Skip to main content


Advanced video listening: bullying at school

Below is a listening resource from the A-level page of, one of many based on online video clips. I use various questioning formats, some of which I listed in my last blog post. This is a simple QA format. One advantage of questions in the target language is  that you can focus on specific structures. For example, in Question 2 below students must understand and use 'depuis' with the present tense. Question 12 draws attention to the conditional perfect tense, which not be regularly seen or used by students. The clip is below 2 minutes long, which is good for this level and the video source is accessible enough. I would use this with a confident Y12 or a Y13 class. In terms of A-level themes it matches with cyber-society an education, each of which is part of popular exam board specs. Follow the link to view the video. Harcèlement scolaire – une victime témoigne   1m 54
Recent posts

Exploiting advanced level listening texts

 As Steve Glover and I research and begin to draft our book on teaching A-level modern languages, here is a sneek peek at an early draft section on teaching aural texts. A general point we shall want to make is that listening is at the heart of A-level teaching, as it is at any level. If comprehensible input and communication are the foundation of language learning, then working with listening texts, as well as all the interpersonal listening that goes on between teachers and students (and between students), need to be a major priority for A-level success. A second fundamental point to stress is the need to work intensively on aural texts. By that, I mean to design activities which recycle vocabulary and grammar over and over again through all the four skills. The alternative risks being a superficial coverage of listening texts - typically: hearing a text two or three times while answering some questions in English or a true/false exercise. This makes it less likely that language will

Exchanges are fantastic

When I look back at my teaching career, something I am genuinely proud of is the long-running exchange Ripon Grammar School had with the Institution Saint Louis, in Pont l'Abbé d'Arnoult. I left the classroom in 2012, and the exchange is still running every other year, 36 years after I set it up in 1988. In the 24 years I ran the exchange, roughly 600 students must have taken part, nearly all either in Y10 or Y12 - that's the way we ran it, to avoid disrupting the exams in Y11 and Y13. We would time the exchange to take up some lesson time, but strongly overlap with half terms or Easter holidays. I never saw that as a sacrifice since I enjoyed the exchange and it felt much like a holiday. Exchanges are fantastic. I can think of no better way of giving students the opportunity to expand their cultural and linguistic horizons. It's quite a personal challenge too. But to make exchanges happen requires enthusiasm, endurance and organisational skill. And in these post-Brexit

Planning to write a book about teaching A-level languages

I like to have a project, and I recently suggested to my friend and fellow former languages teacher Steve Glover that we could do something useful to help teachers develop their skill at teaching A-level languages. The provisional title of our book is Teaching A-Level Modern Languages .  My own expertise in this field is as a teacher who taught A-level French for 32 years and who writes a lot of resources for A-level teachers and students. I am well read about second language acquisition and, as you may know, have written a good deal about language teaching already, including with Gianfranco Conti.  Steve Glover runs the website (formerly and has a great deal of expertise in the production of resources for A-Level. He also taught A-level when he was a full-time teacher and he now writes and runs courses for teachers. Steve was a pioneer in using internet technology for language teaching - I first came across his work when he made The Really Useful Fren

Portrait d'enfant video listening

 I've long been a fan of the 'Portrait d'enfant' short videos from Arte. I like them for a few reasons: The language is quite comprehensible for average to higher-attaining pupils at GCSE (and even Y9). (Roughly CEFR A2.) Although the videos vary in difficulty, the worksheet design can include exercise types or scaffolding to make them accessible and enjoyable. They are short - just over two minutes. This means that you can play over material several times to encourage thorough processing of the language. It's the 'less is more' principle: better to repeat a limited range of language many times, than to expose students to occasional use of vocabulary and structures which they are less likely to retain. I design my exercises to encourage through processing (intensive listening, if you like). This is more productive than just asking a few comprehension questions or true-false questions Best of all, the videos are inherently interesting and eye-opening to our p

Teaching A-Level modern languages

Late in 2023, I started a series of four blog posts written for the benefit of teachers starting out in their teaching of A-level French. they may also be of use to more experienced teachers. I have put them all together in this post, as they were originally written - simply copied and pasted. I hope you find them useful.  1.   General principles This is the first of first of four posts on the subject of teaching A-Level languages. Because the focus is the A-Level syllabus in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the posts are aimed primarily at teachers in those countries or working in international schools. A good deal will be relevenat to teachers working with other syllabuses, notably IB. The posts are also mainly for teachers who are new or inexperienced with teaching A-level, although more experienced teachers may find useful reflections or new ideas to enhance practice. In writing these posts, I am drawing on over 30 years of experience teaching French A-level in three different