On 21st and 22nd April I was privileged to be at Durham University as co-organiser for this conference for the second time. I have to admit it gets better every year… even if I have to say so myself!
I have gathered the highlights and tips shared during the sessions which I attended. I hope you find them useful.
Our first keynote speaker, on the Saturday morning, was Sergio Troitiño and what a lovely speech he delivered. He reminded us that technology is good if it is used well; if it is not used well, the results are worse than without technology. About flipped learning, he shared with us his WSQ method: ahead of his lesson, his students WATCH, SUMMARISE, QUESTION. They can ask him questions before of they attend the lesson, thus informing Sergio’s planning. It was his first time delivering a talk in English; I hope he will now feel confident to give many more!
Julie Hall was then sharing with us how she encourages independent use of Target Language at Ponteland High School. She believes that the children needed to feel that they could speak and communicate. They become collectors of language and ask for language that they want to know. The focus is on high frequency multiple use language which can be retrieved and recycled, and on communication. Julie recommended The Language Gym website.
Xavier San Isidro told us about a CLIL project in a multicultural setting: a longitudinal study on Galician students, teachers and families. They looked at everyone’s attitudes, motivations and perceptions and the code-switching which was taking place between the languages studied. I was particularly interested in how the parents got involved as I am always keen to get more parental involvement here in England.
Patrizia Ronchetti Middleton shared with us how she got her students involved in the production of a magazine, Andiamo. They write 2 editions per year; the level of language of their work was high but the principle could be used at a lower level too. Her research showed that the students were more engaged in their writing as a result.
We had a small exhibition at UK Lingua too, in the area where we had our breaks. Thanks to Sarah from European Schoolbooks, Charlie from Bili and Cristina representing the Insituto Cervantes for taking part. We are looking to make this a bigger feature nest year do do get in touch if you are interested!
After our lunch break, I was on and talking about engaging students with authentic stories. If you are interested, you can view my presentation here.
Olga Zabotkina followed me and talked about engaging students through songs and fairy tales, in other words music and drama. You can use them so much to practise: listening skills, pronunciation, understanding of grammar, vocabulary, concentration, memory skills etc. Olga has also found that through her use of songs her pupils were less nervous in their speaking and listening exams. Songs also enable to highlight cultural differences. We enjoyed watching Olga’s pupils have a great time singing!
I then managed to catch part of Benoît Le Devédec‘s presentation about project-based collaborative strategies with The French Heritage Language Program in Miami. At the end of it, the pupils created a small theatrical performance for a show and it was very successful. Benoît also told us about IF profs, the latest initiative by the Institut Français which is creating a social network specifically for people teaching French. Do join us!
The last panel of the day started with Lucia Cabrera-Romero. She asked an interesting question: why are songs not used more, especially in textbooks? She looked at different types of songs (poems put to music, songs that reflect oral language, songs that use metaphor and more complex structures) and creative ways of using them: she colour-codes parts of a song, gives the students multiple choice to fill in gaps, uses them to extract grammar points and prepare debates too. More reasons to use songs!
Staying with songs, Stephanie Liddle shared with us the results of her action research study of using music to aid secondary German teaching. She also found that it helped the pupils speak more spontaneously but advised us that a teacher being cheesy was ok as it can seem cringy to them if we try to be “cool”! Examples of activities she recommends: find the adjectives, work out how to pronounce a line, find opposites and adapt to use in own writing. Stephanie recommended the site Lyrics Gaps, a website well worth visiting!
My last session of the day was with Charlie Foot from Bili, the online language exchange. As a teacher, he identified the need for authentic communication and set up the platform. I have been using it since September in the school where I teach Spanish and my pupils love it! They want to write in Spanish to their friends, they ask to write and some of them even do more at home. It is totally secure and can be used to create new links or reinforce existing one. Do ask Charlie (or me) if you have any questions about it!
At the end of each day, we did a fun quiz and many amazing Chatterbags were won as prizes. Thanks Mark! You can own one for just £6.99!
In the evening many of us met up for a conference dinner at Lebaneat in Durham where we had a lovely meal. The crack was great too!!
On the Sunday, our key note speaker was Rachel Hawkes who has her own website, which many of you will already know and use. Some of her key advice, coming from research, was: to create our own weather in the classroom and ignore the social climate; to involve the parents in the learning (including inviting them to lessons and wine & phonics evenings); to focus on the relationship between teachers and pupils; to give the children a real sense of progress; to give elements of choice (eg what is your favourite word this week?). It was inspiring, as ever.
Lou Smith , a primary languages teacher but originally a scientist, looked at the neuroscience behind learning strategies and memorisation techniques. She confirmed that repetition commits items from our short-term to our long-term memory; that we use 3 main strategies: break information, make associations and use mnemonics; that using movement helps as it stimulates the 2 halves of the brain together; that having a discussion with pupils about how the brain works is worthwhile. It all made a lot of sense!
After Lou, Mikiko Kurose and Sandra Reisenleutner presented about the use of audio-visual technology to animate the language experience. Their students were given the task to give up something for 3 days then vlog about it. The engagement came from the emotional involvement in the task; shy people could also rehearse and if need be record their video again. They were then paired up with native speakers who gave them feedback in the form of video too. This could be replicated at lower levels; am sure Y13 pupils would enjoy this activity!
After another lunch break, Sally Wagstaffe was talking about translation, motivation and the CEFR (of which there is a new version out). Some people are for the teaching of translation, others against; used flexibly as an ingredient is when it works best. It encourages the skills of mediation, reception, production and interaction included in the framework and applies to both speaking (interpreting) and writing skills. Sally’s students saw translation as a useful way of learning, a skill in its own right, enjoyable and intellectually challenging. It seems to me like translation is worth teaching, and at all levels too!
Gaby Wright followed and shared with us how she used the library as a tool to teach a module on the history of translation. Unfortunately, as it was being refurbished, she could not take her students there. She therefore did videos of herself in the library, including films with some very special books, to bring the library to her students. Though it was a lot of work for Gaby, you could tell that she enjoyed doing it andit was worth is as the feedback was very positive: the students requested more videos!
Last, but not least, Karl Mclaughlin told us about how he used learning by doing: using media translation for language enhancement in the MFL classroom. With a background in journalism, Karl developed this project which uses a variation of translation based on practical skills and communication. The students had to use the media and press releases in the target language to select articles which they would turn into a piece of news in English but for a different audience, in this case an English-speaking community in the Dordogne. More communication with a purpose!
THANK YOU SO MUCH TO ALL WHO PRESENTED AND ATTENDED! I was sorry I could not split myself into 2 or even 3 as I missed out on parallel panels and other very interesting talks. Please do share if you attended other sessions and would like to tell us about what you learnt there.
None of this would have been possible if it was not for Penny Johnson, the original organiser of the first UK Lingua conference in 2016 and the drive behind it all ever since. Thanks for everything Penny!