Well, I’m back in the game.
I’ve been asked to create a Spanish department in the Route 39 Academy, a free school which has been open since September just along the north Devon coast from where I live. The school is driven by a forward-thinking, Project Based Learning environment and the Head has given me a fantastic brief- innovate, push the students forward in a way that makes them think and in turn be creative themselves. Just my cup of tea.
As such, at the moment, given that I am starting on a very limited timetable from after half term as I serve out some of my existing consultancy commitments (I’ll still have 2 days a week working freelance), I’m in the process of creating an ideal world scenario in my head and then seeing how many of those elements I can incorporate in the department which will be growing in September. The students (all years 7 and 8) currently have a very mixed view towards the language learning experiences that they have had previously but are used to working in an independent, reflective way. They have had a large amount of input on the use of Learning Habits / BLP and so these are elements that I have to take into consideration.
- Creative content- I’ll be opening up with a unit on Mexico (thanks @geoblogs for the discussions) designed to encourage students to reflect on “otherness” and through that to reflect a bit about themselves. The conceit is that they will be designing and describing a character who lives in Tijuana, just over the border from San Diego. The long and short of it is that they will have to decide where their future lies and whether they take the risk of crossing the border in search of a different life. This will be accompanied by a technology project to design the wall of crosses which represents those who’ve lost their lives, as well as creating a visual representation of the things that they will hold dear in the country that they choose.
- Phonics- will be at the core of everything. I’m also in the process (thanks @joedale) of putting together QR codes to add to Rachel Hawkes’ Phonics poster to make a classroom display (and a handout for their books) which will enable students to listen to the phonic sounds whenever they want / need them.
- A blog- I want the students to be creating and to be reflecting- for me, a blog is essential. It also presents the department in the right, outward-facing way and engages parents, who play a big role in the school’s DNA.
- Group Talk / arguing- within the first month I want students to be able to pause (pues, a ver, es decir, sabes) and argue (qué va, no estoy de acuerdo) and then justify (porque, ya que). That means, for me, setting up contentious positions where students are able to develop genuine opinions- again, looping back to the content.
- Flipping- in line with the school’s emphasis on PBL I like the concept of Flipping the classroom- giving the students the skills and knowledge in advance and then allowing them to examine and implement those elements in the lesson time where I can then support those who need additional help and enable those who are ready to fly. I think Wildern School in Southampton have been doing some great work on this front recently- see their http://www.fliplearningmfl.blogspot.co.uk/ for some fascinating ideas. Sam Broom’s also come up with some great grammar videos http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCXD7mnOYRYNrK58Fszv5ZPw . I’ve created http://route39mfl.wikispaces.com/ to start compiling different materials and give students a go-to space for learning materials.
- Edmodo- this is a possibility, not a definite- I’m looking forward to going to a session at #ililc4 next week about it to make some final decisions- what I don’t want is to overload students from the start but I do want to provide them with a venue to discuss and share ideas, especially relevant for when they’re working on projects when they’re not in the same physical space as each other.
- Wespeke- as soon as possible I want to get students communicating for real- I think Wespeke can provide a fantastic tool to do this, communicating with real classes all over the world, easily and for free. Result.
- Twitter- again, I want to provide real world interaction. Not many of the students use Twitter yet, but I'm hoping that some of their parents do and so can use Twitter as a way of engaging with their children's learning. I also want to use it to provide opportunities to contact the rest of the world. So please follow @route39MFL
- I've agreed to run a learning evening for parents a few weeks into my contract. Plenty of phonics, plenty of thought generating, probably a cheeky Wordle and the odd glass of wine, all while showing parents how they can support students at home. I'm really excited about this.