Adventures in my classroom; Harnessing the Power of Technology to get them speaking! 

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The new (academic) year equals new classes and without a doubt new strategies to employ. Good friends who are brill with ICT, Apps and iPads have given me a helping hand to get students speaking in the target language overcoming fears of looking or sounds daft and the anxiety of not sounding right. I am grateful to them for their support as labouring the same strategies can become repetitive and lose impact hence my steps in to harnessing everyday technology to keep learning exciting and fresh in my MFL classroom.

1. The trusty old MP3 player. Image of Sansa MP3 player via Amazon.co.uk

We have mini MP3 players for students to use, alone or in pairs and groups prior to or instead of speaking in class. Trusting students to be in charge of the recording allows them to relax a little, actually a lot. Allowing students to be totally in control is extremely liberating they can delete and re-record their spoken pieces if and when they’d like to. They love it. You just have to remind them to give their name at some point so you can praise their hard work and effort!
 

Handheld MP3 players don’t cost a fortune and can be easily uploaded to the cloud or student server, students could do this if you teach them where to save it so you have access, your fabulous IT technicians or you if you have time. It’s easy and once it’s done you have a digital recording that can be used for DIRTime, for praise and as evidence.  

2. Yakit kids. Image of Yakit Kids app via itunes.apple.com

Oh boy do I love Yakit kids! The amazing and generous @musicmind shared this fantastic gem with me several months ago to try out with some very testy Y8 students who just couldn’t be encouraged to speak French in lessons or out of it. The impact that it has had on the confidence of these students has been awesome, truly brilliant.

Yakit kids is a free app available for iPhone where students can upload a selfie or other image and record short bursts of sound. The photo and sound can be edited to produce some fantastic and hilarious results. This app is genius as it draws students in that they forget about the worry of speaking, the anxiety about not looking cool, the accent and they go for it. They are speaking and they love it. Students come to lessons asking if its a Yakit lesson which can only be a good thing! This App has had a phenomenal impact on my students and I’d urge you to have a go at it with your classes. 

Download it here: YAKiT Kids by Freak’n Genius Inc

https://appsto.re/gb/Ba9wV.i


3. Telligami.
                              Image of Telligami app via itunes.apple.com

Telligami is great for getting students recording longer chunks of spoken work through a digital avatar which they can customise. 

I like this app a lot as it allows student to speak through their avatars. It’s great really and fun and it allows students to speak for longer than the 15 second bursts of recording on Yakit kids. This has had a brilliant impact upon students and presents more grown up graphics for more able or older students. It’s a fun app and definitely one worth trying if you haven’t discovered it with your students yet.  Students seem to forget their anxieties about speaking in the target language when using this and Yakit kids and it’s fantastic to see.

Download it here: Tellagami by Tellagami Labs Inc.

https://appsto.re/gb/nK0iI.i


4. Replay.   Image via iTunes.apple.com
I absolutely love this. @ictevangelist kindly shared this with me in October and I used it to collate the students and teachers photos taken on our visit to Barcelona. 

Replay is very easy to use, to upload photos from your phone or iPad to create a slideshow of images in a fun ‘zoomy’ way that students love. And the images appear to music. Brilliant. Having spent time showing students the Reply shows students have gone on to create their own Replay shows which is always a good thing. 

In the classroom I have used Replay to present new vocabulary visually having collated the images separately and uploaded them in the order I want to present them. Students like this as its a little different to traditional flash cards and Quizlet, and it’s another way to present, have fun with or test vocabulary. 

I plan to use Replay to create photo stories with students to develop their length of speaking with a visually aid/prompt. I can see students having fun with this in developing their oral presentations or picture based discussions and it will help them ditch the paper some rely upon so heavily. I’ll let you know how we get on!

Download it here: Replay Video Editor – Make Movies with Photos, Clips and Free Music by Stupeflix

https://appsto.re/gb/ZSbyP.i


5. Shadow Puppet edu.
  
Image via iTunes.apple.com

This brilliant app was introduced to me by @musicmind, again another fun visual app that allows students to upload their own edited images and create labels, add amusing additions and also support development of spoken language and confidence. The images can serve as prompts to extended spoken tasks or simply as a slideshow background to presentations. 

My students have had fun creating these and some have created these to help in other subject areas as the visual nature of the images they have created has helped how to structure responses to exam questions in a range of other subjects. Others have found that using this as a tool to order thoughts when revising has proven extremely helpful.  

I’ve also used this to celebrate student success in a unit of work photographing work and students in action then adding captions and icons proved a great success as it was such a giggle for all concerned. 

Download it here: Shadow Puppet Edu by Shadow Puppet Inc.

https://appsto.re/gb/afy90.i

Many thanks to @musicmind and @ictevangelist for generously sharing their knowledge and expertise! And for their precious time and patience. And a special thank you to my students who have taken a risk, embraced this and enjoyed every minute. Great Learning ahoy! 

Two fun Yakit Kids ‘vidz’ – purely for fun you understand but the students absolutely loved them so please have a go, download it and play!
  
 

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Adventures with my new tutor group

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For the last few years I’ve been a Y11 tutor, I love being a tutor it’s makes for a cracking start to any school day. 

My current tutor group had been adored by their previous tutor for four years then after an opportunity elsewhere the former tutor departed and so these students now have me, which I’m not sure they were entirely happy about. 

Despite being at my current school for six years now it’s always with some trepidation that I volunteer to be the tutor of a KS4 group. I’m a confident, happy classroom teacher but taking over a tutor group, a sometimes surly group of teenagers as they approach their final year of school is no mean feat. Yet I found myself last year volunteering again to step up. Am I bonkers I hear you ask? Probably. Almost definitely. 

I received the list of students and knew only three of them, the rest I didn’t have a clue about beyond the data and the outgoing tutor only wanted to inform his lovelies in the final week of Y10 of his departure. I absolutely understood this and the reasons behind it but it made for a fun September; not only learning who my MFL students were (beyond the data) but also my new delightful tutor group. 

Attendance was an issue for some, homework for others, uniform and equipment and punctuality too also based upon consequences issued. A tutor time activities rota in hand and photo list at the ready I was well up for the challenge. 

The tutor group filed in, some already looking cross because I was directing them in to seats whilst welcoming them in with a smile and a wave. Thankfully within a matter of minutes they were smiling though some looked frustrated. I’d bought them a welcome to Y11 present, a fantastic puzzle pen and it was proving an interesting challenge for some. I treat my tutor groups to ‘surprises’ every so often, a fabulous new pen, a pencil, a lolly or an eraser. Perhaps if they are really good some chocolate. 

The pep talks, the stories and games of getting to know them have been fun and it is my privilege to be their tutor. To help support and guide each of them through the most stressful elements of their school careers to date; deciding on what to do in situations that arise, what they might want to do with their lives and where this might be beyond our 11-16 school and making sure they start the application process. 

In the two terms to date attendance is improving, consequences are decreasing and students flock to our classroom bringing friends along for a quiet place to sit and talk, perhaps with a question they need an answer to, to get support or just to eat their lunch and natter. We aren’t perfect but we try our best to do the right thing.

They are a lovely group of young men and women who are worried (and are pretending not to be) about their mocks, their post 16 experience,  friendships, doing the right thing and sticking to deadlines, oh and what to wear to prom. They are ace. 

We celebrate attendance targets that are met, boost and encourage those that just missed out, quiz each other working through Ian Gilbert’s Thunks, decipher what their future’s might be when they are my age (42!), watch Kid President videos, discuss politics and news stories and ask what we can do to make life that bit better for each other alongside the reading, revision, notices and checking they have the right equipment and uniform to ensure a positive day ahead of amazing learning. It’s a fun start to the day, with decent discussion unless they are particularly anxious, in which case I have to work that bit harder to make sure they smile before they depart for their first lesson. I don’t want to let them go unless I’ve managed to get a smile out of them!

I love being a tutor, I love that they have begun to text / Instagram / tweet / direct message each other if people are missing from registration, that they wrote the names of the student(s) across the doors of the advent calendar of absent peers that they didn’t want to miss out, that they all write beautiful and individual messages to Safyre (the young lady in the U.S. who only wanted cards for Christmas). As I’ve already said, they are ace. And I’m really lucky, and proud, to be their tutor. 

With three more terms to go I’m sure the trials and tribulations of teenage life will roll in but I’m certain that my lovely tutor group will do their best to look out for one another, will help and support each other with kindness and a sprinkling of banter to arrive at the best solution for themselves and their peers. Proof of this most recently is those that have had 6th form interviews freely sharing their experiences with the rest of the tutor group unprompted and unscripted to ensure each other are ready also helping each other complete application forms for 6th form providers. It is lovely to see them at their best.

They are, without a doubt, going to become even more wonderful young people who will change the world for the better.  

 Image thanks to Unify via Facebook.

Our favourite Kid President videos available on YouTube :        

And something that always keeps me smiling and motivated.   Image from http://www.funnyand.com

    Looking after one another

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    Staff welfare is important, we all get that and understand that there are senior and middle leaders in place to help and support us when times are tough.

     
    Yet why do so many of us soldier on, ‘keeping on keeping on’? Driving ourselves in to the ground when with help, guidance and support workloads can be looked at; support given to balance the marking, planning, assessing, feedback, updating, reporting, differentiating, and to quieten the increasing worry. All we have to do is to ask for help. Or perhaps take the time to notice what is going on around us.

    We do our best. Great teachers do that. Great teachers go out of their way putting families on hold, relationships on pause and the housework on (permanent) pause in order to hit targets, deadlines, complete paper work and admin required to allow middle and senior leaders to crunch the numbers and complete the reports. 

    I’ve known friends and colleagues waking at 3am having only gone to bed at midnight to tweak lesson plans and activities to ensure a positive and progressive learning environment where students make clear progress in the lesson. Or it could be to complete marking that set of books or KS4 or KS5 assessments as they have had and will have a full teaching day therefore won’t be able to squeeze marking in.

    I’ve heard of teachers driving home from their schools, 6th forms and colleges crying because they are utterly exhausted. Crying in the car on the way home because their families can’t find out they feel this way and the fear of asking for help for time for support is just too much. Heartbreaking isn’t it? 

    I’ve been told of exercise books being hidden in garages and caravans or in cars to avoid scrutiny because there just hasn’t been time to mark them in accordance with whole school or departmental policy. And the fear of being found out is too scary. So hidden they are, for now. 

    Can we go on like this? Frankly no. We can’t!  We’ll burn out the new (and old, as in experienced!) professionals joining the wonderful world of teaching. And we’ll say a teary goodbye to more than the 45,000 colleagues that departed this wonderful profession last academic year. We have to look at what we have to do and find some balance and some easy wins for ourselves and to support others through the turbulent and busy times. 

    Teacher wellbeing is important, quite simply, if the teacher isn’t well they perhaps can’t perform duties (not in an acting sense) well; they’ll struggle to do their job and this just will not do. It’s not fair on the teacher nor the students. A worn out, grumpy or frustrated teacher may not deliver feedback in exercise books and assessment files nor complete reports to their usual standard despite giving everything in the classroom. If something is amiss it could possibly arise in the classroom or corridor whilst on duty.

    Nothing supports an exhausted teacher more than ensuring they know they are fully trusted, supported and valued. Also knowing that someone cares. How is this achieved? It’s definitely isn’t rocket science but when we are all hard at it, and the pressure is on, we need to find a moment to stop, pause and think of others and notice the goings on. 

    A few simple steps could be followed; this could be smaller things like acknowledging a colleague in the corridor, car park or staff room with a smile and a short conversation, through to finding time to meet with them for a cup of tea or coffee and a catch up. Saying thank you; by acknowledging the work accomplished and the difference colleagues are making to the lives of the students in their classes and around school. Noticing a newly created display showcasing students amazing achievements and acknowledging this. Perhaps also by handwriting a note or card expressing thanks. Not rocket science but very welcome by the recipient I’m sure. 

    We are all aware of the squeeze on finances, the push for more rigour in the exams system, the unfair funding, the ebac is the only way, the ridiculous demands on teachers to multitask, keeping the plates spinning, the dilapidated buildings, the new inspection regime and concerns about the inconsistent messages from a variety of fields but we have to find another way. There will be another way, we just have to look for it. We have to cut through the rhetoric and seek out the other way; undoubtedly it will be a road less travelled but it’ll be full of adventure and great learning. And shows gratitude and that we care.

    @musicmind and the #teacher5aday movement have been fantastic in raising the profile of teacher welfare and wellbeing for a while now. And I know in several schools staff were gifted well being bags to show teams and individuals that they were valued and supported but also this served as a reminder to all recipients and gifters that staff need to feel noticed, valued and acknowledged. This is so inspiring. 

    The impact of this small gesture of kindness stops the daily grind and forces a moment to be found where teachers can just stop and feel valued, loved and appreciated. The emotional bank topped up with a healthy deposit of loveliness, well being restored and teachers pepped up ready for the next lesson, day, week or term. As Vic Goddard says ‘teaching is the best job in the world’ and I’m certain it is, but it’s hard work too and we all know about the tough times so we should keep an eye out for colleagues around us making sure it remains the best job in the world for them too!

    Everyone needs to feel valued, everyone likes (secretly) to be thanked and to feel supported, so if you haven’t yet had chance to write a note or send a card perhaps consider sending an email; please take a moment to acknowledge, appreciate and value a colleague. What a wonderful start to the new term it would be to be in receipt of such a lovely appreciative email. It’ll work wonders just you try it and see! 

    As @gapingvoid have said, we have to see what small changes we can make that will make the biggest difference. I’m certain that noticing, valuing and taking care of one another is certainly a very good place to start.  Have a really good rest everyone and make sure you get some positive deposits in the well-being bank this holiday.