Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Online tools for MFL learning - Memrise

This academic year i have found myself trying to exploit the new technologies we have in school to boost language learning. I thought today I would share a couple of websites I have been using with various classes with some success. I should add that neither are subscription based, nor are they MFL specific, but my classes seem to really enjoy using them.

The first of which is www.memrise.com. Memrise (not a typo!) is a website dedicated to committing items of vocabulary, facts or figures to our long term memory using the neat metaphor of watering a garden. Pupils choose a course of vocab to study (handily, some kind soul has already uploaded specification lists for the AQA exam board for German, French and Spanish) and plant seedlings, which through watering, develop into flowers, and hey presto - vocab learnt forever! 

Each vocab list is learnt two words at a time which are tested immediately. Correct answers gain points; the quicker the answer, the higher the point scored. Students are encouraged to revisit topics frequently, and reminders to 'water' plants they may have planted some weeks previously ensures that old content can not be forgotten; it is always revisited. The memrise strategy is based on the three concepts of science, fun and community for 'effortless learning' and as they put it:

"we've turned learning facts and language into a game where you grow a colourful garden of memory. You grow and water your memories in a garden of memory, you zoom up the leaderboards, and you learn alongside your mempals. It's like a guiltless video-game"

It's this video game style and the competitive element of the leaderboards which has boosted my set two year 10 class into really learning their homework. I have set up an account and I 'follow' the pupils in my class - this gives me the option to see a leaderboard, organised into weekly, monthly and 'all time' top scores. We have created quite the competition in class and prizes have been awarded for particularly impressive results - be it reaching a certain score in a certain time frame, moving a certain number of places up the leaderboard or simply gaining 10,000 points in a 30 minute lesson. 

The brilliant part is that pupils can pick a topic which matches a context of work as the lists are sorted to the exam board. I can even set up my own lists of vocab for them to learn, which I will be exploiting more nearer exam time by creating lists of tricky exam words. I can only speak from my own first hand experience but with three classes using this now, all of different abilities, pupils find it a very quick, motivating way to complete homework. There are corresponding free apps for Android and Apple devices meaning pupils can learn on the go. Points tot up very quickly, pupils can see their progress in real time and if they choose to follow one another, seeing their position on their very own leaderboard spurs them on to study for 'just another 5 more minutes' in order to beat their friends. I really recommend giving it a go - or at least telling pupils about it so they can try it out for themselves as independent study.

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