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Online CPD presentations

Being confined to base has given me an opportunity to work on a new project which should be of help to language teachers new and old.

I’m in the process of creating presentations on various aspects of language teaching. So far, as I write, seven talks of around 15-25 minutes each have been uploaded to my YouTube channel.

Topics covered so far include the process approach to listening, phonics and phonology, interpersonal listening, task-based listening, grammar and lexicogrammar. I’m partly drawing on existing slides I’ve used at conferences and in schools, partly creating new material. In each talk I try to include a mix of research background and practical classroom activities. The mix varies depending on the topic. I’m using Screencast-O-Matic to record my presentations. I can recommend that, by the way.

Future talks will cover reading, vocabulary teaching, question-answer technique, teaching grammar through listening, target language use and much, much more.

These presentations ar…
Recent posts

Setting work for home study

A major challenge for language teachers just now is selecting and sharing work with students to do at home. Here a few suggestions on the issue to add to your own. The sites I mention are the tip of the iceberg and focus mainly on French. I have stuck to free resources, not subscription sites.

By the way, I'm not getting into the use of tech here, as I have no great expertise on that. In any case, I imagine for younger learners especially it may be a question of setting other types of work.


For advanced learners the job is not so tough. There is a plethora of listening, reading and grammar material they can use, whether it be from their textbooks, other resources shared electronically or online resources. You may have your favourites, but for a selection for French you can check out my links here and here. You may want to stick with topics on the syllabus, or free up students to read and listen more generally to what interests them.

One idea I used was to ask students to c…

"Memory is the residue of thought". Discuss.

The sentence in the title of this blog comes from psychologist Daniel Willingham, a scholar frequently referred to by teachers and consultants when talking about learning and memory. You can find it in his influential book Why Don't Students Like School? (2010) or free in this article. The idea that memory is the residue of thought is simple, appealing and in many cases correct no doubt. But for language teachers there is something just a little bit whiffy about it.

Now Daniel Willingham and the many writers and bloggers who quote him recognise that he is talking about a certain type of learning: the learning which goes on in formal settings like schools. He may also point out that language learning/acquisition (particularly first language learning/acquisition) is atypical in that it is "biologically primary", i.e. natural or developmental, requiring little or no formal instruction.

Classroom language learning, on the other hand, could be viewed as a peculiar outlier, o…

Home study resources on frenchteacher

UPDATE 17.3.20

There are now home study booklets for Y7, Y8, Y9 and A-level. Just go to, choose Free Stuff, the Samples. Answers given for all except the Y7 material.


UPDATE 15.3.20: I have uploaded two free GCSE home study packs of between 45-50 pages. One for Foundation, one for Higher Tier. Each pack contains listening, reading, speaking and writing practice. Answers are given, where appropriate. You can edit them since they are Word docs. Just print and hand out, or share electronically.


If there are any school closures in the near future teachers will be no doubt looking to provide home study resources for pupils. I just wanted to mention to subscribers that one possible option is to put together a booklet of r…

Marginal gains

You may have heard of Sir Dave Brailsford. He is the boss of Team Ineos, formerly Team Sky, the cycling team who have dominated road cycling for a good few years. He is partly known for implementing the notion of “marginal gains” to make his team the best in the world. In cycling this could mean outdoing opponents by having a slightly lighter bike, slightly lower drag clothing and helmets, tyres with marginally less friction, better controlled food intake for competitors, etc. The idea is that these marginal improvements in various areas add up to a significant advantage overall.

After observing some lessons recently, it struck me that this concept of making minor improvements to practice in various areas might apply to language lessons. These tweaks could add up to something significant over time. What do I mean? Let’s look at some possibilities..

When working with a text, if you are using comprehension questions in English, could you do this through target language means instead. En…

The survey results are in

Every few months I carry out a subscriber survey using Survey Monkey. This is to help me know which resources are being used, receive feedback and suggestions on how to improve the site. This time 77 subscribers responded over the four weeks the survey was live. That's roughly 5% of members.

There were ten quick questions. This is what I learned this time:

Have you used any of the Y10-11 instant listening tasks (not video listening)?

40% said yes.

Have you used Y7-9 PowerPoints?

43% said yes.

Have you used any sentence builder tasks?

70% said yes. This reflects the current enthusiasm for sentence builder tables (aka substitution tables). Some teachers are putting the Y10-11 examples together as a GCSE revision booklet.

Have you used any Y7 parallel reading resources?

57% said yes. I am aware that some teachers put these texts together and make a booklet of them for pupils.

Have you used Y10-11 video listening, e.g. Peppa Pig?

53% said yes.

Have you used the grammar explanation handouts…

Review: The Language Gym interactive site

This review comes with a disclaimer! I obviously know Gianfranco Conti who, with former colleagues, set out to redevelop and monetise the existing free site which has been much used by teachers over the last few years. Gianfranco asked me to write an honest review, so here goes. I shall focus mainly on the French content as it stands so far - bear in mind new material is being added all the time.

I tested the site on my PC.

First off, what is The Language Gym?  

It's an interactive website with French, Spanish and Italian content, which enables students to practise their language manipulation and comprehension skills. Content comes at all levels from novice to advanced. In the Games Room there are four types of activity called Verb Trainer, Workouts, Boxing Game and Rock Climbing. Let's look at each in turn.

Verb Trainer

There are two modes to choose from: Practice Mode and Normal Timed Mode. The latter adds an element of time pressure to encourage quick response and ramp up th…

Book review: A-Z for French B by Danièle Bourdais

This 96 page book is an extremely useful vocabulary list for students studying IB French B. The concept is very simple. Vocabulary is listed for five broad themes (color coded in the book), divided into sub-topics, matched to the IB syllabus. On each page there are lists not only of words and collocations, but whole sentences with parallel translations like the one below on Peace and Conflict. Some sentences are simpler (niveau moyen), others more sophisticated (niveau supérieur). Sentences marked with a blue asterisk have been selected to model particular linguistic features, such as the use of relative pronouns, the subjunctive mood or words which avoid over-using simple ones such as dire. These features are highlighted in bold, as are their English translations.

After the main lists, Section 6 of the book provides phrases to help with the preparation of the individual oral assessment. Section 7 supplies other useful phrases which are not topic=specific.

Most of the language is sta…

GCSE resources and links from frenchteacher 2020

In case you don't know my site (which is extraordinarily good value at £30 for around 1800 accurate resources!), here is a summary of what you can find for your Y10-11 pupils. Don't forget that all resources are in Word and therefore editable, e.g. you can add your own school logo or departmental identity as long as the original source is identified and not shared with other institutions. You'll also find that there plenty of resources on the Y8-9 pages which might work well with your Y10-11 classes, depending on their attainment.

1.  Exam preparation resources

These are divided by tier and include knowledge organisers, photo cards, role plays, translations, full reading papers, essay-writing guides, conversation booklets and conversation board games. Some resources are in booklet form (27 resources) .

2.  Sentence builder frames These cover GCSE themes, come with a suggested teaching sequence and scaffolded, gapped versions of each grid.  You could easily make these …

Book review: Key Questions in Language Teaching by Alessandro Benati

This is a brand new introduction to the findings of second language acquisition research and their implications for language teachers.

Alessandro Benati is a professor of English and Applied Linguistics at the American University of Sharjah, as well as a Visiting professor at the University of Portsmouth and University of York St. John.

He is known as an eminent scholar in his field, having worked in particular with American scholar Bill VanPatten.

What's in the book?

There are seven chapters covering roughly 200 pages. Chapters look at:
what we know about second language acquisition and the implications of this for teachers; how methodology has evolved over the years; the role of communication and interactive tasks; the role of listening and reading comprehension tasks; the role of grammar, vocabulary and corrective feedback; how research is carried out and, finally, an overall evaluation of the issues. 
Major issues in the field are discussed, e.g. the role of comprehensible inpu…