Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Save time and energy

We know teaching can be an exhausting job. If you aren't feeling a hundred per cent your lessons won't go so well. So what strategies can be employed to save time, reduce stress and conserve energy? Here are a few ideas:

  • When pair or group work is going on take a back seat; don't feel the need to intervene unless the little darlings are off task. Listening in and correcting may put students off too, so just sit at your desk or stand in the corner and enjoy the fruits of your work.
  • Plan occasional lessons where the class is working silently on a reading, listening or writing task. The bottom line is: are students engaged and working? You don't have to be. Don't feel guilty.
  • Plan your week so you can re-use the same ideas more than once. The same activity can often be adapted for different classes.
  • Take advantage of go-to zero preparation starters, fillers and plenaries. This will save you time at home.
  • Mark work a bit less and do not feel the need to write detailed feedback each time, whatever the latest craze might be. You only have so many hours per week, so mark quickly, sometimes correct selectively and use codes and any other shortcuts to save time.
  • Make sure students do some peer assessment. This will often be more useful than you marking.
  • Make good use of existing, ready-made resources, adapting them where necessary. You don't have to write your own materials to be an effective, inspiring teacher. Students and observers will judge you on your relationships, class control and effective methodology, less on whether you have come up with a swish idea or resource.
  • Plan for lessons using technology where you can take a back seat. Online interactive tasks are ideal for this.
  • Only go to the meetings you really have to!
  • Get good pupils to come to the front and do a bit of teaching for you.
  • Don't avoid teacher-led work. With some classes this may be the least draining and stressful approach.
  • Try to keep lunchtimes and breaks for yourself as far as possible.
  • Keep your head clear and stress levels low by planning ahead.
  • If a lesson goes less well than you had hoped, try not to worry. Remember that the students won't!

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Primary French resources on frenchteacher is principally aimed at French students aged 11 to 18, but all the resources in the Y7 section could be used by primary French teachers, largely in Y5 or Y6. Here is a list of the contents which may be useful to primary French teachers. For other great links to primary French resources


“A good student” poster
Useful classroom teacher phrases
Stick-in vocabulary lists
Strip bingo vocabulary game
Place mat with classroom expressions
Pupil survey sheet – good for self-evaluation!(edit online)
Resource and lesson plan on prepositions (display/worksheet)
Prepositions – Où est le chat? (display/worksheet)
Conversation questions board game
Pair work interview slips
Word re-ordering for revision
What is the question?
Fruits et légumes – code breaking
General revision questions


My house
My family
Family poem
Blue whales
My friend
My mum


Numbers wordsearch – which number is missing?
Numbers 1-60 – arithmetic sheet
Numbers 1-100 dominoes
Numbers 1-100 crossword
Days and months wordsearch
Months of the year + dates


Easy text and exercises on the Simpsons – good for whiteboard
Family crossword + mon/ma/mes
Family wordsearch + mon/ma/mes
Family dominoes + possessives
Listening: La famille Berrow (BBC)
Pets crossword + articles
Pets reading and drawing task
Animals song


Practising être
Practising avoir
Practising -er verbs
Practising -er verbs
Practising -er verbs drill
-er verbs – battleships game
-er verbs crossword
-er verbs sentence translation
Simple daily routine
Using the verb s’appeler
Using subject pronouns il/elle/ils/elles
Ils or Elles? (1)
Ils or Elles? (2)


Weather dominoes
Weather crossword


Time OHT (1) – hours and half past
Time OHT (2) – quarter past and to
Time OHT (3) – minutes past and to
Time OHT (4) – mixed
Telling the time worksheet
Where and when. Using aller plus time.


Battleships game for places in town (can be adapted for other grammar or vocab areas)
In town – directions
In town – code breaking
In town – crossword
In town – crossword with definitions
In town – wordsearch
In town – dominoes
Pour aller…..
Transport Shops (oral/written drill)


La maison de la famille Leblanc
Trotro joue à cache-cache – video listening
In the house
In the house crossword
In the house (2)
Rooms in the house
Ma chambre
Ma chambre – video listening sing-along


Classroom vocabulary – code breaking
Classroom vocabulary – video listening
Classroom vocabulary list
Classroom vocabulary dominoes
School subjects
Classroom vocab – crossword (pdf)
Classroom vocab with indefinite articles- crossword (pdf)
Classroom wordsearch
Classroom vocabulary anagrams
Answers for the above


Adjective agreement crossword
Possessive adjectives (two sheets)
Adjectives gap fill
Top Secret! (descriptions)


Christmas vocabulary
Christmas crossword
Christmas strip bingo game
Christmas code breaking
Christmas wordsearch


Teaching ne… pas
Family resource and lesson plan
Marie-Hélène talks about herself – text with lesson plan

Five favourite go-to filler activities

These are for when your lesson finishes sooner than planned or when you feel like doing a random fun activity. No preparation required.

  • Word association. Give an example of how it works, then do it as a whole class activity, either working round in order or moving randomly from pupil to pupil. Stress that they should not plan words in advance and that they are allowed to pass. With the right class they can do it in small groups or pairs. This works at all levels.
  • Fizz-buzz. This is the number game where you count up from 1, saying Fizz for multiples of five or numbers with five in, and Buzz with multiples of seven or numbers with a seven in them. Best with beginners and low intermediates.
  • Aural anagrams. Read out anagrams to the class. They may be based on a particular topic. Points for the individual or team which guesses the word first. Pupils may write down the letters or just keep them in their heads. Good for any level.
  • "Just a minute". Pupils work in small groups. Individuals try to talk for a minute without hesitating (i.e. drying up), repeating or deviating from the topic. Best for good intermediates and advanced. You can give easy topics to intermediates and harder ones to advanced level students. This can be great preparation for an oral exam.
  • Strip bingo. Give a topic. Pupils write a list of words down a strip of paper. Each time you say a word at either end of their list they must tear it off. The winner is the person who has no words left. Note that the teacher must say words more than once and keep an eye on the progress of pupils. Best with beginners or intermediates.

Monday, 21 April 2014

End of year oral assessment questions

Here is a set of questions which can be used as the basis for an end of year speaking assessment with Y9 students (low intermediate). For a number of years we used these at Ripon Grammar School to help us assess national curriculum levels. We handed out the sheets about two weeks before the tests, did some model answers orally in class and then gave each pupil a five minute slot during which we would ask a selection of the questions. With better students we would make sure that they had to improvise to some extent. Students would have a lesson when they they could practise their responses with partners.

We were fortunate in as much as we had allocated sessions during the exam period when we could do assessments without having to do them during lessons. Here are the questions:


•         Comment t’appelles-tu?  Quel âge as-tu?  Où habites-tu?

•         Parle-moi un peu de ta famille.

•         Qu’est-ce que tu fais le weekend, par exemple?

•         Quelles matières préfères-tu au collège?

•         A quelle heure est-ce que tu te lèves le matin?

•         Décris une journée typique.

•         Que fait ta famille pour la protection de l’environnement?

•         Qu’est-ce que tu aimes manger et boire?

•         Décris ta maison.


•         Qu’est-ce que tu as fait le weekend dernier?

•         Qu’est-ce que tu as fait ce matin? Et hier soir?

•         A quelle heure est-ce que tu t’es couché hier soir?

•         Qu’est-ce que tu as mangé au petit déjeuner ce matin?

•         Comment est-ce que tu es venu à l’école ce matin?

•         Quel temps a-t-il fait hier?

•         Qu’as-tu fait pendant les grandes vacances l’année dernière?

•         As-tu jamais visité la France?  Où exactement? Quand?


•         Qu’est-ce que tu vas faire ce soir?

•         Qu’est-ce que tu feras ce weekend probablement?

•         A quelle heure est-ce que tu te coucheras ce soir?

•         Quels sont tes projets pour les vacances d’été?

•         Qu’est-ce que tu vas manger ce soir?

•         Comment rentreras-tu chez toi ce soir?

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Technology in the modern language classroom

This is taken from the Teachers' Guide document on It is an introductory guide for new teachers and not aimed at existing technophiles.......

Technology has long played an important role in language teaching. We have seen gramophone records, reel-to-reel tape recorders, cassette players, radio and television, language laboratories, CDs, slide projectors, videotape recorders and players, overhead projectors and, in more recent times, computers, visualisers, MP3 players, the internet and mobile devices. Methodology has sometimes gone hand in hand with new technology, notably when audio-lingualism was made possible by the tape recorder.

Although the tape recorder was the first revolutionary piece of technology, the computer and internet have been of even greater use to language teachers. The internet can be a marvellous source of authentic or adapted target language as well as creative opportunities. New teachers should be wary of using technology for technology’s sake and some technology may seem superficially attractive, only to be unnecessarily time-consuming and unproductive.  Use of technology should be used to raise motivation, provide TL input and improve students’ language skills. Lesson time is all too limited and should not be wasted on developing IT skills at the expense of language skills. In the words of the ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages):

The use of technology should never be the goal in and of itself, but rather one tool for helping language learners to use the target language in culturally appropriate ways to accomplish authentic tasks.

Technology clearly plays a role in developing linguistic skill, but it also opens up new possibilities for communicating with students from other countries and cultures. In addition, many students find technology more motivating than being taught in the traditional way. In short technology can enhance any language course, bring variety and help students develop their general ICT skills.

The range of sites, apps and programmes changes rapidly, but here is a list of some activities which exploit technology effectively.

  • Using online radio, video and podcasts for developing listening skill
  • Using websites to do online reading tasks set by the teacher (“webquests”)
  • Doing interactive listening, reading, text manipulation and grammar e.g. Languagesonline, Textivate
  • Using a computer based language laboratory for listening and speaking e.g. Sanako
  • Using mobile apps for creative language use
  • Using voice interaction e.g. Siri
  • Using text to speech apps or sites to write and listen to text
  • Recording the voice using programmes such as Audacity, digital recorders and microphones e.g. Easyspeak
  • Using online content associated with course books e.g. Active Studio, Kerboodle
  • Using mobiles and cameras to record conversations, presentations and sketches
  • Using social media to communicate with fellow pupils, teachers or students from other countries e.g Edmodo
  • Using Skype to communicate with students from other countries
  • Exchanging email letters with a twinned class from another country
  • Using blogs and wikis to share language and news  with students or fellow teachers
  • Getting students to write their own blogs in the target language
  • Using specific apps to assist with word-level issues like vocabulary learning and verb conjugation e.g  Memrise, Quizlet
  • Using online game-playing software e.g.Taskmagic
  • Using interactive whiteboards for instruction and practice
  • Taking part in forums in the target language
  • Using online grammar guides and dictionaries for reference e.g. Tex’s French Grammar, Wordreference, Linguee
  • Draft work using tools such as Word, Publisher, Powerpoint and Prezzie
  • Joining teacher forums and social media to share ideas e.g. TES, MFL Resources, Twitter
  • Using an online translator under the guidance of a teacher e.g. Google Translate
  • Using a visualiser to display student work or worksheets
  • Using specific software to communicate with students, conduct polls, award badges etc e.g.  Class Dojo

For a comprehensive list of online possibilities see the links pages of

Friday, 18 April 2014

MFL GCSE Subject Content April 2014

So, let's have a look at the final subject content for MFL as published by the DfE this month. This is what exam boards will use to guide their specifications for teaching from September 2016. There is a consultation on the document, but I've done it and it only relates to chosen aspects, not the details of the document.

Here is the link to the document:

Firstly, it's only five pages long. For the flesh on these bones wait for exam board specs. As they say in the introduction:

Together with the assessment objectives it provides the framework within which the awarding organisations create the detail of their specifications, so ensuring progression from key stage 3 national curriculum requirements and the possibilities for development into A Level.

In passing it is worth mentioning that academies, independents and free schools could ignore all this, but they would be unwise to do so since they will be teaching to exams based on the DfE's content.

The "subject aims and learning outcomes section" is pretty uncontroversial, although I would just pick up on the phrase "standard speech at near normal speed". In reality it is unlikely exams will feature anything like this, depending on what you understand by near normal speed. Currently, even at A-level we do not get that close to near normal speed. The following sentence is also a change of emphasis, I believe:

Specifications should enable to students to:  be encouraged to make appropriate links to other areas of the curriculum to enable bilingual and deeper learning, where the language may become a medium for constructing and applying knowledge.
This is a nod to CLIL (teaching other subjects through the target language), which is laudable, although in practice I think this will remain a marginal area.

Now, to the meat of the document: the subject content.....

We see the reference to "literary texts" (appropriate to this level) - don't worry, colleagues, you won't be teaching novels to reluctant 15 year-olds. I imagine we can expect a greater emphasis on short highly adapted literary extracts a bit more poetry and narrative language in general. This is what they say:

Literary texts can include extracts and excerpts, adapted and abridged as appropriate, from poems, letters, short stories, essays, novels or plays from contemporary and historical sources, subject to copyright 
This is probably a good thing if the content is interesting. My view on this is that it is not the style of language (fact or fiction) which counts here, but how compelling any reading or listening material is. This is down to text book writers and exam setters. Narrative prose may offer more scope for creative language use and is often easier to exploit orally. The general contexts from which language will be taken are listed as: (1) identity (2) culture, local, national, international and global areas of interest and (3) current and future study and employment. That's all we learn about subject matter - the exam boards will interpret what this means.

In the "scope of study" section which follows we get a breakdown by skill of the type of activity students will be expected to do. The Listening section contains nothing I can see which is particularly controversial. there is a reference to "standard speech"; I am not entirely sure what this means, but I daresay we will not expect to hear strong accents, dialect or much in the way of slang.

In the Speaking section one can detect an emphasis on spontaneity and extended speech. What this will mean in practice is hard to say. Oqual and the awarding bodies will be aware of what has gone wrong with Controlled Assessments in terms of rote memorisation of chunks of language, so maybe we shall see (as with the current AQA IGCSE) a greater use of picture to stimulate spontaneous speech. But beware, if you take away the learned speech from weak candidates they will flounder. I know this as a former examiner. The new specs in all subjects are meant to be more challenging, but with current timetable constraints and for many other reasons we are not going to see a transformation in performance from students, so expect generous mark schemes and easy sections for weak students.

In the Reading section we see one highly controversial inclusion:

translate a short passage from the assessed language into English

Welcome back to the 1950s! I have blogged on this before, but suffice it to say that translating into the mother tongue can be enjoyable, challenging and useful, but if you put it is an exam teachers will spend too much time on this skill and thus neglect using the target language in the classroom. Translating into English should have no place in a GCSE exam. This is an error. There are better ways to test comprehension of detail which do not involve using English as much.

In the Writing section we read that students will:

translate sentences and short texts from English into the assessed language to convey key messages accurately and to apply grammatical knowledge of language and structures in context

I believe this is also a retrograde and mistaken inclusion. It is there because someone thinks we will teach grammar more rigorously by using translation. I have no problem with occasional translation into the target language as an alternative exercise type: some students like it, it probably fixes grammar and it appeals to the puzzle-solver. Once again, however, the backwash effect will take over and it will lead to bad classroom practice as teachers desperately prepare students to get the best exam grade. Target language will suffer, authentic communication will go out the window.

One final point which concerns teachers. Will questions be in the target language or is English allowed. the answer?

The overall rubrics containing instructions to candidates may continue to be in English, as at present. Questions for the majority of modern languages may be set in the assessed language or English, as appropriate to the task. They should be set in the language in which the candidate is expected to respond. 
This may please most teachers, although I have my reservations since, again, there will be a temptation for teachers to use too much English in the classroom. They already do.

So, make of it what you will. I just hope that common sense will prevail on the translation issue and that we see the minimum amount on exam papers. If that is the case teachers will not feel the need to do too much of it in class.


Tuesday, 15 April 2014

A remarkable First World War story

This is a story I found in a British newspaper, which I have retold in French and added exercises to. If you would like to use something on the theme of the First World war with advanced students, this would fit the bill. I am "showcasing" it here as an example of the type of reading material you can find in

Une histoire de guerre remarquable

Un soldat britannique a été libéré d'un camp de prison pendant la première guerre mondiale pour pouvoir rendre visite à sa mère mourante - à condition qu'il retourne à ses ravisseurs allemands.

Selon un historien le capitaine Robert Campbell était tenu à Magdeburg en Allemagne depuis deux ans quand il a reçu la nouvelle que sa mère Louise était proche de la mort.

Le jeune officier, 29 ans, a écrit spéculativement au Kaiser Wilhelm demandant l’autorisation de revoir sa mère une dernière fois. Incroyablement  le leader allemand a permis au Capitaine Campbell de partir à la seule condition qu'il donne sa «parole » qu'il reviendrait.

Après être retourné à Gravesend, dans le Kent, en 1916, pour voir sa mère atteinte d’un cancer, il a tenu sa promesse et est retourné en prison . Il y est resté jusqu'à la fin de la guerre en 1918.

L'historien Richard Van Emden, qui a découvert l'histoire, a déclaré: « Le Capitaine Campbell était un officier et il a fait une promesse sur l'honneur de revenir. Ce qui est étonnant, c'est que l'armée britannique l’a laissé retourner en Allemagne. Les Britanniques auraient pu lui dire : « Vous n’allez pas retourner, vous allez rester ici. » »

Campbell avait été capturé deux semaines seulement après la déclaration de guerre britannique sur l'Allemagne en Juillet 1914. Il avait pris la tête du 1er Bataillon East Surrey Regiment quand ses troupes ont pris position sur le canal de Mons à Condé sur la frontière Franco- Belgique.

Mais une semaine plus tard, ses hommes ont été attaqués par les forces allemandes et il a été grièvement blessé et capturé. Il a été soigné dans un hôpital militaire de Cologne, en Allemagne, avant d'être transporté à Magdeburg.

Après que le Kaiser lui accorde deux semaines de congé de compassion, il a atteint le chevet de sa mère, le 7 décembre 1916, et a passé une semaine avec elle avant de retourner en Allemagne. Louise est finalement décédée en février 1917.

Selon les archives les Allemands ont contacté les Britanniques avec une demande similaire pour leur soldat Peter Gastreich incarcéré sur l'île de Wight et qui voulait voir sa mère mourante. Mais les Britanniques étaient moins accommodants que le Kaiser et ont rejeté la demande.

Campbell a été libéré du camp à la fin de la guerre et est rentré en Angleterre. Il a finalement pris sa retraite de l'armée en 1925. Le vieux soldat a réussi à survivre à la guerre indemne et est décédé en 1966 âgé de 81 ans.

Vrai, faux ou pas mentionné ?

1.         Les Allemands ont permis à un officier anglais de retourner chez lui voir sa mère malade.
2.         Campbell était prisonnier de guerre depuis deux mois quand il a posé sa demande.
3.         Le Kaiser Wilhelm a donné l’autorisation de partir sans conditions.
4.         Campbell a été accompagné de soldats allemands pendant son retour.
5.         L’historien Richard van Emden est surpris par la réaction de l’armée britannique.
6.         Campbell avait été capturé peu de temps après le début de la guerre.
7.         Campbell avait été capturé avec d’autres membres de son régiment.
8.         Campbell n’avait aucune blessure lorsqu’on l’a capturé.
9.         La mère de Campbell est morte peu de temps après la visite de son fils.
10.       L’armée britannique a accordé une sortie de prison semblable pour un militaire allemand.

war - _______ (f)                                               captor - ______________ (m)
to hold - _______                                              piece of news - __________ (f)
to give one’s word - _______ __ _______         to care for - ________
leave - _______ (m)                                          to reach - ___________
bedside - ________ (m)                                    unhurt - _________

Travail écrit
Soit:    Racontez cette histoire du point de vue du capitaine Campbell.
Soit :   Trouvez une autre histoire de guerre remarquable et racontez brièvement ce qui s’est passé