Category Archives: Sharing and Collaborating


On 25th November Downe House  hosted another great evening where teachers from all sectors got together to share great practice.  The programme was rich and varied in ideas from questioning techniques to talking assessment via leadership ideas and tiger teachers.  It was a great evening.

Slides from the evening’s event can be seen by clicking on the image below:EduDH15

Look out for future events:

#downemandarin – Spring Term

#TMFestDH – Summer Term



On Wednesday 17th June a group of MFL teachers got together @DowneHouse1 to connect, share ideas and learn from each other.  As I said on the night, if there was ever any doubt that Modern Language Teachers are passionate about what they do then this TeachMeet proved otherwise.  There were about 60 linguists (and representatives from other subject areas) from all sectors and all stages of education.  There was a real buzz and four days on that buzz is still there for me and the colleagues in my department.

Our CPD kicked off in style with Mark Anderson @ictevangelist providing our keynote.  Mark judged our needs perfectly and talked to us about the power of TeachMeets and sharing ideas.  Mark told us that ‘languages are a force for good’ and none of us would disagree with that.  Mark took us through some tools that we can use to develop language skills.  Tools such as text to speech tool, Tellagami for motivating students to speak, Post-it Plus app which has many uses not least  assessing learning.  (Read more about this app here).

@GemmaLaundon summed up the Keynote as follows: I could not agree more!

However, the TeachMeet did not end there.  We were treated to a number of excellent presentations.  Jane Bradbury showed us the wonderful La Maison Claire Fontaine which looks like a fantastic place to experience French in situ.  Cheng-Han Wu (@wu_lao_shi) treated us to a two minute presentation entitled More of the Same vs Higher Order Thinking Skills.  It’s amazing what can be achieved in such a short time.   Cheng’s message was powerful and pushed home the importance of practice.

Mary Wood, @stbarts3, who wowed us all last year with some of her classroom teaching ideas and her use of, came back to tell us about new features on this language learning website.  Setting up a department area seems like a good plan and one that we will be following through.

Then @basnettj shared her love of @GetKahoot.  It did not take long for the audience to pick up the benefits of this tool.  Before long there was a good bit of competition going on and colleagues could see that not only does this online tool bring an element of fun and competition to the class it also provides some excellent feedback. You can read more about GetKahoot here.

The perennial problem for language teachers is getting students to speak spontaneously.  Fortunately, Ali Quick, @MFLmissquick, had a few ideas to combat this issue.    Ali’s De Bono’s thinking hats and her lovely colourful mats were an instant hit.

The first half was rounded off by a virtual presentation.  Unable to make it in time from the Isle of Man Rachel Smith kindly recorded a video for us on sketchnoting.  @lancslassrach is a keen sketchnoter herself making great use of Paper by Fifty Three. Sketchnoting with classes is not something that many of us had considered but Rachel’s presentation certainly gave us all some food for thought.

Philip Montague, @get_sme,  from Microsoft,  got the second half off to an amazing start.  He spoke to us about Digital Foreign Exchange and enlisted the help of his son via Skype.  We all know the power of minecraft but seeing a young boy picking up a few words in a foreign language whilst working his way through a minecraft maze was pretty special and certainly drove home an important message for us all.    There are so many ways that this tool could be successfully exploited for use in MFL.

We then heard from @this_islanguage, @befluentBFIN, @leVocab and @vocabexpress all took a couple of minutes to talk about the opportunities provided by their online language learning tools. If you do not know them then do check them out!

Gemma Laundon, @GemmaLaundon spoke to us all about spontaneous writing activities.  Getting students to write spontaneously is always quite tricky and Gemma reminded us of some good games we could play.  Consequences definitely seems a good one to get them writing.


We were then really grateful to Anna Comas-Quinn, @AComasQuinn from the OU for sharing her knowledge and expertise on Open Educational Resources and Creative Commons. Teach Meets are all about sharing great ideas so it seems right that Anna talked to us about sharing resources.

The evening drew to a close with three great presentations.  The first from Kirsty de Groot, @phrancophilly  talked us through some fabulous ideas for the MFL classroom for use with all age groups even.  Google classroom and Edmodo are just some of the tools Kirsty mentioned.  Clearly her students are really well prepared for secondary school. Kirsty’s ‘sell a teacher on ebay’ idea went down a treat.

Next up was Joe Dale, @joedale is a master at using technology in the MFL classroom and thus it was no surprise that he created a personalised talking photo story right there at our TeachMeet.  The audience were duly impressed with his brilliant Book Creator photo stories and his ideas about sharing them using Padlet.

Our evening was rounded off in style by Crista Hazell, @CristaHazell.  Crista reminded us of the need for creativity in MFL so that we can enable pupils to access the language they are being taught. Crista gave us so much to think about and consider our minds were buzzing with ideas.  She talked about keeping the sparkle in our students’ eyes and gave us ideas on how to achieve this.  Crista managed to put a sparkle in our eyes too!

The enthusiasm from Crista and all the presenters was infectious.  We proved that MFL Rocks (and so do MFL Teachers!).

We can not wait for our next MFL TeachMeet  -#DHLang15 – and have decided to break up the long wait with a multi-discipline TeachMeet in November.   If you would like to sign up for #EduDH15 you can do so by clicking on #EduDH15

We look forward to seeing you.

You can access the presentations here: Cheng-Han Wu: MOTS & HOTS Ali Quick: Be spontaneous! Rachel Smith: Sketchnoting Gemma Laundon: Spontaneous writing skills Anna Comas-Quinn: Open content and pedagogy Crista Hazell: Creativity in MFL

#DHTM ~ what to do with one iPad or tablet in class

As ever life at school remains busy however this did not stop a good number of interested colleagues coming along to enjoy the last staff Teach Meet of the term.  I think the subject matter had something to do with this as many of us really want to be able to make the most of our iPads in class and are aware that there are many tools that can help us enhance what we are doing with our pupils.

So, first up was TodaysMeet  which the MFL department had discovered at their excellent start of term INSET given by @joedale.  As the website says Todays Meet :

“gives everyone a voice”

With our virtual room duly set up we were all able to see how easy it is to post a question and for someone else in the room to respond (thus leaving the teacher free to continue teaching). With exam season upon us and revision sessions going on TodaysMeet seems like an ideal digital tool to use.  Furthermore a room can stay open for as long or as short a period as necessary so the questions can, if you wish, keep coming even when the lesson is over.  What an excellent tool to encourage collaborative learning amongst pupils and to help students to revise.  So, although not an iPad tool (although it is possible to access the site on your tablet browser, of course) this seems like too good a tool to ignore.

With our room set up the meeting then moved swiftly on to a bona fide iPad or tablet tool.  is a tool that our Teach Meets have explored before.  However, given the focus of this meeting we had to revisit it.  This is such an easy tool to use and is so effective in providing instant feedback on pupil progress using just one iPad and a few cards with QR codes on them.  It is such a simple idea but is so effective.   For more information on this tool read this blog post here.

Finally, we looked at the Post it Plus app which is only available at the moment on iPad. IN my view, this is its only limitation.  Never again will you have to wonder what to do with all those post-it notes your pupils used at the end of the lesson. Of course, before post-it plus, we simply read through the post-its to gain an idea of what our pupils had understood in the lesson.  With the app you simply take a photo and save the post its for use again and again.  You can rearrange the post-its, add more post-its, annotate them, organise them by category and collaborate with others.  If you wanted to demonstrate to your class how much had been achieved over the course of a topic you could combine two sets of post-it notes (saved on boards) and see easily what progress (or not) has been made.  Export the board and save as a powerpoint, pdf or excel.  Here’s one I made earlier:

post it notes

As you can see one of these notes was annotated and all the notes in fact from this board were examined in class in the next lesson so that the pupils could discuss errors made and accurate usage.  To ead more about this versatile and incredibly useful tool click here.

So three very easy tools were examined this time and colleagues have gone on straight away to make use of some of these in their lessons.

Which tools have we overlooked – please let us know.  Do you use any of these tools?  If so, let us know in the comment box below.  We would love to hear how you use them.

#DHTM – Easy Tech Tools

The first Teach Meet of the term was well attended by teachers keen to see what technology could do for their lessons.  The goal was to keep it simple and look at tools that were easily accessible by all.

First up was @plickers which is an excellent assessment tool that helps teachers gauge how well their students have understood the work covered.  It enables teachers to plan the next steps with an accurate knowledge of the levels their students have attained.  A quick demonstration was given and it was clear to everyone that this is a tool that should be explored more.  It does require one iPad per classroom.  For more information on how to set up your class using plickers click here.

For those who do not have access to an iPad another option  is @GetKahoot .

This is an excellent online tool for use in a language lab or students can get the student version of the tool ( on their lap top. This tool allows you to assess your students’ knowledge in much the same way as plickers with four possible answers to choose from. The difference with this tool is that once the four choices are displayed for all to see on the screen there is a limit on the amount of time that students have to answer the question. The background music adds to the intensity and the leader board posted on screen after each round brings an element of competition to this assessment tool. GetKahoot also saves the data about students’ responses in the same way as Plickers. So another tool that is definitely worth exploring.

Next under the spotlight was linoit. Linoit is just one of a number of online walls or pin-boards where students can collaborate and share ideas. Some of the others are linoit – “colourful collaboration” or padlet – “the easiest way to share and collaborate in the world”. It is easy to set up and you can invite your students to join in advance. Once you have started a sharing wall and set it up with your students you really can take it anywhere; grammar work, diagrams, feedback about a particular topic in biology, character analyses for a set text, or, as the example here, research about a particular, French comedian.


Once students start adding their thoughts, ideas, answers and so on the path is set for peer assessment, critical checks by critical friends and your feedback and advice.

Talking about giving advice @shampoozil then talked about how she uses podcasts to give advice on how to answer exam questions effectively. Setting up such a podcast is so easy and requires only the ability to record on a mobile phone or computer and the recording is then very easily
accessible by all students. The obvious advantage of recording such guidelines in this way is that students can access the information at their own pace and can access it as many times as they wish. Lesson time can then be freed up for dealing with individual questions and issues. Using podcasts or voice annotated feedback is certainly an area that needs further investigation and with such apps as educreations and notability oral feedback should become increasingly easy.

The final tool to come under scrutiny was shared by @DiEvans18. She talked to us all about memrise an online site and app @memrise that provides a fun way to learn new vocabulary. This tool has a place not just in the language classroom but in many areas across the school curriculum. @DiEvans18 uses it in her Business Studies classroom. This is a flexible tool that allows teachers to input key vocabulary or lets you choose from a bank of vocabulary that is already there. As a teacher it is possible to follow your students progress and, of course, for students they can create their own lists of vocabulary.

As ever, lots of great ideas were shared at this Teach Meet and I am sure that this will be the first of many more great Teach Meets this year. I hope to see you there.

If you have experience of the tools talked about here (or similar ones) then please let us know in the comment box below. We look forward to hearing from you.

#DHMFLTeachMeet. 26.6.14

Well, the build up was good and there was great anticipation leading up to our first ever Teach Meet for teachers from beyond Downe House. When the day itself finally dawned and language teachers from far and wide descended upon us the meeting did not disappoint. There was a real buzz around the room as excited teachers from KS3 to University Level touched base and chatted about language teaching.

Finally the show got going for real. Not that a room full of linguists needed any convincing about the power of language but we started with a video clip from comedian Paul Whitehouse’s football manager which demonstrated just why we need to learn foreign languages.

Then we got going for real. Justin from @vocabexpress talked us through his fabulous  website which immediately impressed with its easy to use and engaging set up.  There are so many different ways to acquire vocab these days and the tools available on vocab express make the learning process so enjoyable and motivating.

George from @this_islanguage then demonstrated some of the authentic videos and the associated games, and online comprehension quizzes that come with them.  The sheer variety of activities that come with each video is amazing and provides for most needs.  The audience were duly impressed and signed up for the prizes offered by these two sponsors.

First up after the sponsors was @enzadipotenza from @UniRdg_ModLang who talked through the great work going on at Reading University’s MFL department.  We heard about students teaching students and the peer learning element of the OpAL programme which is providing open access to languages for all students.  You can read more about the programme here.

There were so many great ideas shared it was hard to keep up.  Here is an overview of the other topics discussed.

1) the lovely, supportive @candidagould talked about her new take on lesson starters and improving confidence in writing which has been a real hit with her pupils (and with the TeachMeet who could not wait to ask more questions over wine and snacks).

2) @cristahazell always has lots of great ideas and this time focused on how to get our pupils to speak more, to engage and to lose the fear factor.  You could well imagine that her pupils flourish under her care.


3) The fabulous Mary Wood from St Barts showed us her hugely entertaining and worthwhile flashcard game which is excellent for vocab revision. The audience enjoyed the idea and the presentation.

4) Mary Wood also talked us through using memrise which has a bank of vocabulary available and if you can not find what you are looking for you can add your own resources.

5) @basnettj continued the theme of overcoming fear in speaking a foreign language. Her approach was through technology and the use of the avatar.

6) @BGrammaire wowed us all with her grammar songs.  What a great idea to reinforce grammar through song.

@BGrammaire in action

7) Ali Quick from Isambard Community School in Swindon shared some fantastic extension activities with us.  Her challenge box activity impressed us all.  Here’s a sample of some of the cards:

extension tasksIn all, a fantastic evening.  The atmosphere in the room as language teachers from all sectors and all key stages got together and talked about what they loved doing was not to be missed.  You could feel the positivity in the air and it was so good to share ideas and collaborate with like minded colleagues.  Thank you to all my colleagues who came along to listen and support and thank you to those of you who presented.  The evening could not have happened without you.  This was Inset made by MFL teachers for MFL teachers.

So, DHMFLTeachMeet 2014 is over.  Roll on DHMFLTeachMeet 2015.