You can tell the children are looking forward to the French lesson at the English Martyrs School and Sixth Form College in Hartlepool as soon as they enter the room. Languages teacher Lesley Marwood looks pleased to see them too. The good-natured buzz and the sense of anticipation enable her to take charge.
She is energetic and soon into her stride, moving restlessly around the class, joking, encouraging, correcting and cajoling. The beam from a projector lights up one wall and occasionally Lesley's shadow flits across the screen.
At the front Lesley has a laptop connected to the projector. After the pleasantries are over she presents the lesson objectives to "revise phrases for what you do after school, revise - er verbs and the irregular verb faire, create phrases about what you and your family do on an evening" by using a PowerPoint presentation.
The tone is set. This is a lesson that is serious but executed with humour and vitality. The computer images projected on to the screen motivate and aid understanding. Lesley animates what is often a tedious process as she questions pupils on the repetition activities and PowerPoint images.
Students answer true-or-false questions. She asks some questions in a whisper and they respond in a whisper; some are asked in a roar. It is a game and they are all, teacher and pupils, enjoying it. The PowerPoint images are part of the entertainment.
Lesley next moves around the class with an InterWrite School Pad. It's an A4-size wireless pad using the freedom of Bluetooth wireless technology that enables the teacher to use the pen like a mouse to manipulate the computer image projected on to the screen.
With the pad, you do not need an interactive whiteboard; teachers and pupils can interact with the projected image while standing anywhere in the room - at a desk highlighting something on the board, or standing at the back making notes. Using the pad, any wall can become a whiteboard, enabling pupils to interact with the projected image without having to leave their desk.
Lesley invites the pupils to write, and everything they do appears on the screen for all to see. After putting up "je regard _____ ," she passes a pupil the pad and asks him to add the appropriate ending, using the Pen facility on PowerPoint. They enjoy writing this way and most get it right - those who get it wrong smile at Lesley's humorous corrections.
The board is passed to other pupils to add the endings for "tu", "il" and "elle". At the next stage she asks pupils to complete the parts of "ecouter".
The revision of "faire" is done and then pupils watch video animations to stimulate answers to questions about the characters on the screen: "Que fait-il?" or "Que fait-elle?"
Then comes the Classroom Performance System, which is something like Who Wants to be a Millionaire? The students have handsets to zap their responses to on-screen questions to the computer. It enables all pupils in a group to react to tests, quizzes and debates through handheld keypads.
Their responses give the teacher a report, showing the group's performance and individual progress. This enables teachers to plan work as well as marking what the children do during the lesson. The key thing is that the hardware involves every pupil.
Lesley thrusts one of the keypads into my hands. I protest that I am there to observe but she ignores me.I am going to have to respond. This is not just putting up your hand and hoping you will not be asked. You will be asked. This is a kind of pressure I have not felt for years. Is it good? Of course it is and just a little scary. If you need any convincing about the Classroom Performance System then try it this way.
The pupils and I take part in a quiz on the Classroom Performance System where Lesley shows pictures of the activities and they have to choose from two options. In the second part, she writes sentences, for example "Il ______ au foot" then they have to choose between "joues" or "joue".
The lesson finishes with a plenary, a consideration of the results, and back to the objectives on PowerPoint to see if they had been achieved.
Eventually the children file away, entertained and encouraged by a teacher who cares for her children and can see the power of the technology.
Lesley would be a good teacher if she had only a stick to draw in the sand with. With the technology, she is a great teacher, keenly aware of the impact that ICT can have on pupils. Remarkably, the equipment she uses does not belong to the school. Not daunted by the lack of resources, she went out and found them at the local City Learning Centre.
She is studying for an MA in education at the University of Durham and her dissertation is on the impact of the Classroom Performance System on reluctant learners.
She says: "I have seen my pupils from across the ability and age range respond to the ICT I use in the classroom. I have been able to transform the mundane vocabulary test into a fun, learning activity, and my pupils have benefited from this. Over the next year, I intend to continue to share good practice through a training session for all staff and other MFL teachers relating to the Classroom Performance System." She has already done a great deal of work on the school website.
Before I left, when no one else was around, I asked Lesley for my result. I got one wrong. I felt so relieved. It could have been worse.
Hewlett Packard Pavilion ze4200 laptop computer with CD-writer and DVD-Rom
Sahara LCD Zoom Digital Projector pound;1,050
InterWrite School Pad
SchoolPad 300, pound;445
RM Bluetooth ClassPad pound;445
Classroom Performance System pound;1,595; 24 handsets
Bullet Point Presentations
Equipment on loan from Hartlepool CLC, Co Dyke House School, Mapleton Road, Hartlepool TS24 8NQ
Tel: 01429 424290 266377
Microsoft PowerPoint, Paris Video-Verite CD-Rom pound;70
Croft Douglas Education
Microsoft Clip Gallery has thousands of excellent images for preparing presentations.
A good source for music clips
A site to go to for the news to stimulate discussion and recognise verbs in an authentic setting
For GCSE revision
CILT, the National Centre for Languages
Tel: 020 7379 5101
ALL (Association for Language Learning)
Tel: 01788 546443
North East Comenieus Centre Tel: 0191 553 5600
Video of the award winners will be on TheTES website next week: