Vibrant Vocabulary Learning with iPads

Let's go bananas!

It’s that time of year again.  Controlled assessments are done and in my Y11 class we are already in full swing for the run up to the reading and listening exams.  During this period my classes spend a lot of time honing these skills in readiness for their exams.  On of the key elements for me in order for my students to attain good grades in these exams is the acquisition and retention of vocabulary.  In the past this has meant vocabulary learning homework followed up by the traditional vocabulary test.  This year though my class and I have been trailing a new method of learning vocabulary using our iPads.  There are many vocabulary learning products on the market but these are often very expensive.  Our method does require a little bit of effort from you as the teacher but it’s great fun and my class and I are already seeing the benefits.

At the beginning of a new topic. I create a vocabulary list on the vocabulary learning site Quizlet I have my own account but my students don’t I just give them the link to my lists via our VLE My Big Campus.  The class then have 15 mins at the start of the lesson to try and learn as  many words as they can. Once 15 minutes is up we continue with the rest of our lesson as usual. At the end of the lesson the students are “tested” on their vocabulary by playing a game of Kahoot.

IMG_3384This is an online tool where you can make quizzes for your students to play.  Their are 2 parts to this gaming tool; the teacher end and the student In the teacher interface you create multiple choice quizzes for your students to play.  The student interface changes their iPad/iPod/iPhone into a response pad.  The teacher projects the question on to the board and the students answer via their iPad. After each question students find out if they got the question correct, they gain points for answering correctly and quickly.  They also get shown a leader board, this makes for a fun competitive end to the lesson.

IMG_3395 IMG_3396  After each lesson I extend the Quizlet list with any new words we have come across and in turn add extra questions to my Kahoot ready for some vocabulary learning time in our next lesson.

Why not give it a go.  My students now love vocab fests as we call them which is a real win in my book!

I’ll be talking about Kahoot in my presentation fabulous formative assessment at #ililc5 this February.


Tools of the trade


Photo credit

It was one of those days where everything just seems to point you in one direction, the kids were quiet well,occupied, I’d hurt my achilles so a run was out of the question, it was windy so kayaking was out too, it wasn’t sunny so even sitting in the garden was out and so it was that I decided to mark my Y10 homework.  This week we have been focussing on the perfect tense in class.  To my mind, this is not a difficult aspect of grammar it is merely a pattern or for want of a better phrase a formula.  I accept that students find the agreement of verbs using être as their auxiliary tricky to get their head round but other than that this is just a formula and I teach it as such. For the perfect tense with avoir it’s as easy as 1, 2, 3  where 1 is the pronoun 2 is the correct bit of avoir and 3 is the past participle.  For the perfect tense with être it’s as easy as 1, 2, 3, 4 where 1 is the pronoun 2 is the correct bit of être, 3 is the past participle and 4 is the agreement if required. Yet my class still write je joué or better still je devoi which after having seen this 10 times I was beginning to think I’d really messed up my week in the classroom.  This got me thinking we really need to get our students used to using the tools of the trade as soon as humanly possible in this way they can begin to help themselves.

In education circles on the Isle of Man we refer to the 6 R’s;  readiness, reflectiveness, resilience, resourcefulness, remembering and relationships.  These are skills we try to instil in our students right from the beginning of primary school and there it is staring us right in the face, resourcefulness. To my mind we should be ensuring that our students know where to go so that they can find an answer or check an answer.  I don’t know about you, but I always use a bi-lingual dictionary to double check spellings and gender and I model this behaviour in class.  “Miss how do you say hang gliding?”  “I’m not sure let’s look it up in the dictionary”  I can’t imagine not having one to hand.  I know that there is a cost implication to having sets of dictionaries but many students now have smart phones, that being the case, I point my students in the direction of the online dictionary  This is a well and good I can hear you say but it didn’t do your Y10 class any favours and you would be right.  I did point my class in the direction of the online verb table but I don’t think I was explicit enough about it.  In fact, it was clear that some students had used it because they had got irregular past participles correct however many I feel rushed their work, never looked back in their books or at reference material in order to self check their work.  This is what we will be working on in class next week.  It’s not cheating and it’s not a short cut but it is a skill that I feel we should encourage with in our students.

I have been working on this for a number of years now and I feel that those students that I have taught over time are more resourceful. (I have never taught any of my current Y10 class before) I even organise my classroom around it.  My students sit in groups of 4 in this way they can help each other if required.  All over my classroom I have posters. USE SNOT  where snot stands for Self, Neighbour, Other, Teacher.  I know of others that use 3 before me or similar.  It is simply a way of encouraging self reliance.  In Y8 we are currently using adjectives. On Friday I gave them a list of adjectives in English and asked them to rearrange them into alphabetical order and then find the French.  Some of my class were outraged “we can’t do this Miss!” to which I replied “Yes you can. What tools can you use?”  within seconds they have come up with a long list of tools.  Learning mats, dictionaries, vocabulary booklets etc etc.  It is possible to teach the use of tools of the trade and I think it’s vital that we do and before you all tweet me I am by no means advocating the use of reference material over learning, remembering after all is one of the 6 R’s.  Learning grammar patterns is the key to unlocking the magic of language and as Steve Smith said to me on twitter on Saturday you can’t refer to a verb table or a dictionary in a conversation but I’ll leave the production over acquisition post for another time!

Culture and Learning in MFL

I am not a fan of the text book as many of you know so when the time came to teach directions to my Y8 class in Spanish I turn to twitter for some inspiration.




Twitter never fails to amaze me and within a few minutes ideas were pouring in – thank you #mfltwitterati 🙂

In the end I plumped for an iPad idea from @joedale.  I decided to use live street view app plus book creator to create a book of directions to places from our chosen Spanish city of Granada.

Students used the live street view app to have a virtual look around the city, I tried to contain them to the area surrounding the cathedral as this was going to be our starting point for giving directions. In this app when you touch on an area of the map a google street view image appears enabling students to have a virtual look around the city, which they loved.  I tried not to get to annoyed about this “off task” activity as I felt it was an essential element of the cultural aspect of the lesson.

Once students had chosen a location they took a screen shot or in some cases 2 if the street view image covered too much of the map ,in which case they cropped the photo and added back to the map in book creator.  Once the students had their photos they then imported them into book creator and marked their start position and the end point on their map using the pen tool in book creator. Like this;


Students then wrote out the directions in Spanish from on place to the next.  They then recorded them as a mini paired speaking exercise and added them to the page in book creator like this;


For me the in class activity hit all the buttons for me, speaking, writing, working collaboratively plus a cultural aspect too.  The students really enjoyed this activity especially the ability to be able to look around the city of Granada, I have to admit, we got side tracked at times as we used the sphere app to look inside the beautiful Alhambra.

The fun didn’t end there though.  As  you may have noticed the student’s work that I have shown still has mistakes in it, this was deliberate because after the lesson I combined all the books the students had made into one and then went on to create a google form containing questions about the information in the book.  Sometimes they were asked to correct mistakes, other times finish of sentences that were left incomplete by their fellow students.  Once we had got over some sharing issues this activity worked well, in fact I would say that this was the best bit of the whole thing as it made the students look carefully at what they had all written and said it was a great way to “feedback” to them.  I then marked the google form using Flubaroo which made the whole thing easy peasy and shared the results with the class via email.

The outcomes for this activity were brilliant






Correcting mistakes

and culture a plenty.  If you have the tools I urge you to give it a go and if you need a hand give me a shout. @lancslassrach

The 20 Day Challenge Or Creating Good Habits


This weekend I attended the #ililc4 languages conference in Southampton.  At the show and tell on Saturday evening I talked about the 20-day challenge that I set for my Y10 GCSE group.

I found a brilliant TED talk by Matt Cutts called Try Something New For 30 Days.  In his talk Matt, who by his own admission is a geek who works for Google explains how you can change your habits by trying something new for 30 days.  Matt tries all sorts of bizarre things some he sticks with, others less so.  I was intrigued by his idea so I took it to my GCSE class.

Firstly we watched Matt’s TED talk, and we discussed forming habits and how that Matt had done something so regularly that it had become a part of his day.  I wanted my students to apply this to their language learning.

What could you do for 10 minutes everyday that would enhance your language learning?  We kicked around a few ideas in the classroom such as listening to more French by finding interesting videos on YouTube, reading more French such as articles on un jour 1 actu, listening to French music again via YouTube or Spotify, learning vocabulary using or and so on.

We then discussed how we would find our 10 minutes per day.  We discussed the notion of dead time.  We have time when we walk to school or catch the bus to school that we could use productively.  Maybe you could find 10 minutes just as mum was preparing dinner where you could squeeze in a sneaky 10 minutes of language learning.

Each student then wrote down in their exercise books what they were going to try and do each day for 10 minutes for 20 days (incidentally, I chose 20 days because at the time we had 4 weeks left of school before Christmas)

I then took to twitter and everyday using the #20daychallenge I tweeted something for my students to do for 10 minutes that day.  Some students used these ideas others didn’t.

Here are some of the ideas that I tweeted

5 new words

Links to peppa pig in French – the whole series is on YouTube

Links to Stroame music videos

Links to un jour un actu articles

A verb paradigm

A link to the Duolinguo app on the app store

Retweeting interesting snippets that I found on twitter such as le saviez vous facts.

Every lesson I mentioned the 20 – day challenge in order to keep it fresh in their minds.  As with all things that are not compulsory and with things that are, some embraced the challenge and others did not.  This however did not make the exercise any less valid and it is without doubt something that I will return to in the coming months.   If you would like your students to get involved let me know and we can do the challenge at the same time.