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The latest from frenchteacher

This is one of my regular updates to let you know what new resources I have been adding to over the last month.

Key Stage 3

A simple word ordering worksheet to practise the verb parler in the present tense. This is for near beginners and is an addition to a few others which use the same format.A new Peppa Pig video listening worksheet for Y9 (low intermediate). You could use it with Y10 or 11. This one asks pupils to spot correct sentences then has a short drill on il ne faut pas que...An adjective agreement crossword for near-beginners.

For intermediate level (GCSE)

Two grammar practice worksheets, one on using si clauses with the imperfect and conditional tenses, the other about using the avant de + infinitive structure. the exercises types I have used are sentence combining are translation into French. Both sheets get students to add complexity to their spoken and written language.Two sets of four GCSE conversation questions presented in a dice board game format. Gre…
Recent posts

Breaking the Sound Barrier

Here are the slides I used for my presentation to the ISMLA French day at Queen's College, London. ISMLA stands for Independent Schools Modern Languages Association. The general theme of the talk was how we might teach the neglected skill of listening in a structured, research-informed way and provided practical classroom examples of bottom-up skill practice (including phonics tasks) and two-way listening, including activities such as "whole body listening", question-answer and specific games where the focus is on developing listening skill.

Gianfranco Conti and I are together working on a book with the working title Breaking the Sound Barrier.

Ismla London November 18th from Steve Smith

An hour of language teaching chat

Last Sunday evening I was the guest on Etienne Langlois’s webinar show Shop Talk. Etienne is a Canadian teacher and DJ who runs the French Playground site which organises live, online French activities and events including interviews, French class meet and greets, games of "Devinez le dessin", "Triva", and Kahoot. Etienne nad I talked for an hour about my work and about language teaching in general. I am grateful to Etienne for setting up the interview.

Exploiting a simple drill worksheet

One type of activity which I found useful to do from time to time with students was audio-lingual style grammar drills. A simple cue and response style drill can be exploited in a number of ways. In the example below the exercise is designed to practise perfect tense verbs (avoir auxiliary, regular past participles).

So as not to overload pupils with too much other distracting information, all the (high frequency) vocabulary should already be known to the class so that students are encouraged to notice and focus on the contrast between present and perfect tense.

First of all, the worksheet is meant to be used primarily for whole class and paired oral work so that pupils get to hear multiple uses of the two tenses. Assume that these exercises come late in a sequence of work focusing on the perfect tense with avoir verbs, i.e. pupils already have a good understanding of how the grammar works and the phonology associated with the two tenses. This stress on listening should help build a s…

Games or purposeful tasks?


a form of competitive activity or sport played according to rules. synonyms:match · contest · tournament · meeting · sports meeting · meet · event ·  an activity that one engages in for amusement: "a computer game" synonyms:pastime · diversion · entertainment · amusement · distraction a complete episode or period of play, ending in a final result: "a baseball game" a type of activity or business regarded as a game: "he was in the restaurant game for the glamour"

There’s a good deal of debate around the value of games in the languages classroom. Inexperienced trainees I meet are often strongly encouraged to use games, while others feel "gamification" may devalue the subject and contribute too little to learning. I wonder how you see the role of games...

My own feeling on this is if a game is a purposeful task which enhances learning at least as well as any other, then why not use it to provide an enjoyable and memorable lesson? Take the common whole …

The Google Translate problem

I read on social media groups for language teachers that many teachers have stopped setting written homework to pupils because the latter are resorting to Google Translate so often. Instead these teachers are setting learning homework or exercises with apps such as Memrise. This is, in a way, understandable, but it's also very regrettable.

If written work is done in the classroom it leaves less time for listening and speaking, which it is harder to plan for as homework. Time is already too limited for MFL so to restrict that time for listening and speaking even further is bound to hinder the progress pupils can make. Second language acquisition occurs primarily through receiving understandable messages and communicating, not so much by doing written drills, writing paragraphs or learning individual words from lists of apps. If you do less listening and communication in class you limit the progress students can make. Put simply, if students do not do written homework I believe they…

Helping A-level students become confident essay writers


One of the challenges of the new A-level MFL specifications is that students have to write two target language essays on film or literature in two hours. This is, of course, not new, since in previous version of A-level this was also the practice.

I'd like to share some of my own ideas on how we can help produce confident essay writers. These ideas are coloured by training sessions I have been running for AQA with teachers around the country. See if you go along with my suggestions.

A scaffolded progression

I wouldn't advocate getting students to write essays from early on in their study of the book or film. The danger is that most students will struggle to write well, especially if they have little experience of essay writing. In this regard students of English literature or history, for example, are at an advantage. Although, as teachers have pointed out to me at meetings, many (most? all?) GCSE English literature pupils are used to the acronym PEEL (Point, Evid…