Skip to main content

Saving time on planning

I understand that many schools ask teachers to produce a written lesson plan for every lesson on a standard proforma. I would have hated that. It takes up teachers' valuable and limited time.

I am happy to share the fact that, once I had been teaching for a couple of years, my written lesson plans usually consisted of a few lines at most in my A4 planner and I only wrote more detailed plans when there was an official lesson observation from my line manager or Ofsted. (Ofsted do not requite this any more.) Our schemes of work were shared and familiar to us all, mainly consisting of a mix of text book resources and our "in house" resources. I made good use of our effective text book, Tricolore, and spent some time finding or writing good new resources.

Back in the day resources were much scarcer - I fondly (?) remember recording and transcribing long wave French radio broadcasts for listening exercises. Enough with the nostalgia!

If a language teacher has good subject knowledge and proficiency, once they have established a good repertoire of tried and tested routines, lesson planning need not take very long. If you have ready-made quality resources the job is even quicker. Once you have got to grips with the basic tricks of the trade the resource can become the plan.

If the resource is a set of flashcards or powerpoint pictures, then you run through your repertoire:

  • Whole class repetition (normal, whispered, sung, shouted)
  • Individual/small group repetition
  • Hiding pictures for a guessing game
  • Showing pictures with written word
  • Combining pictures to produce longer lists
  • Making up sentences using the words
If you have a text:
  • Reading aloud
  • Class reading aloud
  • Find the French
  • Correct false statements
  • True/false
  • Question answer in TL
  • Question answer in English (last resort!)
  • Aural gap fill from memory
  • Pair work
  • Oral to written QA
  • Written QA
  • Summary
  • Translation
If you have a recording or video:
  • Gap fill
  • True/false/not mentioned
  • Questions in TL or English
  • Find the French
And so on. For a long list of what you can do with a text, see the Teacher's Guide of

It's also very useful to have a range of nil preparation games and fillers so you know you have something to fall back on if timing goes awry.

The skill in using some of these techniques needs to be acquired. For example, smart questioning sequences using the full range of question types need planning for until they become second nature. It also takes experience and a good feel to know how to pitch exercises for the class in front of you. This is technically known as cognitive and affective empathy.

Once you are competent with grammar and vocabulary - I do realise that many teachers have to survive on insufficient knowledge and skills - and you have become proficient in a repertoire of effective techniques, planning should take relatively little time.


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…