Wednesday 23 July 2014

Word of the day

This might seem a little weird to some people but we have a tradition in our house of having an ‘August switch-off”. It used to mean that the tv went off for a month but has now been extended to computer games, the iPad, wii, playstation, etc. - essentially, all activities involving sitting in front of a screen. The children tend to miss it for a couple of days and then never mention it again. It makes us do other things, spend more time outdoors, play games in the evenings and talk to each other more.
This year we are starting the August switch-off early…at 5pm today! This is so that we can switch back on again by August 23rd in time for the new episode of Doctor Who (which my hubby claims won’t be the same on catch-up!).

So, what has this got to do with the word for the day? I’ve decided it ought to be….


= la paix (in French)
= la paz (in Spanish)

Peace also seems particularly apt right now  as it is what we all wish for Gaza and Israel.

You’ll notice that the Spanish word is also the name of the capital of Bolivia. What a lovely name for a capital city. (It’s actually short for ‘Nuestra Señora de la Paz’ (Our Lady of Peace).

Tuesday 22 July 2014

wow word doughnuts

Wow word doughnuts

Yesterday I decided to help my son (8 years) to learn a few 'wow' words (as his school calls them). I found a lovely collection of free printables at Sparklebox where they had arranged synonyms on some images of Chelsea buns.

Next, the children and I made some tiny flags. We cut out lots of small diamond shapes from brightly coloured paper and then attached them to cocktail sticks with sticky tape. We then wrote a word on each tiny flag. There were 210 in total and I soon wished I hadn't started!

We persevered and they did look cute and colourful when finished.

Now for the fun part....

I bought a box of mini doughnuts and put a key word (big, good, etc) in each one. The children then stuck the other flags, with the synonyms, into the correct mini doughnut. (It would have been much easier with full-sized doughnuts but I needed 20 and there were only 2 of them eating them so it had to be mini ones).

Once all the flags had been stuck in they chose 4. We read out the words and checked they were in the right place before the doughnut could be eaten.

They really enjoyed this and still have plenty of doughnuts left for another day.

Those of you who know my passion for phonics will already have guessed how I'm going to adapt this activity for the languages classroom. I'm planning on having a French breakfast next term. We'll use croissants and pains au chocolat instead of doughnuts and, instead of synonyms, the children can group words containing a certain phoneme (an and oi words for the croissant and in words for the pains au chocolat). I'll post here when we've done it. Miam, miam!

Word for the day

Some people have already started, some people haven't, but everyone will have by the end of this week.......


= las vacaciones (in Spanish)
 = les vacances (in French)

I'd like to wish all those who read my blog, and all my twitter followers, a wonderful summer.

Thursday 3 July 2014

A la Plage

A la Plage - Seaside-themed activities

Last week Carmel O’Hagan @OHaganCarmel shared a wonderful Belgian tradition with myself and Janet Lloyd. The activity is described about 2/3 of the way into this blog post   - Belgian seaside activity. Children create beautiful flowers and set up a flower shop on the beach. They then ‘trade’ using shells as currency. So cute!

It was then up to Janet and myself to ‘run with the idea’ and create some teaching and learning activities based on it. Janet has already posted her fantastic ideas on her blog and here is the link….

Janet Lloyd’s Bloemenwinkel

I wanted to order some resources for what I had in mind and so I have had to wait a few days for these to arrive….

I ordered some fluorescent sand and some shells from Essentials for Education. Delighted with them! The sand comes  in a selection of 6 fluorescent colours and is in bags of 1kg.

I bought a large plastic flowerpot from Homebase for £1.99 (28cm). I could have used a washing up bowl but I wanted to re-use the sand-filled plant pot for my flowers at the end. I bought a large plant pot to minimise mess as the children would be searching for shells in it. You could use a smaller container or several small containers for this but I would recommend placing it on a tray.

I used 4 bags of sand but you could get away with less.
I then wrote some key graphemes (letter strings) on the shells . You could link them to those that have cropped up in some beach-related vocabulary if you have covered it, such as...

ge – coquillage, plage
eau – seau, château (de sable)
u – dune
oi – poisson
qu – coquillage

The shells were then buried in the sand.

You could use as many or as few graphemes as you like. You could include different graphemes for the same phoneme, as I have done (é, ez, er) or just one. If you want to simplify this, just choose 4 key graphemes and repeat them.

The children then take turns hunting for shells. As they find a shell they must say the sound.

This activity would work well as a group activity, with a pot on each table, or you could sit the children in a circle and pass around a bucket with the shells in and a little sand on top.

My son (Yr 3) LOVED this activity and laughed with delight as he discovered the hidden shells.


Next, tell the children about the lovely Bloemenwinkel tradition and show them the pictures from the website.

If time allows, discuss what the children know about Belgium. Perhaps, given the World Cup, they know the colours of the flag but do they know the languages spoken there?
The 2 main languages are Belgian Dutch (Flemish) in the north and French in the south but German is also an official language.

The next step is to create some beautiful flowers. Below are suggestions for 2 different methods of creating flowers and a different activity to accompany each.

Idea 1 – layered tissue flowers / poems and bartering

Here’s a link to some instructions for making different types of paper flowers…. and here’s one I made earlier!!

Layer some squares of tissue paper on top of each other. Fold them concertina-style then bend the whole thing in half. Attach a pipe cleaner or wire and twist to secure. Finally, separate the sheets of tissue paper and fan them out to look like petals.

The children can them set up a flower shop in groups and trade with shells, just like the children do on the beaches of Belgium in the summer. This is a great activity for practising numbers. You can also pacts phrases such as “je voudrais…” and, of course, colours.

Idea 2 – paper flowers / personal descriptions

I used a template and cut out flower shapes from 2 different colours of paper.  On each petal the children can write an adjective or phrase to describe their favourite person or celebrity. They can use all the petals on both layers or just a few from one of them, so the task is open-ended.

Next place one flower on top of the other and push the end of a long green pipe cleaner through the centre of both flowers and bent the tip to hold it in place I curled the petals of the top flower around a pencil so that the one underneath was more visible.  Finally, the children can stick a small picture of their person in the centre of the flower.
The completed flowers can be displayed in a bucket of sand or flower pot and the children can enjoy reading the descriptions.
Here’s one my daughter (Yr 9) did about Taylor Swift. Her opinion of the activity? “These would be well cool to make!"

Word for the day

Anyone who followed my tweets yesterday won’t be at all surprised that today’s word has to be…..


heureux (heureuse) in French

feliz in Spanish

A little note about the Spanish…. There are 2 verbs ‘to be’ in Spanish, ‘ser’ and ‘estar’. The former is used for inherent characteristics, things that won’t change, whilst the latter is used to denote location or a temporary state. Here’s an example…

She is Spanish  = (Ella) es española   (using ‘ser’)
She is pregnant = (Ella) está embarazada. (using ‘estar')

So, when talking about the lyrics of Pharrell William’s song ‘ Happy', you would say “Estoy feliz. Soy de Madrid.” (I’m happy. I’m from Madrid).

I discovered so many great videos from all over the world to accompany the song.

For those who missed yesterday’s tweets, here are some links…..

First of all, here is a map with links to each of the versions from around the world. This would be a fantastic resource for locating counties where the target language is spoken.

Now, here are some examples from the French-speaking and Spanish speaking countries….

Angers, France     Paris      Madrid     Tahiti      Valencia       Sevilla 

and my absolute favourite….   Martinique

Apart from providing a wealth of cultural information, these videos are a great resource when talking about places in a town. What can the children see in the background - a bridge, river, cathedral, beach, museum…? I also rather like the idea that you don’t just get to see the major landmarks, such as the Eiffel tower, but also what ‘normal’ everyday life looks like in these places. 

For some great lesson ideas based on places in a town and role-playing being a tour guide, see Janet Lloyd’s blog

Tuesday 1 July 2014

Word for the day

When I thought about what today’s word should be it seemed pretty obvious as, unfortunately, I have a cold. 

Here’s the phrase in Spanish….

estoy constipado (constipada) = I have a cold

There won’t always be a little anecdote attached to the Word of the Day but in this case there most definitely is!

During my year abroad I shared a flat in Spain with a friend from uni. Our landlady was lovely, gregarious, hilarious and, let’s say, larger-than-life character, who loved her food. One day she kindly invited us round for a meal. She had cooked an array of traditional Spanish dishes for us. I forget the starter - soup I think, but remember the main course vividly. It was 'cocido madrileño’. This is a traditional dish, which is like a type of stew. (Cocido means ‘cooked’ and madrileño is the adjective from Madrid). The dish consists of chickpeas, several types of meat, vegetables and potatoes, so you can imagine that it’s pretty filling. Here’s a photo of a typical cocido madrileño and a link to a recipe page.

Cocido recipe

The portions were huge and the meal was accompanied by wine, as I recall. My friend and I were feeling more and more full by the mouthful but wanted to be polite as our landlady had gone to so much trouble and so we ploughed on. By the end we could hardly move but were relieved to have eaten up. Then our hearts sank as our lovely landlady announced that she was off to fetch dessert! While she was in the kitchen we discussed tactics and decided that we would have to have some of the dessert but would only take a small helping. The next moment in came our landlady, proudly bearing a large, deep bowl of what looked like custard with whole biscuits floating on the top. Then we watched in horror as she set the bowl down not in the centre of the table but directly in front of me! She then returned with the same for my flatmate and a third for herself. These were individual portions! 
Somehow we got through it but the ordeal (and, trust me, by now it was most definitely an ordeal) did not end there. Afterwards there was dessert wine, chocolate and turrón (a typical Spanish sweet treat often compared to praline or nougat but actually unlike anything we have in Britain). It was delicious, but all too much.
We thanked our landlady for her hospitality and crawled back to our flat hoping that she hadn’t noticed that we were rather over-faced by it all.

We thought we’d got away with it until 2 days later when we bumped into her on the street. My friend and I both had a winter cold and had blocked sinuses, which I think was rather obvious when we started talking.

“Ahhh, pobrecitas,”(you poor things) she cried, “estáis constipadas.” 

We were horrified, thinking that she believed we were suffering from constipation after the feast at her place and so we vehemently denied it. However much she insisted that we were, indeed, “constipadas” (and she should know as she was actually a nurse) we insisted that we were not and that we were, actually, perfectly fine.

The poor lady must have thought we were idiots and that’s exactly how we felt when we eventually discovered the true meaning of “constipadas”!