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The MFL Teacher review

The MFL Teacher is a new subscription site for teachers of French and German written by Kirsten Ross and Sally Barfoot, with the help of other experienced contributors.

They write:

Our team of contributors are all very experienced MFL teachers (Lead Practitioners, SLEs and former ASTs) with a proven track record for achieving outstanding results in the classroom. They also deliver regular CPD sessions both locally and nationally. We hope that this website will become a place where fellow language teachers, who are just as passionate about teaching as we are, will gather resources, access CPD training and use the 'Member Support' page to share and discuss ideas, thoughts and concerns. 
This is a new site, which will be evolving rapidly over the next few months and we would welcome ideas and suggestions, which would help us meet your needs.

The site has over 1500 resources as well as training materials, with more being added all the time. I can only report on the free samples they make available.

There are a series of "lessons" in the form of sets of pdfs, Word and Notebook documents and powerpoint presentations. I looked at these lessons on the topic of school, written by Kirsten Ross. The free downloads are an empty timetable proforma, a template for a speaking task, a template for a likes and dislikes class survey, a simple matching task (word to pictures), a colourful information gap pair work task and a Notebook file with an introduction to school subjects.

The following lesson contains a powerpoint on subjects and opinions which is workmanlike, clear, accurate, partly based on translation and with hardly any pictures. This lesson also has a simple gap fill task. The third lesson on school reuses earlier material in a different way. A later lesson contains a daily routine text combining school vocabulary with time expressions with a grid to complete, "find the French", a matching task on high frequency words and a paragraph building exercise involving translating the high frequency words. The worksheets could be displayed or printed off. They are clear and sound, if unoriginal.

Another resource I looked at was a powerpoint which consisted of a typical set of pictures with phrases about household chores. A further powerpoint consisted of a grid of numbers which could be edited to get students to build sentences.

As someone coming across the site for the first time I would have welcomed more samples. The ones I looked at were solid - very much in the mainstream - but you could find at least as good on free sites such as Light Bulb Languages, Languages Resources or the TES. There was nothing there particularly creative and the worksheets do have a home-made look, but the resources are organised in sequences so the site has the potential to replace text book materials. I saw no evidence of listening resources. It would be interesting to know what the balance of French and German resources is. German teachers in particular may welcome this site, as they are generally less well served online. It is also worth noting that I saw nothing that would limit the resources to UK teachers.

As far as subscription prices are concerned, the Bronze plan gives you the free samples (maybe some more?), the Silver plan gives access to most resources at £59, the Gold plan gives unlimited access to resources, training materials and the Community section.

Whole department subscriptions cost a good deal more, climbing to as much as £689 a year. This most expensive option provides 10 Gold logins so might suit a large department.

It's early days for The MFL Teacher. When there are lots of good free materials out there how do you persuade hard pressed departments to part with a significant sum every year for something similar? It may be that behind the paywall there is enough to make the cost worthwhile, so the writers might do well to make more available in the early stages to get teachers on board. Once the customers are hooked, they might stay.

I would urge you to go and have a look for yourself.


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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)

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Most teachers and researchers would agree that knowing words is even more important than knowing grammar if you wish to be proficient in a language. As linguist David Wilkins wrote in 1972: "Without grammar little can be conveyed, without vocabulary nothing can be conveyed."One of the frustrations for teachers is pupils' inability to retain vocabulary for productive use. A good deal of research has been done over the years into how pupils might better keep words in memory. Two concepts which have come to the fore are spacing and interleaving.

Spaced practice

A 2003 review of the literature by P.Y. Gu reported that most studies show that students frequently forget words after learning them just once.  Anderson and Jordan (1928) discovered that after initial learning, then one week, three weeks and eight weeks thereafter, the recall success was 66%, 48%, 39% and 37% respectively. Other studies have produced similar results. Unsurprisingly, these researchers recommend, space…

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Here is Professor Macaro's review:
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. So for example the ‘methodological principles’ on page 11 are supported by the research they then refer to later in the book and this approach is very similar to the one that we (Ernesto Macaro, Suzanne Graham, Robert Woore) have adopted in our ‘consortium project’( The point i…