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A departmental library for teachers

I wonder if your languages department has a library of books for teachers. Such a library could contain a number of resources, including books on general methodology, games, grammar reference and fluency activities.

Here are some recommendations from my own knowledge. Used editions of some of these can be found for very little money on Amazon.

Discussions and More - Penny Ur (2014). This contains ideas for mainly task-based fluency activities for mainly high intermediate and advanced level. Penny has worked for many years in the TEFL field, but her experience and ideas deserve an audience in the modern language teaching community. This book is an updated and broadened version of her book Discussions that Work.

Fun Learning Activities for MFL - Jake Hunton (2015). This is a very usable set of games or game-like activities for helping pupils develop their vocabulary.

Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching - Jack Richards (2014).  This is a "big picture" book which very clearly describes a range of language teaching approaches which have been influential over the years. This book should help any language teacher put their practice into context.

The Language Teacher Toolkit - Steve Smith and Gianfranco Conti (2016). Well, I would mention this, wouldn't I? This book aims to bridge the gap between research and classroom practice, but with a genuine focus on the practice. Many handbooks, especially those written by academics, neglect the classroom practice side.

Grammar Practice Activities - Penny Ur (2009) . Another Penny Ur book, full of practical activities for the classroom.

A Course in Language Teaching - Penny Ur (2010).  This book has been around for a good while, but provides excellent ideas.

Games for Language Learning - Andrew Wright, David Betteridge and Mike Buckby (2006). A useful compendium.

Target Language Toolkit - Allison Chase (2015). This slim volume provides departments with useful approaches to implementing a target language policy.

Action Grammaire!: New Advanced French Grammar - Phil Turk and Geneviève Garcia Vandale (2006). There are many grammar reference books on the market. This one is well reviewed. If you prefer an online source then I could recommend Tex's French Grammar from the University of Texas at Austin.


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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…