We are almost at the end of 2015

This year has flown by, as I’m sure it has for you too, so I’ve been looking back at the past year and thinking about what has happened. There have been many inspiring things and many sad ones, especially in recent weeks. It has been very clear how people have pulled together in times of difficulty. The news this evening started with the community spirit in Glenridding, Cumbria and the footballers from Carlisle United helping stranded people and then swiftly moved to the concert in Paris.

There are so many moving news items that can be discussed in the language classroom. News headlines are of course very good for short translation tasks. Students can work in pairs or small groups, breaking down short paragraphs and make up a newspaper report in the target language. It is helpful if while they are working they can categorise nouns, verbs, adjectives and ad verbs etc. as the greater awareness they have of language, the more confident they become. Younger pupils can enjoy word searches like these seasonal ones for French, German and Spanish. Word puzzles are popular with all age groups and are very useful tasks that build vocabulary. As we are inundated with adverts in the lead up for Christmas. There are many ways that analysis of media input in our lives and the advantages and disadvantages can provide challenging contexts when working with older students.  They will be expected to “deduce meaning from a variety of short and longer spoken and written texts, involving some complex language and more abstract and unfamiliar material, including short narratives and authentic material addressing a wide range of contemporary and cultural themes.”

The new GCSE and new A level specifications will bring new opportunities. As I’ve already said in a previous post, there is no doubt that authentic texts will be used and students will be expected to be able to deduce meaning, to work things out. I was asked last week why I feel positive about the future of language teaching. I’m not old (!) but have taught so long that I have seen many changes in the teaching of languages over the decades. I’m not cynical either! I could be saying, “Oh no not again, another new GCSE specification…” I am a grandparent now and this has helped me to see developments in a way through a different lens.

Let’s think about Theme 3. Malala Yousafzai’s attitudes making sure that she continues her fight for education touch us all. The new film He named me Malala could be used as part of character education initiatives. There are many other materials to use in the classroom, photos and film clips and trailers to enhance schemes of work. Take a look and see how these photos could be used to compare and contrast? Pupils with curious attitudes and good dictionary skills will be able describe a couple of them either as a speaking or a written task.

Using the interactive map on the link is a good way to reinforce locational knowledge and can lead to a lot of really good target language use. You could start the process and ask a couple of more confident pupils to come forward and lead the questioning.

I remember reading this “a 90-year-old Kenyan woman who goes to class with six of her great-great-grandchildren is believed to be the oldest primary school pupil in the world. Sitting at the front of class four in her school uniform, Priscilla Sitienei listens intently while she writes the English names of animals in her notebook.”

This was quickly followed by a Google doodle honouring Kenyan Kimani Maruge.

We can learn from other cultures and their attitudes to education. The oldest students I have taught were 82 and 80! They were amazing. They were in my adult education class and just kept coming back for more and more and they really listened intently. They were an inspiration to the rest of the group. The world is an inspiring place and teaching languages in this digital age means we can research such interesting teaching materials for lessons from other continents.

Have a really good break and a well deserved rest.