Since July I have been working hard on a project with Kelda Richards from ISCA College for the European Day of Languages. Every year when I was at Edgehill I used to help organise an... extravaganza, with all classes in KS 2, 3 and 4 spending the first few weeks of term writing and rehearsing their own sketch to perform in the school's theatre in front of parents and whichever staff I could persuade to attend. It was exhausting, highly stressful and I was never sure actually how much benefit came from it. A lot of the kids grumbled and I found that with my exam groups I really resented the time lost. Also, how much did it really boost the profile of languages and show how worthwhile they are? In effect, was it a real or an artificial outcome?
Yesterday at the University of Exeter 7 schools from around Exeter and Plymouth brought teams of 6 with them (5 schools brought 2 teams each), each containing 2x year 8, 2x year 9 and 2x year 10 pupils. Their brief was provided by Bertie Cozic, a recently retired French footballer who played for Exeter City and who now owns and manages Gourmandine creperie in the heart of Exeter. Here was our real purpose. The teams were challenged with creating an advert, predominantly in French, for Gourmandine. They also had to make a presentation, again predominantly in French, of up to 5 minutes, explaining their choices and campaign. Bertie eloquently explained that nowadays one language is not enough- and in fact can be incredibly limiting. His main message- go on, take a risk. Learn a language and see where you end up- you'll be surprised what doors open for you.
And so the teams had 150 minutes to get creative. Each team had an ipad loaded with iMovie, Garageband and Pages and could choose how they wanted to present their materials. Armed with a poster packed with QR codes, including to Gourmandine's website, to the project blog ready loaded with example viral videos, an iMovie guide and later with a basic set of ideas for a presentation, the teams found a quiet space in the language department's rooms and set to work. Or, in many cases, set to a mild state of panic. Here they were confronted by using language for a real purpose, eek. Yes their teachers were there but they were (fairly) strictly hands off. The ideas and the language were student driven- and some of them were amazing.
The first hour was mostly spent faffing. Very little concrete progress was made. Groups of (mainly) boys huddled around their ipads and achieved very little. And then all of a sudden things kicked off. Logos were drawn, filming began in earnest and interviews were taking place in every quiet corner of the building and beyond. Bertie was a busy boy, much in demand! It really was a delight to behold- these were groups of students, of hugely varying abilities, genuinely engaged in a language creation task. I admit it, at times I really was proud of what was going on.
At 1pm teams were invited back into the main lecture theatre to "present". Given that this was the first time any of us involved had put on an event like this using ipads this section of the day was not as slick as I'd have liked it to have been, but I'll come on to that probably in a separate post. That said, it still worked, and worked really well- with HUGE thanks on that front to the skill and knowledge of Kelda and her techies Dan and George, again from ISCA. They were superb, cheers guys. We really wanted to focus on the fact that these teams, just like in business, had a deadline to meet and if they weren't ready there was nothing anyone else could do- they'd just have to go for it. And, on the whole, they really, really did. Even down to the fact that they were in charge of their own lunch times- and most of them worked straight through, munching on a sandwich whilst rehearsing for a language performance- in my experience a real rarity.
So having watched the presentations and ads, a choice had to be made. And for me undoubtedly the right decision was made to announce Devonport High School for girls as the winners on the day (please please watch their video, it is superb). Their video really was a shining example of creativity- it was so different, so visually attractive and so watchable, really well done, girls.
But the day winner was only a small part of the "event". The real goal was to send the buzz around languages back to the schools and really build something special. And so the real winner will be the team whose ad receives most views / listens / hits by next Wednesday at 5pm, thus going through the actual European Day of Languages on Monday that we couldn't do physically due to the start of Fresher's week. So the teams are trying to find every way possible to drive traffic to their materials, thus publicising languages across the school, with the teachers not having to do anything at all. And with 1 video already haven broken through the 1000 views barrier in under 20 hours and a number of other videos close on their heels it really seems like they're hard at work, whilst the comments section on the blog has been exploding ever since! What a day.
But in many ways more importantly, what a day that could easily be adapted, replicated and improved upon anywhere across the country.