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What teachers are saying about The Language Teacher Toolkit

"The Language Teacher Toolkit is a really useful book for language teachers to either read all the way through or dip into. What I like about it is that the authors Steve Smith and Gianfranco Conti are totally upfront about what they believe to be good practice but back it up with research evidence." (Ernesto Macaro, Oxford University Department of Education)

"I absolutely love this book based on research and full of activities..  The best manual I've read so far. One of our PDs from the Australian Board of Studies recommended your book as an excellent resource.  I look forward to the conference here in Sydney." Michela Pezzi, Teacher, Australia, Facebook)

"Finally, a book for World Language teachers that provides practical ideas and strategies that can actually be used in the classroom, rather than dry rhetoric and theory that does little to inspire creativity in ways that are engaging for both students and teachers alike." (USA teacher, Amazon review)

"Even with over 30 years of experience it gave me some good ideas and food for thought." (Sian Haynes-Ryterski, UK Teacher)

I'm a secondary French teacher, and I've just finished reading this excellent book. It's jam-packed with creative ideas for the classroom, and it's really inspired me. The suggestions are very practical and require little preparation. I particularly enjoyed the chapters on speaking and listening activities, and on helpful technology/websites for language learning. I thoroughly recommend this book! (UK teacher, Amazon review)

"The Language Teacher Toolkit is a treasure chest for every language teacher, whether new to the profession or not. The comprehensive 350-page volume is divided in 25 well-structured chapters where invaluable tips ans tricks are backed up by the latest research on all subjects and the extensive teaching experience of both authors Steve Smith and Dr. Gianfranco Conti. This self-published book is a must not only for trainee language teacher students but also a fantastic reference for inspiration, practical applications and implications in the classroom, exploring all types of learners and situations in an encouraging and clearly expressed language. Every teaching question and context seems to be covered with such depth of thought, detail, logic, attention to detail, empathy and clarity that I will dwell in this book's wisdom for many years to come." (UK teacher, Nadine, Amazon)

"Strongly recommend the book: a must-have." (UK teacher)

"Chapeau! Already on our trainee reading list." (UK teacher)

"Absolutely loving this! Inspirational, practical, so sensible and backed up by research. Well done, gentlemen, and thank you." (UK teacher)

"Finally, a book for World Language teachers that provides practical ideas and strategies that can actually be used in the classroom, rather than dry rhetoric and theory that does little to inspire creativity in ways that are engaging for both students and teachers alike." (USA teacher, Amazon)

"Especially appreciate the overviews of the different methods and their strengths 
- this is a well-rounded book  packed with valuable info." (USA teacher, Amazon)

"Love this book! Not a quick read. Take in one section then figure out how to use it in my class. Can't wait to watch student engagement and success increase. Merci beaucoup!! " (Sue O'Hagen, Amazon Canada review)

"The Language Teacher Toolkit is a book that addresses all of the challenges we 
must face and overcome in the classroom, in order to ensure that students are 
receiving quality world language instruction." (USA teacher, Amazon)

"Excellent, very accessible resource for teachers and trainees in the languages 
classroom. Practical and sensible, yet takes on board new methodology and 
ideas that can work. Backed up by research, teachers can have confidence in 
and refer to the Languages Teacher Toolkit to improve practice. A must-have 
for MFL-ers!"  (UK teacher, Amazon)

"For me, it contains just about everything I think I need to know. One big 
thing I've taken from it that sticks out is that I can now explain how I teach 
the way I teach, why I don't use the Grammar/Translation method too 
much, the book has given me an introduction to the theories of my pedagogical 
choices which I was none the wiser of beforehand." (UK teacher, Amazon)

"An excellent toolkit for all language teachers, whether new to the profession 
or very experienced." (UK teacher, Amazon)

"Clear explanations, sound rationale, packed with practical, effective ideas and 
written by two experienced teachers who know their stuff. Highly recommend it!" (UK teacher, Amazon)

"Insightful and practical. An excellent resource from two reflective and 
thought-provoking writers. Recommend." (UK teacher, Amazon)

"What makes The Language Teacher Toolkit so appealing is that by combining 
the findings of research with a wide variety of practical ideas which involve 
minimal preparation for the teacher and maximal effectiveness for pupils." 
(UK teacher, ISMLA newsletter review)

"I intend to keep my Language Teacher Toolkit in my classroom and refer to 
it for inspiration when planning lessons, writing schemes of work or assessments 
or planning trips in the future." (UK teacher, ISMLA newsletter review)

"...take time to read Smith and Conti’s book. It’s packed with lots 
of interesting and not too ‘wacky’ ideas." (Ernesto Macaro)

"Excellent, very accessible resource for teachers and trainees in the languages classroom. Practical and sensible, yet takes on board new methodology and ideas that can work. Backed up by research, teachers can have confidence in and refer to the Languages Teacher Toolkit to improve practice. A must-have for MFL-ers!" (Amazon UK purchaser)

"Recommended for all our PGCE trainees" (Nicola McEwan, University of Buckingham, England)


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Tell stories


How can we make listening more enjoyable and effective for pupils? How can we turn it from a potential chore to something more memorable (and therefore more likely to stick in their long term memories)? I am of the opinion that since humans are "wired" to engage in personal listening and speaking (the expression "social brain" has been used in this context), they may be more interested and attentive when the message comes from a real person rather than a disembodied audio source. (This may or may not be relevant, but research has been carried out which demonstrates that babies pick up phonological patterns better when they listen to a caregiver rather than listen to a tape or watch a video - see here for summaries of research into this area by Patricia Kuhl.)

One easy way to make listening stimulating for pupils is to tell them easy stories in the target language. I was reminded of this while reading Penny Ur's book 100 Teaching Tips (reviewed here

A zero preparation fluency game

I am grateful to Kayleigh Meyrick, a teacher in Sheffield, for this game which she described in the Languages Today magazine (January, 2018). She called it “Swap It/Add It” and it’s dead simple! I’ve added my own little twist as well as a justification for the activity.

You could use this at almost any level, even advanced level where the language could get a good deal more sophisticated.

Put students into small groups or pairs. If in groups you can have them stand in circles to add a sense of occasion. One student utters a sentence, e.g. “J’aime jouer au foot avec mes copains parce que c’est amusant.” (You could provide the starter sentence or let groups make up their own.) The next student (or partner) has to change one element in the sentence, and so on, until you restart with a different sentence. You could give a time limit of, say, 2 minutes. The sentence could easily relate to the topic you are working on. At advanced level a suitable sentence starter might be:

“Selon un article q…

Google Translate beaters

Google Translate is a really useful tool, but some teachers say that they have stopped setting written work to be done at home because students are cheating by using it. On a number of occasions I have seen teachers asking what tasks can be set which make the use of Google Translate hard or impossible. Having given this some thought I have come up with one possible Google Translate-beating task type. It's a two way gapped translation exercise where students have to complete gaps in two parallel texts, one in French, one in English. There are no complete sentences which can be copied and pasted into Google.

This is what one looks like. Remember to hand out both texts at the same time.


_____. My name is David. _ __ 15 years old and I live in Ripon, a _____ ____ in the north of _______, near York. I have two _______ and one brother. My brother __ ______ David and my _______ are called Erika and Claire. We live in a _____ house in the centre of ____. In ___ house _____ …

New GCSE resources on frenchteacher

As well as writing resources for the new A-levels, I have in recent months been posting a good range of materials to support the new GCSEs. First exams are not until 2018, but here is what you can find on the site in addition to the many other resources (grammar exercises, texts, video listening etc).

I shall not produce vocabulary lists since the exam board specifications now offer these, with translations.

Foundation Tier 

AQA-style GCSE 2016 Role-plays
AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations
AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations (2)
100 translation sentences into French (with answers)
Reading exam
Reading exam (2)
How to write a good Foundation Tier essay (ppt)
How to write a good Foundation Tier essay (Word)

Higher Tier 

AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations (Higher tier)
AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations (Higher tier) (2)
20 translations into French (with answers)
Reading exam (Higher tier)
How to write a good Higher Tier essay (ppt)
How to write a…

Preparing for GCSE speaking: building a repertoire

As your Y11 classes start their final year of GCSE, one potential danger of moving from Controlled Assessment to terminal assessment of speaking is to believe that in this new regime there will be little place for the rote learning or memorisation of language. While it is true that the amount of learning by heart is likely to go down and that greater use of unrehearsed (spontaneous) should be encouraged, there are undoubtedly some good techniques to help your pupils perform well on the day.

I clearly recall, when I marked speaking tests for AQA 15-20 years ago, that schools whose candidates performed the best were often those who had prepared their students with ready-made short paragraphs of language. Candidates who didn't sound particularly like "natural linguists" (e.g. displaying poor accents) nevertheless got high marks. As far as an examiner is concerned is doesn't matter if every single candidate says that last weekend they went to the cinema, saw a James Bond…