Skip to main content


Showing posts from 2013

New year plans for frenchteacher

In recent months I have focused on adding listening resources to the site. These have been worksheets which link to online videos. I would hope that these would make listening less of a chore since they incorporate a visual element. My main focus has been on advanced level and there is now a good stock of listening resources to complement the huge array of reading, speaking and grammar resources. This year I would like to increase the number of listening resources at near beginner and intermediate level. Up to now I have done less on this for two reasons. Firstly they are harder to find and secondly popular course books have plenty of audio material already. However, it remains true that video is less common, so there is a demand for listening with video. The recent Peppa Cochon video worksheets are a good example of approachable and stimulating intermediate resources. A second task for this year will be some spring cleaning of resources which have become outdated. I have been

The grammar school debate

When I am not thinking about language teaching stuff, I do keep an eye on the educational agenda in general. A recent report in The Sunday Telegraph suggests that Thetesa May is looking at allowing the creation of more grammar schools. Allow me to reflect on this one and see if you agree! This is the issue that refuses to go away, isn't it? I know a bit about grammar schools, having taught in two over a period of nearly 30 years. But anecdotal evidence, which is what we mostly get to hear in the comment pages, is not really enough. The case for grammar schools has recently centred on the issue of social mobility. Some would have us believe that the grammar school was the route up the social ladder for bright, working class children. They believe that ambitious, able, working class kids are held back by less motivated children in mediocre comprehensive schools. The same people would no doubt argue that comprehensive education has led to a decline in excellence, a boost for priva

Textivate revisited

Textivate has been around for a while now, so I am having another look at it, having previously reviewed when it first came out around the summer of 2012. If you are not familiar with the concept, you can create tasks such as jigsaw reading, gap fills, matching, re-ordering tasks, filling in letters and separating continuous text into words. Exercises can be stored online if you register, or stored "locally" on your own computer. It is a further development of the original Fun with Texts programme from Camsoft which was the most popular text manipulation computer programme of its time in the early days of what was christened CALL (Computer Assisted Language Learning). An Ofsted report from 2002 stated:  "Text manipulation packages are being used more often. (Fun with Texts) was originally designed for less sophisticated technology some ten years ago. This is still one of the most effective, particularly with able pupils, but also with the less able, in

frenchteacher updates

First of all, if you are a regular user of the site, I wonder if you could spare a moment to send a brief comment for my Testimonials page. I have quite a lot of comments there already, but I haven't refreshed it in some time. You could either leave a comment here or just send to It would be good if you could mention who you are, your role and where you teach or tutor. I have already blogged about the new 63 page handbook for language teachers. This can be found on the Free Samples page. It is a compendium of material from and this blog, plus some new material and amendments. There has been a steady stream of new teaching resources in recent weeks and, as since the start of September, I have been focusing on listening. I discovered the Peppa Pig videos on Youtube and have designed a few resources for low intermediate and intermediate level. I am sure they would amuse youngsters and, more importantly, the language is very clear, as are the vi

Which languages are most useful for British students?

There have been two quite widely reported recent surveys on the issue of which languages are most useful. The first, from 2012, was a CBI/Pearson Education and Skills survey of 542 employers entitled "Which languages do UK managers value?" You can find the headline figures here . French and German dominate, followed by Spanish , then Mandarin, Polish and Arabic . This should come as no great surprise since we do so much business in Europe with fellow major economies, the largest being Germany and France. To me it is a slight curiosity that Italian features nowhere. The second survey from the British Council, published this year, called Languages for the Future is here . This survey uses 10 indicators to establish a pecking order of languages: export trade, language needs of business, UK government trade priorities, emerging high growth markets, diplomatic and security priorities, the public's language interests, outward visitor destinations, the UK government's inte

A handbook for MFL teachers

I posted some time ago on a handbook for language teachers. It is a kind of "best of" 68 page compendium of material I have written over recent years and which appears, in slightly different form, either on or this blog. It can be found on at the top of the Free Samples page. It is a Word document which you could easily edit. I believe it would be particularly useful for teachers relatively new to the job, but experienced teachers will no doubt find useful ideas in the various checklists of activities. Some departments may find it to a useful support for their departmental schemes of work. It is far from exhaustive. For example I have not written about teaching primary French or teaching the least able as I have no experience in that field. I do have a section on teaching the most able and I have found sources to put together a page on teaching children with special needs. Some teachers will also find things to

Peppa Pig videos

I've just come across some Peppa Pig videos in French on Youtube. Here is one below with exercises I designed for a free worksheet on .I like the length, clear language and visuals. I have lots more video + listening exercises on the site if you like this sort of thing. Exercises Cochez les produits qui sont mentionnés des tomates                     des spaghettis                    des glaces      des chips                          du pain                               des oranges  du jambon                       une pastèque                      un gâteau       des citrons                      des fraises                          des pommes   des oignons                     des bananes                       du coca           Vrai oui faux ? Peppa aime faire les courses          Peppa n’aime pas s’asseoir dans le caddie Peppa est trop grande pour le caddie Il y a 5 aliments sur la lis

Pourquoi apprendre le français?

This is a good video from 2007 to show to intermediate (higher GCSE) or even advanced students. Nice propaganda, with a chance of discussion for advanced groups. I am putting a worksheet based on it on (in the Y10-11 section). I can imagine using this at the start of a year with a very good Y11 class or Y12.

Ofsted and target language

Since writing this, Ofsted has just released (20 December) its latest guidance for MFL teachers. In the section Quality of Teaching, under the heading Good, they say: Teachers routinely use the target language for classroom communication and generally insist on pupils responding in the language. *********************************************** I hope Barry Smith doesn't mind me using this picture of a letter he posted on Twitter today. I think MFL teachers may feel a little confused about the messages emerging from Ofsted at the moment ( see above ). Previous Ofsted reports have commented on the lack of teacher and pupil use of target language. It has been a consistent refrain over the years. Here is some recent (August 2013) Ofsted guidance on how language departments could evaluate target language use. Teachers may find it useful to read these. Inadequate Teachers use English where the TL could be used to an unnecessary or excessive extent. Teachers use some TL

The new P8 accountability measures and MFL

The table below was published by Phillip Collie of It summarises the current state of play for GCSE. It is reproduced with permission. Performance Eight (P8) is the new value-added accountability measure on which floor standards are to be based. Students and schools will be judged on their performance across eight subjects, each one having a specific weighting. It is not yet clear which subjects will still be offered as GCSEs. P8 weighting Permutations (total = 8) Tiering Teacher-assessed SPaG Exam time minimum Maths 2 Included for all students Yes No 0 3.5 hours English Lit 2 One of No Speaking , but not as part of grade 20% 3.5 hours English Lang 2 (if Lit is counted as 1  - below) No 0 3.5 hours Sciences (single award to be scrapped) 1

20 criteria for assessing an MFL course package

Most course books/packages have a shelf life of, say, 10 years at most, then need replacing. It's one of the big financial and methodological decisions an MFL department has to make and should be taken carefully, involving all members of department. I know from my own experience what it's like to be lumbered with an inappropriate course which forces you to write new materials and dip into other sources. A good course book, kept individually by students, is a great asset which should save the teacher a huge amount of time and provide a very useful resource and comfort blanket for pupils. So what criteria should be used when weighing up the options? Here are 20 for your consideration: Is the language material in the courses rigorously selected and graded for difficulty? Does the course have the right balance of grammatical, functional and situational material for your needs? Does the course have a sensible grammatical progression with built-in revision? (Check


I have been taking a look at Kahoot!, a phone/tablet-friendly app which allows teachers to create multi-choice quizzes, polls and surveys. The Edshelf site describes it thus: Using a simple and speedy ‘drag n drop’ creation tool, educators create and manage ‘Kahoots’ in the form of quizzes, surveys or polls related to the topics they're teaching; either asking quick questions ‘on the go’ to get feedback or opinion, or more in depth questions for formative assessment. Content can be shared with learners, colleagues or fellow educators globally. Educators launch their Kahoots on the screen at the front of the class to their learners, who join through their personal devices. In real-time and with gaming elements to increase engagement and motivation, learners answer questions through their personal devices. Educators get an overview of the current knowledge levels of everyone in the room, and can adapt their teaching accordingly. I had a go with the multi-choice

Silly jokes to translate

Here are some Tommy Cooper (UK comic, no longer with us) jokes translated into French. What were they originally? Je suis allé chez le médecin l'autre jour. J'ai allongé le bras en disant: «ça fait mal quand je fais ça ». Il a dit: «Eh bien, ne le faites pas». Je suis monté dans le grenier et j’ai trouvé un Stradivarius et un Rembrandt. Malheureusement Stradivarius était un peintre nul et Rembrandt a fait des violons moches. Nous allions atterrir en avion et ça fait mal aux oreilles, n'est-ce pas? L'hôtesse m'a donné du chewing-gum. Je l'ai mis dans les oreilles. Il a fallu deux jours pour le faire sortir. Un policier m'a arrêté, l'autre soir, il a tapé sur la fenêtre de la voiture et m’a dit: «Voulez-vous souffler dans ce sac, Monsieur. J'ai dit: «Pourquoi, monsieur l'agent?" Il a dit: «Mes frites sont trop chaudes». Un homme entre dans une épicerie et il dit, je veux cinq livres de pommes de terre s'il vous plaît. L'épici

A fun way to teach daily routine

I came across this on the Teaching English site (BBC/British Council). It was an idea submitted by Jo Adkin and Jeff Fowler. I have adapted it considerably for a French class. You need a list of 15 sentences on the whiteboard ( out of order ). These would be fine: Je me réveille à 7 heures Je me lève à 7 heures et quart Je me brosse les dents Je m'habille Je prends le petit déjeuner à 7h 30 Je quitte la maison et je vais au collège Je travaille en cours Je déjeune à la cantine avec mes amis à une heure Je rentre chez mois en bus à 17 heures Je goûte Je regarde la télé un peu Je fais mes devoirs Je prends le dîner avec mes parents à 20 heures Je joue à la console Je me couche à 10 heures 1.Teacher mimes the day in order . Pupils choose a sentence from the board. 2.Get a pupil up to the front to mime any of the day's events. This time pupils adapt the sentences to say "tu...." Watch out f

Boy-girl seating plans

About 20 years ago at the school I taught in, Ripon Grammar School, in the MFL department we introduced a boy-girl seating pattern in Y7 and Y8. We did not extend it beyond Y8 because setting usually meant there was an imbalance of the sexes, so it was not possible for every table to have a boy and a girl. At the time we justified it with two main reasons: the more important one was that would discourage chatting and silliness between boys, thus creating a more civilised atmosphere in the classroom; the second, less plausible, reason was to do with the idea that boys and girls may have different approaches to learning, boys being on average more competitive and greater risk-takers, girls being more conscientious and worried about getting things right. In MFL lessons, where pair work plays such an important role, who you work with is important. Apart from that we did not have a seating plan policy in the department as such. I would let children sit where they wanted, occasionall

Implications of new accountability measures

I wonder whether we have all taken on board the possible implications of the DfE's new accountability measures due to come into force in 2016. I quote from my ALL newsletter: There is an additional new measure which will be the floor standard , and which will be published in league tables. This records the percentage of pupils receiving a ‘pass’ in English and mathematics, along with pupils’ average scores across a suite of eight qualifications consisting of English and mathematics; three further English Baccalaureate (EBacc) subjects; and three other high value qualifications: EBacc, other academic, arts or vocational.   The original EBacc attainment measure remains unchanged as a soft accountability measure , and will be reported in performance tables. This consists of A*-C grades in each of: English, mathematics, two science subjects, history/geography, a foreign language.  Now, there is no doubt that the EBacc accountability measure had a positive effect on t

Enriching verbs for advanced level French

A challenge for students at A-level is to achieve an appropriate register when speaking and writing discursive paragraphs or essays. As we know, language can be made richer in style and therefore more persuasive if, in particular, a greater variety of verbs are used. The list below is from a worksheet on . You may find it a useful handout for students. It is easy to use the list for oral and written exercises such as inventing sentences on a topic you are covering. I would often tell classes to avoid the verbs être, avoir and causer in essays.     Causes et effets In essays and discussion we often need to refer to causes and their effects. When doing so there are plenty of alternatives to the verb causer. Here are some possibilities with suggested translations in English. Try to work in a range of these to your essays and oral work. provoquer         -            to cause engendrer         -             to bring about, engender