Daily Archives: March 7, 2015

#ililc5 – Cooking on gas: Lisa Stevens’ final keynote

How do you bring such a fantastic weekend to a close?

No pressure!

If anyone is equipped to do so successfully, it is the phenomenon known as Lisibo! And in the longest, most well-constructed food-based metaphor in keynoting history, Lisa, treated us to a smorgasbord of baking, chef-ing and recipe-creating thoughts over a wide-ranging talk on her approach to learning and teaching.

The emotional heart to her ILILC finale reminisced about her own linguistic hero –  Luz Sanchez-Richardson, her Spanish teacher when she took her A-level, who fanned the love of languages within her to the brightly-burning flame you can’t help but see whenever you meet Lisa. I suspect most of us MFL teachers have our own “language hero”: mine was a real throw-back of a prep-school French teacher called Barry Hartley, who ruthlessly but humorously dragged me and my classmates to well beyond O-level standard by the time we were 12-13. And introduced us to the genius of Hancock’s Half-hour on vinyl….

Lisa has already blogged her own keynote here – including how she came up with the idea in the first place, a Storify of the major Tweetage that was going on during the talk, and a recording of the whole thing.

And she even made cupcakes for us all. Legend. 🙂

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#ililc5 – Kicking the dependence habit: Rachel Smith

I loved this session. It really chimed with a lot of what I feel I am already doing – but gave me added impetus and ideas for pushing it forward even more.

If there is one thing that frustrates me above all else in our education system, it is “learned helplessness” – fostered partly by the nature of the Controlled Assessment doctrine currently enshrined within the MFL GCSE. I didn’t become a teacher to create cohorts of little parrots, capable of remembering 6 x 40 seconds of pre-prepared language but at a complete loss for words if suddenly confronted with an unfamiliar or unexpected scenario. (I don’t, by the way!)

And so Rachel‘s breath-of-fresh-air talk on establishing a can-do, self-reliant, independent ethos within the languages classroom really spoke to me. I already employ a SNOT trail (Self, Neighbour, Other resource, Teacher, picked up from Dom McGladdery, I believe), but Rachel went even further, talking of empowering pupils to step out of their little comfort zones in a wider sense: for example, by making ALL your resources available to your pupils (via iTunesU, Drive or DropBox) so that they can continue/shape their learning as and when they need to, in and outside of the classroom. Teaching them how to use a dictionary PROPERLY is also a key prerequisite, so that you don’t end up being a walking one (and they don’t resort to the dreaded G**gl* Tr*nsl*t*…)

This is a previous blogpost that Rachel wrote on the topic, which explains much of her thinking much more clearly than I have!

Loved it.


#ililc5 – Teaching my dog to whistle: Dominic McGladdery

You can’t go to ILILC without attending a McGladdery session, in my opinion.

Dom’s down-to-earth, common-sense approach strikes a real chord with me and the way I do things – as well as his eye for a drily delivered anecdote. Any MFL teacher not already familiar with his blog should certainly have a look – especially for his line in brilliant re-purposing of TV game-show formats… 🙂

Anyway, this intriguingly-titled session contained a treasure trove of useful techniques, reminders and ideas, many of which I plan to introduce into my own practice. His collated ideas on low-effort, high-impact feedback were particularly valuable. Once he blogs this session himself, I will point you in the right direction… (low-effort, high-impact… 😉 )

Why “teaching my dog to whistle”? Well…


#ililc5 – Google Apps for Education: Jo Rhys-Jones

With brains gradually starting to reach a degree of cognitive overload after a day-and-a-half of sessions (not to mention a raucous Saturday evening Show & Tell… 😉 ), Jo Rhys-Jones‘s hands-on, introductory workshop on using Google Sites and Apps as a kind of DIY VLE was FAB.

In her school, the financial situation has precluded the buying-in of an off-the-shelf VLE, and so they have decided to use Google’s suite of freely-available tools and build their own. Pupils can design and create their own websites, subject to supervision from Jo and the staff, of course, and they have also enlisted the support of the grandparents to give an audience to the kids’ efforts.

After a quick run-through of what to expect, we were unleashed on a test site, and gave the various tools a go. I can’t share what I created with you, as this site has ceased to exist, I believe, so you’ll just have to have a look at the tools for yourself!


#ililc5 – Spaced Learning: Rory Gallagher

Rory – or @eddiekayshun to his burgeoning army of online admirers – treated us to an explanation of, and then a trial of, a relatively new approach called “spaced learning”. This theory, “based on the temporal pattern of stimuli for creating long-term memories reported by R. Douglas Fields in Scientific American in 2005, was developed into a learning method for creating long-term memories by Paul Kelley, who led a team of teachers and scientists in 2008.” [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spaced_learning]

Essentially, to my mind its 5 phases can be summed up as follows:

  • BANG BANG BANG!!!
  • CHILL…
  • HOOKS
  • YOGA
  • RECALL

In the demonstration we took part in, Rory flashed up 50+ Japanese kanji characters, literally one after the other in a rapid flow, only pausing long enough to tell us the English meanings. I felt swamped as soon as we passed number 10, and although I rate my powers of recall fairly highly, 5 or so minutes later, by the time we were up to 50, I thought “Hmmm… no chance!”

The second 5-7 minutes phase involved switching off ENTIRELY. Doodling, drawing, simple origami, bouncing a basketball – anything to remove the mind completely from the content previously received. I was good at this bit… 😉

In the third segment, Rory took us back to the kanji characters and gave us a visual/mental “hook” for each one. By definition, pictograms have a visual quality which lends them to this task. The word for “school” or “learning” (interestingly, the same in Japanese – oh so different in English!), for example, shows the character for a child under a little roof-like structure… The more outlandish or surprising the mental “hook”, the better, in terms of later retention.

Fourthly, the yoga bit. I can imagine the “neo-traditionalist” edu-twitterati licking their lips at the prospect of decrying this as just the latest secretion of snake-oil, in the wake of Brain Gym and VAK… but although the space was cramped, we did our best and I certainly felt very relaxed by the time Rory’s gentle voice had taken us through some simple centring and breathing techniques.

Onto the final phase. We were asked to estimate how many words we expected to remember. Most thought between 15 and 20 or so… but in the event, many of us managed 40+, which really took me by surprise.

Postscript: I was determined to try this one out “in the field”, as it were, and so yesterday I took my Y10 French class through some of the explanatory theory, before firing 60 new pieces of vocabulary at them – we happen to be starting a fresh topic (good timing!) – and taking them through the remaining 4 stages. Interestingly, finding “hooks” for words rather than pictograms proved no more difficult. They too anticipated a lowish recall total, and so were quietly amazed when several of them managed as many as 52 out of 60. One pupil who finds learning vocabulary a real challenge said this was a huge step forward for him… They did find the yoga a bit “out-there”, but we’ll see…

Thanks to Rory for a fascinating and stimulating talk, and for giving us something very new to try out.


#ililc5 – Talking Walls: Ceri Anwen James

Media preview

pic by @lisibo

Having struggled (unsuccessfully) to get Aurasma to work for me, at various points over the past couple of years, I was determined to give it another go under the tutelage of Ceri Anwen James – another person I’ve got to know on Twitter but was delighted to meet “in the flesh” last weekend.

Ceri first told us about her brand-new school, Ysgol Gyfun Bro Edern, in the east of Cardiff, where technology has been prioritised as an aid to the pupils learning. Ceri has been in the forefront of this approach, and has employed the Augmented Reality app to bring her walls to life with pupils’ speech – as well as exemplar material provided by native speakers, I believe. It’s also a fantastic way to show off to visiting parents and other VIPs!

The motivational aspect to having your words leap, Harry Potter’s “Daily Prophet”-style, off the 2D page, cannot be underestimated – nor the value of having excellent spoken material ready to refer to on the walls at the wave of a phone or tablet screen.

Ceri’s presentation, containing valuable info about how to go about using Aurasma (and yes, I DID get it to work… and no, I STILL don’t really understand how!) is here. But I know she will gladly offer her expertise via Twitter too, if like me you find it all a little mind-blowing!


#ililc5 – Adding drama to language learning: Janet Lloyd

Relieved to have got my own presentation out of the way, and revitalised by the always-delicious Southampton Uni catering, I and about 15 others made our way to another Janet Lloyd-led session,after lunch. This was probably the most entertaining workshop of the weekend, in my opinion. Sat in the round, we were taken through a range of drama-based activities, including the following:

  • human puppetry (to work on imperatives, directions, parts of the body: in pairs, one person takes control of their puppet partner. @valleseco and I decided that, on balance, it made more sense for her to be the puppet!)
  • triorama-building (lending itself to filming of little scripts, perhaps at the conclusion of a unit of work)
  • paper-envelope puppets (fantastic for choral repetition, and thanks to the slight “clap” that each child’s puppet makes when its mouth shuts, great for spotting syllable errors)
  • bringing paintings to life

The latter I found the most intriguing – if perhaps the one I might find hardest to integrate into my own teaching. Over a background of Renoir’s “Luncheon of the boating party” (see below), “volunteers” were encouraged to adopt the pose of the individuals in the painting, before imagining a line of dialogue and repeating it initially alone and then all at the same time, in a very appropriate little cacophony of phrases. “Passe-moi un verre de pastis” was mine. Can you guess which character I was chosen to represent? 😉

Luncheon of the boating party

Have a look…

Did you guess correctly?