Teaching the International Baccalaureate curriculum for languages means that images are used for stimulus quite frequently. The MYP has recently introduced a new Visual Interpretation objective. For the DP oral tasks, pictures are widely used. So all this makes it important for me as a teacher to find high quality images that can be used for free and without copyright restrictions. Here is a list of some of these sites:
I wanted to write a short blog about the Year 9 French that was due today. We asked the students to write their own question on the topic ‘The French at the Olympics’. The timing of the unit of work on sport couldn’t have been better! The students have really enjoyed their inquiry into the topic.
The method of presenting their research was important for this task. We ask them to present it in either and audio or visual (or both) way and NOT to use PowerPoint! They were given plenty of other options and it’s been exciting to see the results. I am putting them all on their Posterous blog for everyone to see. A nice application of the MYP theory of pedagogy and education.
This morning I was listening to my favourite podcast – The Whitehorse Inn – as the hosts talked about a book released last year called “The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains” by Nicholas Carr. It sparked my thinking a bit as I can relate to the general premise of the discussion – our attention span and ability to concentrate on doing one thing at a time is changing; diminishing. They also cited the article written by Carr in 2008 called “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” and I particularly picked up on the mention of memorisation and the idea that with Google and smartphones with us constantly, why bother memorising anything?
This discussion has caused me to reflect on my own students’ learning and especially my desire to have more technology in the classroom which is sometimes overshadowed by the fear that, sometime in the future, with so much technology, we won’t need to actually learn another language. I am finding this to some extent in my classes which have access to technology: the students are constantly lured by the ease of Google translate, not just for looking up words, but as a massive crutch when doing any kind of classwork. I don’t mind them looking up the odd word here and there and in fact, the ability to have the words spoken is a really useful tool in learning the pronunciation. What is more worrying is the students who sit with the computer open and constantly turn to Google before even having thought about what the translation is. They are accessing Google translate before accessing their own memories!
Moving on from this fear, I want to outline what my ideal classroom would look like with a pedagogy that works, coupled with the technology that I love (despite my fears). I am becoming more and more convinced of the success of the Flipped classroom model meshed with the MYP philosophy of Inquiry-based learning. It’s always been a struggle in teaching a foreign language to move away from the “sage on the stage” and become the “meddler in the middle” (thanks Erica McWilliam for those great descriptions). With the extremely practical Flipped classroom and the more conceptual Inquiry learning, I think there are exciting times for learning ahead in my classroom and indeed the teaching of languages in general. I plan to go into specifics in future blog posts, as I actually implement these practices more and more in my teaching.
Just a quick post to reflect on my lesson today with Year 7. It was an introduction to French, after the first part of the year learning Latin. I wanted to take a more inquiry-guided approach for this first lesson, in keeping with MYP principles. I set up a range of ”étapes” for the students to move through in groups. The stages consisted of finding out about famous French-speakers (using a QR code link), investigating online translators and watching a video on why French is a useful language to learn. They also worked out how to use a bilingual dictionary, taught each other some basic greetings and discussed what they already knew about France. I then asked them to reflect on the lesson as a homework task here.
I thought the lesson worked well, despite some students not listening to the instructions when they reached the first stage. But they soon got the idea. It gave me the chance to go the dictionary group and explain how to find the words and I was also able to help those teaching each other the words with the pronunciation. There could have been longer on each stage but I wanted to have a quick debrief before the end of the lesson. Some of the students in this class have particularly enjoyed Latin so I wanted to make starting French equally exciting!
For more ideas on introducing new topics / vocab with more of student-guided focus, see this great Google doc – a collaboration between the amazing MFL Twitterati.