Got home last night after a couple of days hurtling up and then back down the country for a couple of language teaching events. The first was a meeting of the schools involved in a national CLIL project lead by Do Coyle, Professor of Learning Innovation (great title!) at Aberdeen University’s School of Education. We didn’t have to go all the way to Scotland however as the meeting was held at The Minster School, a gleaming new BSF (“Building Schools for the Future”) place in Southwell, Nottinghamshire. It makes you wonder what life would have been like if we hadn’t felt obliged to pour all those billions into saving the banking system… Back to the point of the meeting; to talk about our own experiences of CLIL – “Content & Language Integrated Learning” (the delivery of a non-language curriculum subject through the medium of a foreign language) – and reflect upon where we go from here.
Our involvement at Gillotts was to teach two groups of Year 7 students about the Norman Conquest of England (“1066 and all that”) and then later in the year about the Impressionists, especially Toulouse Lautrec through the medium of French. Do held us up as “one of the real success stories” of the whole project; she even insisted on (cheek!) kissing me before we left the Minster School on Thursday after telling me that Gillotts was one of the schools she could always rely upon to get the necessary research surveys done and send things back to her on time. A comment there for the CV I think. We worked closely during the project with a researcher called Janeen Leith; she was (in the best sense of the word), mad and very fun to work with and we will hopefully continue to see her regularly over the coming months (and years?) as we continue to develop our CLIL work in Henley. The next step is to set up a local group of CLIL schools who are interested in working together, sharing experiences etc… Katie Lee, Assistant Head at The Willink School in Burghfield Common, just south of Reading drove my colleague Kerrie and myself to The Minster School on Thursday so we already have the basics of a group; Gillotts, The Willink and a few schools who are already involved in a German CLIL project being run by Katie. I’m sure we can get more on board; The Piggott School in Wargrave seem keen (and I have a few contacts down there), and I’m sure some of the other local South-East Oxfordshire schools may be interested. It would clearly need its own acronym; a task which will keep me busy as I cycle to and from work next week! CLILBO (CLIL in Berkshire & Oxfordshire)?
We left The Minster at about 3.30pm and headed south for the SSAT Languages Conference at The Belfry, near Birmingham. I’m not really into golf or golf courses but it was a very beautiful place to spend a day or so. Pity that the golf being played wasn’t up to the standard of the surroundings; we watched some shocking drives from the first tee just after lunch yesterday… But we weren’t there for the golf. Katie deposited Kerrie and me at the door of the hotel and after checking in it was almost time for the evening dinner and general drink fest (all courtesy of Her Majesty’s Government hence the comment in the previous post). We spent the first half an hour or so with Greg Horton, one of the SSAT Lead Practitioners. He was propping up the bar with a pint of lager in his hand looking lonesome so we started chatting. I don’t think he was lonesome, he just looked that way. He’s a very engaging teacher who isn’t into the crap of modern-day education speak but is into “action” in the classroom. I saw him the following morning give a presentation and what he does is clever, effective, fun, but most importantly, easy to do in any classroom. I’ll try some of his stuff next week.
The evening ended up in the dodgy nightclub that sits next to The Belfry. Full of corporate golfing tossers hoping to play away at the weekend. We didn’t hang around too long; I can’t stand the noise!
On the Friday, Kerrie and myself went in separate directions to catch as many of the seminars as we could; apart from Greg Horton’s presentation, I watched Juliet Park from Yewlands School talk about “innovate, inspiring & creative ideas” for the classroom. They were but you do wonder if she ever manages to get out of the house or the classroom to lead a life… (I’m sure she does that extremely effectively as well!). I hope to grab some of their ideas from the presentations themselves when they appear on the SSAT website at some point over the next few days (all presentations from the conference should be there soon). The only disappointing presentation was the last one which was entitled “Getting to grips with the speaking controlled assessments”. It kicked off on the presumption that everyone in the room thought that the new way of accessing speaking at GCSE was bad. I don’t. They proceeded to show us a bunch of teachers on a video whingeing about the new assessments. Great! I could get whingeing teachers by staying back in Henley. Not much on the practical side apart from writing questions words on the segments of a mini basketball and throwing it around the room. Revolutionary!
The drive back to Reading was beautiful in the warm evening sun of autumn. Amazing colours on the trees and interesting tales from my driver – Sarah, another teacher from The Willink who had also attended the conference and who kindly offered me a lift back home – who had been stuck in China earlier in the year with a bunch of 3o students due to the ash cloud… Mohammed said “Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you travelled”; four weeks in China equals many, many active & creative CLIL lessons….