paper safe ready for throwing away and not making a mess with.

Students get excited at the name of the game – strip bingo – so I make a point of clearing up that it’s called that because it’s played on a strip, not because anyone will have to remove clothing.

It ought to be possible to play this game without providing a preprinted strip for the students, but I find they do not listen to instructions and many do not draw the boxes so they can tear the strip off properly. At least the first few times through, it’s quicker to provide them with a sheet.

The same is also true for my final suggestion, aural dominoes. For this, students pick a sentence from their work, which they write in the target language and in English on a small sheet. They then tear the English off, you collect all the English strips, and you get them to pick a new one at random. Then it should be possible for a student to read their TL sentence, another student to hear and understand it, and read the English translation, and then start a chain. Each new student reads aloud the English of the TL sentence they have heard before then giving a new sentence which someone else in the room should have the English for. This can be quite a long activity – up to 20 minutes – until the students are used to how it works and get a bit quicker.

Aural dominoes template.

What are your go-to lifeboat tasks?

The next wodge of 8×5 cards for my Zentangle card index

Over the last month in quiet moments I have made more cards for my index box. The children are beginning to use them and occasionally contribute cards themselves. We had a session where they tried to create a tangle, with varying degrees of success.

The popularity of my club varies wildly, with a classroom full of children on, erm, lunchtimes when it rains and when it is close to freezing outside. Presumably by the summer term I will have no students at all.

An initial thought when starting to make these cards was that when I had enough it might be interesting to scan them and turn them into a deck of cards. There are printers on the internet that can take a set of artwork and print them as 52 playing cards, with or without suits and numbers, for a small sum – the more you print, the less it costs per deck. I think one of the famous blogging CZTs sold a deck of cards in her Etsy store, but didn’t ship to the UK. I think this would be fine for personal use but if I wanted to sell them (eg to other UK teachers interested in the idea of a Zentangle club) it would be awfully complicated from a copyright point of view.

One final set of info before we progress to the tangle designs: here are some sources of information for people wanting to find out more, including the students who come to Zentangle class.

Zentangle.com – where it all began. Now you can buy equipment, sign up for the newsletter, read the blogs, and learn new tangles as soon as they are published. You can be inspired by the worldwide community of tanglers.

Tanglepatterns.com – the most comprehensive and organised list of tangles on the internet, along with regular updates and a huge list of suggested string patterns. Well worth the couple of dollars to pay for the PDF index to all of the patterns the author knows. You can use this index for inspiration (eg she suggests printing on card and cutting out all the tangles and putting them into a scrabble bag) or as a reference when you have seen something and are trying to work out its name and how to draw it.

Zenpopper.com – As I write, the main website is suspended. Hopefully it will be back soon. But their youtube channel is still going strong. They have a hundred or so videos showing you how to make the patterns. Perhaps this will make it easier for some people to understand how to make one of the tangles, rather than the step-by-step instructions? I do like the speeded up, machine drawn versions – some of the other hand drawn ones lead me to getting a bit distracted by the state of the manicure. The main website includes a random machine which produces three tangles to use today, if you are struggling to make your choice. I particularly like the sort of stalagmites in their header image, and I can’t work out a name for that pattern, although I think I can see how to draw it.

The Diva’s weekly challenge – The Diva is a CZT with a blog. Every week, she makes a suggestion for people to use in their own tangling, and over the week, a hundred or so people draw a tile to her suggestion. Full instructions are always given, including on how to publish on the internet, and it is fascinating to see how people interpret the same thing differently. I showed the challenge to my students one week, and we all learned how to do “Unbatz” (see below); the following week they asked to see what the current week’s challenge was too. AS yet, no-one has completed a tile within the week that can be shared.

Anyway, without further ado, here are the new cards for my index box:










Knightsbridge variations






Strings - ideas





Zentangle Club

I started a Zentangle club at school on a Monday lunchtime so students can learn about creating Zentangle doodles, edging into mindfulness occasionally, but also just sitting quietly and drawing of a lunchtime.

I started by making a poster and offering lunch passes so people could get through the dinner hall quickly.

My other extra curricula club -  mindfulness and doodling with Zentangle.

The first two weeks, we watched the videos that came with the Zentangle Apprentice kit, all the way from America!

The week after that I made this card to show all that we had learned. The third week, loads more people came, so this card was really useful! I will have to photocopy more when we get back to school.

Summary of what we have learned so far in Zentangle Club.

I think after half term I will go back to basics and show the videos again for the new people.

My only criticism of the Zentangle Apprentice materials is what to do after the children have learned the first 8 tangles. There is clearly lots of potential from just the first ones, but what do we do after that?

At first I thought I would show some more of the Zentangle videos on Youtube in subsequent weeks, and I wondered about borrowing the departmental visualiser and projecting live images of me making tangles.

Then I wondered about making a few cards like this to project in subsequent weeks which give a bunch of new tangles with instructions.

Seven tangles for tomorrow's club. So much more fun than marking.

This didn’t work massively well – perhaps we just need a bit of time working on how to understand the instructions?

Ultimately, I would like to have a huge selection of tangles, each one drawn on a blank 8×5 index card, so that students can pick and choose from the instructions and see what they would like to draw today. Before long, the students should be able to help make the cards themselves, but until then, I’ve had a very happy half term making designs of my own. Each card I have made has the step-by-step instructions and then a sample completed tile using the new tangle.

8x5 cards for Zentangle Club index card box

8x5 cards for Zentangle Club index card box

8x5 cards for Zentangle Club index card box

8x5 cards for Zentangle Club index card box

8x5 cards for Zentangle Club index card box

8x5 cards for Zentangle Club index card box

8x5 cards for Zentangle Club index card box

8x5 cards for Zentangle Club index card box

8x5 cards for Zentangle Club index card box

8x5 cards for Zentangle Club index card box

8x5 cards for Zentangle Club index card box

PHSE: three fantastic resources for a lesson about consent

Here are three fantastic resources for a PHSE lesson in sex education on the topic of consent. Definitely something we should be teaching in my view! Some of the material is a little explicit and so this is intended for older teenagers. Of course we can’t teach sex ed without being explicit.

For a starter, here are some quotes from the Aqua song “Barbie Girl” as reimagined by LOLCATS. Barbie Girl dates back to my university days, but it is definitely a song today’s teens still know.

For a detailed, but easy to read exploration of consent, there is a fantastic cartoon on OhJoySexToy. Much of the rest of the website – not at all suitable for the classroom! Even this cartoon may be well outside the comfort zone of many teachers, so review it carefully before introducing it in yours.

Finally a letter from the Guardian “To the girl who accused me of rape“. This is a very tough read – and on the evidence presented, a deeply unfair scenario. However, it touches on some issues that are important to talk about and touch on the themes that we use as our bedrock in sex ed: people who have sex early regret it and that sex is supposed to be between two people who are in a committed long term relationship who love and trust each other, and who are open and honest and able to talk to each other about sex before they actually start trying to do it!

This letter would also be a useful reinforcement to the fact that underage sex is actually illegal, a notion which has been responded to with disbelief from young people. Of course it’s not illegal, everyone is doing it. Erm, a) yes it is illegal, and as the letter shows there are some very serious consequences to consider and b) it’s really, really not the case that everyone is doing it.

All three of these resources are things that crossed my browser from adults saying “I wish this had been part of sex ed when I was at school.” For those of us charged with teaching sex ed, it can be a part of it in our classrooms.


The wug test is something you do to prove that young children are internalising the rules of the English language. You show them a wug, and there is a short dialogue: “This is a wug. Now there are two of them. There are two _________ ?” Most children over two or three will know the answer is wugs.

I was just googling this and found there’s a wealth of wug related material.

Firstly, there’s a lovely website with many of the original drawings, from 1958.

This is quoted in the wikipedia page for Jean Gleason, who devised the test and a bunch of others I’d not seen before. “This is a dog with QUIRKS on him. He is all covered in QUIRKS. He is a _________ dog.” and even better, “This is a very tiny wug. What would you call a very tiny wug? This wug lives in a house. What would you call a house a wug lives in?” which prompted the commenters to speculate – wuggery? wug-wam? wugloo?

Then this fabulous cartoon.

breeding wugs

Then this…

wug life

Some lovely comments on Arnold Zwicky’s blog.

I once tried to use wugs as a spring board to talking about German plurals but it proved counter productive. We got a little bit obsessed with wugs and kinda didn’t pay a lot of attention to the actual real point of the lesson.

Oh look, you can even get a wug mug!

Music to learn verbs to

I’ve been doing avoir to the Pink Panther theme since finding this lovely TES resource at the very start of my teaching career.

Last week I found I didn’t really have anything for haben and wasn’t that impressed with my options. I went googling and found some absolutely lovely Mozart songs for both key German verbs that are very catchy, slightly silly, and will be used by me for ages to come.

I even wonder if we can get them into the soundtrack for foreign trips.

(slightly chipmunky, also very reminiscent of Sound of Music – I can imagine curtain-clad pirouetting alpine children singing these)

(This is from the Magic Flute and I’m quite interesting in trying to find sheet music. It’s classic choral harmony and I can’t hear it without trying to busk through all the parts)

This is also a great excuse for singing the Queen of the Night song. Not that I would ever do that in front of a class (ahem!).

Up until now I had been doing both sein and être to the tune of Michael Finnegan. You have to include the English in this to work as well. “Ich bin, I am, du bist you are, er ist he is…” and so on.

Both sein and être also work nicely to the Mission Impossible theme. You can fit versions of the whole verb both to the bass introduction and the treble theme once that kicks in.

There is also this balmy and awesome aller song to complete the trio of vital French irregular verbs.

The images are starting to be dated, and some classes can be obsessed with the visuals whilst not listening to the actual French, but it still plays well with most groups. I generally use it with older classes as we start really working on the near future tense. Using mixed / boy and girl bands to explain ils and elles is inspired and chimes much better with students than “on the day the priest visits the convent, they turn from elles to ils.” (although I still tell that story too)

If you are actually going to sing the songs yourself to your class, you need to practise privately before trying to do it with everyone, so you can be consistent with your underlay (how the words fit the tune.) This is why several bemused colleagues have put their head around my classroom door in the last week to find me singing Pink Panther in a darkened classroom. Even my set of personal pronoun hand gestures isn’t moving enough to turn the occupancy lighting back on.

These wonderful youtube videos mean you can use song to teach verbs even if you are the sort of teacher who does not sing yourself.

Stop press – here’s a version of the Pink Panther powerpoint converted to a youtube video!

My differentiation on this – ALL do the jazz hands on vous allez MOST sing all the words SOME sing in tune.