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Target Language Toolkit

Allison Chase published, earlier this year, a handy little book which would make a useful addition to a departmental library. It is called Target Language Toolkit (90 ideas to get your language learners using more target language).

The chapter titles are;

What does Ofsted say about the target language?
Identifying key language.
Implementing target language routines.
Monitoring and assessing learners' progress in using the target language.
Games and activities to encourage TL use.
Using ICT.
Target language beyond the classroom.
Cracking the toughest nuts.
Homework and independent learning.
Implementing a whole department TL initiative.

This is very much a practical book, with instantly usable ideas for the classroom. It reports Ofsted observations and guidelines (thereby ticking one teacher box), but does not engage in any discussion of the theoretical basis form using TL, which should be pretty self-evident anyway.

Allison provides useful lists of TL phrases for French, German and Spanish under the headings cognates, language for confusion, giving opinions, making excuses, asking permission, agreeing and disagreeing, teacher instructions and rewards. These form a useful list for new teachers building their repertoire of routines.

There is a handy chapter on implementing TL routines which includes one or two which appealed to me in particular. "Expression of the day" is where students tries to use a particular TL expression as many times a day. The expression could be displayed and every time a student uses it, a responsible student rings a bell! Sounds like useful recycling to me! "Talk time" is where you allocate 5-10 minutes to the end (or maybe the start) of a lesson. You have a secret box or bag in which you keep items to stimulate a discussion (probably with intermediate students). Allison says she once used three bars of chocolate, one white, one dark, one milk, and used these as a basis for a chat about what they preferred and how much they ate. Then students were invited to come to the front, were blindfolded and had to taste one of the chocolate types and say what they thought it was.

The chapter on monitoring and assessing includes tables to show how you might go about this. (I would never have got into that level of tracking!)

The heart of the book for me is the chapter on games and activities, most of which are new to me. I would choose to use all of them since some may fall into that category of being fun, but a bit time-consuming for the language generated. But this is a matter of personal taste.  One activity which looked a lot of fun is "Bush tucker trail". You supply a range of strange food items (weird-flavoured crisps, chili flavoured chocolate, German 'black' bread, strong coffee, strong cheese and so on. (Colleagues could contribute and it need not be expensive.) Students can prepare TL for talking about food: I think it will taste..., It's going to be, I want to try..., i don't want to try.... Then: I thought it was... and X was nicer than Y. then maybe questions such as Did you like...? Which was your favourite food? Why?

The chapter entitles Cracking the Toughest Nuts is a realistic acknowledgement of the practical difficulties facing the implementation of TL, e.g. during exam season. Allison provides a number of ideas for tackling this including a rewards booklet, speaking frames and 'emergency flashcards'.

Overall, teachers may appreciate the very practical nature of this book which comes from a fellow teacher who has, as far as I can tell, considerable experience of working with students of all abilities. I would have liked just a little more on how you incorporate TL within familiar drilling style tasks, but that was not the main aim of the book.

It is a self-published book (using CreateSpace) costs £10 and is available from amazon.co.uk

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