Sunday, April 11, 2021

Cornell Notes - could they be a useful technique for MFL?

 In my research of effective Retrieval Practice, when reading Mark Enser's book 'Teach like nobody is watching', I have come across a technique called Cornell Notes, which has been successfully used in HE for a long time. Enser mentions this method in the Recap section of his book, so I started to ponder whether it would work in Secondary Education and specifically in the Languages classroom to support retrieval practice as well as how I could apply this technique to my context so it can benefit and improve the learning of my students.

What are Cornell Notes?

The Cornell Notetaking method was developed by Dr. Walter Pauk of Cornell University. It is a system used widely for taking notes of material presented in a lecture or from reading. It is also used for reviewing and retaining of that material. Using this system can help learners to organise their notes, actively involve them in creation of knowledge and improve learners study skills.

                        *picture from wiki

When using Cornell Notes style, student's exercise books are set up in four distinct sections:
  1. A title and date section at the top
  2. A section for key questions or key words on the left
  3. A main section on the right for the note taking
  4. A summary section about 6 lines from the bottom comprising the three quarters as pictured in the illustration above
You can get your students to either grab a ruler and draw their own lines (if you choose to do this, I would model it first) or you can make/download a template from the many templates available on the internet.
                                                                     Template adapted from a template found on the internet
AS/A Level

I can see great potential for using Cornell Notes when analysing texts, films and social concepts. I think this method would be extremely useful for students when organising their notes and  their knowledge on various topics; it is another way to build retrieval throughout the course or lesson. Additional bonus is that students can use the questions they put in the second section to revise at home as well.
In MFL context, I have also seen them used for Grammar notes, which again would apply more to HE (AS/A Level). Here is a post, I came across when researching, demonstrating how the learner uses it  for learning and revising Grammar.

Secondary school level

However, I was more interested in using Cornell Notes with my GCSE classes or even look at the ways I could use them with my KS3 classes as a retrieval tool. I discussed the method with my colleague who is the Subject Leader for Geography at my school and we decided both to trial it and compare our findings.
She has trialled it with her year 8 higher ability class when summarising a topic of rainforest adaptations and reported that a large amount of time had to be spent on teaching students how to lay out their book (this would diminish over time as students will become more familiar with the method or you could use a template) and how to apply the method (she modelled it on her white board), but overall she was pleased with the result. She has also emphasised that in her opinion this method would probably work with higher ability classes only, but she was keen to use it again.

I decided to trial it with my year 11 class as a retrieval task prior to their writing assessment. I have asked my students to pick any topic they wanted except for the one we covered most recently. I have given them a pre-made template, I have adapted from internet (see above) in order to save time explaining students how to organise their exercise book.
This task was completely 'free call', without using any KO, SB or notes! 

I have asked them on their template:
  • in the second section (left side), to list some key vocabulary (variety of word groups) - you could even ask them to list key questions
  • in the third section (right side), to write examples of sentences they could use for the topic, encouraging them to use complex sentence that would be suitable for the grade they were aiming for. 
  • finally, in the fourth section, to summarise any Grammar points they have to consider and review when proof checking their work.
                                                                                              On the pictures are some examples of students' work - mixed ability.

The next step in the process would be feedback - checking for any mistakes made, this could be done by teacher circulating around the class, noting common errors/misconceptions and addressing them either individually or if the same mistakes are made across the group re-teaching if necessary. This feedback is crucial to support students in developing their metacognition.
It is also important to build a 'culture of errors' as Doug Lemov mentions in his book 'Teach like a Champion', so students are comfortable when discussing their mistakes and learning from them.

I believe this method is worth exploring and could be even used with KS3 when recalling the knowledge from a SB, parallel text or KO.

Please share your views here, I would be very interested to hear what you think! 

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Developing speaking skills and oracy at KS3


Speaking is the second language skill, after listening, that we acquire in our native language. It is also known as a productive skill as it requires us to use our vocal tract and brain to correctly produce language through sounds.

Most of us will be in agreement that the ultimate goal for learners when learning a new language is the ability to speak it. Let's face it, we are rather unlikely to write in foreign language when we travel abroad, especially when travelling for pleasure! Naturally, when travelling for business or as part of our profession that is then a different scenario. 
However, for many language lovers and enthusiasts it is not just about the language acquisition but also about the culture and opportunities to explore different ways of life. Speaking another language allows us to communicate with a variety of people, express our ideas freely and become an active member of a new community. 
I love the Czech proverb below (it is even on our curriculum map), it really resonates with me. I am sure that many linguists out there will concur with me saying: 'We become almost a different person when we speak in another language' - the choice of expressions, our voice, our jokes, our thinking, our whole manner changes... all influenced by the little cultural nuances that we have consciously or unconsciously learnt during the language learning process and experiences of the countries we have visited, spent time in or lived in. It definitely applies to me!

So how can we nurture oracy in the classroom?

Firstly, to get my students' point of view when it comes to language learning, I have decided to conduct a short exit ticket survey with my KS3 and KS4 classes to find out what they consider to be essential when learning a new language. I have asked all of them the same question: 
  • How do you decide whether you are good at this subject, what is the most important skill when learning a language?
The responses from students have been pretty consistent in terms of what they class as the top priority when learning a new language. 92% of my students at KS4 and 86% at KS3 measured their success in learning a new language by their ability to speak it. 
When we discussed the results  in more detail next lesson, they also voiced their biggest concerns about speaking - such as perceiving it to be very difficult, their lack of confidence, worries about making mistakes and being laughed at...

Speaking is a skill which often can get neglected in classroom. It is also a skill in which students lack confidence mostly. Developing good oral skills takes a lot of practice and a lot of time which can be a real challenge for us - educators as the content of the National Curriculum is so vast and the time given for languages on the timetable so limited and not taking into account that lessons need to be spaced out more evenly (i.e. not having a 5 day gap between the lessons)! 
Unfortunately, this is highly unlikely to change, unless there is some major development on part of the DfE where the status of modern languages becomes more prominent and valued in the U.K. education.

How can we move forward and support our learners?

The practice that I will outline below is my approach on how I support my students in developing oracy and building their confidence when speaking. During my teaching career, I have observed over and over again that many students struggle to speak or are very hesitant to speak, so over the past 3-4 years, I have spent time reading about and researching different approaches on how to support their speaking skills and as a consequence this is the route that I have taken... 

Starting from day one, it is crucial that my students learn to produce new sounds as accurately as possible, so developing speaking goes hand in hand with listening - students hearing the sounds and imitating them back by saying them aloud. I am afraid, there is no room for hiding in my classroom. 

If you are wondering how I get the reluctant or anxious learners to speak - well, I talk to them about learning and about how memory works, I talk to them about forgetting which is natural and inevitable and why making mistakes is so important, I totally take advantage of the fact that I am 'foreign' - explaining to them that even after 20 year of living in the U.K., I still make mistakes and mispronounce words and even have some embarrassing moments. 
I work hard on building an environment where my students feel safe to take risks and build up their confidence. It has been a slow journey, but it is working, with more and more of my quiet students feeling happy to volunteer or even be 'cold-called'. They know, if they don't know the answer it is ok to say (in TL): 'I don't know that yet.' - something I have learnt from Patrice Bain and her 'Powerful Teaching' (co-authored with Pooja Agarwal). 

Since September, we have been using E.P.I - a methodology developed by Dr. Gianfranco Conti, which has been proving highly effective so far, especially at KS3. The first step when re-designing our SoW we have reduced the content and pretty much stopped using the textbook (we still loosely use some of the topics for guidance making sure the National Curriculum requirements are covered and some of the listening activities). 
I introduce new vocabulary within a chunk using a Sentence Builder (however, what ever model you use - parallel texts, text book course etc. - the principles should be the same). We model and practice the new language extensively ensuring students know it really well before we move onto more spontaneous speaking without scaffolding. The MARS EARS sequence provides a natural progression. 
I use Retrieval Practice in all of my lessons, not just at the start of the lesson (I think there is a bit of a misconception about it, some educators thinking it is a new fancy word for the old starter activity). Retrieval can happen at any point in the lesson and the various activities we have at our disposal offer a plethora of opportunities for it naturally. 
To re-enforce  learning and recall, I regularly set learning (retrieval) HWK for my students - see my post on Making Homework meaningful and purposeful. This is, in my opinion, the key for ensuring my students have the necessary vocabulary and structures for practising first scaffolded and then un-scaffolded speaking tasks.
I don't set any writing for HWK as many students often resort to 'cheating' via google translate so learning is very limited. 

At KS3 these are some of the activities I use rather regularly:

  • Narrow reading - flooded input - used as a listening but also as reading aloud activity - supporting pronunciation. Could be also used as translation activity - the teacher saying the text in L1 and the students matching it to L2.
  • Oral ping - pong - this could be done as a written translation task, but I often use it as oral activity - students translating the sentences verbally taking turns and checking the accuracy and me - the teacher their pronunciation.
  • Trapdoor - is a great game which offers students opportunities to rehearse and practise the same structures over and over again.
                                                                          * adapted from a resource shared online
  • Battleships - students creating combinations of sentences - verbally - ensuring correct verb conjugation. Can be used to practice various grammatical structures such as tenses, adjectival agreements etc. Walk thru 'Say it better' could be used to make it more challenging.
  • 'Catch the dog game' - I have been using this game for years - it could be used as RP/speaking practice at any stage in the lesson. I have a bank of interleaved questions (various topics) that I use with each year group. Soft toy dog is thrown to a student with a question he/she has to answer on the spot, firstly led by me - the teacher, later on the student picks another student asking him/her a question. This is a great way for students to practise not only answering questions but also asking questions which is a very important skill too. I often use it for practising tenses.
  • Board games - snakes and ladders, connect four, dice games - the first template I would use with my KS3, the other two are from which are more suitable for KS4.

  • Digital tools - with all of the recent changes in teaching, I, like many of us have become much better at using technology to our advantage and to enrich our delivery, they certainly can be great for enhancing learning and motivation - my favourite ones are - Wheel of names - I usually use key words and students need to make a sentence using the key word or a question which students have to answer and Flippity. I like to use 2 or 3 tools trying not to overload my students.                  The key for me is that they serve the purpose of learning and are not just a new gimmick. Some tools can be engaging and 'fun' but have a very low value in terms of learning and acquisition, so we should be wary of it.
                   * template was shared on social media

The work we do at KS3 in terms of oracy is a vital stepping stone for developing fluency and automacy at KS4. It is an essential skill and as mentioned above rated by my students as the one on which they measure their success in the subject as well as one of the most important criterion for motivation and whether the students chose the subject for their GCSE. The whole purpose of language is to serve as a communication tool which is in its most primary form executed orally.

In my next post I will concentrate on how I develop my students' oracy at KS4. I have put a lot of work into how we approach and coach students in independent speaking which has been positively commented on during learning walks conducted by the SLT and the CEO from within our Academy Trust.

I would be very interested to hear what strategies colleagues use to develop speaking skills and oracy, so please get in touch as I am always keen to explore new ideas and to learn from fellow professionals.

* If the original template/resource was shared by you, could you please let me know so I can credit you. Thank you.
** other templates created by Flo Rence and  board game resources from

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Feedback reflections


Recently, I have read 'The Feedback Pendulum' by Michael Chiles which analyses different types of feedback and its research based effectiveness. As the author says 'Power of feedback is determined by the power of follow-up'
There is a great deal of research on feedback with many studies showing that it has very high effects on learning (metacognition), but caution is needed as some studies also indicate that feedback can have a negative effect or even make things worse (EEF report). Therefore it is important to understand the potential benefits and limitations of it.

The problem most teachers encounter is that we can spend a long time on writing/giving feedback to our students only to discover that it didn't have the desired impact. Often, because of the pressure for results, students are mostly heavily interested in how many marks they scored or what grade they have achieved and just skim the comments we provided on how to improve, deepen and develop their work/learning further.

Many of us have spent hours and hours on marking and writing lengthy feedback comments because it was demanded by our school's marking policy with the perception of "the more detailed comment you have provided the better", in assumption that this will impart a high quality feedback which will then consequently have a high impact on students learning and progress! 

However, there is finally a shift in the thinking, a recognition that feedback is not about how much you write in a student's book but how effective it is in securing students learning and moving them forward
The problem with long written feedback is, a teacher setting too many targets on how to improve and develop students' work which causes cognitive overload! Students often don't know what to focus on first. So focussing on development of one structure (tense, WO, verb endings...) is more productive and manageable. The focus is also on the importance to reduce teachers' work load with regards to marking and on how and what type of feedback we bestow on our learners in order for it to have the desired impact. Most schools are now moving away from 'marking policy' to 'feedback strategy' which aims to support students learning but also teachers well-being.

I believe that feedback should be provided when and as necessary and not to timescale. In fact, in the classroom we provide feedback constantly, whether it is through our body language, gestures, facial expressions or verbally. It is a critical element, without it how will students know whether they know or don't know the material of study? How will they and the teacher know how to close the gap in their knowledge? It assists with reviewing and reinforcing what our learners have learnt. 

In Language learning on a classroom level - when introducing new language or structures it is crucial that our students know if they are pronouncing the sounds and constructing new structures correctly. In this case immediate feedback - corrective feedback which requires little time is essential especially in terms of metacognition - it needs to be quick and accurate. Dependent on task, this type of feedback also supports development of procedural skills and is more powerful at the task level. Feedback is also important for correct answers not just incorrect as it reinforces and confirms knowledge and keeps students motivated as well. 
Corrective feedback through indirect error correction using prompts can get students to correct themselves (i.e. in German WO with perfect tense, opinions with 'weil' or in speaking asking 'Wie bitte?') and recall correct application in the future.

Elaborative feedback - explaining why an answer is correct - for example in grammatical structures, formation of tenses, word order, genders, conjugation of verbs, declension - is beneficial for students' transfer knowledge to new context and topics.
Like in any subject also in languages classroom, reflection is extremely important, the more learners spend on reflecting on their learning the more automatic it will become - in L2 acquisition we are striving for the automacity - all our tasks, if well planned, are geared to guide our students to develop this skill, however it takes a long time and lot of work. 

Delayed feedback - often provided next lesson, as research says is beneficial for long-term retention as it reduces interference - allows the initial mistake to be forgotten and then re-encoded with no interference. It also aids the transfer of learning. It involves greater degree of processing therefore it is more powerful at the process level.
Making mistakes is ok, it is how we learn, it supports the development of learner's metacognition. Giving constructive advice how a student can move forward and achieve his/her goal has the potential to double the impact of learning.
These are the types of feedback that I have been exploring in my classroom:
Verbal feedback
  1. 'live' in class during the teaching process - immediate/corrective - we do this all the time!
  2. using digital tools such as: Qwiqr which I have been using for feedback on our written CAE and my students liked it very much as they felt it was personal - the paper had 4 sections for foundation and 3 sessions for higher - each of my recoding was around 5 mins - there is no way I could write so much and frankly I doubt my students would be keen on reading long text. I have chosen one or two elements of the paper I wanted them to focus on improving (the ones which would have the highest impact on their grade in this case) and provided them with concrete point(s) - structure(s) and vocabulary they needed to apply to move their work forward. There are other tools teachers use; amongst others vocaroo, onenote, flipgrid or mote...essentially all very similar in their purpose.
Whole class feedback: this is something we are exploring as a department in more depth at the moment to make feedback more effective and ensuring students engage with it as we have found writing long individual comments was very time consuming - had a huge impact on workload but only small impact on students' learning! 
We designed 2 customised templates that we are starting to use - one for year 7 and the second for year 8-11 covering structures and content.
                                                                 Examples of whole class feedback
An excellent example of feedback template on assessment has been designed by Elena Diaz @TeacheryDiaz who used her 20 keys as feedback criteria - it is very thorough and provides a clear guidance and steps for students to follow. I have been permitted to adapt her keys (originally in Spanish to German) and below you can see her original version with a link to her blog where you can download the templates (click on her template) and my slightly adapted version.
         Elena's assessment feedback template
                Adapted template

Peer and self-assessment: as M. Chiles discusses in his opening chapter there are three feedback triggers of truth, identity and relationship to consider. When I trialled it myself, my experience has been similar to his. 
Either the feedback is positive because students are friends so they have positive relationship or if they are not there might be other issues/conflicts and student will request a second opinion via the teacher. Students often don't see their peers as an expert so they question the validity or quality of the feedback. 
I, personally don't think it is wise to ask students to provide a peer feedback on an assessment - high stakes with marks or grades awarded - students are not the experts. However, as suggested in the book we could ask them to provide 'guided peer feedback' to support and enhance each others learning. 
Previously, when I was dabbling into peer feedback myself, I didn't provide a clear structure for peer feedback in my classroom, this is something I will be addressing in my practice to see whether my classes would benefit from it. I also think it is important to think and plan which students to pair up together in order to make it as effective as possible, walk students through the process, making sure they know what the criteria are and give them plenty of opportunities to practise.

LIFT (Learner Initiated Feedback Technique) is a strategy mentioned in the new Smith/Conti book on Memory What every language teacher should know - which I find intriguing - it is a good example of a metacognitive strategy - students write annotations/questions in their work regarding grammatical accuracy of their task (i.e. should I use 'mit dem Auto' or 'bei dem Auto') when expressing how they travelled. 
This informs us - teachers about our students' difficulties and encourages a conversation which should make the correction more memorable.

During the remote teaching, I as many of us have, been using what I call 'acknowledgement feedback' - positive comment (Great detailed work! etc.) in response to the work the student has submitted, certificate for the hard work and effort - normally classed as an example of ineffective feedback as it doesn't move learning forward. However, in the current situation this type of feedback plays an important role to keep students motivated as well as acknowledging their hard work and effort in such difficult times - we can not possibly mark every single piece of work submitted to us in detail, but it is important to ensure our students know their work is read and that it matters. It helps with building student - teacher relationships.

In conclusion, it is important to consider feedback from the perspective of the receiver as well. As mentioned earlier, it can have not just positive but also a negative impact on our learners which can consequently impact self-efficacy, confidence and motivation. 

I look forward to your comments and constructive feedback šŸ˜ƒ.


Michael Chiles: The Feedback Pendulum
Steve Smith/Gianfranco Conti: Memory - What every language teacher should know - assessment feedback template - original feedback loop - ours is an adaptation.


Saturday, February 20, 2021

Dual coding - how can it be used in Languages

 We - teachers spend a lot of our time planning and designing engaging resources for our students. However, the question I will pose is: 'What is the purpose of these resources?' 
The foremost purpose for them is to be a teaching tool which should enable students to understand, process and remember the information/knowledge at hand clearly and easily.

I have often spent a lot of time designing a resource - PowerPoint presentation or a worksheet - making it colourful, with beautiful fonts and pictures only to notice that quite a few of my students, especially the younger ones, would concentrate more on the cute/attractive pictures, animations or bitmojis than at the knowledge I wanted them to learn. The attention was not on the learning I was set up to deliver...

My post will cause mixed feelings and possibly a controversy as so many of us love creating beautiful resources and we can spend hours creating them, however are they causing split-attention? Are they fulfilling their purpose?

At the heart of learning is the imparting of knowledge from the working memory to long-term memory. This is crucial for our learners in terms of encoding, storage and retrieval. The information that we present, must be revisited and processed numerous times to ensure that clear connections are made between the old and new learning for it to be embedded into long-term memory.   

As mentioned in my previous post on Rosenshines Principles, the presentation of new knowledge is important in creating a rich schema and dual coding can be one such method to support it. The Seneca course on Dual coding designed by Oliver Caviglioli has made me think and reflect on how I design and present new knowledge to my learners. 
The significance of dual coding has been recognised for years in fields of psychology and learning sciences, but has not been applied much in its earnest to teaching pedagogy until recently.

What is dual coding?

There are two channels into our working memory. One processes visual information (pictures, graphics, diagrams) and one processes verbal information (speaking, listening, reading, literacy).  

In its most basic form it is combining words and imagery to facilitate learning. Due to the limited capacity of our working memory when processing and retaining information that has been delivered in written word(s), combining these with images (parallel processing) allows for more working capacity and therefore reducing the cognitive load. One of the experts in the field of educational psychology - Paul Kirschner calls this method 'double barrelled learning'.

Through meta studies researchers such as Robert Marzano (2001) rated the average size effect of dual coding as 0.75 (0.4 being of significant impact on learning) and John Hattie as 0.57.

So what are the benefits of dual coding?

It can:
  1. Boost attention - graphics and imagery help to draw attention to the key message of verbal information whether it is written or spoken.
  2. Stimulates interest - especially for concepts that are abstract (in languages - Grammar - tenses, cases, genders, word groups etc.) thus helping students to visualise information rather than facing constant verbal input.
  3. Helps to manage cognitive load - does not split students attention - see my post on CLT for more information, helps with focus and allows for more efficient working memory capacity.
  4. Triggers retrieval of prior learning/knowledge - visuals boost the 'retrieval strength' and 'retrieval storage' and support the recall of prior knowledge.
  5. Creates schemas in working memory - organising information helps students build connected schemas in long-term memory - introducing visual and auditory stimuli simultaneously allows the brain to encode the knowledge and makes its transfer back to working memory easier in the future.
When implementing dual coding successfully it is worth noting that there is a vast number of techniques that can be involved which are only as good as the intention, purpose and design of the teacher. Many of these techniques will take trial and error to gain the best results as a technique that works for one class may not work for another class.
The key point to remember with this strategy is that for students to be able to implement it successfully it will need to be modelled by the teacher. This means having a bank of images (the Noun Project is great for this), visuals or templates for students to work from to build their understanding which they can use then themselves as a study tool.

Important points to consider to use dual coding successfully:

1. Design - when designing your resource (PowerPoints or worksheets) structure, colour and imagery play a large role in the learning process. It is important that you consider how you present new information to your students. 
Are your PPTs too cluttered? Are you using too many colours and fonts? Do you need to break steps down onto separate slides so that students concentrate on one idea at a time? Are there images that can support this modelled with pictures of your explanations? 
Oliver Caviglioli recommends using no more then two fonts (sans serif and one serif), no less then 40 points, no colour text on top of colour background.
It is also important to cut minimal margins, too-long columns and insufficient spacing. Making sure ideas are organised in chunks presented logically and sequentially (visually explicit), aligning elements - using grids to structure information like magazine/newspaper pages.

2. Repeat imagery - pick images and pictures that you choose to use repeatedly with students to help them build memory of vocabulary, task (i.e. the different Conti activities - image for sentence stealers, faulty echo, pyramid translation etc.) so students know instantly what the task requires them to do; concepts (such as Grammar) and processes (I use a picture of a burger to model perfect tense in German). This could be also useful for retrieval practice when students can create their own questions using imagery to practice retrieval during 'Think Pair Share'.

3. Help students to organise their knowledge - though teaching the skills of pulling valuable information by creating summaries with images. 
In the language classroom this could support the oral practice - picture tasks/roleplays - when students have 12 minutes preparation time - so using images to remind them of the ideas/key points they would like to mention instead of writing lengthy written summaries. 

4. Use dual coding to walk through processes - modelling a process such as word order when using subordinate or relative clauses with basic images or diagrams, adding annotations to break down larger concepts.

Examples of Dual coding in languages:

Knowledge organisers: these were originally designed by @MrBCurrier in Spanish and then translated and adapted to different languages via collaboration of group of colleagues and shared with the languages community on social media (with all credits given). 


Diagrams to show processes - for example when teaching different tenses - I have been drawing pictures of burgers and boots since I have started to teach 16 years ago, but I like the analogy of smashing a wall to re-build the verb forms in present tense and of a fortune cookie to demonstrate the construction of future tense (an idea posted by a colleague on Facebook last year - please let me know if it is you, so I can credit you) to model the process or for modelling the word order (WO) - this is always a challenge, especially in German. 
I would not teach it now explicitly but as a 'pop up' Grammar once chunks and structures were introduced and practiced.

Summaries for oral/written practice - using images to plan, re-write or summarise tasks (examples from my German writing support workbook adapted from the Spanish original by @MrBCurrier). I am very keen to trial this with my students once back in the classroom.


Clarity of key terms/vocabulary - using images/icons for key vocabulary - opinions, connectives, time phrases, subjects (people) etc.


   images from KO

Dual coding with teachers by Oliver Caviglioli
Classroom Instruction That Works by Robert Marzano
Dual Coding in the Classroom by Blake Harvard
Double-Barrelled Learning For Young & Old by Paul A. Kirschner
Alicia Mangan - Ercall Wood Academy Teaching and Learning Journal

Monday, February 1, 2021

Metacognition, self-regulated learning and revision

Many educators have been talking more and more about the importance of metacognition (thinking about one's thinking) and metacognitive strategies which get learners to think about their own learning. The evidence suggests that the use of these strategies, when used well can add +7 months of progress. This means that the potential impact of these strategies is high especially when it comes to disadvantaged students (EEF), so how can we apply them effectively to revision or even adapt our teaching in the classroom.

To start with, this doesn't mean that we need to teach these strategies in special 'learning how to learn' sessions; based on evidence the best approach is to teach them in subject specific content as students find it difficult to transfer generic tips to subject specific tasks.
In the first instance it is imperative for learners to identify what they know and what they don't know. Self-regulated learners know their gaps and can motivate themselves to improve their learning, so developing this knowledge in our learners will improve their learning outcome. However, we - the educators should support our learners in planning, monitoring and evaluating their learning, hence this is why appropriate feedback is also so crucial.

EEF guidance report on Metacognition and Self-Regulated Learning recommends 7 step model for teaching meta-cognitive strategies. 

  • Activating prior knowledge - preparing the ground - here the  embedded retrieval practice is highly effective. For writing task preparation, this could mean recalling the vocabulary and structures for the specific topic. I often use retrieval roulette for this, but there are many other ways you could use (see my previous post on retrieval practice), including various websites such as carousel-learning. com or The retrieval roulette is based on a spreadsheet designed by Adam Boxer and how to apply the background which could support the 'cultural capital', I have learnt from @JuschMo in one of the ALL webinars where she has also demonstrated how you can embed 'flippity' into the spreadsheet in her retrieval roulettes.                  
 Example of a task form the retrieval roulette Stimmt3
  • Explicit strategy instruction - provide clear structure students can follow. This is closely connected with Rosenshine Principles of Instruction. I have written a detailed post on how they can be applied in Languages classroom with some examples here.
  • Modelling of learned strategy - for picture task for example, this would involve teacher modelling the steps of the task at hand. See an example bellow. For more examples on modelling see my post on modelling here.
  • Memorisation of strategy - there are various ways/tools to memorise vocabulary or success criteria such as Grammar points  - such as using mnemonics (BRATWURST, AVOCADOS, TOMATOES, PALMW etc.), songs, tunes and rhythms - some of these were mentioned on the Secondary MFL matters Facebook group (The Pink Panther, VorwƤrts, Zorba the Greek, A-Team, Mission Impossible, Guten Tag Lied , Das WechselprƤpositionenlied), teaching word families (I was amazed to find out that students would know the adjective, but couldn't always work out the noun etc.), self-quizzing - great video using parallel texts here, look, say, cover write - I usually ask students to use A4 paper/landscape/ write max. of 3 chunks in L2 they want to learn underneath each other/write the chunks in L1/fold/say/re-write in L2/ fold/say/ re-write in L1 like an accordion until they know the chunk. The act of writing and verbalising is important so the chunk gets embedded into long-term memory, post -its, flash cards - it is important to mix them so students don't practice/revise them in the same order etc.
  • Guided practice - giving students plenty of opportunities to study worked examples with the teacher - you could use a visualiser to look at WAGOLLS but also address any misconceptions and common mistakes that students make when submitting their work. Giving tasks that build confidence, scaffold and support, especially in mixed ability classes (you could choose what scaffold is needed for a specific student, some might not need a scaffold at all). These scaffolds are then gradually reduced to partially completed examples right through to students'  independent practice.
                                                   Examples of scaffolded tasks - inspired by Kim Davies

  • Independent practice - it is important to give students plenty of opportunities to practise especially when it comes to spontaneous talk starting from year 7. The Conti approach in my opinion gives plenty of opportunities to do so in a variety of ways and builds students' confidence, so when it comes the GCSE oral exam, it is not something they feel they can't do because they didn't have enough exposure to and consequently was intensively crammed mostly during year 11. If the steps above are addressed sufficiently, students will be able to practise independently. I have done this with my students successfully when preparing them for their speaking assessment last year. More on how I did it in a future post.
                                                            Examples of independent practice 

                                                             Based on Gianfranco Conti oral scaffold

  • Structured reflection - modelling our own thinking, setting appropriate level of challenge, promote metacognitive talk, explicitly teaching students how to organise and effectively manage their independent learning  helps students to develop their own metacognitive skills. 

Encouraging self-regulation through effective revision.

All of the strategies mentioned above can be extremely useful when teaching students how to revise effectively.

Revision is a word that is at the very top of every teacher's and school's agenda especially when it comes to year 11 and GCSE examinations. I have been teaching for over 16 years now and ever since I have qualified as a teacher, from my NQT year up to now being an experienced teacher - HOD, effective revision methods have been of an interest to me.

However, like for many of us, with the experience over the years, my view and approach to revision has changed greatly. Early on in my teaching career, revision often was going over the key Grammar points such as tenses, opinions, cases, adjectival agreements and word order, leaving the vocabulary learning for home time 'revision'. 

There has been a lot of discussion about students' study habits outside of the classroom including re-reading of notes and/or highlighting key information. My students not being an exception, would often approach their home revision by looking through their notes, re-reading them; the more diligent and motivated ones would design colour coded flashcards, use highlighters and make their notes in exercise books look beautiful. I have also observed that the students with the beautifully prepared revision resources would be almost exclusively girls. 

HOWEVER the question is: Using these strategies are our students able to retain what they are trying to learn?

The research is very clear: re-reading and highlighting of notes can work short-term while cramming, but doesn't always last long-term. There is an interesting article on note-taking (another popular strategy) which looks at its complexity and potential benefits and concentrates on 'Retrieve-taking' - a strategy that will enhance learning, published by Re-reading whilst looking at the notes especially, gives students the false feeling of 'I know this. I can remember this.' What about if the access to the notes isn't there? Can they still remember it?
Effective strategies such as self-quizzing and answering practice questions are hard work as they make students struggle to remember things but that is what makes it effective as mentioned by Mark Enser who has written a very detailed and evidence-based post on revision strategies (where he is sharing his Revision clock method) for the Heathfield Teacher Share blog here. His post has given me a lot to reflect on...
                                                                       The Heathfield Revision Clock

This is what I do to support my students:

General advice for my students: BE ORGANISED!
  1. Create a revision timetable for each day - what subjects are you going to revise each day - revise subjects you have next day the day before and follow the advice of your subject teachers.
  2. Make sure you find a quiet place in your house where you can concentrate and work, put your phone away (I stress this with parents as well), switch of the TV. This might sound silly, but make yourself comfortable - get your drinks, snacks... I, personally don't recommend listening to music while revising as I find it disruptive, but I haven't researched this.
  3. Do not revise for hours - cramming - less and more often is the key, especially when it comes to languages.
  4. Make sure you give yourself time for hobbies and relax as well. Look after your well-being.
Specific advice for Languages:
At  the start of the academic year I provide my year 11 students with a folder. The folder will contain :
  1. A revision timetable (schedule) with each week mapping out key skills and knowledge (vocabulary) I would like students to revise. The revision schedule has been also put on a padlet (embedded on our school's website)- an idea I have seen used by @BotonesSalgado who has written a great post on how she uses padlet in her teaching here and by Ceri Anwen James (in Welsh) on Facebook. Topics will be interleaved and in languages skills/grammatical structures are transferable naturally.

  2. Set of role play cards - these could be from the previous examination cycle or a mixture
  3. Set of picture - based tasks - these could be from the previous examination cycle or a mixture
  4. Knowledge organisers / Sentence builders - these would include key vocabulary / structures / chunks for each Theme (please note that students would be familiar with these as they would have used them in previous years).
  5. Translation work book - structured translation work book which was originally created in Spanish by @ChrisMFLTandL (pinned post on his profile) and adapted to German by @SJBarnes81 (shared on Teaching German Facebook group). This work book is excellent as it includes the mark scheme criteria and makes students check and reflect on the translation as well.
  6. Structured writing work book - this is a new addition - created by @MrBCurrier and adapted to German by me.
These materials can be used for home revision or during revision sessions in class where I model revision techniques I want them to use.
For revision to work I think it is also very important to involve the parents as well, therefore on their revision timetable students have a column that is for parents to sign that their child has completed the revision set for that week. During Parents' Evenings I had parents often asking me how they can support their child and this way they can be in control as well.

The key for me is that revision should be happening throughout the course not just before the exams or in special 'intervention' sessions. I believe that if students are working well, completing meaningful and purposeful HWK, retrieving knowledge regularly in lessons there should not be need for after school intervention. However, if this is needed for some reason i.e. student's long-term absence, it should be targeted to 1-4 students. Too many times I have witnessed intervention sessions after school with 20+ students - this is not intervention, but teaching a full lesson after school!!!

I am not claiming to be an expert and I am sure there are educators out there who have extensively researched this field and also tested various strategies in practice who could comment and share their expertise and experiences. If you are reading this and you are one of them please leave a comment. I would really appreciate your input or critique. 

Cornell Notes - could they be a useful technique for MFL?

 In my research of effective Retrieval Practice, when reading Mark Enser's book 'Teach like nobody is watching' , I have come a...