At the weekend I had the pleasure of presenting at the Teach Languages virtual conference with a focus on motivation and engagement. I shared lots of practical ideas to inspire a love of language learning. It was great to be able to present alongside the wonderful Crista Hazell, the marvellous Claire Wilson and the incredible Paula Mourelle. I really learnt a lot from their presentations that I can't wait to embed into my own classroom practice.
I have also been blown away by the amount of lovely feedback we've all received on social media and in the Zoom chat! Thank you so much to everyone who gave up part of their weekend for CPD and for everyone's kind words - I'm hoping I've managed to respond to everyone on Twitter now! And a huge thank you again to Stéphane for the fantastic opportunity.
You can read all the #teachlang tweets here and if you didn't get chance to join us at the weekend you can still watch the presentations here if you have a Linguascope subscription.
I've added some of the links I mentionned in my presentation below, but do get in touch if you need me to explain anything further.
If you find my resources and ideas useful do consider pressing the coffee button.
Although I love my career and can’t see myself jumping ship anytime soon, teaching is tough. It’s been especially tough over the last year throughout the pandemic as we’ve had to get to grips with teaching remotely and trying to engage students in learning via a computer screen, when often we can’t even see or hear them. Luckily we have a ton of online tools at our disposal to enable us to do this, so I’ve compiled a list of my favourites.
This is the fourth in a series of blogposts about remote teaching. As I've said in my previous posts I am by no means an expert in any of this. Although I'm fairly confident with technology, this has all been a major learning curve for me, but I'm happy to share what I've learnt in the hope that someone might find it useful. In this post I'm focusing on some of my top tips for teaching a live lesson via Microsoft Teams.
This is one of a series of blogposts on remote teaching during the pandemic. You can find my previous blogposts here and here. In this post I'll explain how I schedule my lessons.
This is the second in a series of blogposts looking at remote teaching during a pandemic. Click here to read my previous blogpost.
At our school each class has its own group set up on Teams, so for example the only people who have access to my 8ESP3 team are the students in that class and my colleague who also teaches this group.
Whilst exploring the tools available on Teams I noticed you can add links to the tabs at the top. I’ve added the specific links for Memrise and Seneca, so that students can simply go on and click the tab, then sign in to be added to the correct groups on those sites.
I also changed the class avatar for each of my groups to make it easier to find the class I’m looking for. Simply click on the avatar and choose one of the many images already there, or click upload to add your own. I made my own using Canva.
I blogged during lockdown one about virtual classrooms, so you can read more about that and find a free template by clicking here, but essentially it’s everything my students need hyperlinked on one PowerPoint slide. I did this to make things a bit more student friendly and because I wanted them to have everything in one place. The one below is actually one I made when the schools were “open” (the schools have always been open) before the current lockdown, so it needs updating, but it has links to any websites we use, as well as links to any important folders and documents on Teams.
A lot of us are already doing all of the above anyway, but I thought I'd share just in case someone is struggling to get to grips with Teams. Hopefully it's helped someone somewhere! Feel free to ask me any questions and I'll do my best to answer them.
If you've found this or my other posts useful please consider contributing to my tea/coffee/hot chocolate (gin) fund. It's very much appreciated!
I’m going to start off by saying that I am by no means an expert at teaching remotely and there are many people out there who are far more qualified and competent than me at it. The wonderful Joe Dale is the expert when it comes to all things tech. I also highly recommend following Esmeralda Salgado, Jane Basnett, Jerome Nogues, Elena Díaz, Jimena Licitra, Miss Fedrizzi, Swavesey MFL on Twitter, as well as EmmaMFL on Instagram. To be quite honest I don’t think I even knew Microsoft Teams existed until Covid19 came along and forced classroom teachers everywhere to essentially retrain as online educators overnight.
I'd say I’m reasonably competent and confident when it comes to using technology. Often I can figure things out for myself simply by playing around and learning from my own mistakes. Whenever I’m not sure about something I head to Google or I’ll ask the #mfltwitterati – or even, as was the case in my Year 9 lesson last week, ask the students (I couldn’t figure out how to stop the notifications, so I asked a student who I know is a tech expert and within about a minute, he had posted a screenshot and instructions in the Teams chat: problem solved). We’ve also had some fantastic in-house training from incredible colleagues who are experts at all things Microsoft. I feel very lucky that we’ve been given so much guidance on how to use Teams and we’ve had all our Teams set up for us. However I know that not everyone is in the same boat. Every school has approached things differently and although there are many teachers for whom teaching remotely has been a breeze, there will also be many who are naturally feeling quite anxious about it and are just getting to grips with the basics. I think we are all just doing our best and it’s important to be kind to ourselves, as well as to others.
This blogpost will be one of a series of blogposts in which I’ll be discussing how I’m getting to grips with teaching my students remotely, as well as sharing some of my favourite tips and tools. In this first blogpost I’ll just be providing a bit of background and letting you know what I did during the first lockdown compared to what I’m doing now.
Keep your eyes peeled for future blogposts where I’ll be sharing a few of the things that I've found helpful when using Teams and teaching live lessons. These might be things I’ve learnt from colleagues in my school, ideas I’ve seen on Twitter, or things I’ve picked up myself when exploring Teams. Hopefully there will be something of use to someone.
Rewind to the first lockdown in 2020: Weekly rotas being sent out by email with different staff in school each day to teach / supervise a group of key worker students; each member of my department responsible for the setting of work and teaching of live lessons for certain year groups; students encouraged to email their work to their usual class teacher (cue daily deluge of emails which I found myself responding to even on my days off and at the weekend, just to keep on top of everything); responding to emails from students and parents who were naturally struggling to get their heads around Teams.
This was all at the same time as looking after a two year old at home. Although we were allowed to send our little boy into nursery, we decided to keep him at home with us and it was really tricky at times. I would be constantly responding to emails on my phone whilst looking after a 2 year old, or my husband (who works full-time) would work in the evening and look after our little boy during the day to allow me some quiet time to get on with lesson planning or to teach my live lessons. I know many people were (and still are) in the same position.
Current set up:
This time our son (two year old) is at nursery the days that I'm working. This is not a decision we have taken lightly and I know it’s a decision some people will disagree with, but it’s our decision to make and so far it’s working well for all of us. If he was older and didn’t crave as much attention, we would probably keep him at home with us.
Rotas are being emailed out with different staff in school each day to supervise children of key workers; students are mostly following their usual school timetable remotely; I’m still working part-time and teaching live lessons from home on the days I am not in school supervising, as well as marking and responding to emails from students. I now have a much better understanding of Teams and am using a variety of tools at my disposal to support my remote teaching.
How have you found the transition to the "new normal"?
Is there anything in particular you're finding difficult that you'd like me to blog about?
Let me know in the comments or via social media.
As I said before, I'm no expert and I definitely don't have all the answers, but I'm keen to help where I can.
One of my favourite tools, and probably my most used website of 2020 is Canva. There is a free basic version, which in my opinion is excellent anyway, but luckily for us educators we also have free access to their premium account.
Canva is a design platform that allows you to easily create presentations, worksheets, posters and much more. You can do this from scratch or adapt one of the 420,000 templates which are readily available on Canva.
I am flattered to have been asked to speak at the 2021 Teach Languages conference on Saturday 6th February. This is my first conference, so naturally I'm already very nervous about it eventhough at the time of writing this blogpost it's still over 4 months away. I'm particularly anxious about it as I'm speaking alongside Crista Hazell, Claire Wilson and Paula Mourelle - three incredible educators who I really admire. However, I am excited about being able to share a variety of ideas that can be used in language lessons, with an aim to capture students' interest, inspire them and help them to thrive.
Here is a list of other CPD suggestions you may find useful.
I was lucky to attend a fair few webinars during lockdown, many of which were free and I have taken so much inspiration from these.
I found Dr Gianfranco Conti's webinar on Curriculum Design really useful and I'm hoping to attend some more of these webinars at some point.
Esmeralda Salgado introduced me to Learning Apps (my new favourite website) during the Linguascope Show and Tell webinar and Mike Elliot taught me how to use Flippity Randomiser with sentence builders. I shared some of my own ideas at one of these webinars in May alongside some incredible educators. I was inspired by Stéphane Derône's webinar on Memorable French Lessons too. If you're a Linguascope subscriber I believe you can catch up on these recordings in the staffroom section of their website.
A particular favourite of mine was the #alatelunch #mflKOcpd webinar on knowledge organisers during which I took four pages of notes. You can find out more about knowledge organisers for MFL here, but I also recommend following Katie Lockett, Jane Brierly, Sophie Newnham, Clare Seccombe and Sophie Bowers on Twitter, and having a look at the MFL Knowledge Organisers group on Facebook.
The Teach Meet MFL Icons team have organised a their first webinar (free!) for tomorrow (26/9/20) and it sounds like it's going to be a popular one, with over 500 people signed up already! I am very excited and equally as nervous to be speaking at this alongside some of the educators who have really inspired me over the last few years.
These are all books I have read / am currently reading and would recommend to others.
A Quiet Education by Jamie Thom
Breaking the Sound Barrier and The Language Teacher Toolkit by Dr Gianfranco Conti and Steve Smith
Independent Thinking on MFL by Crista Hazell
Love to Teach and Retrieval Practice by Kate Jones
Teaching Walkthrus by Tom Sherrington and Oliver Caviglioli
You can find all of these in my Amazon store. Have a listen to Rebecca Nobes' marvellous 'From Page to Practice' podcast for more edubook suggestions.
Here is just a small selection of my current favourites:
The Language Gym - Find Dr Gianfranco Conti on Twitter @gianfrancocont9
Language Teacher Toolkit - Steve Smith's blog - Find him on Twitter @spsmith45
Learning Linguist - Find Rebecca Nobes on Twitter @BexN91)
Leo Languages - Find Claire Wilson on Twitter @LeoLanguages
MFL Classroom Magic - Find her on Twitter @EClaireMFL
4. Social Media
I love using social media as part of my CPD. Twitter in particular has enabled me to connect with thousands of educators across the world. It's a great place to go when you need a bit of support (although do be careful about what you share online and you may want to consider using a pseudonym) and to exchange classroom ideas and resources. You can find a list of suggestions of people to follow on Twitter here (although it hasn't been updated in a while). This is not an exhaustive list and purely a starting point for any educators who are new to the #EduTwitter community. I personally tend to follow people with "MFL Teacher" or similar in their bio, and avoid any Twitter arguments like the plague. Joe Dale is a really good one to follow, as are Clare Caio and Ollie MFL. There are plenty of hashtags to follow e.g. #mfltwitterati #edutwitter #FFed and every Monday night at 8:30pm you can join in with the #mflchat.
I sometimes share ideas, blogposts and resources on my Facebook page and there are a ton of groups you can join as well:
French Teaching Resources Ireland
Global Innovative Language Teachers
MFL Knowledge Organisers
Modern Languages Teachers' Lounge
New GCSE MFL
Secondary MFL in Wales
I've really enjoyed being a part of the #MFLinsta community on Instagram (hashtag set up by the lovely Claire Wilson). It's a great place to have a browse if you need a bit of inspiration (or if, like me, you're a stationery addict) and everyone is very friendly and supportive. You can follow me too @MorganMFL89.
5. YouTube Videos
Have a look at ResearchEd's YouTube channel - I particularly enjoyed Jo Facer's Simplicity Rules video and have her book on my wishlist. I've heard great things about Steve Smith's YouTube channel as well, although haven't had time to work my way through his videos yet.
I was invited to speak on the The Teacher Planning Podcast where I talked through a lesson in which I prepare students for a piece of writing. Keep your eyes peeled for the episode with Claire Wilson (Leo Languages)!
Thanks for reading!
P.S. If you find my blogposts useful, do consider buying me a cuppa.
All of the products I mention below are linked in this post. Any Amazon links are to my own Amazon store, meaning that if you click these links and buy anything through my blog, I earn a small commission – this will not cost you any extra. The products in my Amazon store are all things I have bought and used myself and would recommend to others regardless. I would suggest checking elsewhere before you buy though as you may find these things cheaper in other places.
Normally I try to do a lot of my preparation for the following school year in school before the end of the Summer term, so that I don’t have to worry about it during the holidays and can just enjoy the break with my family, however Covid19 put a stop to all that this year and home life and work life have merged somewhat. Below are some of the things that I’m doing/have done and some of the things I've bought to help me feel more organised. Due to the pandemic I feel like there are so many things out of our control at the moment, but there are lots of things you can still do to stay organised. This is not an exhaustive list - and there are some things I'll still need to do when I return to work and get my class lists e.g. seating plans.
Keep Your Resources Organised
I save all of my resources on a USB stick - I’ve had this one for years and it has only just died on me this week - probably because I kept removing it without safely ejecting it first. However I know lots of people prefer to keep their resources on OneDrive. I organise my USB into folders and subfolders and I try to clearly name each file.
Resources > MFL > Spanish > KS3 > Holidays > (folders)
Holiday Accommodation - Translation Grid (resource)
My Desk in a Bag
I am used to having to move between classrooms, as returning to work from maternity leave part-time last year meant that I no longer had a classroom of my own. However, I would like to be a bit more organised this year. I loved Claire Wilson’s ‘Desk in a bag’ idea that she shared on Instagram (@_leolanguages) and have decided I will do something similar this year. I bought these beautiful pastel folders and I will have one for each day that I am in school (I work part-time). There are five sections in each folder and I have labelled these using my Dymo Label Maker and pink tape. I also have an extra folder for anything tutor related, plus rewards (bitmoji stickers and postcards), spare worksheets, seating plans and paper. In the bag I’ll also keep: my teacher planner, pencil case, purse, phone, keys, bottle of water and some Jakeman’s throat sweets just in case.
I keep my USB stick on a Cath Kidston lanyard, along with my French and Spanish flag pin and my lanyard pen. I also love these Bic pens, but I have lost so many of these by attempting to hang them onto my lanyard. The Positive Teacher company has some cute little badges and I bought a “Head of Year” one for a colleague who will be starting her new role in September. I also bought some cheap and cheerful hand sanitiser bottles that attach to a lanyard, for me and the girls in my department (B&M).
Luckily our school normally buys us both a teacher planner and a diary. This year I have decided to splurge and treat myself to a Positive Teacher Company planner instead and after receiving mine I have already decided I will be buying one again next year. I also bought the planner stickers from the same company and have been using these to make a note of key dates from our school calendar ie. inset days, themed days. After seeing the idea on Instagram I have also marked out my holidays using washi tape. I’m not even going to bother with a diary this year – I’ll just keep everything in the planner.
Before the Summer I made a note of my usernames and passwords (well, part of them anyway in case anyone decides to pinch my planner!), as well as the photocopier code. There’s nothing worse than coming back in September and locking yourself out of your account after typing in your password incorrectly too many times.
In the assessment pages I’ll have each student’s name, tutor group and target grade (where applicable). I’ll also colour code any students who are PP, EAL, SEN – thank you to MFL teacher ‘theclassroomcoffeebuzz’ for this idea – do check out her Instagram and YouTube video for more planner inspo.
In the front of my planner I’ll also be keeping the AQA mark schemes and a list of activities for each skill to help me with my lesson planning when I am lacking inspiration. I know many people on Twitter have already done their own versions of these ideas sheets, including Miss Jones MFL and Aurelie.
I always type up my timetable on Word, because it’s easier to edit it if it changes. I colour code this so that, for example all my lessons with each class are the same colour. I also include lesson times (this will be especially important this year with staggered breaks for the different year groups) and any duties, morning briefings, assemblies. I add information at the bottom of the page including:
-how many students per class so that I know how many sheets I need to print off
-info about shared classes: when they have the group, who’s in charge of marking the books
-when their vocab tests are
I then print several copies in colour – one my noticeboard in the MFL office, one for my planner, one for my workspace at home and a smaller version to add to my lanyard.
I store all of my stationery in these Vonhaus drawers which I will keep on my desk in the MFL office as I like the idea of everything having a place. I created the labels using Canva (free premium accounts for teachers).
I love buying stationery and I have spent a fair bit of money treating myself to new things during lockdown, some of which I’ve shared on my social media pages and in this blog. I hope that other people don’t see these things and feel pressure to go away and buy them. You can be organised without spending lots of money on beautiful folders and label makers. You don't need highlighters in 30 different pastel shades to be a good teacher and you certainly don't need to learn calligraphy and spend a fiver on a special brush pen so that you can write neatly in your planner (yes, I have actually done this). If you want to buy these things and it makes you feel happy, then go for it - treat yourself, buy the beautiful stickers and the personalised pencil case. Just remember though that YOU are the best resource - you and your amazing brain that's got you to where you are today.
Behaviour management or “classroom management” was something I found particularly challenging when I first started teaching. While I would certainly not consider myself an expert at this now - I am 8 years into my teaching career and I still feel that I have lots to learn - there are a few tricks I’ve picked up over the years that have really transformed my classroom management.
Some of these tips may be glaringly obvious to a lot of my colleagues, but hopefully someone will be able to take something from it. I should point out also that I am lucky to work at an excellent school in which the students are generally very polite and well behaved, so while these things work for me and my students, they may not work for other people.
Be consistent, firm and fair
You are not being cruel by being firm. I would argue that you are being the complete opposite in fact. By having high expectations of your classes, you are showing your students that you want what's best for them and that you care. They may even thank you for it later down the line.
It’s vital that you know the behaviour policy inside out – especially if you are new to the school – as it shows students that all staff are singing from the same hymn sheet. If you’re new to a school or new to the profession, don’t be afraid to ask your colleagues/Head of Department if you’re unsure of something. Our school behaviour policy is basically as follows: Verbal warning > Second warning (and a lunchtime detention) > Third warning (removal from lesson, phone call home to parents, after school detention). Usually I write a name on the board alongside the first verbal warning and a tick next to it for the second warning and sometimes I will use these behaviour cards that I will place on the student’s desk as a reminder.
Use your voice and look after it
As a bit of an introvert, I like to have a quiet classroom, but I know it can be tricky to get the class’ attention back on you after an activity, particularly if you are naturally quite shy like me. To do this I count down from 5 (in the target language if it’s an MFL lesson). I tend to start off speaking very loudly, so that my volume at least matches theirs and in order for as many of the students as possible to hear me. I may remind them what it means when I’m counting down and praise any students who act on any instructions straightaway (“FIVE…I need you to finish off what you are doing and face this way…thank you Chloe and Deepash…thank you Dexter, thank you Harry”). I continue counting down, gradually becoming quieter and quieter, bringing the noise down to an appropriate level. I find that if I talk fairly quietly, students are more focused as they have to listen very carefully to hear what I'm saying. (“FOUR…three…two, you should all have stopped what you’re doing by now…I said two, thank you Sarah, thank you Mike…aaaaaaand one”). Occasionally I will have to repeat a number, otherwise I may be stuck at zero with a still very chatty and unattentive class.
When you have finally achieved silence don’t be afraid to hold it for a few seconds, as it can be so powerful. If you talk over even one or two students, you are basically sending a message to the rest of the class that what you’re saying isn’t important, and that it’s okay for them to talk over you as well.
Make sure you drink water regularly too. I used to lose my voice all the time as I wasn’t taking care of it properly. I now always keep an emergency supply of Jakemans throat sweets in my bag and they tend to do the trick.
Make use of non-verbal cues as I’m about to explain…
Use non-verbal communication
Tap on the desk, raise a brow, use a countdown timer, put your finger to your lips, stop talking and simply give them the teacher stare. You don’t always have to be talking and it’s best to save your voice where possible.
I used to have a set of maracas that I would use in Spanish lessons when I wanted my students to finish the task that they’re working on. Although I haven’t used these since I came out with the classic line, “and when I want your attention, I’ll shake my maracas at you”. All 30 year 7 students erupted into fits of laughter, while I stood there horrified by what I had accidentally just said – some of them still enjoy reminding me of this now, five years later. Luckily, I can now see the funny side.
Set the tone
Maintain high expectations from the very start of lesson right to the end. Where possible I like to have students lining up quietly outside the classroom at the beginning, with me greeting them at the door (NB: this may not be possible due to COVID19 restrictions and keeping our students safe should be the priority here). I deal with any issues before they come into the room e.g. uniform, chewing gum. (“Morning Katrina, I’ll just let you pop to the back of the queue to give you time to sort your uniform out before you come in, how are you?”. “As lovely as that hoody is Nicola, it needs to be away in your bag before you come into the classroom, thanks”. “Ahh you weren’t subtle enough I’m afraid, Carl, chewing gum in the bin, thank you”.) While you’re dealing with the students outside, the ones in the classroom should have something to be getting on with. I personally love to start off lessons with Kate Jones’ retrieval practice challenge grids and I wrote about how these can be adapted for MFL on P123 in my book of MFL ideas (Amazon store link). Question Cards are also a good way of engaging them at the start and a nice opportunity for students to show off what they know, practise their speaking and earn an MFL point (in my department 3 MFL points = House Point).
Know the students
Have a seating plan from the start. I used to use Mega Seating Plan to create these as you can easily move students around if you want to change things up, however our school started using Classcharts last year which offers the same tools and I’m a big fan! At the start I like to have a copy of each seating plan printed off and I can keep referring to this until I've learned all of their names off by heart.
Learn their names as quickly as possible, especially the quiet ones! This is one thing I'm going to make a conscious effort to do this year as it always takes me way too long. Jamie Thom shares some excellent advice on learning students’ names and writes about why this is so important in his fabulous book, 'A Quiet Education: Challenging the extrovert ideal in our schools' (Amazon store link).
Catch them doing something good
Praise them when they do something good and don’t underestimate the power of a positive phone call home. Parents really appreciate this too and it’s a great way to build up relationships with both students and parents.
Hope you've managed to take something useful from this post. If you have any top tips for dealing with behaviour, particularly the so-called "low-level" disruption, I'd love to hear from you.
Yorkshire lass living down South || Part-time teacher of MFL || Proud wife, and mummy of the best boy || Sharing MFL teaching ideas and resources || Creator of @morganmfl || Author of 100 Ideas for Secondary Teachers: Outstanding MFL Lessons.