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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)

"Even with over 30 years of experience it gave me some good ideas and food for thought." (Sian Haynes-Ryterski, UK Teacher)

I'm a secondary French teacher, and I've just finished reading this excellent book. It's jam-packed with creative ideas for the classroom, and it's really inspired me. The suggestions are very practical and require little preparation. I particularly enjoyed the chapters on speaking and listening activities, and on helpful technology/websites for language learning. I thoroughly recommend this book! (UK teacher, Amazon review)

"The Language Teacher Toolkit is a treasure chest for every language teacher, whether new to the profession or not. The comprehensive 350-page volume is divided in 25 well-structured chapters where invaluable tips ans tricks are backed up by the latest research on all subjects and the extensive teaching experience of both authors Steve Smith and Dr. Gianfranco Conti. This self-published book is a must not only for trainee language teacher students but also a fantastic reference for inspiration, practical applications and implications in the classroom, exploring all types of learners and situations in an encouraging and clearly expressed language. Every teaching question and context seems to be covered with such depth of thought, detail, logic, attention to detail, empathy and clarity that I will dwell in this book's wisdom for many years to come." (UK teacher, Nadine, Amazon)

"Strongly recommend the book: a must-have." (UK teacher)

"Chapeau! Already on our trainee reading list." (UK teacher)

"Absolutely loving this! Inspirational, practical, so sensible and backed up by research. Well done, gentlemen, and thank you." (UK teacher)

"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)

"Especially appreciate the overviews of the different methods and their strengths 
- this is a well-rounded book  packed with valuable info." (USA teacher, Amazon)

"Love this book! Not a quick read. Take in one section then figure out how to use it in my class. Can't wait to watch student engagement and success increase. Merci beaucoup!! " (Sue O'Hagen, Amazon Canada review)

"The Language Teacher Toolkit is a book that addresses all of the challenges we 
must face and overcome in the classroom, in order to ensure that students are 
receiving quality world language instruction." (USA teacher, Amazon)

"Excellent, very accessible resource for teachers and trainees in the languages 
classroom. Practical and sensible, yet takes on board new methodology and 
ideas that can work. Backed up by research, teachers can have confidence in 
and refer to the Languages Teacher Toolkit to improve practice. A must-have 
for MFL-ers!"  (UK teacher, Amazon)

"For me, it contains just about everything I think I need to know. One big 
thing I've taken from it that sticks out is that I can now explain how I teach 
the way I teach, why I don't use the Grammar/Translation method too 
much, the book has given me an introduction to the theories of my pedagogical 
choices which I was none the wiser of beforehand." (UK teacher, Amazon)

"An excellent toolkit for all language teachers, whether new to the profession 
or very experienced." (UK teacher, Amazon)

"Clear explanations, sound rationale, packed with practical, effective ideas and 
written by two experienced teachers who know their stuff. Highly recommend it!" (UK teacher, Amazon)

"Insightful and practical. An excellent resource from two reflective and 
thought-provoking writers. Recommend." (UK teacher, Amazon)

"What makes The Language Teacher Toolkit so appealing is that by combining 
the findings of research with a wide variety of practical ideas which involve 
minimal preparation for the teacher and maximal effectiveness for pupils." 
(UK teacher, ISMLA newsletter review)

"I intend to keep my Language Teacher Toolkit in my classroom and refer to 
it for inspiration when planning lessons, writing schemes of work or assessments 
or planning trips in the future." (UK teacher, ISMLA newsletter review)

"...take time to read Smith and Conti’s book. It’s packed with lots 
of interesting and not too ‘wacky’ ideas." (Ernesto Macaro)

"Excellent, very accessible resource for teachers and trainees in the languages classroom. Practical and sensible, yet takes on board new methodology and ideas that can work. Backed up by research, teachers can have confidence in and refer to the Languages Teacher Toolkit to improve practice. A must-have for MFL-ers!" (Amazon UK purchaser)

"Recommended for all our PGCE trainees" (Nicola McEwan, University of Buckingham, England)


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The latest research on teaching vocabulary

I've been dipping into The Routledge Handbook of Instructed Second Language Acquisition (2017) edited by Loewen and Sato. This blog is a succinct summary of Chapter 16 by Beatriz González-Fernández and Norbert Schmitt on the topic of teaching vocabulary. I hope you find it useful.

1.  Background

The authors begin by outlining the clear importance of vocabulary knowledge in language acquisition, stating that it's a key predictor of overall language proficiency (e.g. Alderson, 2007). Students often say that their lack of vocabulary is the main reason for their difficulty understanding and using the language (e.g. Nation, 2012). Historically vocabulary has been neglected when compared to grammar, notably in the grammar-translation and audio-lingual traditions as well as  communicative language teaching.

(My note: this is also true, to an extent, of the oral-situational approach which I was trained in where most vocabulary is learned incidentally as part of question-answer sequence…

Google Translate beaters

Google Translate is a really useful tool, but some teachers say that they have stopped setting written work to be done at home because students are cheating by using it. On a number of occasions I have seen teachers asking what tasks can be set which make the use of Google Translate hard or impossible. Having given this some thought I have come up with one possible Google Translate-beating task type. It's a two way gapped translation exercise where students have to complete gaps in two parallel texts, one in French, one in English. There are no complete sentences which can be copied and pasted into Google.

This is what one looks like. Remember to hand out both texts at the same time.


_____. My name is David. _ __ 15 years old and I live in Ripon, a _____ ____ in the north of _______, near York. I have two _______ and one brother. My brother __ ______ David and my _______ are called Erika and Claire. We live in a _____ house in the centre of ____. In ___ house _____ …

A zero preparation fluency game

I am grateful to Kayleigh Meyrick, a teacher in Sheffield, for this game which she described in the Languages Today magazine (January, 2018). She called it “Swap It/Add It” and it’s dead simple! I’ve added my own little twist as well as a justification for the activity.

You could use this at almost any level, even advanced level where the language could get a good deal more sophisticated.

Put students into small groups or pairs. If in groups you can have them stand in circles to add a sense of occasion. One student utters a sentence, e.g. “J’aime jouer au foot avec mes copains parce que c’est amusant.” (You could provide the starter sentence or let groups make up their own.) The next student (or partner) has to change one element in the sentence, and so on, until you restart with a different sentence. You could give a time limit of, say, 2 minutes. The sentence could easily relate to the topic you are working on. At advanced level a suitable sentence starter might be:

“Selon un article q…

Dissecting a lesson: using a set of PowerPoint slides

I was prompted to write this just having produced for three separate PowerPoint presentations using the same set of 20 pictures (sports). A very good way for you to save time is to reuse the same resource in a number of different ways.

I chose 20 clear, simple, clear and copyright-free images from to produce three presentations on present tense (beginners), near future (post beginner) and perfect tense (post-beginner/low intermediate). Here is one of them:

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Designing a plan to improve listening skills

Read many books and articles about listening and you’ll see it described as the forgotten skill. It certainly seems to be the one which causes anxiety for both teachers and students. The reasons are clear: you only get a very few chances to hear the material, exercises feel like tests and listening is, well, hard. Just think of the complex processes involved: segmenting the sound stream, knowing lots of words and phrases, using grammatical knowledge to make meaning, coping with a new sound system and more. Add to this the fact that in England they have recently decided to make listening tests harder (too hard) and many teachers are wondering what else they can do to help their classes.

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