No stress with DS
Firrhill High languages teacher Helene Clark encourages S1-3 pupils to use a Nintendo DS in her class. Retention rates for French are going up in the Edinburgh secondary and the games help to engage youngsters who would traditionally have been reluctant linguists.
Mrs Clark is an enthusiast for using ICT in languages: the DS game My French Coach is the hook she uses to reel in her pupils' attention. S1 pupils, who arrive with a limited knowledge of French, play the game for about 15-20 minutes around twice a week.
In her Learning and Teaching Scotland blog, Mrs Clark describes how she used the game to give S1 pupils practice in creating sentences using prepositions. The DS dictionary provides help with unfamiliar vocabulary and the "compare" tool assists with pronunciation.
One drawback of the My French Coach software is that it does not give the gender of nouns or specify whether the French word is a noun, adverb or verb, says Mrs Clark. This meant pupils had to use a traditional "paper dictionary", but it familiarised them with looking up words.
She writes in her blog about how the technology has had an impact on one particular pupil: "A lower-attaining ADHD pupil, who can be quite restless, started at level 1 after his initial test.
"He felt frustrated, knew very little French, but was engaged and motivated to learn with the DS. Progressing through levels was very meaningful to him. As a result, he has made incredible progress. He may spend 20 minutes to produce three French sentences but he thinks thoroughly about the structure of the language and always tries to achieve his full potential."