Posted by: LLAS projects team | September 28, 2010

Back again after the summer

The project team are back again, yawning and stretching after the relaxing summer break, and ready to do some work! We held our first cafe session on 21st September and shared lots of stories about our summer treks and (more) cake and tea, and it was really great to see everyone again.

This first session after the break, involved everyone talking through possible topics that they would focus on throughout the workshop activities, over the life of the project.  The topics that are chosen will form the core around which all of the activities that will be created during workshops will be collected, so for example, Frances has chosen ‘Chinese festivals’ as her topic. In each workshop, she will use a different technology to create a teaching resource linked to this topic. By the end of the project, she will have an online portfolio of materials which can be collected in the LanguageBox under the topic heading of ‘Chinese festivals’ – and each item, and the collection itself, will be shared with the wider community.

Topics chosen so far include: food and drink; Afghanistan; Polish customs and traditions; festivals; summer; places of interest in Hungary; transport; weddings; jobs and job-hunting…and more!

We ended the evening by talking through how we would prepare for next week’s workshop on podcasting: homework was to prepare a short script to be recorded next week, and uploaded to LanguageBox.

The group also began to think about larger scale resource-creation projects to do over the winter.

Kate B

Posted by: LLAS projects team | September 6, 2010

Community Cafe at ‘Languages in the 21st Century’ conference

I’ve just given a presentation at the conference ‘Languages in the 21st Century: training, impact and influence’ which was held at the University of Sheffield, 1-2 September, 2010.

My presentation ‘Community Café project: getting community languages’ teachers in Southampton to share teaching ideas and resources online’ talked about the aims and method behind the project, and there was a great deal of interest about the project from the delegates. In fact, I hope to have recruited some new participants to the LanguageBox and to the JISC community content strand!

See my slides on the LanguageBox

Kate B

Posted by: LLAS projects team | July 29, 2010

Workshop 1: using LanguageBox

four people using computers

Project members using LanguageBox

The community cafe project held its first workshop on Tuesday, 27th July, at the University of Southampton.  The workshop was to be on ‘Using the LanguageBox to publish teaching resources’.

The languagebox is an online site which allows users to create their own profile pages and share their teaching resources, and it is the place that the project will use to publish all of the resources collected. You can find it at . This was the first time that the Community Cafe group had looked at the site and the aim for the evening was to get to know the site by doing some simple activities: type up the ‘top teaching idea’ outlined and discussed by each person at the last meeting, create an account on LanguageBox, and then upload the file. [This basic file will go on to form the basis for all the resources created and shared throughout the project.]

Even though the holidays have started for many people, we had a good turn-out, with about 20 people attending. The evening was fun as always – and ended up stretching further into the night than any of us expected! Everyone created their LB accounts, and many teaching resources were uploaded, ready for the addition of more multimedia resources over the next year. Look for those files on the LanguageBox and watch them evolve! The sharing starts here…

Kate B

Chinese teachers using the LanguageBox

Using the LanguageBox

Posted by: LLAS projects team | July 15, 2010

The second cafe meeting: more carrot cake!

meeting of community cafe project
Ahmed demonstrating his teaching idea

The second community cafe project meeting was another roaring success – especially the carrot cake! (We know how to please our group of languages teachers and carrot cake is the answer!).

In this second session, held on 6th July, 2010, we all did an activity whereby we wrote down one of our ‘top’ teaching ideas, and then got together in groups to explain our idea to others. This was a great way of sharing good ideas that really work – and getting to know each other and learning some new ways of doing things. We tried to mix up the groups so that teachers of different languages could pool ideas – and I for one, have learnt a lot about how I might teach some Somali, Chinese or Bengali!

Many of the teachers talked of the importance of songs and images in inspiring activities for their students – a particularly useful idea was the translation of common English songs into the target language (one teacher mentioned that her students knew the English words for ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ really well and so she created a Chinese version to help them learn Chinese – it was a great success!).

Our next meeting will be our first workshop: this will be held at Southampton University and will transfer some of those teaching ideas into a digital format for sharing on our open access repository, the LanguageBox ( We’ll also be considering what kinds of other resources we might create to enhance and add to the plans…

(we are also getting ready for the day with more carrot cake!)

Kate B

Posted by: LLAS projects team | June 10, 2010

Our first meeting!

We held our first Community cafe meeting on Tuesday, 8th June, at Mount Pleasant School, in Southampton, and it was a roaring success!

The project team from the LLAS at the University of Southampton and the Southampton City Council led an open session for the local network of community languages teachers to talk about the project and try to get as many people involved as possible. The evening session was attended by about 40 community languages teachers who teach languages including Urdu, Cantonese, Hungarian, Polish, Bengali, Hindi, Mandarin Chinese, Farsi to students across Hampshire.

We all got to know each other over group discussion sessions which revolved around their current teaching practice, technological needs to improve use of technology in the classroom, desires and aims for the project and the kinds of materials we could produce together. Each group was brimming with ideas – and the whole project team were tremendously excited about the work we will do together this year.

We decided on the date for our next ‘cafe’ meeting; when our first workshop would be and some of the key challenges that we will seek to address. The primary amongst these was to work on ways to improve teachers’ access to technology in the classroom: all teachers had computer access at home, but access in class was often limited because they are seen as ‘part-time’ teachers working outside of the main school system and this also means they have limited access to training (so are not trusted by school authorities). The project will be able to provide certificates to show training has been attended, and will seek ways to improve access to technology in classrooms. We will also look at ways teachers can make use of technology – without needing to have access to lots of computer labs.

We had a really interesting discussion about teaching practice too, and it became clear that community languages teachers have to be extremely efficient in their class time: they only have 2 hours max of teaching per week, yet many GCSE students take their exams one year early, and have limited time for homework. Students attend classes after hours, so are often tired and unenthusiastic, so teaching methods have to be exciting and interesting. Classes are often mixed in age and ability and this demands a range of approaches and methods within one class group. Teachers also have to be creative: there are few appropriate resources available, and so teachers are well used to creating their own materials. The idea of sharing and pooling ideas and resources was very appealing!

Ali, Erika and I (the team at Southampton) thoroughly enjoyed meeting everyone, and we are looking forward to our next meeting!

Kate B

Posted by: LLAS projects team | June 1, 2010

Hello world!

Welcome to the blog for the Community Cafe project!

This project is funded by the JISC, in the UK. The aim of the project is to work together to create a community collection of online language and cultural materials for use by those engaged in the mainly voluntary teaching and learning of community languages within the local Southampton, UK area. 

The Community Café project is a collaboration between the Subject Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies (LLAS) at the University of Southampton; Southampton City Council and the COLT project, led by the Routes into Languages North West consortium, at Manchester Metropolitan University.

The project has just started, in May 2010, and the network of community languages teachers in the Southampton and Portsmouth areas will have their first meeting next week to talk about where we start and what we will do first. The first of our workshops will run in the summer, at the University of Southampton.

Kate B, project manager, LLAS

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