Skip to main content


Language World 2019 presentation

Below is my presentation from the Language World conference (the annual event of the Association for Language Learning), held at Loughborough University on 24th March 2019. My topic for this interactive session was interpersonal and task-based listening.

Listening is an area of concern for language teachers, so after putting the issue into context and making some reference to research, I went on to present some classroom ideas with a focus on interpersonal and task-based listening. A few of the slides require some expanding upon, but many are self-explanatory.

They should be useful for all teachers, but especially those learning their craft.

Language World 2019 from Steve Smith
Recent posts

Do you talk to classes about language learning?

Do you ever share with your classes what you know about how languages are learned? Do you think it would help if you did so?

I would occasionally talk with my classes about language acquisition, in particular what it has in common with child language acquisition (a great deal, I believe, and supported by research).

You might like to try it. My little homily went something like this:

“Just think how amazing it was that you learned to speak English, or your other native language, by the age of about five. You might not have had all the words and complicated grammar, but you could understand your parents and friends, and you could speak fluently, without ever having to learn rules, read much or write anything down, do vocab tests or do practice exercises. Amazing! How did that happen?

It happened because you were listening to people all the time and talking back to them. Your mum or dad probably simplified their language a bit for you, read you stories with pictures, sang songs and watched …

Video listening: Trotro part en vacances

One of the staples of the site is the video listening worksheet. These are aimed at students of all levels and link out to online videos from YouTube and other sites. The example below is a free sample from the site, featuring Trotro the donkey, a favourite with French toddlers. The language is reasonably slow and comprehensible, but is scaffolded by the activities on the worksheet. It could be used with a good Y9 class, or above (low intermediate outside England and Wales). It would support the topic of holidays and contains some quite topic-specific vocabulary.

You could set the task for homework or, my preference, do it in class or a computer room.

Help yourself! The formatting is dodgy!

Trotro part en vacances (3 minutes 30)


If the link is dead, just google it.

A. Regardez l’épisode et trouvez les mots.

Match the vocab (1)

1. des crevettes​​ i. spade
2. une pelle​​ j.…

Should we teach tenses in a planned order?

Modern language textbooks for many years have presented verb tenses in a certain order, starting with present tense, then moving on to the more simply formed or frequently used versions of past and future. This tradition in the UK goes back to the grammar-translation approach, but was shared with the rise of the oral-situational approach in the 1960s (or even before for a minority of teachers). The rationale behind it goes something like this:

1. We don’t want to confuse pupils by introducing more than one tense at a time. Language learning is hard enough without complicating it even further.
2. Languages are best learned in a linear fashion, beginning with simpler (sometimes more frequent) forms before moving on to complex ones.
3. Focusing on one tense at a time allows for more repetition and a greater likelihood that the grammar will be better automatised or “internalised”. This was also an assumption of the audio-lingual approach.

What does research have to say on the order in which…

GCSE Higher Reading: 24 heures sans téléphone portable

This is a text with exercises I posted recently on It would suit an intermediate level class (in England and Wales Higher Tier GCSE). Feel free to copy and paste it for your own purposes. It might suit some A-level classes, for example Y12 classes doing the AQA cyber-society sub-theme.

This resource constitutes a whole lesson plan in itself, especially if you add some more oral discussion or compositional writing.

24 heures sans téléphone portable ?

Le 6 février 2019 était la Journée mondiale sans téléphone portable. L’objectif ? Réussir à vivre sans utiliser son smartphone pendant 24 heures.
Le téléphone portable a pris une grande place dans nos vies et mais il est peut-être important de faire une pause. Certaines personnes passent tout leur temps sur leur smartphone et ne parlent plus avec les amis. Alors le 6 février était la Journée mondiale sans téléphone portable.

L'idée de cette journée sans portable vient d'un écrivain français, Phil Marso. En 2001, il é…

How would YOU like to learn a language?

It was either Barry Smith or Jess Lund, both at Michaela Community School in London at the time, who suggested to me during my visit there that a good question to ask yourself, when thinking of theory and methodology, is “How would you like to learn a new language yourself?” The point being made was that we may choose to teach a certain way based on a range of factors, including how we were taught ourselves or the prevailing methodology of the time. Barry in particular believes that teachers are too prone to following “orthodoxy”, whether it be communicative methodology, use of games, tech use or 100% target language.

So, what about the answer to that question? To start with I imagine we would have different answers to it depending on our experiences, personal preferences and attitudes towards methodology. Secondly, it’s a valid question to ask because we are so heavily predisposed towards certain methods by our personal language learning journey and our training. Thirdly, how we choos…

“Finish my sentence” game

This is an idea from teacher Sophia West, who posted it on Facebook on the MFL Teachers’ Lounge group. I’m sure she won’t mind me reproducing it here. Sophia wrote:

”If you’ve played Cards Against Humanity you’ll know what I’m getting at, but for those who haven’t, I tried a game called “finis ma phrase” with Y10 and Y11 today and it worked really well! Can be done orally or on whiteboards for written work. I did it both ways today with some very patient French exchange students!

I just put a simple sentence starter on each slide of a PowerPoint, e.g. “j’adore manger...”; “le français me stresse car...” and divide the kids into groups of about 6. One student in the group reads the sentence starter aloud to the others. The others all think of their response and either say it or write it, e.g. “le français me stresse car c’est trop compliqué/ma prof me donne trop de devoirs/on n’a pas de chats dans la salle de classe...” etc - as sensible or as wacky as you like). The person who read the …

The latest additions to frenchteacher

I'm between visits abroad at the moment, having been to Guadeloupe and Florida in late January/early February and soon to spend a fortnight in Costa Rica in March. When I'm home I like to keep fresh with new resources, so here are the ones I've added in the last three weeks.

Beginner/low intermediate

A PowerPoint to introduce simple comparatives. Includes pair work and simple writing.

A PowerPoint. Asking for directions. Nine destinations, pour aller au/à la/à l' simple phrasing: just turn left, turn right, go straight on. Built in simple paired conversation practice. This would make a decent starter lesson on the situation.

A PowerPoint on shops. 12 shops and what you can buy there. With pair work and some written gap-fill. Usable with Y7 or 8 (near-beginner).

A PowerPoint to introduce and/or practise the near future (with pastimes). Built-in sequence with listening, repetition, oral games and translation. Good also for Y8 revision or introduc…

Sentence Stealers with a twist

Sentence Stealers is a reading aloud game invented by Gianfranco Conti. I'll describe the game to you, then suggest an extension of it which goes a bit further than reading aloud. By the way, I shouldn't need to justify the usefulness of reading aloud, but just in case, we are talking here about matching sounds to spellings, practising listening, pronunciation and intonation and repeating/recycling high frequency language patterns.

This is how it works:

Display around 15 sentences on the board, preferably ones which show language patterns you have been working on recently or some time ago.Hand out four cards or slips of paper to each student.On each card students must secretly write a sentence from the displayed list.Students then circulate around the class, approaching their classmates and reading a sentence from the displayed list. If the other person has that sentence on one of their cards, they must hand over the card. The other person then does the same, choosing a sentenc…

A-level reading resource: le Puy du Fou

Here's a resource I uploaded the other day to Tripadvisor is a great source of reading material, once you do some serious adaptation and name changing. This resource combines, reading with other skills to provide the basis of a decent lesson. Apologies for formatting issues when copying from Word.