Let’s make some noise. Using GarageBand Live Loops to make verb songs

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In spite of being a lover of music I am not particularly musical and as such the app GarageBand has always frustrated me as, I am of the view that you need to be reasonably musical to make the best use of it.  Imagine my delight then when earlier this year Apple added live loops to the GarageBand tools.  So what are live loops?  Essentially Live Loops is a simple way to create DJ style music using loops and samples.  Apple have made it super simper for us non-musicians to use as the loops are laid out in a grid format. You can activate single loops by tapping the box or whole columns of loops and samples by tapping the arrow at the bottom of the iPad.  The good news for the non musical amongst us, you don’t need to worry about beats or timing as GarageBand does it all for you!  There are plenty of different styles of music to choose from.

To begin tap the plus sign in the top right hand corner of your iPad now tap ‘Create New Song’

Make sure Live Loops is highlighted at the top of the screen and scroll through until you find a style that you like. 

Now it’s time to start playing to stop a loop from playing simply tap in the box and it will stop tap it again and it will restart.  You can only play 1 box from each row at a time.

Recording into the live loops grid.  This is the important part especially if you are making a verb song like we did.

Firstly, slide your finger along the bottom row of the iPad where the arrows are until you find a blank column.  This is the column into which you are going to record your voice.  To do this double tap on a blank square and the option record into cell appears tap this and you are taken to a recording window.  From here you can choose a variety of effects to add to your voice, if you don’t want to do this then select the option dry.  I would suggest that you turn the metronome of at the top of the screen as you will hear this when you record.  The backward looping arrow, once tapped, allows you to re-record your voice.  Once you have done tap the little grid icon in the top left of the screen to return to your song.  Tap another empty box in the same column and repeat the whole process. It’s really important that all your voice is in the same column as this will give you flexibility as to when you play it. 

Once you have recorded all parts of the verb you can make your song.  Simply play your favourite loops adding in your voice as you go. 


Above is a link to a powerpoint how to guide

I complete this task with my Y9 classes this week it took 2 lessons but we all know the verb aller now!  They loved this activity even going as far as to say that it was cool.  I was pretty impressed because as far as they are concerned I am right up their with the kings of uncool themselves, their Dad’s most of the time!

Have a listen to one of my student’s verb songs 


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. 

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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.

Edtech enables


It was half term so, a battering for edtech from those who have never used it in their classrooms was well overdue. 

I can only speak from experience as an MFL teacher but I have some questions for the detractors…

Can you listen to every child in your classroom speak in the foreign language every lesson and have a clear understanding of how good their accent is? I can.

Can you easily correct the pronunciation of each child giving them audio materials of how they can improve & give them exercises to support? I can.

Can your students listen to authentic French materials and have control of when to pause and rewind the dialogue so that they can try to understand it more clearly? Mine can.

Can you set work in any of the 4 skill areas and watch as the students’ results arrive thus giving you instant feedback and allowing you to change your teaching there and then to support their needs? I can.

Can your SEND students easily express their thoughts and ideas without having to actually type or write thereby giving you a very, very clear idea of what they are actually capable of because the thing that holds them back has been removed?  My students can.

Can you keep a constant flow of work available for students who are off with a long term illness thus making their return to school that much easier? I can.

How long’s your feedback loop?  I guess a week at best.  Mine’s usually 3 days but it could be a matter of hours.

Can you create text books specific to your student’s needs? I can.

Can you share your student’s work with the whole world?  I can.

Can you mark your students’ work from anywhere in the world?  Provide feedback and also view the responses from students?  I can.

Technology in my classroom facilitates learning within the 4 walls of that room and out with them.  It is not the be all and end all, it is a tool which I decide when to deploy to best effect.

As an aside, I am an ADE but I don’t get paid by Apple and I was using technology to support the students in my class long before I became an ADE.  I regularly look at other forms of technology which I think will be useful in class but for the moment, in my opinion, iPad is the best on the market for use in education and yet there are elements of the Apple ecosystem that I really don’t like.  I work in a GAFE establishment (Google apps for education) this suite of apps is fabulous and I readily recommend its use to anyone. I am not a Google Certified Educator.

Using iOS accessibility features in the MFL classroom

IMG_1341The iPad is an amazing tool however, some of the native apps and features are often overlooked as we all head to the app store to download the latest must have app.

The iOS accessibility features are incredible and they are of course designed to enable those with disabilities the chance to enjoy all the fun and function of an iPad/iPhone.  As teachers and especially as linguists we can tap into some of these features and use them to increase independence and confidence with our foreign language learners.

Speech function.

The speech function, when enabled will read out selected text for the user.  Good news for linguists – it will do this in any number of languages!

Here’s a quick video showing you how to enable the speech function

NB. if students are listening to a text from a Google doc.  The document must be in edit mode for speak selection to work.  A doc is in edit mode when you tap the blue pencil in the bottom left hand corner of your screen!

Ideas for use of speech selection in class

  • Rather than using a keynote or power point presentation students can use speak selection to introduce them to new vocabulary
  • if students are unsure how to pronounce something speak selection can be used to help them. Great for if you, the teacher, is busy or if they are working at home.
  • Students can also slow the speech rate down in order to fully comprehend how a word or sentence is pronounced.  Be warned if they slow the rate down too much it can have a detrimental effect.
  • Students can listen to a text as it is read out to them. Great for improving the link between the written and the spoken word especially in languages like French with so many silent letters!


Another great iOS accessibility function is the speech to text function.

On the keyboard you will see a microphone symbol.  When you tap on this you can simply speak into your iPad and it will convert your speech to text.  If you want the iPad to type in French please ensure that the French keyboard is enabled.



Ideas for using speech to text in class

  • Great for practicing pronunciation.  Is the text on the screen showing what the student has said into the microphone? Students can then repeat the phrase until the iPad correctly types it. Try it yourself with a really anglicised French/Spanish/German accent and you’ll see what I mean!
  • Checking for mistakes.  An iPad is a computer and is no substitute for the human brain.  Once students have spoken the word or phrases get them to check the text over and correct it if required!

These are just a few ideas. Let me know if you think of any more.


10 ways to use photography in your classroom

IMG_4951In my previous post I talked about how I had been experimenting with iPhone photography.  iPads and mobile devices are becoming more and more prevalent in classrooms and they come equipped with a whole host of great features, the greatest of which is the camera.  The camera is brilliant and in most classrooms is used for recording films.  Photographs are used in classrooms but more often than not students tend to select photos from creative commons sites such as pixabay or foter.  If a student is wholly engaged with a project or task they are more like to remember it, so maybe it’s time to stop students searching for photos and let them get creative and take their own.

  1. There are a multitude of apps that allow you to add words to your photos such as wordswag, adobe post and typorama to name but a few.  Why not get your lesson started with a quote, fact or provocative statement using a photo to support it? Better still, get your students to create them.IMG_4945
  2. Photograph a process.  This could be a science experiment or a design and technology project or even the creation of a piece of art.  Students could then drop their photos into the app Paper 53 and annotate on them or type below them. In Paper 53 you can highlight elements of your photos to make them stand out more.IMG_4944
  3. Collaborate on an iBook.  You could ask your form group to document a day in the life of your school.  Students could then collate their photos in an iBook which could then be shared at open evenings and the like. Take a look at Louise and Lisa’s One Best Thing iBook  to get some ideas!
  4. Take a photo. Paint it. Or add filters to your original photo to get inspiration for painting.
  5. Take a photo or a series of photos and use them as inspiration for writing.  Students could even take photos as inspiration for others.
  6. Document a school trip.  Rather than the somewhat uninspiring photos that we all come back with from school trips, challenge your students to get creative and take some inspiring photos.  The photos could then be used to make a slide show using Haiku deck app.  The beauty of Haiku deck is that it doesn’t allow too many words so the photos get to shine!Screen Shot 2015-12-27 at 16.05.10
  7. Describe your community.  Get out of the classroom and get taking photographs of the people and places within it.  Back in the classroom students could create interactive books using their photos and the app book creator.  I am definitely doing this with my languages classes when we learn about places in town.IMG_4948
  8. Portraits.  This would work well on a new intake day or with a new Y7 class.  Take portraits of each other and then interview the student.  You could link the photo to the interview using a QR code or you could video the interview and link to the photo using augmented reality.
  9. Create a photo story.  Using the comic life app or bookcreator app IMG_4949
  10. Turn your students into sports photo journalists and get them to document a school sporting event.  Publish the best photos with a match report in the school newspaper or the school blog. Look at Bill Frakes’ photos for inspiration.