Flash Video Big Books This is a great site for anyone interested in using story telling as a key component of their courses. Some free stuff but the books you have to buy are pretty cheap and excellent quality. Highly recommended.
Wordle - Create word clouds This is a fantastic little site for anyone wanting to be creative with Language. It creates key word diagrams on any topic in an arty way. It is a great way to introduce a topic or allow kids to create a keyword list to help them prepare for a speaking test
I really believe that setting up and promoting your own teaching blog is great way for any teacher to clarify their own thoughts, connect to their peers and raise their profile. In that spirit I'm very happy to pass on links to other colleagues' blogs.
One thing that constantly amazes me when I attend Teachmeets is the infinite variety of creative ideas that colleagues come up with to help motivate their learners.
Blogging is a great way of building up your personal bank of ideas and resources. Talking about the things that inspire you helps you to define and refine those areas that you particularly are brilliant at. So here is a link to Sean Terry's blog.
If you would like me to mention your own blog, especially people launching into the blogosphere for the first time, send me a link in the comment section below and will try and lend any profile I might have to get you going.
"Lingualiciousis a collection of resources that have worked best in the classroom along with a few other ideas & links. Hopefully all Spanish & MFL teachers can find something useful here; some are specific to my School (often my long-suffering yr 11s in silly cartoons) but please comment on & download anything you find here. I'll be updating as much as possible but go back to the older resources too as they are some of the ones I've found most effective. If you have problems with any of the presentations because of your version of Office, let me know and i'll put a 2003 version on here. Save the zip files first and then open them. Anyway hope you enjoy some of my stuff. Oh ..and join Joe Dale's MFL twitterati - really good group for sharing new ideas and advice on everything MFL."
I find talks from the TED site fascinating. I picked up the this video via Laura Doggett's blog, http://lauradoggett.com/, a really useful site for anyone interested in all things techie and MFL. Anyone who gets companies to give them expensive kit to review has my respect!
So this video is from Patricia Kuhl and is entitled "The Linguistic Genius of Babies".
What strikes me here is that there is an emotional context to language learning that helps the baby filter out extraneous sound and home in on the sound patterns that bring a reward in terms of making human connections.
In my work with music and language learning, my theory is that music and song are excellent vehicles for connecting emotion to language acquisition, and it was interesting to see the role of human and emotional connection highlighted here.
What is also fascinating to see is that as we get older we 'retreat' and become 'enclosed' within our own cultural and linguistic systems. It becomes increasingly harder to break out of them simply because I think we have a memory bank that is filling up, even clogging up with stored responses to inputs. It's a hard-drive in need of a de-frag to free up space.
I suppose I see music, song and rhythm as kind of de-frag software for language learning. They 'slide' new language into children's brains, flying under the radar of their stored responses. They help penetrate into parts of their consciousness where new information can be retained without having to pass through all of the border controls of stored cultural and linguistic filtering.
So, the younger the child, the more uncluttered the memory bank, the more receptive to new input. The older we get, the slower we are to assimilate new sounds and structures that do not match those already in our memory bank.
In the push to promote Primary Languages in the UK, one of the strains on the initiative is that though children can very easily pick up new language, the teachers who have to be re-trained to teach them find it much harder to re-learn.
The real difficulty lies less in acquiring the lexical and grammatical syntax of the language but in being able to 'tune' into the different sounds and mimic them. Prounuciation is a key issue. Fear of sounding inauthentic is a serious inhibtor in Primary MFL teachers.
Here again I believe, but can't prove, that on teacher language re-training programmes, re-learning a language with a significant input from music, rhythm and song might help. Someone somewhere ought to research an initiative to examine whether this is true. Could a program be devised where this is an integral rather than a peripheral part of it?
For anyone who doesn't know Sylvia Duckworth, she is a French teacher in Canada experienced in using the AIM language learning program that places a strong emphasis on using the arts to build language structure. The core philosophy as far as I understand it is that language learning needs to be given an emotional context for it to become embedded.
This is easy if you are in the country where that language is spoken, hard if you aren't.
However using visual, aural and physical expression via gestures, movement, music and song, drama, storytelling, it is possible to speed up language acquisition and present the language in a fun, engaging context. If children like it, they'll learn it. Not an earth shattering concept but harder to achieve than say!
So, I have been casting an eye over some of the songs on Sylvia's Youtube channel and am picking out some songs that I think readers of this blog might like.
A big thank you to Sylvia for doing all of the powerpoints so well and for sharing them. Thank you to the composers for allowing them to be shared.
For the full caboodle, have a look at her site! A lot of potential for fun and meaningful language learning for new learners here I think!
All these songs display elements I have been trying to define that make them great songs :
Great tunes/music - TOP OF THE LIST!
A strong central idea that engages, a bit of a story not just a topic - this doesn't have to revolve around a person - Charlotte Diamond's 'Je suis une pizza' is a brilliant example! Things can be given a voice and a story too.
Quirky humour that children will love - Charlotte Diamond getting personally manhandled by the Queen and kicked out of Buckingham Palace for complaining about the miniscule sarnies, brilliant! IMAGINATION has to be BIG in songs for kids!
Seeing something from a child's point of view - John Demado's rap about feeling trapped in his house by having to do chores, the lament of countless generations of kids! Jack Grunsky writing a song based upon a single line that every parent knows, 'Look what I made for you at school today!'
Repetition - the opportunity for children to repeat the lines in 'Je suis une pizza', the frequent repetitions in Alain le Lait's 'En voici' song, the chorus in Max Maxwell's song 'Oh le printemps' - these repeats give an entry point into a song - you can simply ask children to sing along with these to begin with and use the rest of the song for comprehension games, hold up a card when they hear 'x,y,z' etc.
Use of rhythm to drive learning - Juli Power's inclusion of that part of her song where children are asked to count to 16 in time to the music. Sensing the 'pulse' of a song and keeping in time with it are essential musical skills.
With the songs there is a really well executed flash video animation to illustrate it. There are coloured image stills of the songs to download, clear line drawings to colour in, opportunities for children to colour in online, free downloads of the lyrics, free downloads of the mp3, free download of the karaoke version, in short a LOT!
Stephy also has CDs of his own songs you can buy via the site. You can see an example here that has a free download of the lyrics plus sample extracts.
To give you and idea of what is available here are the lyrics of a song he wrote called 'La Rock de la Sorcière'
Here are just one of the pictures available to support it
You can download the free flash animation of the song here
All the downloads for this song and story can be accessed towards the bottom of the same page. Scroll down until you see this
Finally a powerpoint of the song has been created that you can download for use in the classroom. You will need to download the free mp3 of the song from the site yourself.
You can find other children's stories on the site that he has written as well.
I thought that I would share some videos from the TED website that I have found profound and inspirational in my own thinking about creativity and learning.
First, lessons from Itay Talgam, a conductor, about leadership
Second, the remarkable story of Jose Antonio Abreu who is the charismatic founder of a youth orchestra system that has transformed thousands of kids' lives in Venezuela.
Third, Sir Ken Robinson makes the case for a radical shift from standardised schools to personalised learning -- creating conditions where kids' natural talents can flourish.
Finally a clip from the BBC series 'Boys can't sing' with Gareth Malone. I found all of Gareth's series to be very moving and an inspiration to the work I do. He is working with people who,very often, don't feel they are special but begin to explore their creativity through singing and discover hitherto untapped energy and self-worth.
I wanted to highlight a useful Wiki, 'Sing to Learn' that a colleague Barbara Harper has created to help colleagues share songs and related resources for language learning.
This is screenshot of the French page but there is a Spanish page plus some links pages that take you to many other sites with material you might find useful. Click on the image to enlarge it. You can find the wiki here.
As with all Wiki's, the point of them is to encourage collaboration so if you have a song, some materials or a website that you know of, please support Barbara in her efforts to create a really useful resource. Please tweet this on to other MFL colleagues that you know or send them the page links.
NB. Since posting this, I have been informed by those using Internet Explorer that the video doesn't display. The video format is .swf and I think it is something to do with IE security settings, not sure. If anyone can tell me how to get round this, let me know.
The only solution at the moment I can suggest is to download Firefox and use it as a back up browser. There are no problems using Firefox to view this swf file. In future I will try and avoid this conflict, sorry!
I was going to write this post about The Hat software from Harmony Hollow but have since found that downloading anything from their site has been flagged up as dangerous by my anti-virus software. Apparently it installs ad targetting code so am steering well clear of it.
I'm really disappointed as I appreciated the fact that I could use it offline.
You have to be online to use this. The video below explains how to use the software and an idea on how you can exploit it to play a game for teams in class to practise any language on any topic. I'm using it at a fairly simple level to get pupils to read, repeat and practise simple phrases. I'm sure there are ideas of how to use it that require deeper thinking skills. Leave comments and links if you know of any.
First, write out your list of words, phrases in a simple text editor such as notepad. I wouldn't use Word or Pages as you need to have the list of vocab open in a seperate window as you play the game online and it is easier to resize a window in notepad.
Second, copy/paste this list into the Classtools site
Third, click on "save as webpage@ to any folder on your laptop/pc
Fourth, divide your class into teams. Before clicking on the web page you saved to start the game, have the notepad file open that you originally created the list in and ask pupils from one team to predict which vocab item will be selected.
Fifth, click on the webpage to open the classtools page with your text in the slot machine. It will automatically spin and select one item. If that is the same as the team's prediction, they get a point. Remove this item both from the classtools slot machine and from the notepad list. Go to the next team, and so on.
The pupils love seeing how lucky they can be. Obviously the chances of guessing correctly are very low to begin with but get higher as more items are removed.
A variation would be not to delete items from the notepad file. Pupils have to remember which vocab items have already been chosen
I love Apple Macs and I love using Garageband but as so many of the programs I use in schools are Windows based and having installed a Windows partition on my Macbook, I needed a Windows Equivalent for Garageband. I have been using this Mixcraft software and so far am very impressed.
First, it is very good value for money at around £48. It has a very wide range of features, enough to produce professional recordings, and comes with a huge bank of free loops and backing beats that you are entitled to keep even if you decide not to purchase the product. You can check out all of the features here on their site. Go to the Products Page on the Mixcraft Site to check out all of the features. I will try and do a few posts to show how I think it might be useful for language teachers wanting to integrate more music into their lessons.
For the moment, here is a sample of a reggae backing track that it took me about 20 minutes to create from the free loops supplied with the package.