Skip to main content

Five blogs I like

On I have a long list of French teacher blog links, but I don't have the time to visit them all, apart from checking that the links have not gone dead. The languages blogs I like to read most, though, are ones related to language teaching pedagogy. I have maintained an interest in this over the years ever since my linguistics study at university and the MA I did later (partly on the work of Stephen Krashen). But there are other education blogs I like to read too. Here are five blogs I would recommend:

  • The Language Gym blog by Gianfranco Conti is unusual in combining detailed reference to research with practical implications for the classroom. It's a relatively new blog, but Gianfranco, who teaches French in Kuala Lumpur, is a frenetic blogger who always makes you think without trying to sell one particular approach over another. Young teachers could learn a good deal from his posts which are detailed and referenced. Gianfranco really gets into the nitty-gritty of "what works". He also runs a free interactive website called The Language Gym with a focus on language manipulation.

  • Musicuentos ("inspiring passion and proficiency in world language teaching") is another website and blog from America with the focus firmly on second language teaching methodology. I have belatedly discovered this one and can recommend, in particular, the series of videocasts recently published and which focus on aspects of research and methodology. The curator is Sarah-Elizabeth Cottrell, a Spanish teacher with a strong background in second language acquisition theory and research and who seems to have an eclectic view of what might work. Sarah is active on Twitter and sometimes hosts #langchat question-answer chats.

  • Barry Smith's occasional blogs are good fun. Barry enjoys taking aim at what he sees as fashionable but ineffective practices in the modern languages classroom. He teaches French at the new Michaela Community School in London. Michaela has made a bit of a name for itself during its short existence. It is known as a school with outstandingly well-behaved children, a strong focus on traditional knowledge and a rejection of a lot of the bureaucracy and box-ticking activities which go on in so many British schools. Barry's approach to French teaching is quite original and his pupils (Barry would never call them students) seem to love it. He likes dictating and translating but hates pictures.

  • Tom Bennett writes a blog for the TES. Tom recently became the leader of an advisory group on behaviour for the DfE. Tom, whose background is English teaching, is well known in the twittersphere for his amusing tweets, huge, old-school common sense about classroom behaviour and very entertaining writing. He has also taken the lead in establishing the popular ResearchEd conferences which seem to be sprouting up all over the world. I always enjoy his posts about education.

  • My final one is more of a resource site than a blog. It's called Douce France and is run by an Irish teacher of French Conan Hamill. Conan regularly posts a French text he has written, along with a link to a radio broadcast of topical interest. He includes questions for his students to work on. Recent topics have included: same sex marriage (to accompany the recent referendum in Ireland), Jean-Marie Le Pen, the Eurovision song contest and the Charlie Hebdo events. I don't know how well known Douce France is, but it's great that Conan shares his work with the world.


Popular posts from this blog

Tell stories


How can we make listening more enjoyable and effective for pupils? How can we turn it from a potential chore to something more memorable (and therefore more likely to stick in their long term memories)? I am of the opinion that since humans are "wired" to engage in personal listening and speaking (the expression "social brain" has been used in this context), they may be more interested and attentive when the message comes from a real person rather than a disembodied audio source. (This may or may not be relevant, but research has been carried out which demonstrates that babies pick up phonological patterns better when they listen to a caregiver rather than listen to a tape or watch a video - see here for summaries of research into this area by Patricia Kuhl.)

One easy way to make listening stimulating for pupils is to tell them easy stories in the target language. I was reminded of this while reading Penny Ur's book 100 Teaching Tips (reviewed here

New GCSE resources on frenchteacher

As well as writing resources for the new A-levels, I have in recent months been posting a good range of materials to support the new GCSEs. First exams are not until 2018, but here is what you can find on the site in addition to the many other resources (grammar exercises, texts, video listening etc).

I shall not produce vocabulary lists since the exam board specifications now offer these, with translations.

Foundation Tier 

AQA-style GCSE 2016 Role-plays
AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations
AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations (2)
100 translation sentences into French (with answers)
Reading exam
Reading exam (2)
How to write a good Foundation Tier essay (ppt)
How to write a good Foundation Tier essay (Word)

Higher Tier 

AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations (Higher tier)
AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations (Higher tier) (2)
20 translations into French (with answers)
Reading exam (Higher tier)
How to write a good Higher Tier essay (ppt)
How to write a…

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)

"Finally, a book for World Language teachers that provides practical ideas and strategies that can actually be used in the classroom, rather than dry rhetoric and theory that does little to inspire creativity in ways that are engaging for both students and teachers alike." (USA teacher, Amazon review)

The Language Teacher Toolkit review

We were delighted to receive a review of The Language Teacher Toolkit from eminent applied linguist Ernesto Macaro from Oxford University. Macaro is a leader in the field of second language acquisition and applied linguistics. His main research interests are teacher-student interaction and language learning strategies pupils can use to improve their progress.

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…

5 great zero preparation lesson ideas

When the pressure is on and there are only so many hours on the week, you need a repertoire of zero preparation go-to activities which promote input and/or practice. Here are five you might well find useful.

1. My weekend

We know that listening is the most important yet often neglected skill for language learning. It's also something some pupils find hard to do. To develop listening skill and provide tailored comprehensible input try this:

You tell the class you are going to recount what you did last weekend and that they have to make notes in English. The amount of detail you go into and the speed you go will depend on your class. Talk for about three minutes. If you spent the whole weekend marking, you can always make stuff up!

You then make some true or false (maybe not mentioned too) statements in the target language about what you said in your account. Class gives hands up (or no hands up) answers. This can then lead into a simple pair work task where pupils make up their own tru…