Sunday, 25 November 2012

SSAT Conference 2012 (6) Helen Myers

Making the most of digital media: Helen Myers -The Ashcombe School (me!)

I have created a folder called ‘SSAT 2012’in my public dropbox.

In it there is:

  • The PowerPoint presentation
  • The list of references
  • The letter inviting you to spend a  day at The Ashcombe to experiment with ICT in the computer rooms (Weds 23rd January; Wednesday 26th June)
I selected ten things to talk about:

1)      A dedicated computer room, preferably with language management system for the ultimate in effective and efficient use of time e.g.  Sanako (classroom control, classroom monitoring, demonstration, listening, speaking, feedback, vocab testing, internet access)

2)      Subscription to Linguacope which includes access to downloadable images for making your own games.  We also subscribe to Activiscope to make ‘cool’ games like Penguin crossing

3)      TaskMagic – for very little effort of ‘input;’ you get massive ‘output’ of variety of games and activities.  Easy to differentiate within a class using the same source (e.g. contrast inserting gaps into a spaceless text and translating into TL using ‘Type’.  Note the online ‘textivate’ .. example shown with song text.. info gives link to YouTube video

4)      Use of Audacity / Cubase to produce audio  e.g. vocabulary list in French / English

5)      Facility to convert Word table (e.g. containing 2 columned list of vocab) into Powerpoint slides in 6 clicks! (separate doc available with instructions on how to do this)

6)      Facility to make ‘pictures’ of every slide in a PowerPoint the insert these into a movie

RESULT OF 4, 5 AND 6 = TeachProf video (follow link here)

7)      Vocabexpress – rigorous (!) testing of vocabulary – customisable to your text book or GCSE – offers spirit of competiton intra and inter school!

8)      CD ROMs e.g. Eurotalk – competitive element in networked version

9)      Authentic ‘soap’ e.g. ‘Plus Belle la Vie’ – quality video- - current contexts and language – suits short attention span (HEALTH WARNING : This is despised by native Marseillais delegate but I defended you, o pblv!!!! !!!!)

10)  Second Life – (a) recommend teachers can use to maintain currency of own language and learning new language skills (I demonstrated how I am learning Italain in SL and have made real friends there) (b) I invite anyone who is interested and enthusiastic to join me in a pilot project to use the 3D world to motivate pupils  to collaborate and communicate, initially with other UK schools, then eventually with our partner schools in other countries.

Feel free to email me for any further info.

SSAT Conference 2012 (5) Jane Breen

The exciting challenge of innovating language curriculum – Jane Breen, AST King Edward VI School (Boys’ Grammar, Chelmsford)

A great talk from a very accomplished teacher and presenter - and as an infrequent blogger, can I ask .... are blogs OK places to comment on the more informal aspect of hairstyle too?  If so .. well, I think your hair style is just great, Jane (and I will remove this comment if it is not appropriate!!)   I hope that we can entice her to our ALL London talks as well one day!
Jane compares the typical UK timetable organisation and allocation to languages unfavourably with other countries and sees this as an essential element to change.  She advocates intensive immersion in one language to get to a high standard in KS3 (Y7: 4 hours, Y8 4 hours Y9 3 hours, GCSE at the end of Y9) and introducing second language in Y9 (2 hours).  She likens language learning to learning an instrument: once you have learnt one instrument, it is easer and  quicker to learn another.

The raw stats she displayed for each language comparing Y9 performance to Y11 performance indicate that the strategy has worked as far as getting pupils to a higher standard, earlier.

 Key to success is

(1) the emphasis on the use of target language right form the start, reinforcing an d insisting on consistency (so not giving up on it!) (she showed videos which showed enthusiastic use of TL by pupils at a very early stage in Y7) and

(2)         explicit development of pupils as independent, resilient learners (ref  Carol Dweck – resilience, independence, self-management e.g. use of independent structures.

Her Top 8 strategies to promote ZfL (Zest for Learning)

1.      Promote fluency in the language (this is what learners expect)

To speak En in class they have to ask if they can in the TL

Translate INTO English, Discuss in TL

Language Placemats prepared based on needs for (a) High frequency transactions (peer greetings, class instructions, Teacher talk, setting up group work, directions, evaluations, routines, other)  (b)Pupil response (c) pupil/pupil interaction  ACTOON: make these mats!!!! Such a good idea . much more efficient than words around the classroom!

2.      Peer and self assessment in the TL

Speaking. Writing frames very early on. NB this is a formula for outstanding learning

Give structures for discussing e.g. evaluating a pop video

Give language for opinions and discussions (e.g, commenting on the quality of pronunciation / content / presentation.  Provide higher levels e.g. I like  / because / it could have been better if …

Typical activity: pupil/group presents, the others fill in a grid to evaluate, compare, contrast .. so student-led.  This way you can see and hear progression!

3. Assessment for learning

Collaborating / actively learning together

Use of mini whiteboards – ask a question – they are all engaged

Competitive work as a team

Double or quits activities (challenge: all class must write paragraphs perfectly – all responsible for checking – if all perfect, no hoomework; if one mistake, double homework .. pressure is on class to check not on individual who may make a mistake

4 Create an ‘interactive learning zone’ in your classroom!

Grammar hubs displayed ion classroom (video shown of a very impressive display where walls covered with useful reference)

Tasks set where pupils are ‘grammar detectives’ . give resources – they have to come up with the rules – watched video where they were truly ‘interacting’; with the display

5. Use interesting contexts

(I can’t read my writing here.. I must have been getting emotional!!)  Includes ‘Berlin

 6. Literature

  • Use fantastic stories (who can beat Faust?!!!!!_
  • perform,
  • repeat/retrieve/ remember /
  • group performance
  • reading aloud
  • choral chanting as a round (superb video of this in practice .. also reminds me how effective it is to SHOW good practice …) NB noise disguises the individual.. more confidence to speak aloud
  • Make mini books to share with other schools
  • Read aloud a story – buy ‘Reading Rugs’ (brilliant idea so much more comfortable than sitting at desks!)
8 Poetry or song

Task: match picture to text and pronunciation – superb example of der  Erlkönig …tragic story read aloud dramatically with relevant pictures and text displayed – really really great idea which anyone could do at any level!
Thanks SO much Jane for an extremely well thought out presentation which really set out a challenge! – follow links to curriculum for French and German to access resources.

SSAT Conference 2012 (4) Tim Crapper & Richard O’Driscoll,

‘Ofsted outstanding in MFL 2012

Tim Crapper, Head of French  & Richard O’Driscoll, Head of Spanish, Aylesbury Grammar School for boys

Tim and Richard modestly took us through some of the elements which secured a judgement of ‘outstanding’ from a recent OFSTED inspection led by the Lead Inspector for languages, Elaine Taylor.  I thoroughly recommend people to hear them if ever they get the chance. I have already asked them to come to talk at a future ALL London event!

They started with a most encouraging comment: ‘the normal can be outstanding’.  I’m listing a summary of what they said, and although they were very open about the fact that these things worked particularly for them in their school with able boys, I am sure that many elements can be replicated in all schools.  However, I am not so sure that it would be as easy for everyone to acquire their apparently effortless and natural  understated sense of humour and appreciation of 'things random'!!  Their students are lucky to have them as teachers!
  1. Breadth of Curriculum
·         support by SMT design of a strong option model
·         push for 2 MFL at GCSE
·         encourage minority languages
·         create a virtuous circle (it is ’natural to do a language’
·         work with partners (e.g. in HE)

2.  Maintaining take-up.  Strong support and leadership from SMT
·         Options system (no competitive recruitment needed – all languages support each other)
·         Options booklet positively encourages more than one language
·         Language assistants employed
·         Subject talks done in lessons to encourage take-up
·         Deliberately and explicitly teaching way beyond the scheme of work to give a ‘taster’
·         A parents evening for Y11 to encourage support from parents
·         Displays
·         Curriculum time (3 hours per language over a 12 week period)

3. Active and productive language skills
·         Focus on writing and speaking – pupils given longer to produce language – creative, imaginative, showing progression.  Introduce structure for writing: minimum word limit.  Teacher spends longer marking fewer pieces – much ‘bigger deal’ when work returned
·         Display of good work
·         Arrange for SMT to congratulate classes working well ( a good essay as worthwhile as pleasing exam results)
·         Praise and reward with small gifts (pleasure of a 15 cm ruler …!)
·         Visualisers: to share work, encourage, leads to spontaneous rounds of applause (so genuinely ‘OK’ to do well – achievement not embarrassing)

5. Class Activities

  • Scooter game in the time it takes for the music to finish, challenge is to create a crossword across the board with words called out
  • speed-dating (produce video)
  • extended writing on topic which interests them (example of a 15-page piece on Spanish food!)
  • Sixth form: creating trailers for films etc
5. Motivating Boys

  • Speak against the clock
  • Games
  • Anything random / bizarre (yet trying to avoid the extreme and the violent (!))
  • Adopt a role (avoid talking about yourself)
  • Languages ‘Food Fair’
6        Create a ‘buzz’

  • Teacher overt as a ‘language learner’ (e.g learning a new language – sponsored – challenge to test teacher on vocab list of new language!)
  • Use Twitter – be followed on Twitter @AGSFrench @AGSSpanish
  • Assemblies about languages arousing curiosity about words and message of importance pf languages
7        Visits, events, conferences

  • KS3 Trips (Present prizes in assembly; Display authentic resources in room
  • KS4& 5 Exchanges
  • KS5 study visit
  • In-school activities for all (Visit to Spanish restaurant; Sports and languages day; Double club; Y7 Bastille celebration Day; Anything linked to food  [quote of the day for me: ‘they are just basically eating machines’ …!!!!]
  • Gifted and talented activities (Created land where three languages spoken: F/G/S); language conference; extension classes e.g. on the historic background of a period; invite lecturer of HE; film-making club – currently making a zombie/ghost film where the zombie speaks French and the ghost speaks Spanish)
An absolutely fantastic talk.  Thanks so much for sharing AGS! 

SSAT Conference 2012 (3): Steven Fawkes

Keynote 1: New wheels? Innovations in language; progress in language learning.  Steven Fawkes.

 Steven is simply a brilliant speaker.  What he has to say is also brilliant.  His intelligent and clever use of language, humour, imagery and tone means that he can communicate sometimes controversial and critical commentary in a way which is absolutely compelling for all.

It almost seems blasphemous to attempt a summary of something which is such an integrated whole and delivered with such skill, but here goes …. 

His talk used the imagery/analogy of ‘wheels’ to explore to what extent we were being required to change, reinvent or ‘tweak’ our practice in the current climate.  A great image which really worked and which I am sure I will now appropriate!

1. A response to changes ….

  • There are many changes – this is to be expected from politicians who will claim that things need to change in order to make progress.  We need to identify which things we can affect, and which things are beyond our scope
  • We are losing support mechanisms / bodies (eg. QCA/CILt/LEA/ BECTA ect)
  • We still have our ‘shared history, profession, each other, ALL!
  • We need to question whether things are really ‘new’ – (do wheels need changing?) or whether they are things we already do/know about/ have in our attic (do we need to find/tweak our old wheel?)
  • The delightful ancient image of a ‘wheel of fortune’ illustrates how things change – sometimes you may be at the top of the wheel and fortunate, sometimes at the bottom and dressed only in your underpants (-you had to be there-) sometimes you are slipping back, sometimes moving forward .. but there are essential ‘principles’ which remain over time, regardless of the ‘age’ in which you are teaching
  • Despite what politicians may claim, change does not necessarily lead to a linear, an ever upward, onward trajectory in terms of progress. 
  • Note that during periods of ‘enlightenment’, some things are thrown into the shadow. Some words can be ‘in’ [currently: grammar,, literacy. Ofsted, rigorous] and others ‘out’ [culture, compelling learning experiences, social cohesion, skills, personalisation (aside: no one could ever define this one!) skills].  A diverting ‘game’ where we were invited to define words rarely used .
Things we can affect: access interesting resources; encourage curiosity; play with language; engage with people and culture. 

  • Examples of encouraging curiosity: show photos (which are personal, authentic, contextualised, arouse curiosity) and allow for spontaneous discussion.(who are they? What is happening? What are they saying? Steven shared wedding photos of his family at this point.
2. Ofsted

 Points about OFSTED which Steven shared with us (and at which point everyone in the room started writing!!)

  • 4 areas: Achievement, T&L, B&S, L&M
  • Overall question they ask while observing ‘is this good enough for the range of children in this class?’
  • Focus on achievement of different groups within the class
  • Languages should be developed not just tested (e.g. listening exercises should not be merely ‘summative’
  • Overriding principle:

Myths about ofsted:

  • ‘You have to do it like this’ .. actually no required method
  • ‘You have to report levels’ – no, levels are not used for  planning lessons
  • ‘You have to use a certain lesson plan format’ – no, this is just useful for ‘insurance’
  • ‘You have to use plenaries for assessment for learning’ – no, if constant AfL activities are ‘clunky’ (e.g. after every few minutes you interrupt flow of lesson to check progress) it detracts from time for learning
3. Learners
Main things needed: Engagement, active learning, less teacher focus.

Learning: not just remembering the learning, but knowing how to use it and wanting to use it

Wider context: how we compare with other countries.  When asked, our learners say they have comparatively lower level of confidence in using the language independently.  French in simlar position – their analysis is that it is because they over-emphasise the need for accuracy.  (General murmurs of assent to this in the room!)

New learners?  With a focus on exam success, a risk of reductionism.  Solution: find a different wheel to add to the movement ….. it may be in the garage!

Other changes: A level reform; Russell group support for languages; decline in HE languages; decline in experience of the year abroad (costly); universities moving to saying that languages are necessary for effective research.

Overall: Things we can do:

  • Re-discover things we used to do (new word coined by Steven: in – veter-ation!) Delightful examples from work  Steven’s former pupils did ‘in the past’ e.g. writing their own versions of La Fontaine fables
  • Be aware that there is a lobby in the House of Lords for languages
  • Be aware that some students are motivated by what will get you ‘good grades’ . others need more ’off the wall’ motivation and the ‘F’ word .. Fun! (e.g. choose to walk up stairs which make the sound of a piano keyboard rather than using the escalator)
  • Have the professional confidence to do carry things out – our responsibility to the future
  • CPD more difficult to get out on courses now .. so make most of remote, social, informal opportunities
  • Be aware of elements which are always needed: (4 skills; culture, vocab, grammar) and the activities we promote (explore, acquire and USE the language)
  • Do not limit to ‘what is needed for an A grade’ .. but teach what is of the ESSSENCE

SSAT Conference 2012 (2) : Bernadette Young and Dan Belcher

Welcome and introduction – Bernadette Young, Headteacher, Royds School Specialist Language College + Dan Belcher, SSAT.
Bernadette spoke extremely highly of the languages staff at her own school and made us all feel better about ourselves through reminding us of all the very wide range of skills and attributes which teachers use on a daily basis (actor, manager, writer etc etc) and of a national context which does not make things easier for us.   Link to ppt to follow.

It is heartening to know that there are Headteachers like Bernadette, who look further afield than their own school and  join with other heads to ‘represent’ the languages perspective at a ‘higher level’.   Thanks Bernadette for the extra work you do on our behalf and for the overt support you give teachers.

Dan Belcher

Two fun and productive ‘ice-breaker’ activities.  (1): Two truths and a lie (or something like that!).  Tell your neighbour three things about yourself.  Two are true one is not.  The neighbour has to guess which is the lie.  (2) On one post-it write a resource which you would recommend to others; on the other write what your biggest challenge is at the  moment.  Pass to different sides of the room for display and eventual transferral to document.

Dan proved to be the perfect ‘host’.  Pacey, lively, supportive, and a man with an interesting lifestyle judging by the ‘truths’ he shared about himself!
Back to 'overview' and links to other posts

SSAT Conference 2012 (1): Introduction and overview!

SSAT Conference November 2012,  ‘Innovation and progress in languages’: Notes and action points!

Thanks to The SSAT team for organising the national languages conference 2012 which took place in Birmingham  22-23 November 2012.  Claire Trott did a great job of bringing it all together!

Although I had to miss some of it through setting up and clearing up after my own session, and it was just so cruel that I had to miss parallel sessions (!), I was able to really enjoy what I did experience, and I have come away brimming with thoughts and practical ideas, adn with names of potential ALL London speakers whom I had not heard previously.

Much as I love the online communities (especially the yahoomflresources group, Linguanet and various Twitter lists) through which I benefit enormously from ‘continuous (literally! – I mean, every minute!!!) professional development’,  and much as I love being part of ‘Show and Tell / Teachmeet’ sessions where people can present ideas in short bursts, I personally still appreciate and benefit from the so-called ‘traditional conferences’ where people are given time to present their practice ‘as a whole’ (often including exploring rationale / underpinning principles as well as practical outcomes) and listeners can concentrate, reflect thoughtfully, quietly and unobtrusively as they go along, following up with questions and discussion either at the end of the talk or over the coffee and lunch breaks.

I am not going to attempt to reproduce in full what people said, but while it is fresh in my mind, here are a few summaries and personal thoughts and ‘points for action’ which I have taken away from the conference.
Following Joe Dale's advice to copy Isabelle Jones and Amanda Salt (stars in the blogosphere firmament!) I will split the notes into separate pages.  Click the hyperlinks to get to the pages!
Welcome and introduction – Bernadette Young, Headteacher, Royds School Specialist Language College + Dan Belcher, SSAT.
Keynote 1: New wheels? Innovations in language; progress in language learning.  Steven Fawkes.
‘Ofsted outstanding in MFL 2012. Tim Crapper, Head of French & Richard O’Driscoll, Head of Spanish, Aylesbury Grammar School for boys
The exciting challenge of innovating language curriculum – Jane Breen, AST King Edward VI School (Boys’ Grammar, Chelmsford)

Making the most of digital media: Helen Myers -The Ashcombe School (me!)


Saturday, 1 September 2012

Publishing an audio file on YouTube. Example: BBC Surrey News; Item on English GCSE Grades

I wanted to publish an audio file on YouTube.  To do this, you can make it into a video by attaching the audio to an image. The result is embedded above. 

I wanted to show how it could be done with tools which are generally accessible and free to anyone who has a windows computer.  (I have paid for and use Roxio Easy Media Creator usually.  This allows for finer editing and is especially good for adjusting audio levels when combining video and audio tracks.)

This is how I did it, and I'd be happy for any more advice if there's a better way!  Many thanks to Twitterfolk who helped me along the way with suggestions: @ebd35 (Mary Farmer) who retweeted my plea; @foxydaz, @claganach (who has a great blog links to how to use Movie Maker) and @teacherphili (Phil Longwell) who came up with the magic answer!

1. I captured the audio from the net using Freecorder (I am about to investigate Radio Sure)
2. I found the recorded file (the default location is within the program folder; you can change this through 'settings')
3. I edited the audio using Audacity (imported audio into a project then exported as an mp3)
4. I made a 'video' of the audio with Windows Live Movie Maker

To make a video by combining audio with a single image:
  • Save project (tab to the left of 'home') (and keep saving as you go on .!!)
  • Home / title / add title
  • Type in text you want to be on display to accompany the audio
  • Home / snapshot / save snapshot into folder of your choice (this creates a still snapshot of the title - Roxio lets you add a frame and text, but I can't find that option in WMM Live)
  • Remove Title
  • Home / add music (navigate to find your audio, then select)
  • Project / fit to music (thanks so much to Phil Longwell for this info!)
  • 1st tab / save movie / for a computer (name - it will save as a wmv file)

5. I uploaded the video to my YouTube channel  (upload / select files)  NB While uploading, give title and description, select a category, and click advanced to disable comments and ratings if you prefer this)

6.  I embedded tha video in this post (YouTube / share / embed | Then switched to 'HTML' view and paste code.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Satellite TV access - Update

In March 2009 I wrote a post about accessing French TV.
Here is an up-date about renewing cards.  It is what I send in a word doc to anyone who asks how we get satellite TV.. a mixture of services / advice from various fora.  Hope it helps someone!  (Thanks to David who is my in-house adviser!)

TotalSat UK

197 Fulham Palace Road, London, W6 8QX
Customer Service & Sales:
+44 (0) 20 8133 9898     +44 (0) 20 3080 0726

The New Fransat TNT pack as alternative to the French Freesat TNT SAT, it allows you access to all the French TNT channels (18 channels) from the Atlantic Bird 3 Satellite at 5 West.

Book an Engineer with TotalSat to upgrade your current system to FranSat TNT
We can upgrade the following systems anywhere UK Wide for just £115 inc VAT
Any Hotbird System
French Analogue Systems (or French Terrestrial System)
French Atlantic Bird Digital System
Any SKY UK System (no longer used)

French Channels

Installing French satellite tv in the Uk
07756 482 669

Viewing the set top box suppliers websites it is not immediately clear how long the encryption cards supplied with TNT and FranSat boxes will last. So I took a look at the TNTsat and FranSat websites to get to the facts:

The FranSat cards do not have a limit. Simple!

The TNT cards are initially guaranteed for 4 years. The broadcaster will turn on a reminder screen about 3 months before the card expires. You can update the card for 15Euro on the website or via a telephone number to be provided nearer the date the first cards expire.

The reason given for the approach that TNT have taken is that the programmes broadcasters only have rights within French territory , wheras the satellites used to broadcast the programmes, can be received throughout Europe.

11  Pourquoi a-t-on besoin d’une carte ?

Les satellites ASTRA couvrent l'Europe entière. Or pour les détenteurs de droits sur les programmes,

il est important que ceux-ci soient reçus uniquement sur le territoire français.

C'est pour cette raison que les chaînes de la TNT diffusées par satellite sont cryptées.

C'est également la raison pour laquelle les terminaux TNTSAT sont uniquement commercialisés en France. 

12  Quelle est la durée de validité de la carte TNTSAT ?

La carte TNTSAT a une durée de validité initiale garantie de 4 ans. Cette durée a été établie pour garantir

les détenteurs de droits sur les programmes contre un piratage éventuel.

Cette période commence à partir de la première utilisation de votre terminal TNTSAT.

 Les modalités de renouvellement des droits au dela des 4 ans ou de renouvellement des cartes TNTSAT seront

publiées sur le site avant l'échéance de la période initiale de 4 ans. Les modalités exactes dépendront

de la mise à niveau éventuellement nécessaire du système de cryptage, sur la base des principes suivants:            

-En l'absence de piratage avéré, les droits de la carte seront automatiquement prolongés d'un an.

-En cas de piratage avéré, il sera nécessaire de procéder au changement de carte en suivant les modalités

indiquées sur le site Internet, ou en vous adressant au magasin qui vous a vendu le terminal TNTSAT.

Dans tous les cas, votre terminal TNTSAT restera compatible et vous n’aurez pas besoin de changer de terminal.

De même, le service TNTSAT restera un service sans abonnement. 

13  Peut-on acheter la carte seule ?

Le label TNTSAT garantit que le terminal et sa carte permettent de décrypter les chaînes de la TNT.

Il est apposé sur la face avant de tous les terminaux compatibles. Un terminal TNTSAT est donc indissociable

de sa carte d’accès. Les cartes TNTSAT ne sont pas vendues séparément.

Plus Belle la Vie

Plus belle la vie (PBLV)

I make no secret of the fact that I am addicted to the French soap opera ‘Plus Belle la Vie’. It is broadcast every week day on France 3, 2015 – 2040 French time. I record it from our satellite TV and watch an episode every evening when eating my dinner. I could claim that I watch it purely for the linguistic and cultural benefits it offers a French teacher and learner as it naturally covers topics and issues which appeal to at least 6 million viewers of all ages, and presents current language in a ‘context’, in both audio and, thanks to subtitling for the hard of hearing, text. However, I am going to be honest and tell you that I watch it for the story lines, the human interest, and the quality of the acting. I just love it! I know that it is common to make fun of soaps and people who watch them, but I will defend my passion to the last! (Incidentally, I often find that people who disapprove have not actually watched the programme)

I got into the series via access to satellite TV, (see my separate blogposts - my March 2009 one which I have just remembered  is here, and an updated one is here) subscribing to a regular TV magazine (Telecablesat), reading the books which go with the series and helped to ‘fill in’ the storylines and the character profiles, and looking in detail at the website which gives a text summary of every episode if you have missed them (and if you are resident in France, lets you watch them).

My highlight
My summer holiday in 2012 had ‘Plus Belle La Vie’ as its leitmotif.
I drove down to Marseille (stopping off at St Flour), stayed there for 5 days, and just soaked up the atmosphere which is captured so well in the opening sequence of every programme .. sun, scenery, transport, emotions, to the accompaniment of Eva's song
I was a bit disappointed that the official 'tours' whch were advertised on the Internet no longer run (the walk and the boat trip), however I was still able to work out where scenes were filmed (tourner).
My hotel room looked across the vieux port; every morning I woke up to a ‘real’ version of the soap’s setting, but fortunately without any meddling from Mirta, the owner of the soap's 'Select Hotel'!
The tourist office’s walking tour included the ‘Panier’ district and a stop in the ‘Place des 13 cantons’ which was the inspiration for the fictional ‘Place Mistral’, the hub of all activity in the series.
I later went back and spent ages in the PBLV Boutique, talking with the delightful assistants who told me all sorts of ‘feel-good’ stories about fans who had told them how the soap had helped them in bad times or inspired them. I bought lots of ‘merchandise’ .. in particular, I cannot wait to read the ‘Lettre à Johanna’ .. the book written by Blanche Marci to her estranged daughter.
I sat outside the ‘Le bar des 3 coins' and imagined that it was my favourite waiter Thomas who was serving me. And perhaps I caught sight of Roland and Mélanie inside ...
Opposite the PBLV shop, there is a little cinema where I watched a short film which gave an open, honest and compelling background to the series, sharing the concerns of the early days when the ratings were low, and the challenge of producing a soap which combines so many genres (hospital, police, school, café neighbourhood .. they are all there!).
I went by bus to Le Parc Borely (where many outside scenes are filmed) and may be that was Blanche pushing Noé on a swing.  Rudy and Ninon were definitely nowhere near the bushes!
I went on a boat trip aroud the Calanques, and I think I spotted Vincent Chaumette engaged in conversation with some shady characters ...
I did not contract any illness, so sadly had no excuse to go and see my very favourte character, the  laid-back, cool Guillaume who seems to have a knack for understanding people (including his son, Nathan, who I was surprised to learn is real life brother to real life Ninon!) .. but I saw several police cars.  No sign of Boher or Samia though; they are probably taking a break to relieve the tension of impending parenthood!

I can't wait to go back during 2013 when Marseille will be cultural city of Europe and ....who knows ...  perhaps they could reinstate the PBLV tours?!
I have already used the occasional episode in my lessons to give my pupils the flavour of ‘French TV’ and I was pleasantly surprised at the success. The pure quality of a TV production somehow seems to engage people (hence why I regret the passing of up-dated BBC language learning programmes) – and the clear visual support helps understanding of the story line.

So, what next?
I have now joined the Facebook PBLV page
I’m going to put together a simple ‘family tree’ to help people ‘get into’ the story.
I will compile a list of links for anyone who would like to join my addiction – initially they are here at the end of this post and I will add to them … but eventually I will perhaps put it onto the mflresources wiki
I appeal to anyone who is already in the PBLV camp to contact me and tell me about any groups there are for fans (Dominic, you don’t know how happy I was to read that I was not the only one!)
I am going to write to the PBLV team and see if there is any way at all that I could get to see the studios or the actors. That’s what I really really want ..!!!

Some links
My Flickr set for Plus Belle la Vie
Wikipedia article – an excellent introduction
France 3 Plus Belle la Vie website
Plus Belle La Vie website

Facebook groups: (I'll try to work ou tthe differences some other time . I think the first one is the official one!)
One Facebook group
Another Facebooko group
Yet another Facebook group

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Graham Davies

Graham Davies / Groovy Winkler  /GroovyGuzi / Daisybundle

My tribute

Graham Davies just seems to have been ‘always there’ in my professional life.

I have found two ‘tributes’ which I have already written, one on his LinkedIn  profile and one on my Second Life blog, (copied below) but I’d like to bring things together here.

He devised ‘Fun With Texts’ and this was one of the first programs I ever used for teaching languages.  I still find it to be one of the most flexible, effective and efficient ways of using ICT, especially with the option of adding sound and video.  Thank you for the program Graham.

I like to use Graham’s company ‘Camsoft Partners’ for advice about what digital resources to buy.  I so appreciated the time Graham would give to talking through products and his absolute honesty about what was likely to ‘work’ and what may not.  Thank you for your advice on software Graham.

Graham was a prolific contributor to many of the electronic fora to which I belong (for example Linguanet, mflresources, TES forum, Twitter, Facebook, the Avalon Ning, Eurocall Ning), always offering prompt, informed and helpful information especially with regard to any queries about using ICT with languages.  I’ve just done a search and there are literally thousands of postings which will continue to help and support us.  Thank you for your advice and support GroovyGuzi.

It was Graham who introduced me to Second Life through a posting to the Linguanet forum inviting us to a Virtual International Teacher’s Conference called ‘Slanguages’.  In the form of his avatar ‘Groovy Winkler’ he patiently helped me as I (literally) ‘found my feet’ there (it is so easy to lose body parts there!) and we have both been promoting its merits, while being fully aware of its drawbacks.  I so enjoy teaching and learning in Second Life, based on Edunation, an island where he also had his home and where we are planning to hold a celebration of his life, probably on Sunday 1st July.  Thank you for your patience and enthusiasm Groovy Winkler!

Graham has conscientiously and selflessly maintained, stored, and shared his knowledge of the use of ICT in language learning via the ICT4LT site which is an excellent repository of information.  Graham seems to have ‘tried out’ any new tools / systems available (he is one of the first people with whom I ever skyped!) and he is always honest and open in his analysis of their effectiveness.  In particular, he has been willing to change his mind if his experience has changed.  “When I find new information I change my mind; What do you do?”  (A quote often attributed to Keynes). Thank you for your integrity Graham.

I am sure that I met Graham without realising it when I visited Ealing college in my early days as a language teacher, and I have had the pleasure of meeting him several times since: he came to our school for an ICT workshop, I heard him speak at the ‘Digital Kitchen’ event and we met at a conference in Oxford.  However, the occasion I remember most and when we spent longer together was in Bordeaux for the 2010 Eurocall Conference which had a strand on Virtual Worlds.  I attended particularly on his recommendation, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  He gave a superb keynote presentation, summarising the history of ICT, he led the ‘special interest group’ for virtual worlds, and I enjoyed his company at the various social events.  Thank you for your friendship and company Graham.

Graham has shared with us all what a rich and rewarding personal life he has led .. how jealous I have been when he went off to the slopes and sent us pictures when we were back at school; how delighted when he has shared photos of his daughters and grandchildren.  It has been lovely to meet his wife Sally both in her Second Life persona as the fashion-conscious ‘Flopsy Bookmite’ and in real life where we did manage a bit of dancing in Bordeaux.  My thoughts and prayers are very much with her and her family at this time.  I am sure that they will draw comfort from the hundreds of tributes posted in on all the fora.

Thanks for everything, Graham.  I will miss you.


LinkedIn profile recommendation:
Dec 12th 2009
“I have always been impressed with Graham's work in the field of languages and ICT. I have been using and recommending to others his program 'Fun With Texts' for many years, and was delighted when a version came out which allowed the combination of text, audio and video. He has an extremely comprehensive knowledge of IT, and is keen to seek out and promote good practice in this area. Most recently I have been very appreciative of the guidance and help he has given me as I have entered Second Life. Thanks Graham!”December 12, 2009

Edunation Hero excerpt from my Second Life Blog.:
Groovy Winkler aka Graham Davies keeps up to date with all things related to IT and languages. Government initiatives may come and go but Graham continues voluntarily to maintain the most comprehensive and up-to-date website I know related to these topics and his knowledge was translated into a succinct, reflective and entertaining overview of the history of IT and languages at the recent Eurocall conference in Bordeaux. Through his contributions to various fora, I learnt about Second Life and hurriedly entered it in time for a conference back on October 2007. Despite the initial frustration of getting stuck in pink bushes [I always forget their name .. help, Gwen! . you know, the ones you get in the centre of dual carriageways in Italy …] and falling into deep waters, I was fascinated, and stayed.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

ALL London June Event 2012 - Thanks!

ALL London had another lovely morning together on 16th June 2012.

I have uploaded a short description to the website here: and if you click on the photo (featuring our own, our very own Prim interacting with her heroine, Rachel Hawkes!) this will take you to the Flickr stream of all the photos taken yesterday by Richard.

Thanks to:
  • The Language Centre of the LSE (and in particular Nick Byrne) who subsidised the cost of hiring the lovely accommodation - and a great helpful reception
  • Our sponsors Vocabexpress, Sanako, OUP and Network for Languages - all coordinated by Stephane Derone of Linguascope
  • The European Commission for all of the freebies!
  • Our fantastic speakers, James Stubbs, Jeremy Harmer and Rachel Hawkes [Click on their names for a link to their online 'presence' and relevant resources)
  • The national President of our Association, Bernadette Holmes who came to support and give us an up-date
  • The committee and other friends who all 'roll their sleeves up' to set it all up
  • The quality 'audience' who got up early on a Saturday morning and comfortably listened and interacted.. you were wonderful!
Personally I found the morning really interesting. Because we had three plenaries I got to hear more of the talks than I usually do (as I usually flit around checking all is OK in parallel rooms!). The speakers had not ‘collaborated' beforehand, but there was a clear link between all talks, and they cleverly drew attention to these links. (I always feel that is a real skill .. to be able to listen the weave a link and a response into what you have planned to say).
After hearing James Stubbs for about the fourth time, I am now DETERMINED to do more about getting more target language into my classroom .. it makes so much sense. So often we hear about the importance of being ‘immersed’ in language for it to ‘fix’ .. and what better immersive experience to exploit than the actual classroom routines and experiences which can all contain core structures which can subsequently be applied to other scenarios. I will never ever forget the difference between ‘why’ and ‘because’ in Spanish now, having had James thow me a pig in two halves (why are you late?) which I then had to Velcro together to answer ‘why’. This reminded me of the key reference sheet I produced some years ago and I have forgotten to issue recently ( I attach it!). And as for songs . . I have absolutely NO DOUBT of the power of song to fix language! When I am retired, perhaps I will devote the rest of my life to a scheme of work through song!!! I already have the publications James has already released, I’ve bought the new DVDs and look forward to getting a further ‘fix’ of his ideas, presented in such an engaging way. Here is the presentation he gave Do explore his blog – it’s wonderful!

I was absolutely delighted that Jeremy Harmer agreed to come and speak to us. I found his talk extremely thought-provoking … (if you go to his blog here you will see the questions he was addressing) ) and the way in which he presented the ideas was entertaining, stimulating and memorable. I will continue to debate the questions internally. I hope it is not simplifying my response too much to say that it reminded me that it really is worth taking time to reflect critically on the nature of learning and what sort of learning takes place in various different types of activities…and I agreed with Rachel’s observation in the lively debate that there is no ‘single answer’. (For what it’s worth, my own feeling is that variety is essential when you are teaching a class of 30 individuals... not all learners suit all activity-types .... but at the same time we must not be afraid of doing what may seem boring / repetitive exercises .. good pronunciation and understanding lots of ‘words’ are key to using language!) Jeremy’s air-bowing of the viola part to Elgar’sSerenade for Strings led to several comparisons between music and language training .. it would be great to have a separate thread to discuss this.  

Finally, it was as always an absolute delight to hear Rachel Hawkes who came along even though she is very very very busy at the moment! Lots of great ideas for methods which will keep pupils on board and learning within the constraints of our heavily assessed regime. Her site is an incredibly rich resource for all language teachers and I cannot recommend it highly enough: Go to the ‘presentation and training’ section and specifically the power point for our event is top right. And true to form, she is so thorough that you can actually read her ‘script’ in the notes layout ., thanks SO much Rachel! She also made reference to resources on the TES .. it is great that she is now overseeing the organisation of these great resources contributed by teachers. The area which particularly ‘spoke’ to me was that of listening. I love her ideas for making listening less ‘threatening.... more of a ‘collaborative learning experience’ than a ‘testing ’ exercise… one example of doing this was to assign ‘odd questions’ to some pairs and 'even questions’ to others before getting their responses . and guiding the repsone to be ‘we think that the answer is …’

And finally, many thanks to the All London committee who give up time to come to meetings during the year and just know what to do when they turn up at the venues! If anyone fancies joining us, just let us know!

Looking forward already to seeing people at our next events: Saturday October 20th 2012 (a social after the Language Show)' Saturday January 19th 2013 for 'The January Event' and Saturday June 15th 2013 for the next 'June Event' organised with Linguascope. (Follow the great page Linguascope has already set up!)

Sunday, 27 May 2012

ALL London June Event 2012

I do hope that you have all been saving Saturday morning 16th June 2012 for ALL London’s June Event! (that’s in 2 weeks’ time)

We are really excited about it for several reasons:

  • We have another fantastic line-up of speakers: two regular favourites: James Stubbs (all the way from Spain) and Rachel Hawkes (all the way from Cambridgeshire); a new speaker for us but an extremely well known speaker in the world of TESOL  - Jeremy Harmer . so we hope that we’ll attract some TESOL friends along as well
  • We are in a lovely central venue – the London School of Economics . really easy to reach . so we hope people will consider coming even if they are not London-based (please check website mid-week to get exact room location and I will post info here too)
  • We have nice friendly sponsors – Vocab Express, Sanako and Network for languages(the first 100 of you get exciting pens and notepads form Network for Languages!) (and by the way, if anyone else out there wishes to sponsor our event and bring along publicity, please get in touch with me
  • The European Commission brings along lots of freebies for us to take away and use with our classes
  • We have a stand to try to encourage you to join ALL if you are not already a member
  • We always appreciate meeting up with ‘regulars’ but know that we will also meet new people
  • We get to wear our ALL London Committee T shirts in a range of complementary colours (!)

And lots of other reasons.

So please please come along … if at all possible, let us know beforehand so that we order enough refreshments.

As always we keep costs to a minimum for you so that as many people can come come along as possible .

The invitation is pasted after my signature and attached and downloadable from this page:

Please pass this invitation on to as many people as you can!

Many thanks!

Helen Myers
ALL London Chair

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Goethe Institute May 2012


I am so pleased that Karl Pfeiffer reminded me about the open invitation to celebrate 50 years of the Goethe Institute and its re-opening in London today. It was a lovely, friendly and lively event!

When I saw the pictures on the website beforehand I thought that the walls had perhaps been 'photo-shopped' (!) but to my delight, they really *are* multi-coloured and bright! It was a real privilege to hear the artist commissioned to do the work (Gloria Zein) explain the rationale for her decisions about the paintwork and the sculptures.

The website has lovely pictures but here are some I took today.