ADE Institute 2016 – A Reflection

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I’m writing this from seat 20D of my easy jet flight from Copenhagen after a fantastic 2 week family holiday in Denmark. I’m guessing most reflections have been written & read but family first and so 3 weeks after the event and with tunes from the ADE soundtrack blasting in my ear here are my reflections on a week of learning, laughter & friendship.

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Those who want the world the stay as it is don’t want the world to stay. I found this quote as graffiti on the Berlin Wall, it sums up exactly what an Apple Distinguished Educator is not. ADE’s believe in pushing boundaries, collaborating not just within their schools or school districts but across the world. They want to put a dent in the universe, they truly believe that they can change education for the better. The first thing that hits you when you go to an ADE institute is the friendship. Our hotel lobby was full of hellos and ‘so pleased to finally meet you in person! You see, most ADE’s don’t wait until institute to collaborate most have been doing it virtually for years but it is at a global institute that they get to meet face to face so you can only imagine the force of nature that is a group of ADE’s working together.

Collaboration is key at these events. During the week we all work on a project of our choosing with other educators. My chosen group was the sketch noting group. We were made up of 2 Brits, 1 Irish, 3 Americans, a Canadian & a Colombian. Our aim is to show via an iBook how we have incorporated sketch noting into our work as educators both in the classroom and for our own personal use. I am not artistic in any way but I love sketch noting & I learnt so much from the many brilliant teachers that I worked with that week. I came away inspired by them with a real desire to try & improve my own sketch noting as well as trying to incorporate it more into my work with students. Thanks goes to Sharon Drummond who showed me her 100 days of sketching in which she learnt a new German word a day & sketched it. I’m definitely going to try that with students but we’ll start smaller 7 days of sketching most probably ūüôā


During the week we were privileged to be able to attend sessions given by our fellow ADE’s I was lucky enough to be able to attend firstly a session on podcasting and then a session on 6 word stories. The podcasting session was lead by Kelly Croy. Despite having listened to his podcast I have never previously connected with him online but as soon as I entered his ‘classroom’ I was bowled over by his warmth & passion. I have dabbled with podcasting in the past but thanks to Kelly & his fantastic presentation it is something I intend to persue with this coming school year! Thanks Kelly it was truly lovely to meet & chat to you!

My next session was lead by Don Goble another incredible teacher, like Kelly I really warmed to his generous spirit & enthusiasm. Don told us how he & his students went about creating six word stories, again this is something I intend to emulate in my foreign language classroom this year. Thanks Don for the inspiration – can’t wait to share our French 6 word stories with you!

During the week we were also treated to sessions from Apple experts on GarageBand, Keynote, Swift playgrounds, iMovie, iBooks and Final Cut Pro. I’m definitely going to animate using keynote this year with students & maybe see if we can enter Simon Pile’s school’s film festival with one of our films! Also watch out for more Dupstep MFL. I’ve use GarageBand live loops in class before but having had hints & tips from the experts expect bigger & better grammar songs from my foreign language classroom this year!

Collaboration isn’t just about work & you work hard at institute it’s also about getting out of your classroom with others and discovering and so on Wednesday we went out in groups to discover the amazing city of Berlin. Our group decided to create a BookCreator book about our adventure based on the ‘Where’s Wally’ books we called it where’s ADE, the basic premise being that an ADE hid in a crowded scene in Berlin, a photo was taken and readers had find them. It started as a bit of a giggle but by the end of our day we were all thinking that this project would work with students too! This is typical of institute, ADE’s just try stuff no matter how daft, after all it might just work!IMG_4322.JPG

Team ‘Where’s ADE?”

The highlight of institute for us all is ADE spotlights. Each morning starts with a selection of ADE’s telling their stories in 3 minutes, no more, no less. There’s a huge clock with 3 minutes on it that counts down as each ADE speaks and when 3 minutes is up the spotlight dies and the mic is cut whether they have finished or not! This year I loved ¬†Shaun Kirkwood‘s 5 minutes of fun Brit Morgan & Cathy Hunt‘s art work Simon Pile & Stuart Hammersley‘s video work as well as my roomie, Sarah Jones‘ fabulous work with 360 VR. I loved the work of many teachers taking their students out of their classrooms & documenting their work via iPads.


Spotlights are incredibly inspirational & scary as hell as I found out on the last day as it was my turn!!!! I can honestly say it was one of the best things I have done right from conceiving an idea to talk about right up to the presentation itself. It makes you focus & reflect on your work in the classroom. It makes ensure that your story connects and the your slide deck is of A1 quality – this is Apple after all!


ADE’s try stuff, push boundaries, collaborate, inspire, share & support not just each other but all educators and that’s how we put a dent in the universe!


What’s The Value Of Appsmashing?


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Appsmashing has become a bit of a thing in recent times.  The phrase was coined by American educator Greg Kulowiec and it means using applications in conjunction with each other to produce a final product.

The iPad is a truly amazing tool and it can do some pretty incredible things.  The apps that you can purchase for the iPad can also be pretty amazing.  However, I am growing ever more concerned that appsmashing is becoming more about what the device can do rather than using the process or processes for an educational purpose.

Many of the arguments surrounding appsmashing hinge on the notion that it is somehow teaching creativity. While I agree with this premise to a certain extent much of the appsmashing that I read about in blogs is teachers setting students a task and asking them to use specific applications in a specific order – there’s very little creativity in that furthermore it is my belief that students need to have used an iPad regularly for a number of years in order for a teacher to be able to simply give them a topic and let them get on with it using their own choice of apps – ¬†this is when appsmashing becomes truly creative.

There are a huge number of benefits to appsmashing but let not our judgement be coloured by the idea that we are somehow teaching creativity because of it.  Appsmashing does help to enhance thinking skills. It is a great way of getting students to collaborate and share with each other. It does provide a sense of achievement and it is undoubtedly huge amounts of fun and the finished articles can be a great source of pride for students and yet, for me this is simply not a good enough reason to include appsmashing in your edtech repertoire.

The key to a great appsmash is not the number of apps that you manage to smash together into a final product but the pedagogical thought behind the smash itself. Ask  yourself why are we completing this activity? What is the educational purpose of it? If your answers are simply the students will enjoy it or it will greatly enhance collaboration in my class I would ask you to have a rethink.   Many multi app appsmashes are very complex, way too complex in my humble opinion.  In schools we are time poor and an incredibly complicated appsmash can suck hours out of your teaching time. For me, the best appsmashes are those with learning at their heart and by learning I mean intrinsically linked to that which you are teaching and learning in class.

The best app smashes are inherently simple. ¬†They will, in many cases, only use 2 or 3 apps; apps in which the students are well versed or ones that are very simple to use. ¬†The appsmash itself will have the aim of enhancing the students’ learning. ¬†They will be “show what you know” activities which enable all students to successfully demonstrate what it is that they have learnt which can then be meaningfully used by a teacher to assess the learning that has taken place in the classroom.

Appsmashing can be a great arrow to have in your edtech quiver but it must be well considered and have strong pedagogical foundations otherwise it is merely an exercise in what the device can do and not what the student has or indeed hasn’t learnt.

Sketchnoting As A Tool For Revision

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I first came across the idea of sketchnoting last summer when I was reading the tweets from #ADE2014 the delegates had been encouraged to arrange their thoughts on each of the talks as sketchnotes rather than “real” written notes, all done on iPads of course! Sketchnoting is doodling whilst listening, the doodles emphasising your notes.

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The good news about sketchnoting is that you don’t have to be good at art to do them -phew! And the second piece of good news is that there are no rules to sketchnoting it is very much an individual thing – Hurrah! There’s something soothing about doodling isn’t there? Afterall, who hasn’t done this during a long phone call to their mum/mother-in-law?IMG_4012 In 2009 Jackie Andrade a professor at the University of Plymouth created a psychological experiment to see if doodling was of any benefit to your memory. ¬†One group was asked to doodle whilst listening to a phone message and the other group didn’t. ¬†The group that doodled retained 29% more information than the group that didn’t. ¬†Whilst this is hardly conclusive proof that doodling is a huge aid to memory it does point towards its potential. If you are still unconvinced watch Sunni Brown’s TED talk on doodling.

Lots of my students doodle in the margins of their books, in spite of my control freakery I try not to let this annoy me! ¬†A surprisingly large number of doodlers are in my Y11 class. This class is full of unbelievably creative young people; dancers, actors, musicians, artists, needle workers… and so I decided to try and teach this class some sketchnoting skills as I believed some students would find it to be a really useful revision tool. I am no sketchnoting expert but I was encouraged by Joe Dale¬†to have a go at it at this year’s #ililc5 conference and I loved it and I hoped some of my students would too. What’s required for a sketchnoting lesson? ¬†I did this with tech naturally, so each student had an iPad and the app Paper 53, I love this app it’s so beautifully designed and you can save your sketches to camera roll which is always a bonus. Each student also had a stylus. ¬†I bought these styluses off ebay they are made by the Friendly Swede and they cost ¬£20 for 40

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To begin with I showed my students some “professional” sketchnotes just to give them the idea and then I showed them some of mine just to prove that we are all still learning. ¬†We talked about the app and some of the functions of it, zooming in and mixing colours, rewinding etc. ¬†Next I got them drawing. ¬†The thing about sketchnoting for me, is that you have to have a bank of simple drawings in your head that you can readily draw without thinking. ¬†I gave my class a list of things eg a watch, an alarm clock, an iPad, a car, a tractor, a train, a coffee cup and they had to draw them with no fuss. Now, at this stage we had a lot of “oh I can’t draw..” comments to which I kept saying ¬†“wait until we paint them..” and so, once we had sketched we painted our sketches and this was when the students started to enjoy the process because the paint makes the sketches come alive. IMG_3952 Next we looked at text and emphasis. We played around with words and underlining and boxes so that when we sketched we could highlight the important elements of our work. The final thing that we looked at was layout. ¬†You can sketch using columns, a web, from left to right or in sections. Ordinarily you would sketchnote whilst listening to someone speak but as we were at the beginning of our learning journey the students chose a topic and sketchnoted some key words from that topic. ¬†An air of calm and relaxation pervaded the classroom that lesson as students got to work on their sketchnotes, examples of which can be seen below. IMG_3804 IMG_3805 IMG_3806 image (1) image Where would I go with this next in the MFL classroom? Students could record themselves reading out a text and then either listen to their own recording or that of another student and sketchnote the salient vocabulary. ¬†They could also read a text and then sketchnote. ¬†It could also be used as part of a listening exercise. All of my students enjoyed the sketchnoting experience and many of them noted that it is a skill that is transferable across subjects. If you’ve never had a try I suggest you have a go. ¬†You don’t have to use tech you can use a pencil and paper. Mike Rohde’s website is a good place to start. ¬†Have a look at his sketchnotes and his sketchnoting book is also well worth buying. Sylvia Duckworth is also a fan of sketchnoting, she has also blogged about it.

What of me and my sketchnotes? Well, here’s a few of mine that I did during #ililc5 IMG_3730 IMG_3747 IMG_3722 IMG_3730

Take Aways From A Takeover – #TLT14


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Every Christmas my husband and I watch have a tradition of sitting down with a nice bottle of wine to watch the film Love Actually despite it’s girliness and sentimentality I love this film. My favourite part is the opening scene which is voiced by Hugh Grant and yesterday I was reminded of this as I stood observing the hubbub in the foyer at #TLT14. Have a watch of the clip but every time you hear the word love substitute it for friendship. This was “teacher roar” at its greatest; no moaning, no winging just positivity from the outset to the bitter end!

My day started very well as I met someone that I had long wanted to put a voice to (I already know what he looks like thanks to Twitter) and that was Tom Sherrington I have been an avid reader and admirer of his excellent blog for many years and he was as I had hoped he would be humble, unassuming and he didn’t take himself too seriously! Tom opened the conference in which he excellently demonstrated that we should take the lid off learning by showing us all this amazing clip of fleas. The scene was set and we were off on a day of learning, self improvement not forgetting fun, laughter and friendship.

My first session was lead by the ever lovely Keven Bartle whose beautifully written blog is another of my personal favourites. In his session Keven wanted to debunk the myths about Ofsted. To be honest, Keven was a little annoyed as OFSTED had stolen his thunder the day before in their statement clarification for schools however, in his own inimitable way he went on to debunk the 7 myths of OFSTED.
Keven explained, with great clarity, that if you watched 6 lessons of any one teacher in a year you would be seeing less than 0.6% of their teaching for that year and yet, on usually less observations than 6, we make judgements about teachers, some of which are false. After all, we all have lessons that even with the best intentions, bomb. Thus, are observations valid? He also made the point, why do SLT, who teach the least, do the most observations? Subject specialist need to observe each other. He continued by stating that if you look for people’s strengths they will recognise their own weaknesses and he rightfully noted that most teachers are in education for the right reasons and that most of us want to improve, observation should support this. Kev talked total sense to me and I have long be banging on about making observations less stressful, more helpful and supportive to anyone who will listen at my school. We still grade our lessons along the lines of OFSTED in spite of the fact that OFSTED does not exist on the Isle of Man. We are independent in so many ways on the island, it defeats me why we feel the need to follow this awful system of grading lessons. I can’t wait to get back to school and engage in further debate on this subject.

My second session was lead by Chris Hildrew. I’d never met Chris before but have followed his insightful comments and tweets for a while so I was interested to hear how his school had got rid of levels and had implement a growth mindset. Chris was a really engaging speaker, I loved the notion of X Students, those that held the X factor. He posed the question how can we make all students have the X factor? He got us all to think about why our subject should be in the curriculum. I was sat next to Debbie of Debbie and Mel fame she gave a compelling argument for the inclusion of English in the curriculum I hope she was equally compelled by my argument for the inclusion of MFL. Chris urged us to challenge students in our lessons and aim high, make the students think and work hard. You won’t hear many arguments against that in a room full of teachers!

Lunchtime saw me running a Genius Bar stall all about using QR codes in the classroom. I have created a haiku deck of my bar here. I love QR codes, they are so versatile and I really think that they are helping my students move from learned helplessness to independence.

Session 3 was with David Fawcett and was all about feedback. I was particularly keen to hear David speak as not only have I read all his blog posts on the subject but last year at my school I was given a TLR3 to look into homework at our school. Feedback became a big part of our research.
David provided us all with lots of hints and tips about how to make feedback work. Good feedback requires the teacher to do little and the students to put in the work. He talked to us about how it was essential that all students had the same amount of feedback, in his classroom it was one question per student, this question enabled them to rethink misconceptions and correct mistakes. David was clear that feedback should be part of the classroom culture it should provide stretch and challenge and thinking for all students. He also highlighted that if we provide too much feedback students can become dependent on it thus defeating the object. Feedback is all about closing the gap on where the students are now to where they are going. David was very clear that we should remember the core purpose of feedback, keep the main thing, the main thing and that is the students and their progress.

My final session of the day was with John Tomsett who talked to us about his growth mindset school. I was in John’s session last year and I loved his sincerity and humble enthusiasm about his job and his school. To be honest, he could have read the phone book to me and I would still have loved it. In spite of the fact that John is a southerner, Yorkshire has clearly rubbed off on him, he calls a spade a shovel and I like that. My takeaways from John’s session were this; that uniformity is rubbish. I couldn’t agree more.
Many years ago I was observed teaching a Y8 class at a my previous school by an LEA advisor. I was graded requires improvement because my lesson didn’t have all, must, some learning objectives and it wasn’t in 3 parts like all “good” lessons should be. She told me that uniformity was the key. I argued that I didn’t want to be like anyone else, I was unique and every lesson a child went should be equally unique. Imagine how dull a school day would be for a student if they went from lesson to lesson experiencing exactly the same lesson format. Needless to say she was having none of it and I thought she was an idiot and pretty much told her as much, I think I called her misguided in an effort to be polite. This happened many years ago but I still think this myth of lesson uniformity pervades to this day. It’s nonsense. If the students are learning then the lesson or lessons are working well how they learn or how they are taught doesn’t matter as long as it works.
John’s session also resonated with me as he stated that we have lost sight of what education is about and that we have become obsessed with targets, grades and tests. He talked of how he had heard of a school where they have to enter grade data every 2 weeks. He had one message for schools like this. STOP IT! DO SOME BLOODY TEACHING! Given some recent experiences of mine which will remain private, I couldn’t agree more.
John spoke about the freedom that no levels gives us as a profession and that ego feedback such as grades and praise can actually hinder progress, this chimed well with what David Fawcett was saying in his session. In a no levels world, John felt that it was important for us to be able to state in each subject and possibly for each piece of work what it was that students could actually do, as well as knowing where the students started from, where they are now and where they are going to highlighting again what Chris Hildrew had said in his session in the morning. For me, the pieces of the jigsaw were coming together. Education is in a good place at the moment, the shackles are off, we should use our freedom thoughtfully and wisely.

My day ended in the pub as all good conferences should where the TLT buzz continued over a few beers.  What did I take away from the Takeover?

1. Sharing ideas and knowledge amongst ourselves is vital, there’s always something new to learn.

2. The teaching profession has real freedom at this moment in time, we should use it well and wisely.

3. Online connections are great but real live relationships are better.

4. Four flights and the 700 mile round trip in a weekend were well worth it. ¬†I wasn’t the only one who travelled huge distances to be there this weekend. ¬†If you didn’t attend #TLT14 this year I urge you to put it on your to do list for next, it’s already on mine.

It’s Not Just About The Testing

What is education? Now there’s a question for you. I looked it up in the OED and here’s what it came up with “The process of receiving or giving systematic instruction, especially at a school or university” The font of all modern knowledge Wikipedia, however, states that “Education in its general sense is a form of learning in which the knowledge, skills, and habits of a group of people are transferred from one generation to the next through teaching, training, or research.” The truth probably lies somewhere in between the two. The OED definition alludes to the systematic nature of our system; accountability, curricula and testing whereas the Wikipedia definition regards education in a much more holistic way; the handing down of skills and habits. Humans have of course been educating each other since the Stone Age and for me that basic premiss of passing on skills knowledge and habits remains to this day. Yet in a modern world where every last grade must be accounted for and if little Jonny didn’t quite get a grade C then questions will be asked and somebody (but not little Jonny) will be blamed, we seem to have rather lost our way. Education is about so much more than testing.

As the Wikipedia definition points out it is also about passing on skills and HABITS. There is some recognition from the government and the media of this element of education. We can all no doubt can recall news stories of this ilk ” Britain has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe.” What was the government’s solution? That’s right, put more sex education in schools, let the teachers sort it out. This kind of kind of “recognition” also drives me mad because not only is education so much more than testing it’s also so much more that prescriptive hours of PSHE. I digress, forgive me.

Ask yourself this, why did you become a teacher in the first place? Maybe it was for the love of your subject, maybe you simply enjoy working with young children or teenagers or maybe it was that you simply loved the idea of educating people and having the opportunity to pass on skills and knowledge. I have yet to meet a teacher who says that they joined the profession in order to a) make money or b) make sure they got a positive residual post exam results.
Let’s just take a typical lesson as a most basic example of how holistic education actually is.
Action: students enter classroom teacher greets them with smile and a cheery “Good morning!” Lesson: politeness.
Action: silence whilst the register is taken. Lesson: in life there are very formal, serious situations in which we must behave in a certain way.
Action: starter Q&A listening and responding to each other in the classroom. Lesson: respect.
And so it goes on, you get the idea. In a school day we probably teach more about good habits than anything else yet testing is king and why? Because you can measure it!

Were our system solely based on testing and accountability and yes, at times, it feels like it is. We would not have made huge strides as a nation towards great racial integration and acceptance nor would we have civil partnerships and same sex marriages, the problem is you can’t measure the impact of holistic teaching that is to say, knowledge and habits over short periods of time. The effects of years and years of fabulous pastoral care and modelling of good habits regarding acceptance of different races and sexual orientation is only just now being felt. The over politicisation of the education system and the fact that the average government lasts for 4-8 years means that this vital element of education is pushed to one side in favour of the headline grabbing “GCSE results improve.”

We all no doubt have anecdotal evidence of how modelling good habits within the classroom has impacted the lives of the young people in our care. I was a Head of Year for 5 years and although I had to monitor attendance and track attainment and counsel my C/D borderline students the majority of my work was about passing on good habits. Teaching students about, listening to and caring for each other and themselves. These days I am classroom based but the teaching of good habits and the modelling of them remains a high priority in my classroom. A few years ago, I had two boys in my class; David and Mark they had been friends since they were 2 years old. They were like chalk and cheese but they got on like a house in fire. One afternoon in Y11 Mark appears at my door asking to speak to me. He wants me to move him to a different seat in the classroom because he suspects that David is gay and he, Mark, is the object of his affections! I of course laugh, which was probably not the best reaction but in doing so I was modelling behaviour by showing him how ridiculous his request was. My questions were these; what if he sat next to a girl and she fancied him but he didn’t fancy her? Does the fact that David might fancy you change all the other great qualities that you have seen in your friend since you were 2? Don’t you think you should talk to David about this? I also pointed out that IF David did fancy him then he was damn luck as David was smart, funny and good looking and he clearly saw similar traits in those that he liked. Mark left. I had resolved nothing for him, but I had taught him lots. Homosexuality was no big deal, friendship is important it is the bread and butter of life you simply don’t give up in it and finally talking and listening to each other is essential even if the topic is awkward. A few days later David came to see me. He came to thank me. His oldest friend had broached the subject of sexuality with him, he had clarified that he was a) gay b) didn’t fancy Mark c) really needed Mark as a friend at that time as he was just coming to terms with his sexual orientation himself. I saw David recently, he’s now 21 he’s still friends with Mark and thanks to the way that his oldest friend reacted to his “gayness” he found that the rest of his year group were much more accepting of him. I’m proud of them both that lesson will last them a lifetime and hopefully it will have ingrained a habit that they will pass on to future generations. You can’t measure the impact of that short conversation one lunchtime years ago yet it’s impact will, I am certain be far reaching.

Tests are a necessary evil of our system that enable students to jump through the hoops into adult life but it is the forming of positive social habits that, in my opinion have the most far reaching impact.

‚ÄúThe chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.‚ÄĚ
‚Äē Samuel Johnson

A Tourist In Your Own Classroom

Ever been a tourist in your own town? ¬†I have lived on the Isle of Man for 7 years and until this week had never been to the Grandstand during TT fortnight. ¬†So, with some spare time on my hands off I went to enjoy the delights it had to offer. ¬†Before we go on let me get somethings straight, I enjoy the TT but I am no biker chick and it is important to point out that there are normally only 84,000 souls on this island but that can almost double during TT – it’s a BIG thing!

Upon my arrival at the grandstand I was struck by how much leather was about, not to mention beards. ¬†It was equally cool to just stand there and listen to the voices, German, Dutch, French, American I have to say, I was utterly amazed! ¬†As a linguist my first thought was how can we tap into this? But that’s another thing entirely! ¬†As I moved to the back of the grandstand I came across all the team trucks which bring the racing bikes to the island. ¬†Set up in front of these trucks were gazebos, for want of a better word, in which the mechanics were working on the bikes. ¬†Now, one bike is pretty much like the next bike to me but it was fascinating to watch grown men grow weak at the knees at the sight of an engine being cleaned!

photo 2¬†Moreover some of the riders were wandering about, these guys are just regular blokes who often have a day job but come here once a year and are superstars. ¬†For the most part, if a TT rider bumped into in the supermarket I wouldn’t know who he was but it was fascinating to see how idolised these guys were by other men in leather!

My final tourist stop was a walk onto the grandstand itself. ¬†Out in the pit land there was bikes as far as you could see – it was unreal and once again many bikes were surrounded by men chatting about yep, bikes it was really fun to see and I was glad I’d had my hour as a tourist. ¬†I felt I understood the psyche of a biker and bike fans a little more and I really did comprehend how big a deal the TT is for some people. ¬†This was brought home to me once again when I was stood in the sea terminal yesterday and there were a large number of visitors already booking their tickets for next year!

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Bikes as far as the eye can see!

My touristy moment got me thinking, why had I enjoyed it so much? After all I’m no real bike fan. ¬†The conclusion I came to was that I enjoyed being able to take a step back and view the whole experience from another person’s perspective. I was a tourist but I was also removed from it too in some ways. ¬†My thoughts developed. As the school year draws to an end maybe it’s time to be a tourist in your own classroom?

1. Go into your room, how do you feel? Relaxed? Calm? or is it a bit busy and messy?  What feeling does that induce in you? Watch students come into your room.  How do they react to the space?

2. Seating.  Is your seating arrangement conducive to learning?  Try to remove all emotion from the situation and watch the students at work?  Recently I had to rearrange my classroom into rows for exam week.  I hated it.  The feeling of the room seemed to change from one of warmth and friendliness to one of victorian austerity.  There was no space, I felt very trapped at the front  and students struggled to move to their desks.


Rows from hell!

3. Decor. ¬†Is your room inviting and clean? ¬†Are the displays neat or are they all ripped and battered? Are your blinds working? ¬†What about the windows do they work? ¬†How can you improve the environment? ¬†I love space, I get rid of anything that I don’t want cupboards, shelves – everything. ¬†For me to work I need space and light. ¬†I used to occupy a classroom just up the corridor from where I am currently housed. ¬†The view from the window was of a brick wall, the room was always dark even in the summer. It depressed me hugely. ¬†As soon as my current room became available I jumped a the chance to move to a room with a view of the mountains which faces south. ¬†It ¬†has made a huge difference to me and I think to my students.

4. Listen.  When I was at the grandstand this week I loved listening to the conversations going on around me.  Take stock. Listen to your students as they work, as they come into the room try to be that fly on the wall.  What do they say to you when they leave your class? What do you say to them? How do you say it?

5. Watch.  As a tourist there is no better way to spend your time than people watching.  Do it in your own classroom.  Watch the interactions of the students with each other.  Step back, watch how they react to you.  What do you learn?

Next term, take some time.  Become a tourist in your own classroom.  Take stick of what goes on and why?  Maybe you could change something or maybe like me at the grandstand, you can come to an understanding of what makes your classroom tick in the way it does? Either way being a tourist is huge fun, you always learn something and it always puts a smile on your face.

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 ūüôā

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