Saturday, 31 March 2012

February slideshow

February came and went in a blur of cards and chocolate, and we said sad farewells to some very special students & friends. This is an ever so quick peek at the Luna Leap Month

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Cultural Perpectives & Observations on Learners - Part 3: How are my students getting it right for themselves?

Akiko Seino owns her own school "Bright" in Matsumoto, and presented for Shinshu JALT on March 25th at Agata-no-Mori.

How are my students getting it right for themselves?

Akiko Seino is Matsumoto’s best kept cultural secret asset. She has lived in the same city and owned her own language school here(within a mile of mine) for 8 years. I have met her five times – three times in the last month. She is inspiringly passionate, disorganised, uncompetitive, and insightful. She is awesomely enthusiastic, daft, and focused. She is disarmingly honest, funny and honest.
Seino teaches 3-12 year olds and is a mum of two herself. She used to teach in Saitama/Tokyo “all listening & singing” – no reading or writing. She says she now finds it very hard to give her students “all they need”. Says she does not buy into ‘earlier the better’, but the love/power to learn (which also rewards her as a teacher – an important aside which less experienced teachers may not feel important).

Seino explained “Terakoya” style learning to be ‘temple school’ – and the concept of one step forward at a time. Kumon chain applies this principle in a singular style (so what does the teacher do?) whereas AS applies this to her (small) groups.

Seino asked participants if they taught mixed level classes –a lack of response basically indicated “an embarrassed yes”. Seino’s next question showed Longman had trained her well. “Do you treat every student the same?”

Seino explained that using English-only was far easier with younger learners, as older ones needed grammatical points explained in their mother tongue. Seino provided an explanation of how she multi-tasked as a teacher with mixed-level  & mixed-tasking students. Imagine a headless chicken? Students can and will perform together in song/dance.

Seino said she was learning with mums along the way. All good teachers will reflect and learn as they go, I think? You might consider this a lack of anticipation/planning? Some would agree, but Seino is amazingly honest with her mums (an advantage of L1 access to parents which I do not have) and spends an inordinate amount of personal time encouraging mums to be facilitators. I do not know any teachers who would want to demonstrate an end product at the end of every class – even if they had something! Me – I like to showcase students’ achievements of course ....but every lesson is essentially impossible (at least at Luna).

Seino asked participants to write down their top 7 tips/up the sleeve tools. Mentioned were:
Seino added her favourites as post-its, CD player, stickers book, mini white board, and correspondence books in which she maintains a dialogue with each learner & their parents – a very heavy demand on teacher time, and while this may well make a difference to learners’lives and involve parents, I am not sure this will help students become more autonomous. Educating the mums is an important thing to do of course, but micro-managing the dialogue (for me) would be an inordinately onerous task and especially immediately after the heat of class, not give me time to reflect & process what we did/need to do next time etc.

Seino highlighted the benefits of learning with friends, of learning to speak rather than to converse (oral reading), of showing and sharing, of giving students learning choices to make, personalizing learning & motivating themselves thus.

She pointed out that
  • less teacher-led “presentation” time in class
  • less students’ “practice” time in class
  • laborious checking & marking (she even delivers work back to students’homes!)
  • backlog of above causes stress
Seino asked for questions and suggestions.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Cultural Perspectives and Observations on Learners. 2: My personal "pi"spectives



On Sunday, March 25th Luna's student Atsuko Katanaga made her first ever presentation to English teachers, at a Shinshu JALT meeting in Agata-no-Mori. She presents all over the world, in English, in her field of mathematics. She is a leading expert in singularity (which I do not understand even a little bit) and teaches mathematics at Shinshu University. Her presentation was very interesting, and generated a lot of discussion. In my opinion, maths is a foreign language! Way to go Atsuko - you are inspiring!

Atsuko Katanaga presented her opinions on “The Cultural Differences in teaching” based on her experiences teaching π. Katanaga is a senior assistant professor of Mathematics at Shinshu University and not a language teacher; her audience was quickly assured that she was nevertheless a master of `foreign languages` - which maths seems to be to a lot of people (and I suggest especially English teachers!)

Katanaga’s first slide where she proceeded to define π had everyone shrinking back in their seats. She baffled everyone with a Japanese pnemonic which is supposed to assist memorising Pi and informed us that other languages do similarly. She also showed us her π pies, as promised – π Day is celebrated by mathematicians worldwide on March 14th. Don’t get it?

On a weekend when the USA is trying to retain presidency of the World Bank, Katanaga showed the 2009 results of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) for 15 year olds. http://www.oecd.org/document/61/0,3746,en_32252351_32235731_46567613_1_1_1_1,00.html
Japanese concerns to be languishing in 9th; UK & USA barely made the top 30.

Questions from the floor pointed provoked considerable interest:
·         Katanaga’s use of (a worldwide norm for approximation -and available in Word 2007) when Japanese schools teach another symbol which is neither.
·         Katanaga explained that A’ for mathematicians represents “A Prime”. Japanese students are taught to express this as “A dash” – but a dash is _ _ _!
·         Maths is not continually assessed in later life. Being unable to work out change in a shop does not induce the same ‘shame’ that manifests itself with an inability to communicate with a stray foreigner. How often do we hear people apologise “I can’t do maths”?
·         Japanese children are not taught to estimate i.e. have a rough idea of what the answer should be before actually doing the math. Witness some of the enormous ‘errors’ that were broadcast wrt radiation readings post Fukushima meltdowns.

‘Nittori education’ policy also came up with ingenious idea of making π ≈ 3. I hope there are no graduate engineers of that era building bridges or working in nuclear power stations... Reassuringly, π ≈ 3.14 again since 2011.

So much for ‘making things easier’ – struck me that using katakana achieves the same inappropriate non-result for English language learners.

Katanaga cited her experience observing a Montessori school in the USA, where children were engaged in self-reflecting learning at their own pace, uninterrupted. Children had to understand what they were doing. Students created their own agenda, chose and solved problems. Images of the classroom displayed children co-operatively engaged in informal ie tableless environment vs very predictable rigid & teacher at the front as giver of knowledge in a Japanese classroom.

Katanaga’s observations of a Scottish classroom of 14 year olds where learning  was to be collaborative, active and cognitive. The motto “No question is a silly question” rang true for the audience, lamenting that does not seem to be the case in Japan. In Scotland the following:
·         Self-confidence – I want to learn
·         Self-confidence – I can learn
·         Self-awareness – I know I can
·         Self-sufficient – I know how to
Self-assessment was also built in, with students using traffic light analogy whether they ‘got it’ (green), ‘a bit woolly’ (amber) or ‘didn`t go in’ (red)

Nakamura & Seino both then asked if π were being taught to early in Japan. Katanaga said ‘Yes and no’. You need the value of π ≈ 3.14 to calculate the area of a circle – it gets the job done. However, to have children exposed to abstract concepts such as irrational numbers at an early age is counter-productive, and should be left till later. It occurred to me that English teachers might want to replace irrational numbers with insanely hard grammar structures. Likewise, teaching a child to read (phonics) at an early age will give them the tools to get the job done at an early age – get all abstract and technical later (if you have to).

This is how she summarised her πspective:

Japan
overseas
Teacher
Teach
Encourage
Students
Look, write, think
Listen, think, talk
class
Same age
Mixed/streamed

Disclaimer: Atsuko Katanaga is my student, but her presentation was entirely her own work & unpracticed.

Cultural Perspectives and Observations on Learners. 1: Enriching students lives



On Sunday March 25th, Mari Nakamura made an hour-long presentation for Shinshu JALT at Agata-no-Mori in Matsumoto. I organised the event as Programme Chair, and these are my notes (also posted on Shinshu JALT Facebook page & the JALT website.)

Mari Nakamura defines her Eikaiwa (English Square in Kanazawa, Ishikawa-ken) as ‘not a juku’.

Summarised her questionnaire results (of parents of children attending her school) to the question regarding “Attitudes to learning” as ‘quite negative as a whole through high Scholl and Center Examinations, and that students don’t know what to do with the English they have learned’.

Audience member (Japanese male with experience living overseas) said he had a ‘complex’ against learning English as a child, which other Japanese audience members agreed with. Our later  presenter Atsuko has never lived overseas but told us she needed English to get published and to present overseas. Asked if she thought people also have a complex about learning maths (and I think people generally do) she explained that maths is not tested/assessed later, and the audience realised that we are not generally required to ‘perform’ in it. It was noted that we rarely hear people exclaiming “Oh, I can’t do maths” as an admission of guilt when we do hear this viz. English all the time (in Japan). It was further suggested that maths quickly becomes abstract & concerned with how we think/do logical processing, and quickly moves away from simple calculation/arithmetic.

Mari suggested that children now know much more than she did as a school child, but that they are now also far more aware of their status in class, have more access to technology (iPads, internet) and that they are far more worried about their ‘mistakes’. Of the 25% who responded to her questionnaire, all were mums and most responded “massively” – two or three page replies (she suggested this was a ‘listen to me’ plea).

Mari quoted respondents wrt lifestyle of children as:
·         Too busy
·         Not safe to play outside
·         HS ss have too much free time
·         Children spend a lot of time alone with cell phones & PCs

The country’s “Nittori” education policy was accused of being “Slow and low” instead of the advertised “Slow & deep”, with MEXT (Ministry of Education & Science) now veering back to the opposite “cramming” extreme – schools in Ishikawa-ken adopting a sixth period in elementary schools + after school activities being accused of taking away free time, which ‘bugs’ all mums. Appropriate that children of that age being so busy they are having to learn time management skills?
Nakamura quoted respondents as having zero/near zero expectations of public school education, that school was all about going, not doing. Also, children have ‘too many choices’ of extra-curricular activities and are in a “keeping up with the Jones’s” mindset (audience comment that kids in the UK have too much free time with nothing to do).

Nakamura claimed that an holistic view of education is missing, and that education is being outsourced. Eg
·         For creative input – send kids to art class
·         For patience – send them to calligraphy class
·         For respectfulness – send them to martial arts class
·         For physical development – send them to swimming class

Nakamura closed by telling us she was being asked to teach phonics – which MEXT guidelines specifically prohibit being taught in elementary schools with the much-derided Eigo Noto textbook. (If mum knows best why don’t they vote?)
This left me wondering what the actual function of English classes was perceived as. Nakamura suggested English was now a pursuit outside of school because parents had fears about their children’s future job prospects, a pressure being felt from as young as three years old...’earlier the better’. 

Bilingualism as a goal based on fear rather than nurturing a very bad place for us to start from.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Saturday morning? Must be Banana Kids


A year ago we (Luna, as Cambridge ESOL Centre JP004) were extremely grateful that our examiner Tomomi fulfilled our commitment to a school in Tochigi, and went there to conduct the speaking tests for their YLE exams. She was worried about the venue’s location – closer to Fukushima Daiichi than every sensible person on the planet wanted to be.

This year things are lot less dramatic (the school hasn’t moved, TEPCO still has not got a clue what it is doing/the government is in denial/collusion – but neither are things glowing in the dark etc).
Maybe I am just being melodramatic? Life was going on normal as ever when I tried to find the school on Saturday morning, and the scariest thing the children were going to have to do was take a speaking test with the unknown large foreigner (me) in a room all by themselves. As a couple of my English friends in Tokyo last year advertised their Facebook statuses – Keep calm & Carry on.

I really enjoy examining YLE candidates (does that sound sadistic? I hope not – I teach kids, and I enjoy seeing kids be all that they can). The materials are all about giving the children the opportunities to show what they can do – no man-traps to catch them out or “Ha! Ha! Couldn’t use the present continuous properly” assessment nastiness.

·         Best gentle voice
·         as much eye contact as possible
·          hands still (unless moving cards or pointing at a picture)
·         Smile
·         Pay attention to the child – stuck or thinking?
·         Wait for an answer – or move on gently
·         Know your stuff

In my opinion, a YLE speaking examiner taking care of the above seven points will see a happy candidate ready for a high five leave the speaking test. Being able to do that x30 in a morning will put a spring in any teacher’s step.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Script for a Jester's Tear - observing iATEFL


I have to admit it felt very wrong to be driving towards the Fukushima nuclear power station on Friday night. I was not actually going there, but close enough (a lot closer than my relative safety in Nagano prefecture anyway). It was not a pleasant drive either – I passionately hate the Misayama tunnel road (I used to drive it regularly with classes in and around Ueda/Maruko) and it rained/was foggy all the way.

I was the only person staying in the hotel in Suzumenomiya. I am surprised there’s even a hotel there. The beer machine wouldn’t take notes – I only had notes. An exciting Friday night then? 

Well, actually yes, because on the other side of the planet the2012 IATEFL Conference was drawing to a close. I had been trying to keep up via twitter and their brilliant website which featured live interviews with the great & the good of planet EFL, as well as an archive. The final Plenary speaker was going to be a Scottish guy called Derek Dick – I’ve only ever known of him as “Fish”...but here’s the thing, I have known of him since about 1981. I was pretty sure99% of my teaching peers had no idea who they were going to be addressed by to conclude their shindig!

“Fish” used to be the lead singer/song-writer with a ‘prog rock’ group called Marillion. I saw them play a few times in Sheffield & Lancaster, even had a t-shirt. I managed to get the live feed going on my iPhone just as his familiar accent was reading a lyric from an oldie – which I was able to remember and recite from some very dark and dusty memory. My signal dropped out and eventually failed completely, but not before I had enjoyed hearing him sing to a genuinely gobsmacked audience (judging from tweets out of the audience) relishing his wordcraft and love of a story told well. 

I was annoyed to have lost the feed, but it actually gave me time to contemplate how lucky I was at all to have been able to participate so voyeuristically with a bunch of teachers in Glasgow on a wet Friday night in the middle of nowhere, Japan. If you had told me during my sixth form year that the lead singer who had just sworn his head off through a set at the Sheffield City Hall would be addressing me through my phone to a teachers’ conference on the other side of the planet (and that I would also know members of the audience and be ‘reading their minds’ in the process)...just too bizarre.

Have to admit I was jealous of the likes of @barbsaka @shellterrell @mickstout @eltexperiences etc actually being there...looks like one hell of a good conference and one that Japan’s own JALT really needs to take heed of. But, by the same token I knew I’d be back in Matsumoto for dinner without having to endure cattle-class & the indignation of being fingerprinted as a “welcome back”.

Just a small matter of examining 30 or so children for their Cambridge ESOL Young Learners exams in the morning, before the drive home tomorrow afternoon.


Monday, 19 March 2012

Facebook in an offline classroom

Gaumont-Columbia-TriStar Films logo (2004-2007)
Gaumont-Columbia-TriStar Films logo (2004-2007) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
 This is an activity I found worked really well in a high school class last year. Students there are not allowed to use any phones or tech at all at school...and in my opinion being denied the kind of inspirational impetus learners need in this country (Japan) if it is ever going to climb out of the financial and educational mire it is in these days...

I digress. Younger learners obviously shouldn't be going anywhere near facebook, and my oldest nephew seems to be terminally addicted/spending his life there - rather too public a growing up in my opinion. The classroom caveat is that I want my sparkling students to share themselves a bit, and get some (supervised) feedback. To avoid too much embarrassment, we used a couple of different iPhone apps to come up with avatars/disguises (Toca Boca hair salon, face in hole, Facegoo) and quickly printed them out to much mirth.

The content is very gentle stuff - favourite books, films, pet hates etc. Imagine my surprise when three students (of seven I have started this with so far) did not have a favourite film! Not just that they couldn't remember, but that they had never seen one. That can't be a fluke statistic, I think - but it is a tragic one, don't you think? By their age I was spending whole days of half-term holidays at the Gaumont in Sheffield watching the Star Wars trilogy (as was). Saturday night was movie night. My brother and I would have top ten Western film lists to argue over; whistle the tune and name the film; who was the best in "The Longest Day"?

In a similar vein, I noticed there seems to be a serious lack of 'quality' reading going on. Holidays for me were all about reading (when not at the Gaumont, playing football or cycling to Netherthorpe airfield for a bit of plane spotting - I have never heard of Japanese kids cycling anywhere to pursue a hobby - certainly not much further than line of sight). If somebody had asked me for a favourite book, I would have found it a hard question to answer being spoilt for choice. My group struggled to remember a book they'd read at all. One though, will only read English books which is superb, and very rare!

So there are a couple of blank spaces in these analogue FB pages! We had fun making them, after initial bashfulness, and I found out a few interesting things obviously. I am looking forward to the comments they are now going to be leaving for each other, as they check out everyone elses' pages and update their statuses.

Friday, 16 March 2012

This is my school - a report

My school is a bit smaller than the other schools. The buildings are old. The hall looks very old and the roofs are like they are going to fall off! It's so scary.....

At a normal school, the grounds and the garden are together. My school's buildings are small, but the playground is big.

My classroom is a little bit untidy. But I am in year 5, so I'm on the 3F. So if you look outside you can see a lot of buildings and it's really beautiful.

I do five subjects, literacy, maths, English, science and history. My favourite subject is maths. Everyone else likes science. My teacher is good at basketball. He is so cool!

The students are good at running. Everyone loves running so we win a lot of races.

Little readers - solving a problem

 I had a double page problem with my students the other day; we are learning first letter sounds but not reading. We are recognising a lot of pictures but still not exactly 'there' with the alphabet...and the 'review' section in our books is a minefield of words. I photocopied the pages (we used in class, copyright police, and they all have the books as well!), and chopped them up. Each student had all eight pictures of the story, with the caption. On a larger piece of paper, I made eight frames, and wrote the captions, as well as adding arrows to show the flow (not all cultures have the same cartoon reading 'rules').


In class, I wrote & read out the target words ie the caption/storyline on the board as well, and asked students to find the corresponding picute/caption. The captions were quite similar so required care. Compare "Tom is a monkey" to "Tim is a man". We pasted our agreed answers (quicker ones had to wait until every else was ready) into the appropriate frame. I deliberately do not have enough glue sticks etc to go around (at this age) because I want them to ask for things off each other & use 'sharing' language. A very good way to get 'Please' and 'Thank you' working!

The end result is in this audioboo; yes, they are mostly mimicking me I know, but this is the most they have ever 'read' in English, and they loved being able to 'do it'!


Related articles

Monday, 12 March 2012

Exploiting a graded reader with Wordle and Audioboo

Image representing AudioBoo as depicted in Cru...
Image via CrunchBase
I have been thinking about audioboo for the last week or so since I found a tweet that very interestingly reported using audioboo for error correction. I think the original idea was Steven Herder's. The main gist of that idea was to have students record themselves talking about eg a photo (and for me this immediately said "use it for FCE Speaking Test practice!") and to then write down a transcript, possibly as an out of class activity. In class? Use it as a dictation exercise but have a different student work on a recording. I like this idea because the recording is unobtrusive so would not hinder fluency, and it really does provide a healthy opportunity for refelction/peer input as to actual output.
Image representing Wordle as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

 In my class, students have already read the Story Tree graded reader at home, listened to it on CD, and worked through the accompanying workbook. The story and vocab then, is familiar several times over. Nevertheless, important to warm up before wading in to action. In our case, we listened to the story again off the CD, and followed along. Time was going to be an issue, so I did not want to do anything else at this stage, just get the story back in our heads. (With time, an extra resource used would have been Quizlet - key vocab exercise or two).

Wordle: Magic Key again
Preparation: which took 10 minutes typing as quickly as possible, inputting the entire text of the story into Wordle. Important: avoid capitalisation except for names, otherwise you'll get replication in your cloud which is unnecessary/confusing. Here is the wordle on the left.

Word clouds explained: An image is generated of the words found in a text. Size of the words repesents the relative frequency that those words occur in the text. This works very nicely with graded readers which recycle vocabulary/phrases a lot.

I strongly recommend using eg Tagxedo instead of Wordle! There is more variety in the templates etc, and you can save your wordclouds as jpegs etc. Wordles once created cannot be searched i.e. fairly useless if you want to go back later & use again. Embedding here has also given me formatting headaches :(
NB Orientate most/all the words horizontally for young learners, and see if you can find a decent font that does not have unfriendly /a/ or /g/ etc. (I couldn't find one on Wordle)

Cover the words in the readers, and just use the pictures (as cues). Explain that you want students to retell the story, using the wordle (printed out) to remind them of the words they can use.

The Magic Key (mp3) Use audioboo app on iOS device and record (the free app allows you 5 minutes of recording time) (another recording app is fine, but the 'boo means other students can access it on their devices/at home after etc). I think with younger learners doing this as a collaborative task is a good format (or in my class, with mum). Seeing the timer run down is a good management tool to get students to 'finish' (and not dwell where they 'get stuck').

It is important that you brief the students against trying to get the story 'perfectly right' - retell it word for word as in the text. I don't think even teachers could do this! Rather, it generates in students the awareness that words 'are missing' (but that they can still narrate a story). Playing back the recording now will identify those words. With the wordle (not the text) listen to the students versions and circle the words on the wordle that they use (with older learners they could mark the word every time they used it). Obviously, teacher will need to hook up the iOS to a speaker for class to hear if this is a group exercise, and to pause regularly for students to 'replay' the soundtrack in their heads as they do a mental wordsearch.

My students really enjoyed listening to themselves and trying to figure out what they had said, and were quite critical of themselves! They were also keen to find their own 'mistakes', such as using the 'wrong' verb/noun collocation. We found that we had used some other words (not in the world) and made a little list of those. We found we had a big bunch of words that we hadn't used at all - for various reasons eg low frequency, 'new', false-friend used instead etc. In our particular case, the students had not used any of the words used in direct speech, nor the narrative verbs eg 'say', 'shout'.

This gave us an excellent excuse to read the story again! Students were asked to speak the parts of the different characters (necessitating a bit of reading ahead to recognise their parts and therefor the key words we had overlooked initially - cool!) while I narrated. This is a nice way to finish, as it gives students a polished final production - record it as an audioboo too. Ask students to 'add oomph' (not yell) - a muttered "Oh! Help!" doesn't work, does it?!

Final reminder - make sure you iOS battery doesn't run out while you are doing this (mine did, as we were reading the book again together). You will get the idea, anyway, I hope! If you want to take pictures while you are doing this, you will need another device/actual camera (recommended)!

  Magic Key - nearly all! (mp3)

Try this with your class - and please give me feedback!

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Making an alphabet book - not gone digital yet!

Rummaging for Es
One problem I think all teachers have is making sure kids don't forget their ABCs when they are learning PQR, or their a/e/i/o/u when looking at b/d/g/p etc. Remember you can only do something for 10 mins with kids (I disagree, actually, if you get the activity right ie with variety inbuilt)...you only get 45 minutes a week, and it has to be fun, and do songs, and not get anybody trampled, and somebody's got a nosebleed?!

Last year I saw Barbara Hoskins-Sakamoto show how she made a digital A-Z booklet, which I liked very much (using Voicethread). My little charges are not quite there yet for tech, so we have been cobbling together an analogue one instead (we'll scan them later and go web 2.0 then). I like this little scheme as we are recycling the flashcards & everyone ends up with a different mix i.e. each is unique. It is an ongoing little project for the next few weeks - with glue and crayons and everything. (I didn't want to go entirely homemade as the drawing can be unpredicatbly abstract with learners this age - cute of course, but a bit hard to use again later!)

End product will be a handmade A-Z dictionaries with loads of meaning for their owners...this teacher couldn't avoid the fun of making his own :)

Monday, 5 March 2012

Reading young learners, smiles all round

TGIF !!!
 I was really glad that my Friday class have got stuck into their Story Tree graded readers. We skipped the red series and leapt straight into the blue, and Kipper's disastrous Toys' Party. Squeels of protest as our new role model Kipper made a cake with milk (OK, apparently!) & beans, ketchup, corn flakes...of course "Mum is angry!"

As this is our first adventure with the readers, we spent a lesson getting used to the (great) workbook that comes with each title. A number of different activities that without guidance could put the brakes on before we even start. Once the ice broken there, had a hard time stopping them from trying to do everything in one go! (Essentially a 'do at home' extra that we review every now & again in class, act out or otherwise use in some way)

A cool song to incorporate here would be Super Simple Songs' "Broccoli Ice-cream", which was recommended to me last year by Ryan Hagglund during examiner training.

At the same time we also moved up a gear with a new class book (English Time 1, also from OUP) and I am delighted that the switch is 'just right'. I used the board as an in-between step - seeing new words (some, anyway) and knowing what they are (from the pictures), to 'owning them' as in adding them to their picture dictionary at the back of the book (too often never to be seen again). Books at one end of the room, to refer to as often as you like - the points go to the most methodical memory and not the fastest runner!
English Time 1, Unit 1 vocab race

I am not too concerned with lettering on the board (whole medium is awkward) just as long as legible. We did have a vote for neatest, though, just to sow a seed! The other penny dropped when they were then asked to find the pictures in their picture dictionary and to put the matching word next to it - whose writing did they copy :) An activity I like because it passively gets them to realise alphabet order. Next week? Hangman, of course!