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"Outstanding" lessons revisited

Michelle Cairns has produced a useful mind map on the subject of what constitutes an outstanding modern language lesson. I posted on this a while ago and we had a discussion in our department on the same question. I still balk, by the way, at the word outstanding which OFSTED gave us and which has now become part of our teachers' vocabulary, even though it should not be the word we use.

One comment on Michelle's exercise... On the internet there are well known twitterers and bloggers who share ideas, run training sessions and support each other. This is excellent and I would like to see more language teachers engaging with the whole MFL community. These teachers, unsurprisingly, usually share an interest in trying out the latest developments in ICT. I am one of them... up to a point.

You see, I have had a nagging feeling for a while that we need to be just a bit more critical of what might be seen as gimmicky web tools. There are activities out there which seem quite fun and which students may well enjoy using, but which in fact are not very productive in terms of linguistic progress. In this category I would be tempted to place GoAnimate and Voki, for example. If a task takes a long time, involves too much use of English and does not allow a student to hear or read significant amounts of the target language, then we should question its use.

Going back to Michelle's mind map, I think that many, many teachers do brilliant lessons without recourse to ICT at all. If there's a bottom line here, it's to do with teacher-pupil relationships, use of target language, sound methodology and lots of practice. If a new technology works against any of those factors, we should question its validity.


  1. Hi Steve, thanks for referring to my mindmap, it's interesting to hear another perspective on this topic!

    I have found the MFL community, particularly on Twitter, really valuable for learning about many areas of education including new technologies in teaching.

    I agree that there are so many new ideas coming through daily that you have to become quite shrewd to evaluate the linguistic value, if any, of these tools. Some are indeed to be used as an occasional treat and for most you have to plan carefully how to use them in the classroom so that the focus stays on the language learning and that it doesn't become an ICT lesson.

    With the case of the Voki for example I think this can be totally prepared in class and then 'created' at home or a cross-curricular ICT lesson where the students can customise to their hearts content! Although there are some considerations to be made, I think it helps keep the students engaged to create something personal and use the vocabulary in a fun way.

    As you can see from my mindmap, using these technologies is, in my opinion, just one part of teaching. In MFL I think we have a particular advantage - twitter, blogs and social media, even the 'Internet' are all forms of communication and I believe new technology, used correctly of course, can have a hugely positive impact on language learning, after all languages are essentially means of communication.


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