I ❤️ Emojis – using emojis in the foreign language classroom

A great deal has been written about the use of emojis in the classroom but I think that they are particularly useful in the MFL classroom.  Images are often used in second language learning in order to prompt oral or written responses and at GCSE and A level students gain greater marks for expressing their opinions about various topics.  Over the years, try as I might, I have been unable to express emotions on keynote presentations or on worksheets very well. The advent of the emoji has done away with all that worry, emojis are the perfect way of tapping into the teenage zeitgeist and encouraging oral and written work expressing likes and dislikes. Here are a few ideas that I have used successfully in my classroom.  None of them are new but it’s often good to gather all ideas into one big blogpost!

Emoji sentences: Emoji sentences have no words in them at all.  They can work well in a number of ways.  Students can be given the emoji sentence and they have to write or say it in words or the teacher can say a sentence or pupils can read a sentence and students have to “translate” it into an emoji sentence.

Blog emojji.001

You can extend this idea and provide emoji paragraphs for example;

Blog emojji.002

Je m’appelle David et j’habite une grande maison nous avons  un jardin et un garage. Au premier étage il ya une cuisine, un salon et un bureau Au deuxième étage il y a quatre chambres.

This task works well the other way around too, where the students are provided with the text and they have to add the emojis,  It’s a good way of testing understanding of vocabulary as well as providing them with longer texts to read.

Emoji bingo and emoji OXO also works well.  In bingo, provide the students with various emojis, the teacher reads out sentences in the foreign language and the students cross off the emojis when they hear a sentence which they think fits the emoji.  The catch comes at the end  when they call lotto they have to provide a suitable sentence for every emoji that they have crossed off. OXO works in a similar way but in teams.


My students also like playing a team game that we call first to the board.  Split the students into 2 teams. Students open keynote and in a new presentation choose the slide that has a large title and a subtitle. In the subtitle I get them to put their name. The teacher says a sentence in the foreign language and students type their emoji sentence into the large title box.  They then have to mirror their iPad to the main screen in the classroom.  The first student to successfully display an accurate emoji translation of the stated sentence wins a point for their team.

Apple recently released a new and rather brilliant app called Clips, its fabulous for using in the languages in classroom in many, many ways. My friend and fellow ADE Simon Pile used Clips brilliantly to create emoji ‘guess the film title’ mini films which can be seen here. This then gave me an idea about how Clips and emojis could be used in tandem in the languages classroom in a guess the sentence style mini film.  Take a look. They are really easy to make and are great for using as starters!

Emojis are also perfect to use in speaking tasks.  Try adding emojis to something like the Decide Now app or Last piece app the wheel can be spun and the student has to either use the word for the emoji in a sentence or they have to translate the emoji sentence into the foreign language.  You could even spin the wheel 3 times and the displayed emojis have to form part of a story. I also love Lucie Renard’s idea for using emojis to create guess who boards for students to play which once again, is perfect for language learning.

Blog emojji.004emoji grids.002

These are just a few ways that I use emojis in the classroom. Let me know your ideas!



10 ways to use Explain Everything in the Languages classroom

jpeg-image-dbc4671fd4a5-1Last week @joedale and experimented with the podcasting app Anchor.  Our slow chat was called Explaining Explain Everything.  You can listen to the chat here please feel free to join Anchor and join in with the chat – the more the merrier!

This blog post is designed to accompany the chat.

  1. Mirror your iPad to the main board in the room and use it just like an interactive whiteboard. At the end of the lesson, save the slides and share them with your students so that they can review the work they did in class at home.
  2. Create a screencast.  Hit the big record button on Explain Everything and record a screencast for your students. By tapping the record button Explain Everything records every pen stroke/keystroke that you make as well as your voice.  Screencasts are a great way to provide grammar notes and resources for your students, they are also a brilliant when using the flipped classroom model
  3. Get students to show what they know.  Consumption is all well and good but in my view it is when creating that students have the most learning gains. Students can use Explain Everything to create their own screen casts showing what they have learnt in a lesson or series of lessons.  It’s a great way for a teacher to understand any student misconceptions.
  4. Animate.  Animation is relatively easy in Explain Everything; record your screen whilst dragging hand drawn images onto the slide and adding speech.  When drawing in Explain Everything be sure to tap the finger image at the top of the tool bar after you have drawn each image or all the pictures ‘stick’ together. If students keep forgetting to do this (and mine do) they could draw in Paper 53 app and then export to camera roll with the background off and then import into Explain Everything.  It sounds more complicated than it actually is, believe me!
  5. Annotate and explain. Annotating and explaining is simple in Explain Everything. Imagine that your students have not done their homework very well, simply take a photo of a piece of work and import it into Explain Everything.  You can now annotate this work using the pen, highlighting and pointer tools.  You could do this activity on the main screen in your classroom with your class present or record your thoughts and annotations and share them with your students via your school VLE, Google Classroom or similar.
  6. Students can complete a similar activity by talking through their thinking on a piece of work or an exam question.  They can explain how they tackled a homework or an exam paper and they share their video with you. It’s a great way to get inside a student’s head and discover their thought process.
  7. Explain Everything has an infinite canvas which is great for creating more complex animations but in doing so giving the students more scope to talk in the target language. My students used it to talk about their home and surrounding area.  They began by describing their bedroom and then zooming out to describe their home and finally zooming out yet further to describe their village or town. I wrote about this here
  8. I have already mentioned annotating in Explain Everything but did you know that you can import a webpage into Explain Everything? It will scroll just as a webpage should but you can annotate, highlight and make voice notes too. I use this facility when asking students to explain how they tackled exam questions.
  9. It’s easy to draw in Explain Everything  so why not try some  sketchnoting with you class you could even get them to record themselves explaining their sketchnote in the target language.  My classes and I have used sketchnoting very successfully when introducing new vocabulary and also for explaining grammar points
  10. Similar to above why not get students to label a photo in the target language again they could record themselves using the vocabulary on the photo in phrases or short paragraphs.

Tutor period – the time that learning forgot.


Teaching and learning time is precious, we should covet and treasure every minute of it because students don’t get a second chance at school and yet it strikes me that every day we are losing precious teaching and learning time during tutor period.

Most schools that I have worked in have had 15 -20 mins tutor time each morning and in most schools that I have worked in this results in students sitting gossiping with their mates, playing games on phones and generally waiting for time to pass.  Of course, planners are signed, assembly is taken, messages are passed on and tellings off are given (do your ties up please and fasten your top buttons!) Even if we take make a conservative estimate that tutor time lasts 15 mins that’s an hour and 15 mins of missed learning a week, which equates to around 50 hours a year! 

I am not advocating that we teach subject specific material during this time but we should use tutor time to better educational effect.  Tutor time usually takes place first thing in the morning so rather than sending our students off to class half brain dead and partially asleep why not use this time to wake them up and get them ready for the day of studying ahead? Here are a few ideas:

Play a game

There are some great duel games where one player tries to see off the other.  Plug an iPad into the main screen and get battling, winner stays on. You could even create a league table.

Count battle is and addictively simple app in which have to tap the numbers in order 1-15 however the numbers keep moving on the screen!

Math duel 2 players try to beat each other at maths.

Quizlet live students collaborate together to find the correct answer.  You have to have ‘sets’ ready made in quizlet first but there are lots and lots that others have made that you could on a multitude of topics that you could easily use.  Make sure you’ve ‘copied’ them first.

geoguessr.com makes use of google maps.  You are given a photo of  a place and you have to use the world map to guess where you are.  You earn points by guessing closest to the actual location.

Jenga app has a pass and play feature where 4 people can play at once.  You could of course play actual jenga.  A cheap jenga style game costs around £3 a set. 

Heads up app is a hilarious game where students hold the iPad or iPhone on their forehead and their classmates have to give them clues as to who they are when they guess correctly they tip the iPad forward and the next name comes on screen.  If they tip the screen backwards they pass and the next name appears.  You could of course play it the more traditional way by using post it notes on foreheads!

Keep it newsworthy

Thanks to the internet you now have the news at your fingertips.  Why not display some Front pages of the day and discuss them?


This is a great website for short news clips and news quizzes.  Also at the end of each week they do a round up of the weeks weirdest news which is guaranteed to raise a smile


Use this collation website and app to create a magazine of news topics that you think your students will find interesting.  They are simple to make and you can share the link to them via your VLE, Google Classroom or via QR code.

Podcasts and podcasting.

The only subject in the school curriculum that actually teaches listening is MFL. Most students will probably only ever listen to music so why not expose them to the spoken word too?  Here are a few to take a listen to:

Question of the day – short 15- 20 mins at the most each discussing a specific question eg. Could Donald Trump be a good president?

Freakanmoics radio.  Similar to question of the day but a little longer at 30 mins

TED talks audio – TED talks

No such thing as a fish – a comedy podcast from the QI elves

More or less from Radio 4 which looks at stories behind stats

From our own correspondent also from Radio 4 – interesting stories from radio correspondents around the world.

It goes without saying that you should check each podcast for suitability before you share with your students!

If you don’t want them to just to listen to podcasts you could get them to make their own using the super simple podacasting app Opinion and then share their work with the school community or even the world.

Finally, there are many, many inspirational and thought provoking videos on YouTube that you could use to promote discussion here are some of my favourites.

With a little thought and a smidge of preparation, tutor time can become an even more valuable time of the school day.

Revising using edtech


Over the years I have tried a number of apps and web 2.0 tools in order to facilitate revision with my GCSE classes.  Listed below are some of my favourites.


I love using Quizlet to help my students learn or revise vocabulary.  This web 2.0 tool allows you or your students to make flashcards. In the case of Modern Foreign Languages (MFL) I put the French on one side of the card and the English on the other but for other subjects it could be words on one and definitions the other.  You can also search the website for other ‘sets’ that you can copy and use.  In this way, you are not constantly reinventing the wheel.  The site has a variety of activities that the students can engage in including a couple of games.  My students really enjoy the game scatter and Quizlet has a recently introduced a new collaborative game called Quizlet live which all of my students have enjoyed playing.

Students do not have to create an account in order use Quizlet simply share the link to your ‘set’ with them and they are off.  One of the features that I do like is that Quizlet easily links with Google Classroom – simply click the share button and select classroom. . If you want to more functionality  you can sign up for a pro account for which there is a cost involved.

If you like Quizlet you may also like Memrise


If you have never used or come across Kahoot now is the perfect time to make its acquaintance.  Kahoot is a quizzing game that is highly addictive and competitive.  My current GCSE class is made up mainly of boys and they practically beg me to play this game every lesson.  Kahoot allows you to make or search for quizzes by topic.  The quiz question is displayed on the main screen in class and the students’ tablet, laptop or phone becomes the key pad.  This tool enables you to set a time limit for each question and once the quiz is complete you can download results to your Google Drive or your computer – thus enabling you to see very quickly where student misconception lies.

If you like Kahoot  you may also like Quizizz or Plickers 

Listening and Reading


This web based tool also has an app.  If you want to create questions you need the teacher app and in order to answer you need the student app.  Socrative is a bit like Kahoot with less gamification.  I find it really useful when talking about metacognition with my class. 

You can make different types of quizzes with Socrative; multiple choice (I use this function the most as most reading and listening exam papers are made up of multiple choice questions) short answer questions or true/false questions.  One of the brilliant things about Socrative is that you don’t actually have to have made a quiz up before hand you can do one on the fly with the quick question function. All you have to do is ask the students a question and they use their tablet/ phone/ laptop as the answer pad.

You can follow the students as they answer questions in real time via your laptop or tablet.  I find this particularly useful as you can see who races through questions which often leads me to think are they reading the questions carefully or not?  The students answers turn red or green for incorrect and correct so at a quick glance you get an overview of how your class are getting on.

Once students have finished a test you can view the results.  The thing I particularly like about Socrative is you can click on the question number at the top of the results page (seen below in yellow) and see  what percentage of students gave which answer. 

Screen Shot 2016-04-03 at 13.45.53

This always allows for some interesting discussions particularly about how to approach the question, where difficulties lay etc.  There are many other elements to Socrative, so much so, that it probably deserves a blog post in itself.  Some other features are exit tickets, voting on answers and the space race game.

If you like Socrative you might also like Google Forms and the marking script Flubaroo which I have written about here.


This Web 2.0 tool and app allow you to insert questions into video clips which is really useful for creating listening exercises for students.  It’s really easy to make a task by simply clicking the create button and adding the video URL code.  Once loaded, you can  trim the clip if required then simply play the video and add questions; multiple choice or short answer by clicking the green question button as you go along.  Edpuzzle integrates with Google classroom but if you aren’t a GAFE school fear not, as sharing your work is dead easy simply share the URL code or by embed it in a blog or VLE. Students need to create an account in order to use Edpuzzle.

If you like Edpuzzle you may like Playpostit


The might app Explain Everything is perfect for all things metacognition. Firstly mirror your iPad to the main screen in the room using Apple TV or even better in my opinion AirServer.   I then use the app in combination with the iPad camera app to take photos of the students’ work and  use the drawing tools to highlight good and bad elements of an answer.  I also screen shot exam questions from the exam board website and discuss with students how to tackle the question again using the drawing tools to write all over the exam paper. I can also use this app to import the results from a Socrative quiz  (email yourself the results from Socrative) and then discuss and again highlight good answers, poor answers vocabulary and grammar issues  with students.  You can also view websites within the app and annotate them again, perfect for going through exam papers.

The real magic with this app however is that I use the record feature of the app in order to record my every move and discussion using the app.  Once the lesson or session is finished I have a video of all the work that we have done and this can be easily shared with students via Google Classroom, iTunesU, a blog or VLE  which they can then use as part of their revision tool box at home.

Before I end this post one generic revision app which definitely deserves a mention is Gojimo. This app is broken down into school subjects then exam boards and then questions and is well worth a look. 

As with all edtech use don’t just use it for using its sake.  Edtech in the classroom only works well when it is well thought out and has real pedagogical purpose.   

Super simple apps for speaking practice


Using technology in your classroom does not need to be tricky.  The number 1 thing to get to grips with is a workflow.  If you use iOS devices look no further than iTunesU or the rather fabulous Showbie. If you operate in a mixed economy and are a GAFE school Google classroom is without doubt, the answer or failing that Google Drive.

Tablets and iPad are the perfect companion to any MFL lesson. It’s like having your own personal language lab all squeezed into aluminium and glass. Many teachers find using tech overwhelming but it doesn’t need to be, there are many ways that tech can very simply enhance the work of the MFL teacher and his/her students.

Speaking is a big deal in MFL, we ask our students to do a lot of it although some of them positively hate it or are embarrassed to engage.  Moreover, it’s difficult, as the teacher, to get round every student and hear then speak in the foreign language in one lesson.  Tech can help you overcome all of these difficulties.  There are many recording apps out there that are simple to use and can slot perfectly into a lesson without taking up lots of time.  A large number of these apps allow students to ‘hide’ behind the technology or make new personas for themselves thus resulting in confident speaking performances rather than the whispers that you might get from them in whole class speaking tasks.

Here are a few of my favourites:

VR pro Voice record pro

is a simple recording app which integrates with Google Drive and drop box plus many others.  You can easily trim your recordings within the app should you need to.  I use this app to record all my GCSE exam speaking tasks.  It’s a super stable app and very easy for both a teacher and students to use and thanks to Drive integration easy to share too.

Yakit icon Yakit kids

I have written about this app before and it’s a firm favourite with my students plus it’s quick and easy to use.  Using this app students can make inanimate objects talk or even make photos of their favourite teen idols speak!  The great thing about this app is that two objects can be animated on the screen at one time which allows students to create paired speaking tasks.  The resultant videos can be saved to camera roll and uploaded to your chosen workflow system.


This is a relative newcomer.  It enables students to put filters over their faces in order to ‘become’ someone different just like the filters in Snapchat.  Some of the filters can be a bit scary so check out this app before using with younger students.  The app allows you to record short videos and download them to your camera roll.  It’s a very straightforward app to use and will definitely encourage some of your more reluctant speakers to speak.

Voices-icon Adobe Voice

I love the super simple interface of Adobe Voice however,   In order to use this app you need to sign in.  I have created my own account and all students sign in on this account, this is how Adobe recommend you manage the use of the app.  Adobe voice allows students to tell stories using simple icons (from the noun project) and voice recording.  My students can create a recording in 5-10 mins and upload it to our Google Classroom no fuss, no faff!


My favourite of favourite apps.  Incredibly simple to use.  You can make beautiful text books or the students can show their learning in book format.  You can combine books to make a whole class book and you can use this app together with other apps to make incredible interactive books.  At its most simple, this app allows students to make books or single pages using photos, videos text or voice. These can be downloaded in epub, pdf or video format ready for sharing.  Please note that if shared in pdf format the interactive elements will not work thus defeating the object of your speaking task!

Explain_Everything_Interactive_Whiteboard_Icon-1024 Last but by no means least is the app to end all apps Explain Everything.  There is nothing you can’t do with this app.  Sadly it’s iOS only.  I use this app in class for many, many things but in terms of speaking activities students use it to create simple animations or even simpler still they can record their voice and write the key phrases on the screen in the target language.  I also use the app to demonstrate pronunciation I then share my video with my students so that they then have a record of how to pronounce some of the trickier words in French.  The app also allows me to highlight the silent letters and point out French diphthongs and triphthongs.  All resultant videos can be saved to camera roll or directly into Google Drive, Drop Box, You Tube and many more. The sky is your limit with this app!

All of the aforementioned apps have been tried and tested with a variety of students in my classroom.  They work well and enable the student to focus on the learning not the technology.  Of course none of the above will work well if you have not considered why you are going to use them in your lesson.  Pedagogy first, technology second; ALWAYS.

Creative fun with iPhone photography

‘Creativity is intelligence having fun!’ Albert Einstein

I love to bring creativity to my classroom.  I enjoy thinking up creative activities for my students to engage in.  Take a look at my blog posts on Sketchnoting, stop motion, murderous learning or my iBooks on creativity in the classroom and Henri Rousseau.

To my mind, creativity brings a new dimension to learning, it adds fun and enjoyment to a classroom setting as well as engaging both halves of the brain.

Knowledge has limits – creativity doesn’t.  It’s our job to take learning beyond it’s limits.

Throughout the past 6 months I have been experimenting with iPhone photography. 

During the 2015 ADE institute in Amsterdam I was hugely privileged to be able to listen to the photographer Bill Frakes talk about his life in photography. His project Nebraska skies is mind blowing whereas his emotional video about a singing festival in Estonia made me cry.  I came away from the session with 2 things ringing in my head that Bill had said; 1 – look for the light 2 – always take the shot because you can’t go back. Armed with this information I decided to investigate to what effect the iPhone camera can be used.

The easiest way to learn how to use the camera in your phone or iPad is to simply have a go.  The native camera app on the iPhone has a set of filters that you can try, you can also adjust the light, the colour or black and white as well as crop your photos.

If you love filters, there are oodles and oodles of apps out there to play with.  However, I would say keep it simple.  My favourite apps are Snapseed (free) Hipstamatic (free but with in app purchases) and Enlight (£2.99)

The above photos were taken using the Hipstamatic app.  This app allows you to choose between a variety of lenses and films to create different effects. You can get some lovely vintage looking photos using this app.

The photo on left was edited using the Snapseed app.  In this photo I have applied the drama filter. The photo on the right is the original unfiltered version.

FullSizeRender (10)

The native photo app has some in-built filters to play with.  In the above photo I have applied the fade filter.

You can also edit you photos by cropping them.  I like this silhouette of my husband and sun against the winter sky but in the first photo, there’s too much foreground. I much prefer the cropped version on the right.

Light and shade are important in photos.  I love how the light falls across my daughter’s face in the fist photo in the second and  fourth photos the shadows behind my son add depth to the photo, whereas in the third photo his face is in shade and his body not making him look even more like Batman

Framing the photo and drawing the eye are pretty tricky things to get right and I’m a long way off being good at it.  However, if you compare photo 1 to photos 2 and 3  you will understand what I mean.  The poor light and boring foreground in photo 1 do not help to draw the eye to the beauty of the manx coastline beyond.  In the forth photo the electric tram tracks help to draw the eye into the photo.

Things I’ve learnt:

  1. Light is really important even more so when using an iPhone simply because of the limitations of the camera.  Shadows can make great photos too!
  2. Always have a focal point but your focal point does not necessarily have to be in the middle of your photo.
  3. Tap on your screen and the camera will focus where you tap.
  4. Try not to use the zoom. On the iPhone it’s a digital zoom not an optical one so, zooming in distorts the quality of the image.  Instead try to get closer to your subject or crop your photo later.
  5. When it comes to filters – less is more.  I prefer the clarity of an unfiltered image.  That said, I used black and white quite a lot.
  6. Try to draw the viewers eye – frame your photos (I find this quite difficult)
  7. Experiment with the subject of your photo.  Portraits, animals, landscape, still life – try it all!
  8. Publish you photos – get feedback from a critical friend.  I post my favourites on Twitter and tag a few fellow iPhone photographers – thank you @deepexperience1 and  @oakes_dan
  9. Join Google Photos and get it to sync with your camera roll in this way you free up space on your phone and you never lose those precious photos!  What’s more you can create collections which is a great way of organising your shots.
  10. To begin with choose something to take photos of – it will help you to focus (no pun intended!) I started by taking photos in and around my village

Photography is like life – take the shot because you can’t go back.  Unlike life though, you can delete any photos you don’t like!

Happy snapping!  Please share your photos on Twitter I’d love to see them!

In my next blog post I shall look at some ideas of how to use photography in your classroom.

Stop all the clocks! Stop motion animation in the MFL classroom.

I’d heard of stop animation but I had never really understood how I could use it in the MFL classroom.  That was until I attended ADE institute in Amsterdam this summer….

I got lucky and by lucky, I mean really lucky.  My room mate for the week was the rather wonderful Catherine Jessey  @HPSMissJessey

Catherine is a Science teacher at Hove Park High and was tasked by Apple to present her work on her use of stop motion videos in the classroom at institute.  It would be fair to say that her presentation opened my eyes to what was possible with stop motion animation I was hooked.

I knew exactly how I would be able to utilise stop motion animation in the classroom because I felt it was the ideal tool for students to be able to show what they know.  Not only that, the tool is really easy to use. Catherine had already told me how quickly you could establish a student’s understanding of a topic by watching their animations.  I was sold on the idea.

My Y10 class began their GCSE course with the topic of holidays, this obviously necessitates the use of the perfect or past tense.  From my point of view the perfect tense is relatively easy but students always find it tricky.  I teach it as a 3 step or in the case of être verbs a 4 step process.  After a number of lessons learning I asked the students to show me what they had learned and to explain the formation of the perfect tense via the medium of stop motion animation.

Students had free reign over how they were going to use the app.  Most of them opted for whiteboards and pens – a digital meets analogue moment for sure!


In the iMotion app there are 2 settings.  By using the first setting the app automatically takes a photo every 3 seconds. The other option is manual, here the user takes a photo as and when they want to.  My students used the manual mode, as this enabled them to pause the app, wipe boards clean, move things around and then take the next picture.

IMG_4670 IMG_4664 IMG_4665 IMG_4666 IMG_4668

Take a look at one of my students videos

The results were brilliant. The students had to think carefully about how they would show me what they understood about the perfect tense.  The creative nature of the activity generated an awful lot of discussion about how to fulfil the task and as a result the students had to talk about how to form and use the perfect tense. From a teacher perspective simply by watching the animations I could see who had a good grasp of the concepts and where the gaps in their knowledge lay.

Students worked in pairs and uploaded their efforts to our Google Classroom.  I was amazed when it took me no more than 40 mins to mark and comment on a class’s worth of work.

My students made silent movies but if you wanted them to voice their movies they could drop them into iMovie or the Video shop app and add text and voice.

imovie video shop

Where next?  I would like to try using stop motion for students to demonstrate their speaking abilities and make short animations of dialogue using lego figures or similar.  The  Lego Movie stop motion app may be useful for this kind of activity.

Lego movie

I’ll keep you posted….

Huge thanks to Catherine Jessey for the inspiration.