A flash of inspiration while teaching Year 8 about the weather has given a Cardiff teacher's business career a brilliant outlook. Richard Marsden reports.
They say the simplest ideas are the best, and that maxim rings true for Emily Quirin, a teacher at Llanishen high, Cardiff, and inventor of "Talking Dice". Emily developed the dice games because she was sure that they would work with her pupils.
The idea is simple. Pictures are stuck on to the faces of dice. The thrower then has to name the item which comes up on the dice in the language being learnt. Learners score points in "look and say" games then progress to more complex tasks where they have to use the item name in a sentence drill involving tenses, prepositions or word order.
Emily turned to modern language teaching after working in Germany. Her training in drama and customer care impressed on her that learning should, above all, be fun.
"In Wales many pupils drop languages at the end of key stage 3, so it is important that pupils enjoy their language learning. The subject might mean little to them personally but they sould leave with good feelings about what they have done with us."
Her Eureka moment came a year ago. "I was doing the weather topic with Year 8 and was seeking ways to liven it up when I came across some wooden cubes. I thought if we put little weather icons on the blank faces we could use them for games."
Soon other topics suggested themselves - pets, hobbies, transport. With her business background Emily devised a marketing plan, produced publicity, and began to contact schools. The response was overwhelming.
Orders have come from remote village primary schools, city comprehensives and university education departments.
Often teachers buy the first set out of their own pocket, then their school will order multiple sets later after the initial trial. Dice are being used in Germany for teaching English and a set was recently sent to Poland.
"It's been an incredible few months but we mustn't stand still. We're developing topics and games all the time. If teachers have suggestions we'll be happy to consider them," she says.