Give us a song…

This was inspired by an activity in Brenda Chong’s session at last December’s GILT/AIMS conference at Nexus, KL.

We know using music in lessons can be useful in many ways, choral repetition gives students the chance to speak up when they might not feel confident to do so individually. In her session, Brenda explained how the AIM methodolgy frequently uses short songs based around key classroom routines or situations to scaffold students’ learning and consolidate correct pronunciation. The AIM system uses songs for lining up, for starting the lesson, for transitions to different activities – and the students love them.

In Brenda’s session, we were then encouraged in groups to come up with our own song ideas for common situations. Here is a joint effort from myself, Dylan Viñales, Veronica Palacín and José Zarracayo García to the tune of Frère Jacques:

 

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No entiendo, no entiendo

No lo sé, No lo sé

¿Cómo se dice? ¿Cómo se dice?

¡Ayúdame! ¡Ayúdame!

 


 

Whilst we might be waiting a while for our Ivor Novello awards (although that should definitely go to Señor Mara for his fabulous Justin Timberlake tribute to Spanish Grammar – check out Reflex Your Verby!) we were quite content to have come up with a short, memorable song which would help embed some high frequency vocabulary and useful phrases in learners’ minds.

This is, of course, valuable in and of itself, as it promotes more frequent student use of L2 in classroom interactions. However, later on in a course, teachers could refer back to the song to illustrate language points.

In the above case, we could highlight features such as negating verbs, pronoun placement in statements and commands, irregular first person verbs. It’s great when in Years 8, 9 or above you can use something students leared by rote in Year 6 or 7 to illustrate a learning point.

This got me thinking:

Where else in my lessons could I use songs in this way which would provide the immediate gain of increasing knowledge of key vocab as well as provide possible teaching points for further down the road?

So here are some ideas I came up with. Apologies in advance, music fans…

 


 

To the tune of the Camptown Races:

 

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With my beginners classes I already used a version of this song in which I repeated the days Monday to Thursday instead of the final two lines. It also works pretty neatly in Spanish, too, albeit with a bit of mangling of vi-er-nes But, after a bit of head scratching, I added the final two lines so that I had a chance to introduce the verb savoir much earlier than I might normally do.

 


 

To the tune of la Bamba:

 

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Not much in the way of further learning to be mined from this one, but again it helps to routinse language for a situation which students will frequently encounter.

Possibly you could refer to it to illustrate connectives, optional subject pronouns and phrases of quantity.

 


 

To the tune of la Cucaracha:

 

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A few of useful points for possible furture reference here, for example the present perfect tense, modal verbs and again introduces the verb saber.

 


 

So, do you use brief songs in your beginner language lessons? If so, can you share your ideas? What language points could they be used to illustrate further down the line? What situations or routines could you reinforce with a song?

Please leave your thoughts in the comments section.

More in, more out.

I returned to work this year after taking a sabbatical, during which time I had time to reflect on my own teaching practice and as a consequence my teaching has evolved probably more than at any other time in my career. During this time I started reading blogs by practitioners like Ross Morrison McGill, José Picardo and Gianfranco Conti, which I cannot recommend highly enough.

Three of the main differences to my previous teaching practice have been (i) flipping vocabulary learning using Memrise (ii) re-appraising how I incorporate tools like Quizlet into my lessons and (iii) increasing the amount of reading and listening input I want my learners to absorb before moving on to production tasks.

I was asked recently to give an account of how I incorporate individual listening into my lessons, so by way of example, I want to outline a recent sequence of lessons which I did with my Year 7 Spanish class, who are at the time of writing working through Chapter 3 of Mira 1. The topic was ¿Cómo eres? and during the week we have a 70-minute double period and a 35-minute single. All students have access to tablets, which allow me to quickly share sound files with individual students as well as complete online activities.

Ordinarily, the aims of the lesson would be to (i) to consolidate understanding rules of adjective agreement and (ii) apply modifiers in the context of describing family members. This was still the basic success criteria of my lesson, but I also wanted to (iii) introduce the comparison structure más … que and (iv) re-capitulate adverbs of frequency, which the group had been introduced to in a previous unit of work.

 

Double Lesson

Prior to the lesson, students had been tasked with the homework of completing this level of the Mira 1 Memrise course I’m creating this year. The aim of this was to expose them to new vocabulary in familiar sentence structures. I like using Memrise for students to pre-learn key vocabulary because it means we can be more efficient with our limited class time.

Students enter the room, get the date and title down and are immediately directed to a Quizlet set which gets them to immediately re-activate the key vocabulary. It also gives me time to circulate and ensure students have completed the Memrise homework, which is simply a case of them switching apps and showing me their progress level.

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Next, we complete the first listening task from the book as a group. This has a low level of challenge and serves as a confidence booster for students. We review the answers using pose-pause-pounce-bounce and, using the key vocab, do some rapid-fire sentence building.

Next, the students completed a group race task using Socrative, which reviewed the vocabulary the learners had previously seen, but which also included examples of comparisons using más + adj + que. Like Quizlet Live, Socrative lets you review questions and answers at the end of an activity so teachers can identify and correct common errors.

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There is then a brief Q&A about the comparison questions, and then get students to give working examples first within topic of descriptions (my dog is bigger than my cat) then from other topics (music is more fun than history). Recap with a slide which students can photograph for later reference.

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Next students apply the concepts just covered answering a series of questions from the board based on pictures from the textbook. Upon completion of this, students are directed to another Quizlet task to further reactivate vocab from homework relating to descriptions of personality. I like including such Quizlet breaks, not only for review and practice purposes but also because it provides fast finishers a beneficial activity to complete whilst other class members catch up.

The next activity is a whole class listening exercise, and I give students the option to complete with or without the aid of the textbook. We check answers mid-way through and at the end, again using pose-pause-pounce-bounce.

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Then students then complete a series of exercises with audio I created using my iPhone’s voice recorder. These exercises are designed to develop a range of skills, including decoding, proofreading and comprehension.

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Each exercise has accompanying audio, and students listen after completing to self-mark their work. The audio has very specific feedback, and alternative answers, breaking sentences down word-by-word and then re-capping the full sentence at the end.

Mi padre no es estricto. Remember no comes before the verb, which in this case is es – he is, so no es means he isn’t. Mi padre no es estricto.”

Not only does the feedback allow them to work at their own rate and correct their work, but I’ve found students to be more focused working in this way than when in group-listening situations. Additionally, listening to answers increases their exposure to pronunciation and allows me to only have to do a very quick visual check of students work.

The lesson ends with a Kahoot Jumble plenary based on comparison sentences with más + adj + que and students finish off un-answered tasks on the sheet for homework.

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Single Period Lesson

Students are immediately directed to another Quizlet set which recaps vocabulary and structures covered in the previous session. This allows me time to visually check completed homework sheets and then groups is then brought together for a Quizlet Live session, which they always enjoy, using the same set.

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Thereafter they are brought together for a timed writing task using all the language they have studied over the preceding session. We briefly go over task requirements, but then I’m free to circulate room whilst students get to work.

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Workbooks are collected in and vocabulary learning homework set for next lesson, to allow me the chance to check what the students have produced. We can then review common errors as a group in a follow-up session and students can redraft selected sections based on feedback.

In this short sequence of lessons, I think some of the noticeable features are (i) previewing of language to be covered in class (ii) frequent low-stakes testing and (iii) lots of comprehensible input – both written and recorded – so that students have ample opportunity to absorb and practice manipulating the structures being taught at their own pace. If you have any thoughts or questions, please feel free to leave a message in the comments section below.

 

 

 

In search of elegance

Have you ever found that reaction from people who seldom venture outside of their mother tongue? You know, the one when they respond to multilingualism like it’s some freakish superpower, something that they could never do and not a learnable skill that, given time, motivation and the right materials, anyone can learn?

Maybe it’s not such a surprising when we consider what many of us went through in high school and beyond. Tedious textbooks, pages of verb tables, myriad arcane rules and their bizarre, confounding exceptions. It can seem baffling.

Over the last 18 months or so, I’ve become keenly interested in the new polyglot movement. I’m inspired by the can-do attitude of the bloggers and podcasters, I love the positivity that they give out, but I’m also keen to learn from those who’ve successfully gone through the L2 learning process multiple times to try and glean hints on how to accelerate that process, and remove some of the unnecessary pain from the process.

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In this post, I want to share some of my favourite simplified explanations which I’ve come to use in my language lessons. Partly in the hope that anyone who reads them may not have come across them before and find them useful, but more in the hope that you’ll be inclined to share your own in the comments section. I hasten to add, that none of what follows is new knowledge, or uniquely my own take. I merely wish to pass on what I’ve learned from others.


1) Spanish Present Tense and “Hooks”

This comes straight from Michel Thomas’ method. Once I heard it, I face-palmed myself at all the times I’d ever subject my learners to overly-complex verb tables detailing six separate endings for each of the three verb groups.

Firstly, when I introduce verbs as vocabulary in Spanish, I always give the third person form (with visuals and some AIM gestures to boot). Why? Because the primacy effect will make it more likely they will remember what they hear first better, and I want them to know whether or not a new verb ends in -a or -e.  And the s/he forms are way more useful for what comes next.

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Once learners have got a handful of verbs, and can confidently recall different AR and ER/IR verbs in the third person, I introduce the hooks (Thomas’ terminology again) which they add onto the third person form: +s for you+mos for we+n for they and you plural. I do this using the AIM gestures too. If students aren’t sure how to answer in Q&As, I’ll cue them with “what’s the hook for you?” to get the answer.

Then it’s simply a matter of informing them that 99.9% of first person verbs end in in –(with more gestured drilling) and the we hook for IR verbs is -imos and we’re pretty much done.

For me, this explanation is significantly more elegant. Not only because emphasising the third person form (i) reduces learner errors like coma and escriba when using the present tense and (ii) gives beginners the positive command forms for most verbs, but especially as the hooks can referred back to at later in their learning for other tenses. Simplifying the Imperfect tense? Two sets of endings: –aba and –ía + hooks. Conditional tense? One ending:ía + hooks added to the infinitive. Present subjunctive? First person present tense of verb, “switch tracks” then add your hooks.


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2) WEIRD subjunctive

Once learners have the formation down of the subjunctive, it’s a case of them getting to know when to use it. Whilst it doesn’t cover all cases, I love the simplicity of of this mnemonic for the subjunctive in Romance languages.

W – wanting and wishing

E – emotional reactions

I – impersonal expressions

R – requests

D – doubt

And if you teach Spanish, you’ve got O for ojalá. Because the Spanish subjunctive is for weirdos.


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3) Sino-French interrogations

One for the international teacher: I love discovering weird parallels between completely unrelated languages. If you’re ever teaching French to Chinese speakers, or vice-versa, it’s a handy short cut to explain that est-ce que works in exactly the same as the particle , except it it goes at the opposite end of the sentence.


 

4) Visual Analogy for Past Tenses

Students are often confused when choosing between the Imperfect or Passé Composé/Preterite. Again, Michel Thomas, provides a couple of useful short-hand rules which help learners decide which to use. The first is:

“If you used to… or are was-ing or were-ing, go to the Imperfect”

Short, sweet and easy enough to remember. However, he doesn’t stop there. He helps learners visualise how these different past tenses look on a timeline.

Completed actions (Passé Composé / Preterite) are represented by dots in the past.” Ongoing events, or events with unspecified start and end points are a “line in the past.” The line can even be a dotted one to represent habitual prior actions. Admittedly, it doesn’t cover all past tenses, or all uses of the Imperfect, but in terms of succinctness and ease of recollection for learners, it’s a handy rule of thumb for learners to check: is it a dot or a line in the past?”

 


I must emphasise again, that the above explanations and others I frequently use with my learners to speed up understanding are “magpied” from more creative teachers than I. I hope that this post provokes some more sharing of favourite elucidations and clarifications. If you have any, please share them in the comments section. Thanks for reading.

 

With a little help from our friends.

I’ve been using Memrise in a systematic way with my teaching groups for about eight weeks now, with the express aim of flipping vocabulary learning onto the students. I’ve found that this has had multiple benefits, notably extending students’ vocabularies and freeing up lesson time to practice applying language in context.

I’m getting ready to assess several of my groups on their second units of work and I’m eager to see how well the use of Memrise has paid off, particularly with speaking and writing. However, when preparing groups for assessments, there are two activities which I particularly like to do.

 


 

1) Group Reading.

This is an adaptation of group dictation. You need between 3 and 5 texts, posted around a relatively space. I’m lucky enough to have a nice outdoor area next to my class, but don’t let health and safety get in the way of pinning your reading texts in stairwells, near open manholes… In the past, I’ve scanned and blown up texts from course books but more recently I’ve been creating my own because I can include the extended vocabulary I want to reinforce with my learners.

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Then, I make a question sheet with different question types. Typically these are in target language (i) True/False (ii) who says…? (iii) fill in the blank and (iv) open answers. I choose multiple question types because this automatically builds in differentiation. There’s no reason not to use L1 questions, either,  especially if you’re pushed for time. I like to enlarge the question sheets A3 size, because this has been scientifically proven to make work more fun.

I group the class into teams who then nominate one scribe, two or three runners. Scribes can’t leave their tables. I alternate scribes after a time limit. The scribes soon work out that they can direct their runners (“Go find out who says…”We need to know how old Ana is…”) which helps develop teamwork and leadership skills, as well as reading for detail.

Once the groups are nearing completion, I bring the teams back. They swap answer sheets and we group mark as a plenary. I particularly enjoy this activity because, once it’s set up, the students get on with it independently. It’s great fun, provides varied level of challenge and the motivation of competition. Moreover, a week or two later you can shuffle the questions round (or maybe add a few new ones) and individually give the students A4 printouts of texts and question papers for a quick revision.


 

2) Collaborative Writing.

Writing assessments can be particularly stressful for many students, so I like to make sure that I try and give my groups plenty of opportunity to prepare effectively. One of the ways I like to do this is by getting them writing in groups. Usually, I’ll do this by giving the class a multi-part writing task and assigning each member of a group a single section to write. This might only involved writing a few lines.

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Decreasing stress by sharing the workload. 

The writing is timed with a short limit. When the time is up, the groups collate their paragraphs into order. They then green pen their work, both within and between their groups, making sure they fix only the problems of which they are certain they can identify and correct.

Following this, I’ll bring the class together and we go through some strategies on the board which they have previously learned to help improve the quality and accuracy of their writing.

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Green penning another group’s initial draft. 

The class then tackles the same task again. Depending on the group, students may attempt the same section of the writing task, or a different one. Once again, when the time limit is up, the class collate their pieces together and appraise their own and each others’ pieces.

At this point, the groups are invited to compare their first and second drafts, which almost always have appreciable differences in quality and accuracy.

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I like doing this type of activity for a number of reasons: Firstly, the nature of the task allows you to review material you’ve previously covered over a longer period of time, which makes it ideal for end of unit revision. Secondly, by distributing the writing load across groups, several large pieces of writing can be produced in a relatively short time.

The group writing allows students the opportunity to make mistakes in a low-stakes situation, as the responsibility for the whole piece is shared. The opportunity to redraft as a group further reduces the stakes so that any “mistakes” can be swiftly corrected in the improved version.

By allowing students the opportunity to view others’ work between the first and second drafts, it gives them agency to spot mistakes but also exposes them to others’ ideas. During the plenary, explicitly reflecting on what went well in the initial draft, and how the second pieces are improved, raises students’ awareness of what they need to be doing to make their writing more effective.


 

I did the group writing activity recently with my Year 7 beginners Spanish during a half-hour single period lesson. Each of the texts which the students produced were completed within three-minute time limits. I’ve included some photos of the groups’ work. On reflection, had we more time in the lesson, we could have made more effective use of green-penning the initial drafts, dwelled longer on effective writing techniques before the second attempt and, of course, dedicated more time to writing. Nonetheless, the group got value from the activity. I hope to post some examples of assessed writing later next week.


 

Update 

I just completed the shared writing task with my Year 9 Spanish group today, again it was during their half-hour lesson slot and again, students only had three-minute time periods to write their sections of the task. Again, I also know that the students would have derived greater benefit from having more time on the task, but circumstances contrived to limit our time. Below are examples of their first and second attempts at the task.

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I realise that by giving the group the task brief and only 3 minutes in which to complete their sections with very little guidance I am, in effect, setting the students up to fail. This is a conscious decision. I want them to know that it’s okay not to do great first time around and that their subsequent drafts will show improvement as a result of their conscious reflection.

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In the photos above, the majority of students’ work is appreciably better either in terms of detail, the complexity of structures used and accuracy. Notably, in the final section of the second example, the second attempt contains many more errors than the first. This was interesting to me as the writer is consistently the top performer in this group, when their errors were pointed out they realised that they had been over-thinking their responses. Another useful lesson for them to learn before their assessment.

 

Is Memrise flipping well working?

I’ve started second module assessments with most of my classes and I want to see what impact, if any, using Memrise to flip learning has had. To this end, I’m reflecting on assessment results with my teaching groups, starting with…

Year 7 Beginners Spanish

This class of 22 students has had about 15 weeks or 22 hours of instruction.  I have been using Memrise in a systematic way with this group for about 12 weeks. As well as coverage the key vocabulary form the course book (Mira 1 Express), I have been trying to improve specific areas using this Memrise course. These include:

Today the students sat their unit 2 module tests. They all aced the listening. All but one student scored 97% or above. The writing component was completed in 20 minutes (including time for proof-reading) and contained a translation element. Here are some photos of their written assessments.

 

 

The above photos are assessments from my more motivated learners – by which I mean the students who internalise and apply new language faster than the others, their homework is on time etc. According to the stats section of the class page, they’ve spent about 90 minutes using Memrise during the past 30 days and accrued an average of 90,000 points in that time. Two things to note: The students are, perhaps unsurprisingly, using a wider range of connectives in their writing, and augmenting descriptions with frequency adverbs. However, errors of agreement, accents and spellings are very much present.

 

The photos above are from students who throughout this term have had some struggles, don’t contribute as willingly in lesson and/or did not achieve very highly on their first assessment. Checking their stats on the class stage, they’ve all spent at least 2.5 hours on Memrise in the past 30 days, accumulating an average of 60,000 points over that period. Whilst their writing may not be as detailed as some of the others’ is, there is still evidence of a broader range of connectives, verb forms besides first person and inclusion of vocabulary beyond what is covered in the textbook.

I’m really happy with this standard of work, especially from beginners. I think that their spending time practising vocabulary has appreciably given them more ammunition to use when it comes to expressing themselves. This is something that I hope to build upon as we move onto the next topic of work. However, clearly more attention is needed with this group with identifying and eliminating accuracy errors. I have recently started using more of the LAM techniques described by Gianfranco Conti, Dylan Viñales and Steve Smith. It will be interesting to see how such interventions affect the learners’ accuracy.

That’s it for now, although I will update with results from other groups which have been using Memrise regularly as they come in. Two caveats to all of this: Firstly, I’m still feeling my way with Memrise course design, and I expect that I will refine the content I include over the coming months and years. Secondly, whilst Memrise is the foundation of my students vocabulary learning, it is not the only tool I use with my learners to practise their language.

 

 

 

Flipping for real with Memrise.

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I’ve always taught using textbooks. Not that I adhere slavishly to them, or use them exclusively, but they do offer a convenient, ready made course structure that someone else took the time and effort to think about. But they aren’t without their problems. For instance, why do we not tackle modal verbs until around Chapter 5 when learners need them from day one? Do we really need to wait for the end of the first book to introduce new tenses in a meaningful way? Is there a better way to get there faster? Or at least lay the groundwork earlier?

Maybe.

Until this year, I’d always used Quizlet for my students vocabulary learning. I created my own decks which complemented Mira, Studio and the Edexcel textbooks and pointed my students in the right direction. It worked pretty well. I’m a big fan of Quizlet and I use it a lot. Possibly too much, but hey, the kids dig it and it’s getting the results I want. But despite Quizlet’s engaging activities, the functionality and flexibility, I felt it was missing something. For one thing, at the time, it didn’t have a Spaced Repetition system. (Although it now does for Pro subscribers.)

My previous school had a strong link with LanguagePerfect. And that worked fine as a means to motivate learners to engage with the process of vocabulary learning and revision. The students I taught loved competing in international competitions against other schools and they benefitted a lot from LanguagePerfect. The company does great work, but for me, the biggest drawback remains the pricing, which would be enough to put off many department heads.

Then, out of curiosity, I tried Memrise to learn German. Because, warum nicht? 

 

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“Watch your back, Truffelish, I’m gunning for ya!”

As a system to get through the essential grind of learning vocabulary, I found Memrise certainly makes the going less tough. It provides multiple ways to practise new lexical items (reading, listening, spelling, arranging sentences) combined with a spaced repetition algorithm which nudges you to practise what you’ve studied before you forget. There are some great pre-existing courses with beautifully recorded native speakers – a refreshing change from Quizlet’s automated voice software.

Then there’s the system of Mems, user-created – often hilarious – mnemonics to aid recalling stubborn words and phrases. Then, you’ve got the social aspect. You can link with other learners and compete in league tables for courses. More motivation, at least for people like me.

 

This is all awesome. You’ve got a system for practising vocabulary which is both functional and fun. Perfect for young students. But there’s more of interest for MFL teachers. With Memrise, you can build your own multi-level courses. This is ideal for creating vocabulary sets for units of work with logical progression. So this term, this is what I’ve been doing with my classes. I’ve set up class groups and, as the term has progressed, I’ve added courses with vocabulary lists which I want my students to learn, but which are significantly more substantial that the vocal lists provided in the books.

I’ve found that if you are simply entering lists of words to be learned, then there are already plenty of recordings of many lexical items suggested by Memrise’s database. But if you’ve got a great way for students to learn vocabulary, and they enjoy using it, why not give them even more to chew on? As students benefit a great deal by learning words in context, I’ve been recording lots of example phrases so that students identify and internalise grammatical structures.

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“…and all the rest I wasted.”

 

For example, with my Year 7 beginner’s Spanish group, we’re looking at describing teachers. As well as using Memrise to provide students with a greater range of adjectives to learn, practice and therefore apply in their speaking and writing, I’ve given them a dash of  interesting connectives and a sprinkling of adverbs of frequency with plenty of example sentences, which they will internalise as they progress through the course.

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Normally Ms. Smith is very nice, she explains things well and she always listens to me. However sometimes,  when she’s not had her coffee…

 

I accept that this is probably something we all do already in our lessons. However, by basing the vocabulary learning element of my courses around Memrise, I can build this in so that learners systematically learn, review and recycle interesting language. In so doing, I’m hoping that this accelerates their acquisition of a wider range of language and lays the groundwork for the teaching more complex structures earlier than I normally would.

 

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“Hey, remember when we learned how to say ‘I forgot…’ and ‘I’ve finished.’? Well we’re going to use those structures to talk about what we did last weekend. By the way, the word of the week is botellón…

 

As with any new tech, students need to get used to how to make the most effective use of the app. For example, students need to be reminded that those blue moons around their planets mean they’ve got items that need to review, and I think that there’s some way to go before they start effectively using and creating their own Mems. But, it’s heartening to see the friendly competition within classes as students vie for position in their respective course leaderboards. This term our school held a successful competition using Memrise to celebrate the European Day of Languages. Our learners are engaging well with it.

 

 

Right now for me, it’s still early days with Memrise. I’ve got my classes set up and I’m creating courses for each chapter in the textbooks. I’ve shared these courses with my colleagues so that we can all edit and record alternative audio for each others’ course sets. I’m sure we’ll continue to tweak the content as we go. Overall, I think Memrise is a great tool for flipping the classroom to get students to engage with vocabulary in a way which allows teachers to programme courses to progress  systematically and, perhaps if used well, more rapidly.  I’m looking forward to sharing the results of this later in the year. I’m sure many of you will have already used Memrise for longer with your students, so if you have anything to say about its benefits or limitations, please do so in the comments section. Thanks for reading.

Getting more out of Quizlet

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Quizlet is one of my favourite tools for teaching languages.  Its multiple activities are great fun for students practising new vocabulary either with either a computer or a mobile device. The new Quizlet Live feature lets you add some exciting group competitions to your lessons and provides great opportunities to assess what your students have and haven’t grasped fully. You can search pre-existing vocabulary sets for your courses or create new sets in minutes (replete with audio) and, although in the free version it lacks the spaced-repetition capability of other sites such as Memrise, you can set up your different classes and track student progress with ease. Moreover, with customisable difficulty levels for tasks like Test Mode, your students can self-manage the degree of challenge for each activity they complete.

In short, it’s intuitive to use, insanely functional and free. If you’re not already using it, you really should. Here a few examples of activities I use in my lessons to get students practising and using the language.


 

1) Immediate practice or review. 

Once you’ve introduced new vocabulary or structures, Quizlet is an ideal way for students to familiarise themselves with the language before progressing onto more challenging comprehension or productive tasks.

Quizlet’s activities allow students to practise new vocabulary and structures many times, in a variety of different ways, in a short burst of activity. So once new vocabulary is introduced, I often allow my students a few minutes “speed practice” to get to grips with the language they’re about to use.

When you can get so much bang for your buck, why would you bother again with the first vocabulary-matching exercise from your textbook’s two-page spread which only challenges pupils to get it right once?

And it doesn’t just apply to new vocabulary.  You can create decks with multiple example sentences so students can familiarise themselves with new grammar structures before applying them in their speaking and writing. Sure, it takes a little while to get set up, but once it’s done you’ve got it forever.

Moreover Quizlet’s analytics allows you to see what students get wrong most frequently, so you can focus attention on misconceptions.

 


2 Group Deck Editing.

So you’ve just reviewed a new grammar structure. You’ve gone through your explanations and you’ve done a few practice exercises from a textbook or a worksheet. Maybe you’ve even used a pre-existing deck on Quizlet to do some practice activities. What now?

Well, an engaging way to get students to apply their new learning is to get them to create their own sentences in a deck. To do this, I’ll create a deck and add it to the class page. I’ll set up a password which I share with the group and give my students a link to the deck in the lesson.

I then get them to write as many example sentences as possible in a given time period. They can do this individually or in pairs. Once the time limit is up, you can then review the deck as a class and get the students to spot and correct any mistakes.

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With this activity I sometimes get my students to identify their work. Quizlet won’t pronounce words in parentheses, so the sentence authors’ names don’t get read out.

I like this kind of activity as you can simultaneously assess students understanding of a concept whilst quickly generating a large number of practice sentences to which the students have a connection, which will be of greater benefit to them when they come to review.


 

3)  Structured Conversation Practice. 

Are you ever frustrated by the limited speaking practice exercises available in your textbooks? Maybe not. Maybe you have more pressing issues, but with me… well it just burns me up inside!  Anyway, we all know frequent structured practice is essential for students to master skills.  If you want more such opportunities for students with which they can peer- or self-assess, then why not create practice Q&As using Quizlet flashcard decks?

You can set your deck to give students specific cues, which they can practise with their partner who in turn can check their accuracy by flipping the card for a model answer.

For me it’s worth the time setting up this type of activity so students have lots of practice examples with which they can check their accuracy.

There’s nothing stopping you doing this with more advanced groups, for example with practice conversation questions for your GCSE groups. Just create your deck of questions and you’re off to the races. Your students can randomise the question order or use Quizlet’s star card function to focus on problem questions. You could even specify particular you want learners to use in their responses.

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In the deck above, I deliberately get learners to answer questions in different ways so they can practise a variety of structures in a controlled setting but simultaneously develop the habit of extending their responses.

 


 

This is by no means an exhaustive list of activities, but I hope that this post has given you some ideas for how to get more out of Quizlet.  If you have any suggestions for other ways in which you can use Quizlet decks to support, stretch and challenge your students’ learning, please share them in the comments section. Thanks for reading.